Although audience growth did not match pre-pandemic predictions, downloads of NPR podcasts were up 28% between the end of 2020 and a year earlier. And the public radio network says the overall weekly reach of its podcasts increased five percent year-to-year. The latest NPR Podcast Report says the increases spanned many NPR shows, revealing what it says is the increased loyalty of listeners.
“The events of 2020 bent and broke many Americans’ media consumption habits, and so people found new ways of staying informed and entertained. And yet, for all that change, podcast consumption showed its strength. Its continued growth is a testament to the power of touching people’s lives with great content, even during a difficult year,” the report says.
Put into a wider context, NPR points out that even with the disruptions the average person spent more time listening to podcasts in 2020. It notes eMarketer data that finds the typical listener spent 13.9 minutes per day with the medium, up seven percent from 2019. And eMarketer forecasts that it will rise to 15.6 minutes this year and grow to 16.9 minutes per day in 2022. Edison Research has released similar findings, NPR notes.
The NPR-produced podcast with the biggest weekly reach during the fourth quarter was NPR News Now, the on-demand version of the network’s hourly newscast. In a quarter with a presidential election and a pandemic, NPR News Now was among the fastest-growing podcasts compared to second quarter. Similar factors were likely at play for the morning news series Up First and the third-ranked NPR Politics Podcast.
But not all the fastest growing podcasts were about current events. The Throughline series, that takes listeners back in time to understand the present, made the cut. So did the daily Pop Culture Happy Hour series and Radio Ambulante, NPR’s first Spanish-language podcast which the network has struck a deal with Spotify to distribute in Latin America.
The report also includes recommendations for ad buyers looking to reach podcast audiences during the pandemic from the joint project between National Public Media and Veritonic. It advises they reference the uniqueness of the moment and the challenges that many people are facing. It also suggests their ad company include what initiatives a marketer is doing to help support employees and the community. “Messages about community initiatives are perceived as more sincere and public radio listeners want to hear how brands are supporting employees,” the report says.
A survey done by Veritonic for National Public Media found 53% of public radio listeners specifically want to hear how brands are supporting employees. And, when podcast listeners were asked about the appropriateness of COVID-19-related messages, a mid-roll about one brand’s efforts to support the community came out on top of Veritonic’s testing with three-quarters (76%) of listeners rating it as appropriate, while only eight percent found it off-putting.