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Podcast Audience, Downloads Grow As Commuting Hours Begin To Normalize.

For a second consecutive week, podcast downloads and audience size have posted their best growth numbers since the COVID-19 lockdowns began nearly three months ago. Podtrac says among the shows and networks it tracks, U.S. weekly downloads grew 5% during the week of May 18 to 24 compared with the prior week. Podcast audience growth increased 4%. Both are the largest gains since Podtrac began releasing weekly updates at the beginning of March. “This is the fifth consecutive week download growth has been flat or positive, and the sixth consecutive week audience growth has been flat or positive,” the company said in its update.

Despite some lower growth rates and even a few weeks where downloads and audience reach slipped, the picture for 2020 overall clearly remains one of an industry on the climb. Download growth since the first week of January is up 36% and audience growth is up 17% through the week ending May 24 across all Podtrac-measured podcasts.

In the strongest indication yet that people’s tastes are shifting back to the pre-lockdown period, Podtrac says News category shows had a 2% drop in downloads during the week of May 18. The genre has been among the strongest during the pandemic and, despite last week’s dip, the News genre is still tracking up 31% so far this year.

While News is down, Comedy show downloads were up 24% last week. Sports podcasts are also coming back to life along with the sports leagues. Podtrac says Sports podcast downloads increased 17% last week.

Other increases were seen in genres such as Education (+16%), Leisure (+10%), Religion & Spirituality (+10%), Health & Fitness (+8), Business (+7%), Music (+7%), Society & Culture (+5%), Kids & Family (+3%), Technology (+3%) and Film & TV (+2%).

Fewer downloads were recorded in categories like Science (-5%), Fiction (-3%) and Arts (-1%).

More U.S. businesses are reopening and consumer habits are starting to return to normal in some states more than others. But in other places the stay-at-home orders continue to cast a shadow over when people are consuming podcasts. Podtrac reports downloads during weekday commute times are up compared with the pandemic low week of April 13-19. Yet mornings still aren’t back to normal. It says downloads during peak weekday morning commute times were down an average of 11% for the week of May 18-24 compared with when the COVID-19 pandemic’s full effects hit in early March.

Weekend listening continues to make up the difference for a new morning commute. On Saturday, May 23, the peak hour was up 21%, and for Sunday, May 24, the peak hour was up 18%.

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