The coronavirus pandemic has impacted how people are consuming media, and it has also altered content preferences. On radio that has meant more news-talk listening and fewer people tuning to AC stations. When it comes to podcasts, new Edison Research data shows there was some impact during the COVID-19 lockdowns too. But with each passing week, Americans are slowly returning to their favorite shows and genres.
“Things are not too far from where they were in the first quarter,” said Edison Senior VP Tom Webster. “As the quarantine has gone on and on, we’re starting to get back to where we were when all of this started.”
Edison’s Podcast Consumer Tracker shows News/Information podcasts had one of the largest increases in reach during the COVID-19 lockdown. The data indicates 38% of weekly podcast listeners consumed a show in that genre between April 1 and May 12. But Webster said that the category had been up even more during the first few weeks of the stay-at-home orders – hitting a high of 39% for March. At the other end of the spectrum, the reach of Sports podcasts declined two percent but that is an improvement from the first weeks of the stay-at-home orders when the sports calendar evaporated. Webster credited the NFL draft for helping to mitigate the downward pressure on sports-related content.
Among the weekly podcast listeners interviewed by Edison was an Oklahoma woman who said she is turning to podcasts, like shows about self-motivation, to feel calmer and to escape the news. “I don’t want to hear about it because I’m hearing about it everywhere else,” she said.
Now as life returns to a new normal in more parts of the country, Webster during a webinar presentation last week that he sees a familiarity among the shows people are selecting. “Even though in the early days of the quarantine we saw people fleeing toward news, and away from sports, those things are really starting to normalize,” he said.
Webster said the data also shows the connection that people have with podcasting, a companionship that could work in the medium’s favor in the years to come. “We’re going through this shared experience together and it’s clear that podcasts are part of the connective tissue,” he observed.
There is some evidence that some podcast listeners stuck at home have been trying to use their time for improvement – either of oneself or a person’s surroundings. Webster pointed out the Language and Home/Garden genres were both up three points from earlier this year. “That’s a significant percentage jump,” he said. “A lot of us wanted to work on ourselves, our gardens, home improvement, or learn a new language.”
Edison also released its ranker for the podcasts that had the largest weekly reach among weekly podcast consumers aged 18 and older during the first quarter. It shows The Joe Rogan Experience remains the most listened-to podcast, followed by The Daily, This American Life, Crime Junkie, My Favorite Murder, Stuff You Should Know, Office Ladies, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, Planet Money, and Pod Save America.