There has been talk of podcast listening being down for some publishers during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, and Westwood One put its name on that list with listening off by as much as nine percent during the worst of the impact in late April. But the post-lockdown period has so far pointed to a strong recovery, with the company offering fresh evidence that the growth momentum that powered podcasting pre-lockdown is now lifting numbers as the country reopens.
In data released Thursday, Westwood One said during the first two weeks of June the seven-day download average for a group of ten talk radio-style podcasts was 12% higher than the number of downloads during the week of March 9, when many of the lockdowns began. It was four-times the growth rate that Westwood One recorded at the end of May. Westwood One Insights Manager Brittany Faison said that even with the small drop in downloads during the past few months, her big takeaway is one of stability. “The incredibly stable audio streaming and podcast listening trends might cause one to conclude that audio is pandemic proof,” she said during a webinar.
The news this week has been of some states considering new restrictions, and even if some regions return to shelter-in-place, Faison thinks podcasting will continue to remain stable based on how it has performed during the past several months.
She also pointed to Edison Research Share of Ear data, which shows in-home is where a majority of listening occurs. During the second quarter, Edison said 63% of all time spent with podcasts occurs at home. That was up from 62% during the same period a year ago, and up from 55% during the second quarter of 2018.
Westwood One also released some data from Edison Research’s Share of Ear report that shows during the second quarter of 2020 there were sizable increases for podcasting across most demos despite the pandemic. The biggest gains between 2018 and 2020 came in the Persons 18-24 and Persons 25-34 age groups. The pandemic time crunch was most pronounced on Persons 35-44, likely due to a loss of commuting time and new responsibilities such as home-schooling kids.
“Podcasting shares have grown tremendously,” said Faison. But while Edison data shows the medium’s so-called Share of Ear doubled during the past three years among Persons 18-24, she doubts that rate of increase will hold. “I think shares will definitely continue to rise and definitely continue to increase,” said Faison. “Podcast consumption is going to continue to grow because not only are the younger demos growing, but among 35- to 54-year-olds, it’s also growing.”
Westwood One also released data that hints at how listening habits are changing during the pandemic. It pointed to Triton Digital data that showed the amount of time spent listening to the streams of Cumulus Media-owned radio stations via desktop shrank in recent months, while time spent streaming via mobile apps and smart speakers has increased.