Roughly 700,000 podcast listeners separated iHeartMedia and NPR as the back and forth between the two podcast publishers continued in August. After iHeart edged out NPR in July, the latest Podtrac tally shows NPR reclaimed No. 1 during August. The numbers were still good for iHeart, which posted a six percent increase in unique U.S. monthly listeners between July and August. NPR’s month-to-month growth rate was even stronger, increasing by 12%. During the past five months, iHeart has been in first three times while NPR has topped the ranker twice.
The New York Times remained in third place but its unique audience soared 23% last month as its news podcast The Daily remained the most listened-to show and the company had the highest-debuting show of any tracked by Podtrac. It says the new podcast Nice White Parents was the tenth biggest podcast during August.
Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network, told an advertiser conference last week that the consumption of podcasts has not declined during the pandemic, but rather listening patterns have “shifted” with fans consuming a lot more news and comedy podcasts than they did pre-quarantine, and people were initially listening to less true crime. “Psychologically, I think people are looking for different kinds of stuff and candidly that puts us in a good spot,” he said.
Barstool Sports held onto fourth place with a 13% month-to-month increase in its unique U.S. audience. PRX rode a seven percent audience increase to return to the top five, knocking Wondery back one spot, despite posting a small gain in listeners. ESPN stayed at No. 7. Its unique audience grew 12%. And NBC News held onto No. 8, thanks to a seven percent increase in unique listeners.
Westwood One/Cumulus Media and WarnerMedia traded positions to round out the top ten. A 12% audience gain propelled Westwood One to No. 9 while WarnerMedia stepped back to No. 10, even as its unique listener tally increased five percent last month.
Podtrac says 17 of the 20 saw an increase in their U.S. monthly audience from July to August. And 11 of the top 20 podcast publishers had increases in global download numbers.
Among the top ten publishers, the average U.S. unique monthly audience was up 10% month-over-month. And on a year-to-year basis Podtrac says there was an average 15% increase from August 2019.
In terms of downloads, the top ten publishers had an average 2% growth rate between July and August, and a 43% increase in August versus a year earlier.
Meanwhile, Podtrac’s monthly ranker of the biggest individual shows among the publishers it tracks shows the same five podcasts stayed at the top of the list, led by the New York Times morning news podcast The Daily, which remained in the top spot for the 22nd consecutive month. It was followed by NPR’s hourly five-minute podcast NPR News Now and the NPR-produced Up First. The Daily Wire’s The Ben Shapiro Show rounded out the top five.
Podtrac does not release download figures but the Times said last month the show is now averaging more than 3.5 million downloads a day. “It’s done an incredible job at widening the audience for the Times,” said COO Meredith Kopit Levien. It’s bringing new people to the brand.”
Podtrac’s monthly update also shows the Times’ strategy to leverage the success of The Daily to promote other shows can work. Last month it returned Serial to the top 20 after the show was acquired by the Times and became to receive cross-promotion with The Daily. Despite not releasing a new season, Serial moved to No. 11 in July, up from No. 59 in June. It fell back to No. 15 in August, still a marked improvement over where it was before the link to The Daily was made.
The strategy also works for new podcasts. The Times debuted Nice White Parents last month leveraging promotions not only during episodes of The Daily but also in the newspaper. The result was Podtrac says the show about the forces that have shaped the institutional structures of America’s public education system debuted at No. 10 on Podtrack’s August ranker. The five-part series, hosted by journalist Chana Joffe-Walt, has also benefited by additional scrutiny being paid to the educational system during the pandemic and the conversations about racial justice.