January is a bounce-back month for podcasters as the holiday disruption fades and listeners return to regular habits. The result is 18 of the top 20 podcast publishers measured by Podtrac exhibited growth last month. The leader remained iHeartMedia, which had a nine percent month-to-month increase in unique U.S. audience with more than 29 million listeners.
NPR remains a strong second. Podtrac says it had more than 24 million unique listeners in the U.S. last month, a 19% increase from December. The new year began much like the past several with two major radio players– one commercial, the other noncommercial – with a sizable lead over the other publishers measured by Podtrac.
The top six publishers remained the same in January. The combination of a big month for news and new show launches gave the New York Times a 31% jump in its monthly audience compared to December. The monthly audience size for fourth place Wondery and fifth place PRX were both up eight percent month-to-month, with ESPN/ABC up nearly one percent.
Podtrac said the only change among the top ten publishers was Warner Media, which moved up to No. 7 in January with an 11% bump in reach as it traded spots with Barstool Sports from a month earlier. Barstool was one of the few publishers that saw a drop in its audience size last month, sliding two percent. Both NBC News (+13%) and Cumulus/Westwood One (+9%) had growth in January, but they ranked the same as in December, to round out the top ten.
Among the top ten publishers Podtrac reports the average month-to-month growth rate in unique U.S. audience was 11%.
The overachiever individual podcast last month was arguably Hidden Brain. The self-published show hosted by Shankar Vedantam that uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, was the only podcast to make the top 20 on its own. Podtrac reports Hidden Brain had nearly ten million global downloads and streams last month and a unique U.S. audience of more than two million – which was an 11% increase from December.
Eighteen of the top 20 podcast publishers measured by Podtrac had month-to-month increases in their U.S. monthly audience in January. And 17 publishers saw growth in their global download numbers. Among the top 20, downloads were up an average five percent between December and January. And downloads were up 12% last month compared to a year ago.