Despite some data showing that podcast downloads ticked lower at the start of the COVID-19 lockdowns in March and April, there is also growing evidence that the content produced may be the biggest factor in determining what impact a company had. That’s especially true as more Americans reached for news and current events content. Westwood One has released data showing that its download numbers for a collection of seven talk show podcasts has remained mostly steady during the past three months. And like some other podcast companies, the biggest dip in downloads occurred in late April.
The podcasts included podcasts hosted by Ben Shapiro, Dan Bongino, Michael Knowles, Andrew Klavan, Matt Walsh, Mark Levin and Michael Savage.
Overall, Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer for Cumulus Media/Westwood One, said across all of the company’s streaming assets there has been a “real consistency” between listening from before the pandemic hit and now. “There was virtually no impact occurring in terms of any degradation in our streaming audience,” he said during a presentation to advertisers on Thursday. “How are people listening? Little bit less desktop, a little bit more mobile app, a touch more smart speaker. But the big story here is very little difference in terms of how folks are streaming all of our stations across the country.”
Bouvard said podcasting did experience a “bit of a dip” like a lot of other media in early March, but since then its growth has resumed. “And on our network, which includes all our local stations and also our national podcasts, there has been very consistent audience trends for podcasting,” he said. Westwood One had 37.7 million downloads during May, according to Podtrac, a 20% increase compared to April.
The message from Westwood One echoes comments made by iHeartMedia executives earlier this month who said they’ve seen downloads go up during the past several months. What’s changed is what people are listening to, CEO Bob Pittman said. That’s worked in iHeart’s favor since it produces more than 400 shows across a variety of genres. “Even though it shifted we still saw this uptick in usage,” Pittman said. “I think it’s about companionship. We don’t care if they’re at home, commuting, or at the office – we’ve got something they’re interested in and they’re going there.”
The iHeartPodcast Network remained the top podcast publisher in May, according to Podtrac. It reported iHeart reached nearly 25 million listeners in the U.S. during May, an 11% increase from April. Additionally, iHeart’s downloads topped 216 million, an 8% gain from the prior month. The figures for May represent all-time highs in both unique U.S. listeners and downloads for iHeart.