What Are Listeners Look For From Podcasts This Holiday Season? Think Warm And Fuzzy.


The holly jolly of Christmas music has long filled radio airwaves and in a year dominated by COVID, Americans are craving even more cheer. A joint project by iHeartMedia and Podtrac will offer opportunities for podcasts too, as holiday travel plans come together.


An iHeart survey conducted from Aug. 31 to Sept.7 found six in ten Americans expect to spend the same or more time than last year traveling by car over the holidays. Their destination is likely a relative’s house. That is because eight in ten plan to spend more time than last year with family.


“Our survey indicates that three-quarters of podcast listeners are looking for experiences that improve their mood this holiday season,” said iHeart Executive VP Hetal Patel. “Podcast listening has continued to grow during the pandemic and, given the early indicators we are seeing, we expect people to continue listening to podcasts as it provides the enjoyment they crave.”


This year has been an outlier in terms of podcast downloads as long-established habits rapidly evolved. Weekends, which in the past had smaller listening levels, became more important as people spent more time at home. But Podtrac says a look back at what happened a year ago could help podcasters determine what to expect in the final two months of 2020.


Based on Podtrac’s measurement data for the top 100 podcasts it measures, Wednesdays remain the highest podcast listening day of the week with traffic dipping on the weekends and Sunday being the lowest listening day of the week. That pattern has continued through the pandemic to date.


Podtrac also says data on the podcasts and publishers it tracks shows that October tends to be the highest podcast listening month of the year, with downloads dipping during November and December – but not as low as levels earlier in the year. Podcast listening tends to drop over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, but is above average before and after those holidays, with strongest listening for the season in early January, it says.


Considering everything that has been upended in 2020, Podtrac CEO Mark McCrery said they cannot be certain what podcast listening will look like during the holidays this year. But trends point to continued growth. “It will certainly be interesting to track the data to determine if the pandemic does have an influence on podcast listening over this holiday season,” he said.


Their data shows that feel-good factor had been a factor in podcast consumption in the past. While overall podcast listening is down slightly in November and December from October levels, two categories – Music and Leisure – both showed increased listening during the holiday season last year.

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