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COVID-19 Impact on Podcast Listening – Publisher Analysis


Part two in a three-part series in understanding podcast consumption and measurement

Continuing the conversation around why podcast measurement is disjointed, I address some of the COVID-19 Podcast Data released by a number of Podcast Publishers over the past two weeks. To jump back to the start of the series, visit the first article, Podcast Download Measurement Explained

Many podcast publishers have released conflicting data on podcast growth and consumption during the first two weeks since the COVID-19 shutdown. Over that period, I’ve been asked a number of times how can industry-wide analysis shows a decrease in downloads, but most publishers are showing the exact opposite, an increase in listenership. 

Genre Focus 

First, an analysis that shows an increase in listenership is typically due to one of three factors: 

  1. Genre focus
  2. Time period evaluated
  3. Episodic analysis

Genre is a key component to podcast consumption – news, politics, health, wellness are big winners right now. There is softening in celebrity/pop culture shows and sports have been hugely impacted. Any network that has a preponderance of any specific type of genre will be significantly impacted by their catalog makeup. Many of those reporting huge increases in the audience are networks heavily dedicated to news and politics, which makes sense given the current environment. 

Time Period Evaluated

Many networks are looking at year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter numbers when measuring audience change, which doesn’t take into account the rapid increase in podcast consumption over the period and does not allow for accurate analysis of the changes over the past two weeks. It’s great to see networks and audiences growing, however, it does not accurately reflect how listenership has been impacted by the current shutdown affecting the majority of American listeners.

Episodic Analysis

Third, many networks are omitting episodic analysis and instead are looking at the aggregate of downloads they are delivering. As an agency that has proven that episodic purchases are typically far more effective than network buys, this doesn’t provide the perspective needed for efficient buying strategies. A network can have an increase in downloads simply by having more shows and/or a larger back catalog consumers are listening to, but new episodes of individual shows may have fewer listeners than three weeks ago. Again, great that the industry is growing, but if a network is producing 20% more content and has an extensive back catalog, looking at overall downloads does not give insight into the impact on a particular show over a short period of time. 

Each of these factors contributes some data for the evaluation of the entire podcast consumption picture, however, it does little to shed light on what is actually happening to individual show listenership. Read on for the third and final blog in this series, COVID-19 Impact on Podcast Listening – Measurement Company Analysis


Photo by NeONBRAND, on Unsplash