One of the few industries that seemed to be immune to the negative impacts of the pandemic was podcasts. The podcast industry saw spikes in listenership, according to Morning Consult trend data and insights from industry leaders. Not only did more people tune into podcasts but a lot of people discovered the medium for the first time. Advertisers eventually caught on and maintained a growing interest in podcast advertising throughout the pandemic.
About one-quarter (22 percent) of U.S. adults said they’re listening to podcasts more now, according to a Morning Consult survey conductedMarch 2021, a slight increase compared to 18 percent who said the same whenMorning Consult asked in March 2020. Podcast company, PRX, which typically sees more than 70 million downloads per month, saw downloads increase by 33 percent from 2019 to 2020 for a total of more than 1 billion downloads. In November, that increase was 54 percent, and 29 percent in December. iHeartMedia Inc., a radio giant and one of the largest publishers of podcasts, also saw growth in both podcasts about niche topics and across its overall network. It was up to 30 million unique listeners last month alone, a record for the company.
Celebrity podcasts are also here to stay. While celebrity-led podcasts drive visibility for the industry, not all of them are of the best quality. PRX plans to marry access to Hollywood talent that came asa result of the pandemic with its production and storytelling capabilities to engage audiences moving forward. iHeartMedia has been in the celebrity podcasts game since before the pandemic, partnering with stars like Will Ferrell and Shonda Rhimes, also plans to continue recruiting A-listers for audio projects.
As podcasting continues to grow, the industry is looking to expand its marketing and promotion strategies to different platforms. For big networks such as iHeartMedia, it’s easy. For the small and mid-sized podcast companies that account for such a large portion of the industry, it will take a bit more calculation and planning. In the post-pandemic era, many of these companies are leaning into social media marketing. As we return to normal, listening habits might change yet again, but it’s not likely that podcast fans will abandon the shows they’ve discovered in the past year anytime soon.