How Podcasts Are Normalizing Post-COVID (And What It Means to Brands)

How Podcasts Are Normalizing Post-COVID (And What It Means to Brands)Podcasts are returning to normal post-COVID, which is great news for brands.

After weeks of pandemic-driven decline (roughly a 20% decline in consumption, as reported by James Cridland of Podnews), podcast listening seems to be climbing back up to its pre-COVID numbers. This is fantastic news for brands who are playing in the podcast world.

As reported by Nicholas Quah in Hot Pod: “this is Week 11, or ten weeks after the initial widespread implementation of stay-at-home measures. (Based on) last night’s Podtrac coronavirus update: another flat week in terms of downloads, while unique audiences crawled up by 1% over the previous week. The update also comes with a bigger picture note on April, noting that average downloads for that month was down by 6% compared to March, though still up from January.

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But so much depends on “the commute” and how those numbers rise/fall due to the pandemic.

Quah went on to say that “The New York Times reported its earnings last week, and it was mentioned during the earnings call that The Daily, the organization’s flagship daily podcast, is now getting about 3 million downloads every day “despite the loss of the morning commute.””

But recent data released by Apple shows that the commute is starting to pick up. Mobility data from Apple Maps shows that driving route requests recently peaked at just 6% below baseline levels, up from -60% in early April.

It will be interesting to watch as States and Provinces start to loosen their restrictions and people start to travel more. Will they do so while being entertained with a podcast as they were before?

How Will Podcast Listening Return To Normal?

One thing is for certain, our smartphones are going to play an even bigger role in our commute. According to an article in National Geographic, “Monitoring apps on your phone could alert you if you have ridden a train with someone who later tested positive for COVID-19. Apple and Google are developing software with this kind of contact-tracing capability, which is already available in China, Singapore, and other countries.

However, in the same article they question whether “the future of commuting might be no commute at all.” In more detail, “about half of adults with jobs in the U.S. are working from home during the pandemic, according to a report published by the Brookings Institution in April. That’s more than double the percentage who did some telecommuting two years ago. Close to 20 percent of chief financial officers surveyed by Brookings said they planned to permanently retain remote work for at least 20 percent of their workers.”

But it’s not ALL about the commute.

A unique behaviour shown in the COVID podcast numbers is “time-shifting”. Time-shifters are now listening during different times of the day, and more on desktop. This is important for brands to recognize as their listeners are still listening in a number of different ways. For example, lots of people are spending more time walking, running and biking, which are great times to listen.

How much listening, and where people listen is something that all of us in the podcast world are watching with curiosity and anticipation. In the meantime we will continue to press ‘play’ on our favourite shows and wait to see what the future holds.

Roger Nairn is Co-Founder and CEO of JAR Audio

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