Morning Consult

While the coronavirus pandemic may be testing podcasting’s reliance on a commuting audience, a Morning Consult poll reveals that listeners have increased tune-in over the past few weeks, with larger growth among younger people, as consumers adjust to a work-from-home norm. In fact, 18% of U.S. adults say they’re listening to podcasts more than before social distancing, via the poll conducted last week, while 10% say they’re listening less. That creates a net increase of 8 percentage points.

Conal Byrne, iHeartMedia Podcast Network President, said Thursday, “We had a hunch that, while all of our lives have been disrupted in crazy ways, podcast listening might actually increase as people are looking for more content to fill their time.” During Morning Consult’s polling period, he notes that iHeart saw an uptick in its network of about 350 shows compared to the prior week.

Acast, a global podcast company that offers hosting, analytics and monetization services to creators, found similar growth. The weekend of March 21-22 was the biggest ever for its network of more than 10,000 shows, with listens up 7% globally compared to the weekend prior, and up 10% in the United States. “People are looking at podcasts not only for news and information, but also for companionship and as a respite from what’s happening on the TV screen,” said Brian Danzis, Acast’s managing director for the Americas.

According to the Morning Consult survey, 31% of Generation Z (ages 18-22), 26% of Millennials (23-38) and 16% of Generation X (39-54) say they are listening to podcasts more. The survey was conducted among 2,200 U.S. adults.

Listening patterns are also shifting as audiences self-isolate. Jessica Cordova Kramer, cofounder of the Lemonada Media network, notes that tune-in is flattening throughout the day, as opposed to spiking during commuting hours and then dropping on weekends.

And despite the uptick in listeners, the podcast industry, like other media sectors, is finding it a challenge to monetize the new audience interest, Morning Consult reports, as many companies slash advertising budgets because of economic uncertainty and unease with campaigns running during a sensitive time. Shira Atkins, cofounder and CMO of Wonder Media Network, a podcast boutique focused on educational content tied to social-justice causes, says while listenership in the network has nearly doubled this month, advertising partners in the luxury and travel industries especially have begun to cancel or adjust campaigns amid the pandemic. “Some advertisers have been calling us and asking to change their ad scripts so as to not seem tone-deaf,” Atkins notes.

Likewise, Marty Michael, cofounder of comedy podcast network Headgum, says that listening dipped slightly over the past week, and some of his advertisers have requested to cancel or push ads out of second quarter. Will Malnati, founder and CEO of podcast production house At Will Media, says that clients in the hospitality industry in particular have sliced branded podcasts from their marketing mix to save money.

In all, podcast executives reporting bumps in listening say they expect that new and more frequent podcast listeners will remain engaged with the medium after the Coronavirus crisis passes. “I think advertisers that pull out are going to see higher rates down the road,” said Jack Hobbs, president and CEO of ReVolver podcasts, which creates bilingual shows. “I think there’s going to be a demand on inventory, especially if any of the Olympic money starts to dribble down.”