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It is becoming as much a holiday tradition as fruitcake: A drop in downloads during the Christmas week. Podtrac says among the publishers it measures total downloads declined 13% last week (Dec. 20-26) compared to a week earlier. But illustrating how much growth strides the industry has had during the past year, Podtrac also says last week’s downloads were up 32% compared to the corresponding week a year ago. 

The 2021 numbers look a lot like they did last Christmas week when downloads dropped 12% week-to-week but were up 31% versus Christmas week 2019.

The spread of the Omicron variant may have had some impact on Science podcasts. Podtrac says that genre had a one percent rise in downloads last week compared to a week earlier. The rest of the major categories had their expected declines. The biggest drop was among Comedy shows, which saw their downloads drop 22% week to week. Other declines came in the News (-15%), Religion (-15%), Sports (-14%), True Crime (-11%), Business (-11%), Society & Culture (-7%), History (-5%), and Arts (-2%) genres. Each was up compared to download numbers a year ago, however. Most notable was the Sports genre, which saw its downloads more than double (+112%) what they were during Christmas week in 2020.

Podtrac earlier reported that for the month of November iHeartRadio was the top publisher with nearly 337 million downloads and streams last month, a five percent increase compared to a month earlier and a U.S. monthly unique audience of 32.6 million -- an increase of about 1.5 million. It was followed by NPR, Wondery, the New York Times and The Walt Disney Company as the top five publishers were the same in November as October.

Overall, Podtrac says global downloads for the top 20 were flat during November compared to a month earlier. And it was on par with download numbers of a year ago.

Podtrac also reports seven of the top 20 publishers posted an increase in their unique monthly U.S. audience in November compared to October – the rest were either down or flat. It reports the average publisher had a one percent month-over-month increase in their U.S. unique monthly audience last month despite the impact of the Thanksgiving holiday. They were flat versus a year earlier.