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There is no faster growing digital media segment than digital audio. That is one of the takeaways in PQ Media’s latest update on consumer spending on media content and technology. Of the 28 digital media categories, the fastest growing in 2020 was digital audio subscription services, which rocketed 40% to $30.98 billion worldwide. 

“The growing popularity of podcasts was among the primary drivers behind the double-digit increase, as Spotify, iHeart and Amazon all dived deeply into podcasting in 2020, striking numerous deals involving new talent, content and ad services,” said PQ Media. Consumer spending on all media content and tech worldwide averaged $352.96 per capita in 2020, up 5.3% from 2019, driven by strong growth in digital media streaming services. PQ Media also noted the number of U.S. podcast listeners grew more than 30% to more than 100 million last year.

Beyond just audio, PQ Media says global consumer spending on media content and technology grew an estimated 6.1% to $2.012 trillion in 2020, driven by the COVID-19 lockdown that kept consumers at home binging on multiple forms of digital entertainment as relief from the pandemic. The gain was a sharp acceleration from the 3.8% growth in 2019, signaling the fastest expansion in both global and U.S. consumer media and tech spending in five years. PQ Media says it was fueled by surging expenditures on streaming audio and video subscription services, and digital and console-based videogame software and hardware.

PQ Media forecast last year that consumer media spending would likely reach an inflection point and stop growing in 2023. CEO Patrick Quinn said the pandemic briefly interrupted key secular trends, but he expects they will get back on track in 2021. “PQ Media expects the growth of consumer spending on media content and technology will begin to decelerate markedly in 2022 and 2023, as many of the pandemic-driven forces that sparked the atypical end-user spending splurge in 2020 begin to fade in the second half of 2021, as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out worldwide, adult workers begin returning to office buildings and children start repopulating physical schools,” said Quinn. He expects to see a deceleration of growth or outright decline of spending on print newspapers, magazines and directories, as well as mobile phones, DVDs and in-theater movie tickets.

The firm’s Global Consumer Spending on Media Forecast 2020-2024 said there was a 12-point shift in market share to digital from traditional media in the 2014-2020 period. And the digital segment now commands 71% of all consumer media outlays.

The U.S. remained the largest global market in 2020 with total consumer media spending of $472.16 billion (23.5% share), followed by China, Japan, and India. Russia was the fastest growing market, up 10.8%, trailed by South Africa, India and Argentina. Japanese consumers spent the most per-capita, averaging $1,486.02 in 2020, while the U.S. ranked third with per-capita spend of $1,419.45.