Three months ago when the world locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Libsyn VP Rob Walch had a message to podcasters: go on defense and remain connected with the audience they had. The pandemic may not be over, but businesses are reopening and many people are returning to regular commuting habits. Now is the time, says Walch for podcasters to return to offense and bring more listeners to their shows – and the medium.
Compared to a pre-coronavirus baseline set in January, there has been a big improvement in recent weeks, Libsyn’s download data shows. The biggest hit to podcasters hosted by the company came during the week of April 19 when total week listening fell 14.7% and mid-week downloads (Tuesday-Thursday) were off by 20.9% compared to January. In the week of May 24, Walch said downloads had started to show a recovery with total week listening down 2% compared to January and midweek listening off by 5.6%.
“That doesn’t mean we are fully back, not for all shows, but now is a great time to be pushing your audience to push your show to their friends, coworkers and family,” he said on the latest episode of Libysn’s The Feed podcast. “We told you going into this to make sure your relationship with your audience is strong [and to] keep going and be ready when we come out the other side. Things are in no way, shape or form over with COVID-19 – but a lot of the lockdowns are over, and people are starting to come back, and they are commuting more.”
The latest Apple Mobility Trends data shows Americans have been set back into motion more quickly than in the U.K., Italy or Germany.
Walch points out that many people are driving more now than they did in January, often because they are steering away from public transportation. “That means they are driving more on their own – which is a better opportunity to listen to podcasts. So, there is an opportunity for your show to grow,” he said.
In New York City, where offices just began reopening Monday, Apple says public transit usage remains down b 67% while driving levels have increased 17%. It’s a similar story in Chicago where transit is down 59% but driving is up 31%. In Washington, DC transit is still down 68% but driving is up 13%. And in Philadelphia, transit is off by 54% while driving is up 30%.
Libsyn also released some additional statistics about how podcasts released during April performed. They had an adjusted mean of 1,298 downloads through the end of May. That was down 5% from March and down 14% from January.
Walch said 6.3% of the podcasts Libsyn hosts had five thousand or more downloads during April. That was down from 6.6% a month earlier. “That’s an all-time low,” he said, pointing to the impact of COVID-19. Walch also explained that the boom of new podcasts helped to drive down the averages. “We had more episodes released in the month of April than we ever had released in a month,” he said.