In a pandemic-afflicted world, almost every product and service seems to be in decline and negatively impacted in some way. But the podcast is bucking that trend.
Developed in 2004 to automatically download internet radio broadcasts onto an iPod, it has since become a popular audio tool for business and leisure. The pandemic, somehow, seems to be making it come even more into its own.
According to Voxnest, an audio technology solutions company, global podcast listens have increased by 42% in March and April 2020. In Europe, this figure is up 53%
It seems to be only the US, where podcast listening is strongly correlated to behaviours like commuting, that there is a decrease.
“We specifically tracked the two countries that were quarantined first in the Western world, and Italy is up by 29% and Spain is up by 25%,” says Voxnest.
“What’s most interesting is that in these countries (Italy and Spain) and a continent (Europe), where podcast listening wasn’t previously as popular as in the US, [people] being home [during lockdown] has actually opened up a new opportunity for them to discover this format.”
When it comes to popular podcast content, religion and spirituality wasn’t at the top of each country’s charts in April, as it was in March. Yet the genre still remains in the top 10 for each country.
“All the other top categories showcase that people across the globe are diving into their hobbies, learning and finding podcasts as a source of entertainment,” observes Voxnest. “It’s particularly interesting to note the increase in listening to music-related podcasts in the US, where three of the top 10 categories are music-related.”
In South Africa there are no current figures indicating how podcasts are performing during the pandemic. However, a trends study published in August 2019 showed strong and increasing interest.
“Digital media trends are tougher to measure in South Africa because only around half of the country’s population have regular internet access,” said the online publication What’s New in Publishing.
“But of this online population, 43% have listened to a podcast recently according to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2019. This is a high percentage compared to the 36% average in other countries around the world. “
“Podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years, with an estimated one in three people globally listening to episodes every month,” said What’s New in Publishing. “The hype around them has resulted in a flood of podcasts on the market, with Google claiming to have indexed over two million podcasts.”
In the US, the most popular podcast is The Daily, a news podcast produced by the New York Times.