Now that we've had a few weeks to adjust to our new reality, we have the space to contemplate our new future. What will post COVID-19 life look like? The “return to normal” might be less of a return than an arrival at an entirely different normal. There will be drastic implications on aspects of our daily lives that we've long taken for granted, from attending concerts and sporting events to dining out at restaurants to riding public transportation.
Some of these changes are easy to game out; movies, for example, may be released directly to homes instead of going to theaters first. But other changes are more difficult to predict. For example, what impact will the pandemic have on the podcasting space? Our newest Techsurvey 2020 indicated momentum for podcast listening – but that was way back in January/February. What will podcasting look like as the crisis abates?
I don't know the answer, but I know the next best thing — lots of smart people in the podcast space. So I asked them what they think post-pandemic podcasting will look like. Here's what they said…-Seth
“Will podcasting change? The answer will be ‘yes,' because the people will change, but not necessarily in a way that is bad for podcasting or podcasters.
Habits have changed already. As schedules are disrupted and people stay indoors and work from home, there are fewer podcasts consumed on a commute to a work location. Apple’s mobility trends report shows people are in transit 75% less than before the pandemic struck the U.S.
But Apple also reports downloads are only down 14%. That’s healthy when you consider most of the country has a commute of zero right now. People are still listening. People are flocking to what makes them comfortable, inspires them or helps them escape. People are bingeing more (in all ways – ask my pants). That’s great news for podcasters who know their audience and are able to keep the great content flowing, which hooked their fan base prior to all this madness. That’s the key: keeping the content going and keeping quality high.
It wouldn’t shock me if the COVID-19 phase brings a cascade of new shows and more people seek creative outlets and escape from the isolation in the form of starting a podcast. Talking about something you are passionate about is very therapeutic. Having listeners agree and respond to you on social media and the other places you market and connect can be addictive. Knowing you have a tribe is exhilarating and takes the sting out of physical isolation. My prediction: get ready for the coronavirus podcast wave.
If you have a show already, now is the perfect time for you to bring in listeners if you can keep it going. Perhaps like me, your listeners are connection-starved right now. Keep the content rolling. It’s what your audience needs now, perhaps much more than before.”
VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn
“I believe it will have the biggest impact on those companies and/or podcasts that relied on advertising revenue for their existence or at least the promise of ad revenue. We saw this back in 2008-9, when ad spends were greatly reduced some companies did not survive.
Per what it means for the vast majority of podcasts that are not monetizing via advertising? It will have no long term effect on them. Overall the space will move on and survive — just with a few less players in it at the end of 2020 vs. the beginning of 2020.
But per the number of podcasts? That will keep going up both for the overall number and the more important active number of shows.”
Managing Director of OmnyStudio
“At the moment we’re obviously seeing a huge spike in daily news content, as both new and existing shows tailor and adjust their programming. I think we’ll soon reach a point where people hit a limit with their news consumption and they start hunting for more (say) comedy or entertainment content that helps them escape, if only for a few minutes. But those news shows will remain as trusted points of information moving forward and programming will adapt and audiences will continue to grow.
As much as daily routines are changing habitual listening right now (lack of commute, more desktop or smart speaker listener etc), new routines will form and survive on the other side of all this – and given the passion of podcast listeners, I can see that only as a good thing for the industry.”
VP of Pacific Content
“One of the biggest opportunities for a podcaster is to earn your way into a listener’s daily or weekly routines. If you become a regular part of a daily commute or a workout, you are truly valued by your listeners and you’ll, in turn, receive exceptional engagement from them.
So what happens when all those routines are gone? When there is no morning commute and there is no gym workout? Early data suggests that media consumption patterns are changing – they are spreading out during the day, audiences are listening to more podcasts on browsers, and there are already noticeable increases in smart speaker usage:
The length of this period of self-isolation and working-from-home will likely determine whether we see any longer-term shifts in listening behaviours. If this pandemic causes large numbers of people and businesses to question the value of an office and instead choose to continue working from home, we could see these shifts in listening become the new normal.”
Daniel J. Lewis
“The My Podcast Reviews service has been tracking podcast additions for more than a year and we've seen significantly more podcasts launch during the pandemic than ever before. I think many of these new podcasters will discover the power of podcasting to authentically engage a passionate audience and will continue beyond the pandemic.
Plus, the ease of reaching an audience through podcasting is proving itself to be extremely affordable and I expect we'll see a lot more investment in podcasting and other on-demand media in months and years following the pandemic.”
President of Motor City Woman
“I don't think things will ever go back to being what we considered normal pre-COVID-19. There will be a new way to do everything, including podcasting. For example, the usage of video conferencing exploded during this time.
This is something that will definitely continue as we understand how to leverage technology to reach a broader audience.”
VP of Content and Partnetships at Libsyn
“Podcasting survived past disruptions to our economy back in 2008-9 during the mortgage crisis, and the medium continued to see steady growth in content and listening.
The current situation is quite different, given the global pandemic. The impacts of social distancing and stay-at-home orders globally have likely permanently changed podcast listening places and situations.
When this pandemic ends, we may go back to growing mobile listening again. But we may be seeing a permanent shift to more home listening as we look to the future as we see large numbers of people shift to more remote and home-based work situations and spend less time commuting in cars, buses, and trains.”
Founder of, AmplifiMedia
“What hasn’t been disrupted from COVID-19? The only three happy companies are Amazon, Netflix and Disney+. The carnage in retail is frightening. I hope my local Chinese restaurant makes it (see photo at top of post).
I say to my clients, you’ll know things are getting back to normal when traffic reporters have something to talk about; until then, all listening and viewing patterns are abnormal.
There will be some winners and losers in podcasting just like everything else. Habituation is a real thing and when it is disrupted, all bets are off. As far as advertising goes, podcasting has held up really well. That speaks volumes versus some wreckage in other media.”
Co-founder of Podcast Movement
“I honestly believe that podcast creation will not be much different after The Thing passes. Sure, things are different now. Many traditional media and entertainment folk have jumped into the space to fill the void in their schedules. The good ones might stick around, and most will go back to whatever it was they were doing before. But that is really no different than what we saw happening prior, it just happens to have been on a different scale.
Podcast consumption, though, is what I could see changing, but to what extent I am just not sure. Obviously right now we're seeing the effects of folks not commuting, and thus not listening in their vehicles. However we're also seeing the effects of people working from home without coworkers, and thus listening more on their computers during work hours.
It remains to be seen how many people return to commuting to work, how many people stick to working remotely, and how many people have lost their jobs whose lifestyle and habits will change altogether. But those factors will definitely have an extended impact on not just who is listening, but how they are listening, too.”
Founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of the Grammar Girl podcast
“I do think the pandemic will have effects on podcasting. Not only have we passed the million podcast mark, but we're also seeing that many more people have started podcasts in the last 30 days (see My Podcast Reviews chart above). That's probably everything from people who have always wanted to start a podcast and now have the time, to people who have lost income and hope to make money podcasting, to people who used to create in-person media like TV shows and have now turned to podcasting because it's something you can create together without being in the same room.
Everyday people and famous people are all seeing podcasting as something they can do right now. And those famous people can both bring new listeners into podcasting and suck up some of the air (and advertising) from smaller podcasts. I'm hopeful it will be a wash for independents. My impression is that it always has been in the past.
Also, we're seeing changes in the types of shows people are consuming. True crime was once a sure bet, but I'm hearing traffic to those shows is down. Personally, I'm listening to more fiction podcasts, and I hear that other people are too, so that could encourage creators to make more fiction podcasts in the future. More networks seem to be making shows for children to help all the parents wondering what to do with their children who are now home all day. Maybe in the same way getting kids to use Apple computers at school helped Apple build a loyal market, getting kids to listen to podcasts will make them lifelong podcast listeners and help grow the podcasting market.
It will be interesting to see if all the genre changes stick after things have settled down or if people go back to their old consumption habits.”
Co-founder of She Podcasts
“We won’t really be able to see the true impact of COVID-19 until much later. Podcast listening is built on behavior and habits. We are all starting to settle into new routines, in weeks we’ll adjust again, and then again.
What I do believe 100% is that listenership will grow, maybe not tomorrow, but when we look back, we will be able to see a steady and strong rise in overall listenership throughout the industry. Podcasting will be part of essential daily behavior in a much larger way.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a lot to think about. As we grapple with uncertainty and the normalization of social distancing, many podcast listeners have reduced their consumption and some have stopped listening altogether. This is causing our downloads to drop and as a result, many are losing motivation to continue producing new content.
Nevertheless, aspiring creators are using this time to launch the show that they've had on their hearts for a while. I think the podcasting space will continue to expand as more people see podcasting as a way to share their message and connect with others. However, I do anticipate “podfade” increasing as more experienced podcasters drop out.”
Editor of the Podnews newsletter and radio futurologist
“Podcasting has typically been less reliant on large studio facilities than, say, broadcast radio: so in many cases, the production process hasn't changed much. I think COVID-19 will have taught us that flexibility is key: and that it's easy to launch additional shows in particular – just look at the number about the coronavirus.
Advertising, too, benefits from this flexibility – as we switch creative copy to talk about home delivery rather than going to stores. I think it's been a useful experience for many: an enforced rule-breaking that, in many cases, has resulted in more honest, real and relevant programming that benefits us all.
Radio's strength has been, partially, a result of our ingrained habits. We listen to the radio in the car because we always have, after all. I wonder whether the change in consumption patterns during this pandemic will change all media consumption going forward – and what that means for podcasting and for radio. My suspicion is that we're learning new habits: and that things will never quite be the same again.”
Founder of Sound That Brands
“Let’s follow the money. A study by Advertiser Perceptions found that while some ad budgets are being cut during the pandemic, many dollars are also being reallocated. With the effects of this pandemic likely to linger and evolve rather than simply pass, advertiser trial of new media options – like podcasting – will remain, too.
One of their survey results was especially encouraging to us, as podcasters who tell brand stories.
At few times in history has there been such a pent-up demand for human contact. Yet brands’ ability to have in-person interaction with customers at events will not return soon. Podcasting has proven its ability to humanize brands through powerful “theater of the mind” storytelling, and other ways to deliver content marketing will grow, too.”
CEO & Co-Founder, Rebel Base Media
“COVID-19 poses an interesting set of challenges and opportunities for the podcasting industry.
First and foremost, consumption behaviours are changing during the crisis and one must wonder how many of those new behaviours will stick once the crisis has abated and how podcasters may tweak their content formats, schedules and routines to suit what is potentially fresh behaviour from the listener.
There are also significantly more podcasters starting to create content during the COVID-19 crisis and a potential benefit of this to the industry is in viewing what the newly successful shows have in common – how are they innovating in their audio delivery to help them stand out amongst the 1,000,000 other podcasts available to listeners.”
Creating sound strategies starts with audience research insights. You're invited to take part in our second COVID-19 study. We're doing separate studies for commercial, public, and Christian music radio here in the U.S. And some “breaking news:: – we're excited to tell you the study will now include a Canadian version. To learn more and to register your station, go here.