So, here’s my sense of where we are at the moment: it’s April 14, 2020, which means that, as of this week, we’re about a full month into widespread implementation of social distancing measures in most places across the United States. In other words, we’re now firmly in the “new normal,” I think.
Now that we’re here, my inclination is to view whatever audience trends we see from here out as less about the effects of a disruptive transition and more about the new shape of podcast consumption behavior under these conditions. Then again, there’s the possibility that some parts of the country might opt to pull back on social distancing measures as part of an effort to open the economy back up, perhaps sooner rather than later, so there’s a chance we’ll end up seeing more bursts of disruptive transition in the weeks to come. In which case, we’ll probably see further weirdness in the audience trends. Whatever the case, we’ll continue doing these updates to the best of our ability.
On that note, this week I checked in with Ad Results Media, the advertising agency that’s widely believed to facilitate one of the larger shares of ad money in the podcast business. (Whether it’s the largest is the subject of some subject.) Whatever the actual percentage, they cut across a fairly deep cross-section of the industry, and their perspective tends to hold some value.
Their big takeaway, at least at this stage? “Overall download trends are flat from pre-quarantine time windows, with variances in different genres,” the team wrote back. “Given the overall disruption in the universe, the relatively unaffected consumption of podcasts is encouraging. For such a nascent medium, it can be difficult to keep your audience during times of large change. Seeing downloads remaining flat is actually promising at this time.”
They add, “Considering all of this change, we think the podcast industry is in a unique position to weather this storm, and say flat is the new up.”
Some things to consider about the methodology. Ad Results says that their analysis is built on information collected through direct data requests that they’ve been making over the past two weeks to their partner base, which includes an array of publishers, hosting providers, ad tech vendors, and even other ad sales networks. Though the company qualifies that their approach isn’t an official survey method — “so take it as such,” they noted — the team nevertheless claims that their requests produced a wider set of inputs than has been reported elsewhere so far, theoretically making their analysis more representative of the broader podcast space.
With all in mind, here’s a chart they sent over containing trend lines on average weekly downloads from twelve “Top Networks,” anonymized: