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Straight Talk Consumer and Entertainment Services

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Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the podcast industry was experiencing rapid growth, with the number of monthly listeners reaching 862 million globally in 2019 and advertising revenue experiencing double-digit increases. But while there has been major disruption to the daily routines of consumers worldwide as a result of lockdowns or other COVID-19 related restrictions, the sector is proving resilient.

Spotify noted in its first-quarter 2020 earnings release that in terms of user listening habits, “every day now looks like the weekend”, as consumers listen when doing chores, cooking, or spending time with family, rather than during rush hours or lunch breaks. Spotify noted that this trend was “more significant” in its podcasts portfolio compared to its music content, but that while listening patterns have shifted, nothing changes its long-term view of podcasts’ potential.

While many podcast listeners do tune in when commuting to school or work in the car or via public transport, in-home listening is equally, if not more, popular in many key podcast markets such as the US and China. This means that podcasts are particularly well insulated to the effects of the pandemic, because podcasts lend themselves well to listeners spending extended periods of time indoors. Over one-third of respondents to Omdia’s COVID-19 Consumer Survey told us that COVID-19 had led to no change in the time they spend listening to podcasts, with a further 25% reporting that time spent accessing this content had either increased or significantly increased.

During the last few months, the type of content consumers are listening to has also shifted. Podcast platform Acast highlighted in April that there was increased demand for comedy, technology, and finance podcasts globally, while Spotify said wellness and meditation podcasts were experiencing an uptick in listens on its service.

Consumers told Omdia in our survey that they have become more interested in news and information content compared to before the outbreak of the pandemic, with many stating that they intend to continue with this level of engagement after the threat of COVID-19 diminishes. This is good news for the podcast industry, with the news genre accounting for over one-fifth of podcast advertising revenues in the US, according to the July 2020 PwC and IAB study. Daily news podcasts have become increasingly popular and have proven to be valuable resources for listeners in recent months.

While annual growth in advertising is expected to slow, many brands and businesses are using podcasts to deliver what they can’t via their normal advertising channel of choice, such as out-of-home advertising. Podcasts offer a new way of connecting with audiences, who are often highly engaged and receptive to podcast advertising. Between January and March 2020, Acast reported significant increases in ad investment in multiple categories including education, home improvement, and groceries, highlighting that while COVID-19 has caused considerable disruption, the podcasts sector is both adaptable and resilient to its effects.

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