While platforms like YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Instagram, and even Pornhub saw significantly increased traffic in March due to coronavirus-related social distancing, there’s one type of digital entertainment that seems to be taking a hit: podcasts.
Podcasts have lost 15% of their U.S.-based audience since March 8, according to data from analytics company Podtrac broken down by the Nieman Lab at Harvard. It tracked the number of unique listeners tuning in to podcasts each week, and saw a 2% drop from March 8-15, an 8% drop the week after that, and another 2% decrease from March 22-29.
Additionally, it tracked a decrease in the number of users who are downloading podcast episodes to their devices. Those dropped 1% from March 8-15, 2% the next week, and 4% from March 22-29.
The hardest hit genres are tech podcasts (which saw 19% less downloads in the week ending March 29), history podcasts (17% less downloads in the same week), and true crime (which had been gaining a steady 15-20% more downloads week over week since Jan. 1, but saw an immediate dropoff beginning March 1).
However, as Nieman Lab reports, not all genres are suffering. Downloads of scripted/otherwise fictional podcasts are up 19%, podcasts about business are up 10%, science is up 9%, and kids’ podcasts are up 9% too.
It’s also worth noting that though viewership and downloads are decreasing right now, mid-pandemic, that doesn’t mean the podcast space’s general growth is slowing. Podtrac’s report points out that since Jan. 1, the number of U.S.-based listeners has grown 14%, and the number of users downloading episodes of podcasts has grown 31%.
So, why are podcasts seeing less traction when digital platforms and streaming services’ traffic is skyrocketing? Dan Frommer, editor-in-chief of tech and financial publication The New Consumer, theorized that it’s because far fewer people are doing things like commuting to work and going to the gym–activities that would normally give them a chunk of time to listen to podcasts. Folks stuck at home don’t have to make sure their eyes are on the road or treadmill, so instead of keeping up with their usual podcasts, they’re catching up on YouTube content and tuning in to Twitch’s charity streams.