People in the UK and US are listening to more digital audio as a result of the pandemic
Digital audio listening habits have changed
When lockdown arrived it disrupted our daily and weekly routines. Suddenly the hours spent listening on the commute disappeared – and podcast producers felt the shift. Listening figures took a dive and that trend was widely expected to continue. But far from a continued decline, digital audio has received a welcome boost with people changing, rather than ditching, their listening habits.
But far from a continued decline, digital audio has received a welcome boost with people changing, rather than ditching, their listening habits.
While we’re no longer listening in the car or on the train Monday to Friday, we are tuning in on the weekends and we are listening for longer.
It stands to reason that screen-fatigued home workers are turning more to audio-only experiences such as podcasts, streaming and radio during their downtime. And fellow parents, let’s be honest: any activity we can do while juggling childcare, home-schooling, making lunch, exercising or cleaning up stops barely short of a necessity right now.
The impact of choice and niche
With around 1,750,000 podcasts and 43 million episodes available it is highly likely there’ll be content available on the most niche of topics. At a time when there’s not much we can control, it seems we are grabbing the chance to make choices where we can: honing in on the content we want to hear.
We are grabbing the chance to make choices where we can
Recent research shows this targeted listening trend owes a lot to a change in the way we watch TV. Nielsen and Westwood One found people who watch TV mainly via subscription services (such as Netflix and Disney+) are more likely to be radio listeners than those who watch terrestrial programming.
Digital audio is rich with connection and exclusivity
Not only do we pick what we hear, but once we choose that radio station, stream, or podcast, the audio feels as if it’s made for our ears only. The relationship between speaker and listener is a strong one. At a time when connecting with others is so limited, perhaps it’s no wonder we have turned to audio to fulfil our connection needs: it’s a medium that allows us to explore and discover without requiring our full attention. Most importantly, we can consume without staring at an over-stimulating screen.
So whether it’s recreating that commute time by taking our headphones on a morning run, or listening to the radio on our smart speaker as we work from home; the pandemic has seen audio’s flexibility, control and intimacy come into its own.
Expect to see the continued rise of digital audio for some time yet.