Insights from the data analysis of Germany's largest podcast hoster
April 2020. The whole world is in a state of emergency. Neither the small village of indomitable Gauls is spared from the Corona pandemic nor the Berlin podcast hosting and analysis specialist Podigee. We stumble somewhere between paralysis and actionism, trying to make sense of what is going on around us.
[The original post:]
In many places people are currently craving for information: “What about stay-at-home orders? How dangerous is the virus? How long will it take the stock markets to recover? Where can I get toilet paper? When will my children be allowed to visit their grandparents? Will my employer still exist tomorrow?” Questions upon questions, which many people try to answer less and less often with classic linear information channels – and more and more with the help of podcasts.
This makes us curious, of course: How are podcast consumption and production changing in the times of Corona and Covid-19? Shouldn’t there be important, revealing insights in the data of the podcast hosters around the world? Well, luckily we are not only experts in hosting, but also in translating complex data into comprehensible and understandable statements.
BBC followed up a few days later (March 27th) with the announcement, that the consumption of online media has increased strongly (again: no surprise). Online radio stations and podcasts in the news, entertainment and sports sectors in particular are expected to benefit.
There are many more reports of this kind - but now we know at least roughly how the Corona pandemic so far has affected podcast consumption in Australia and the UK. This makes us all the more curious about looking into our very own pool of data.
As of March 30, 2020 - and thus one week after the introduction of nationwide contact and exit restrictions in Germany - we have asked ourselves the following questions and tried to answer them with qualified data:
What we would intuitively answer with “yes”, we can easily see by looking at the total downloads from Podigee’s servers in each calendar week:
We are seeing a significant increase in the number of downloads from calendar week 11 onwards: Between weeks 11 and 13, an average of 5.8 percent more podcast episodes are downloaded or streamed each week compared to the previous week . The proportion of podcast episodes played in the web player compared to downloads from the feed is particularly interesting: Between week 2 and 10, the share of web player plays averages 4.8 percent of total downloads. In the weeks 11 to 13, this share jumps to an average of 9.5 percent!
So let us note: Yes, in times of Corona definitely more podcasts are being downloaded. Of course, we also have our theories regarding the increasing web player access: We believe that a lot of people currently are spending time in front of their computers in their home office or during curfew, and sometimes even listen to podcasts there. We also believe that many people, who have not yet discovered the medium for themselves, stumble across podcast episodes in search of news about the current situation and listen to them directly on the corresponding website. We have drilled even deeper into our data to substantiate these theses with looking a a handful of high-reach podcasts. That revealed:
Some news formats even get three to four times as many such playbacks as usual. One more reason for all podcast producers to use the web player together with their own website (or at least a dedicated area within a website) as a easily accessible entry point especially for new listeners.
News podcasts in particular benefit from the many additional webplayer playbacks.
But we’ve also asked ourselves about listening behaviour, which is a bit more difficult to analyse. We use the punchcard format for this, with which we group requests by days and times by the hour. The timeslot with the most downloads on that day is coloured in dark orange - all less popular timeslots are displayed with a percentage of transparency accordingly.
At first glance, this looks like an orange patchwork carpet, but at second (or even twelfth) glance it reveals at least two exciting insights: Firstly, from the middle of week 11 onwards, podcasts are suddenly downloaded even at otherwise rather quiet times like Wednesday evening or Thursday. And secondly, the dark orange area shifts slowly over the weeks towards the weekend. However, both changes are not overly distinct.
Of course we are not only interested in a change in podcast consumption - we also suspect recognizable trends amongst podcasters:
We see the number of new podcasts created at our platform (orange) in correlation to newly registered Podigee users (petrol). The graph clearly shows how much registrations have increased in the last two weeks - with a jump of 98 percent more registrations than in the previous week from week 11 to week 12.
Earlier in this post (fold out the accordion) we’ve noted that in the United Kingdom and Australia podcasts from the categories News, Comedy and Sports seem to be doing better in the current crisis period, while categories like True Crime tended to lose some feathers. Our data hopefully allows for a solid assessment of the situation in the German-speaking countries. Because the comparison of individual weeks with each other showed too many fluctuations, we chose to use two-week time windows for comparison.
As we have seen in the graph for question 1, there is an above-average number of downloads across all the podcasts hosted by us, mainly in weeks 12 and 13, so we have now combined these two weeks and compared them with the data from an earlier, relatively stable period - specifically with the cumulative figures from calendar weeks 6 and 7:
|weeks 12+13 compared to weeks 6+7|
|Society & Culture||13.53%|
|Health & Fitness||-7.05%|
|Kids & Family||16.29%|
|TV & Film||12.10%|
|Religion & Spirituality||4.35%|
The data in the table is sorted in descending order of total downloads in each category. Compared to the top categories, the categories marked in grey - Music, History, Religion & Spirituality, Technology, Fiction and (especially) Government - are not accessed very often on our servers. This means: It doesn’t take much more or less downloads in the respective period of time for distorting our analysis with large percentual variantions. The categories are rather unsuitable for further considerations. The categories Business, Health & Fitness and Leisure are – with changes of less than 10 percent – within the range of regular fluctuations. The conclusion for these categories is therefore: everything as usual.
However, the remaining categories of our two-week evaluation show partly significant changes in times of Corona:
The Sports and Kids & Family categories also exerienced a significant increase in downloads of more than 16 percent each. According to our evaluations, the biggest losers are the categories Arts (-16%), Education (-19%) and True Crime (-14%).
Clear winning categories of the last two weeks are news (102%), science (46%) and comedy (24%).
However, there is one thing we must not forget, especially when looking at the category figures: The publication rhythm of podcast episodes does not necessarily have to be subject to a regularity: a popular podcast that does not release a new episode for two weeks can sometimes cause the figures for the whole category to drop slightly. It works the other way around, too, of course: High-frequency, but perhaps only moderately popular podcasts sometimes contribute to a category doing relatively well when viewed in a short time frame.
We can clearly confirm our initial question as to whether the consumption and production of podcasts has changed in times of the Corona crisis. The trends observed in Australia and the UK can only be partially substantiated by our data - regional differences probably play a major role here. In Germany, we note that news and science are very much in demand these days, but entertainment and children’s and family content are also increasingly being downloaded and consumed. Many people have long replaced their “8:00 p.m., TV on, news time” routine, which they have being trained to for generations, with a modern, time-sensitive, self-determined consumption of information - and podcasts are the obvious consequence.
So let’s very cautiously formulate an interim conclusion - as, after all, the crisis is not yet over:
In times of Corona, home office and social distancing, podcasts are clearly on the “winning side”.