Then the coronavirus pandemic struck, and podcasting consumption immediately changed. Spotify noticed drop-offs in listeners tuning in via their cars and wearable devices — probably because they were no longer commuting into work. Meanwhile, listening time around activities like cooking, doing chores and family time suddenly surged. There was also an uptick in podcasts related to wellness and meditation.
That sudden shift wasn’t something the company had anticipated — and it could have been worrying, but Spotify’s Chief Content and Advertising Business Officer Dawn Ostroff said the streaming service is getting even stronger in spite of the pandemic.
“I think once things return to normal and people wind up commuting again, the habits that they’re forming now will stay with them,” Ostroff said. “It just allows for even more time for them to consume podcasts in different times and different ways.”
In an interview with CNN Business’ Rachel Crane, Ostroff said Spotify users have been listening to podcasts later in the day than usual. They also are listening through more home devices such as televisions and gaming consoles.
“What we’ve seen through the pandemic is that people are really sitting down and listening to podcasts in a group,” Ostroff said. “It’s been clear to us that there’s real opportunity in family consumption.”
A bold bet
Apple has long been the dominant player in podcast consumption, but Spotify is rising in popularity among listeners. Ostroff said Spotify is “ahead of Apple” in more than 60 markets. Spotify pointed to data tracked by podcast technology firm Voxnest, showing that between January and May, Spotify’s podcasts were used more frequently than Apple podcasts in countries including Canada, Germany, France, Mexico and Spain, among others.
“That’s pretty meaningful because we’ve only been in the game now for about two years,” Ostroff said.
Podcasting in a pandemic
Despite the pandemic changing people’s daily lives, podcast consumption continues to grow across the industry. Chartable CEO Dave Zohrob said his podcast analytics company saw a 20% drop in consumption in early March for podcasts using the platform. But that bottomed out by the end of March and is now trending upward. Jonathan Gill, CEO of analytics company Backtracks said his platform showed overall listening was up by 2.78% in March, compared to February.
Podcasting “is more and more the way people are spending time, trying to educate themselves, trying to get smarter, trying to have companionship in a moment when people are alone,” Grundmann added.
‘Not just a side-show anymore’
For Spotify, the industry’s growth is great news.
“We felt like we need to have the number one podcaster on our platform in order to really be a winner in this medium,” Ostroff said. “It doesn’t feel like a risk to us because [Rogan] is such an important player in this space.”
Marty Moe, president of Vox Media Studios, told CNN Business the company’s podcast “consumption from Spotify has increased.” Vox Media has more than 200 active shows in its podcast network.
Spotify’s investment “validates what we’ve known for years,” Moe said. “This is a medium that’s not just a side-show anymore.”
Ostroff said Spotify is seeing a rise in podcast creation, saying that 150,000 new podcasts were made in March compared to February.
“Maybe we’ll have some of those podcast producers stay on and continue to make content even after life resumes and we go back to somewhat of a normal existence,” Ostroff said.