Without a doubt podcasting has seen a bit of a boom during lockdown. Thousands of podcasts were started and the number of people listening to podcasts also went up.
How much of that though was down to lockdown forcing us to change habits? And what does the easing of lockdown mean for you and your podcast?
Why did podcasts do well in lockdown?
There’s a few reasons I think podcasts flourished in lockdown.
Firstly - you don’t need to be looking at a screen to listen to a podcast. We all got Zoomed out pretty quickly right? And I found myself losing all my ability to concentrate on anything that was on a screen. Apart from Tiger King. But that got old pretty quickly too.
So having access to entertainment that didn’t need eyes on a screen was a godsend. Having access to information that didn’t need eyes on a screen was next level stuff.
Secondly - there was a real need for entertainment wasn’t there? The news at times over the past 18 months has felt relentless. I was desperate for something that wasn’t the horror of what was happening across the world.
And podcasts filled that need beautifully and at a time that was convenient for me too.
And that on demand element of podcasts helped fuel the “news” podcasts too. They also did well for the same reason I shunned them - people wanted to know what was going on. The regular news bulletins weren’t enough - they wanted deeper analysis and conversations. Podcasts filled that need beautifully.
Thirdly - lockdown was a lonely time. Especially lockdown one where the restrictions were really strict about bubbles and being outside. Even if you were locked down in a house full of people you could still feel very lonely.
Podcasts provide companionship. The ones that turned up week after week, offering support, whether that was through entertainment, knowledge sharing or simply offering a feeling of community did particularly well.
Fourthly - I know this wasn’t the case for everybody and each of us had a very different lockdown experience, but for some people lockdown gave them extra time and space.
This gave them the opportunity to explore podcasts a bit more and even start their own.
This, along with the fact that podcast listening was already growing, that big names such as the BBC and Spotify were investing heavily in podcasts and podcasting means that podcasts had a boom of a time.
Oh and let’s not forget before 2018/2019 podcasting was still relatively small in this country. I was still explaining to people what a podcast was, rather than why I think podcasting is ace and why it’s useful to your business! This uptake in podcasts looks particularly good because of this low base.
Podcast Life After Lockdown?
Having heard me say that lockdown’s been ace for podcasts and podcasting you may well be wondering what on earth is going to happen when things go back to the old normal.
Well don’t worry because I predict things will get even better!
First off - commutes are back! Yes there’s plenty of talk of home working and flexible working arrangements, but a) that’s not applicable for everybody who has a job, b) equally plenty of companies are bringing staff back to the office, c) even taking out commutes, people are certainly in their cars more compared to this time last year.
This means one of the most popular places/activities that people listen to podcasts in or during is increasing.
This is great for the people who fell off the podcast wagon because their commute stopped and so did their opportunity to listen to a podcast in peace and quiet!
It’s also great for the people who discovered podcasts during lockdown because they’ve now got a new opportunity and maybe even more time to consume your podcast.
Secondly - and similar to commuting, gyms have reopened! If you listened to last week’s episode you’ll know that the gym is another popular place for people to listen to podcasts.
So that’s another opportunity you have to get inside the ears of your listeners.
Thirdly - there will be plenty of people who are unsure about the easing restrictions and may well choose to live by the restrictions that were in place. Your podcast can play the same positive role for these people as it did in the lockdowns.
Fourthly - people will have built up their podcast habits. Hopefully they’ve been binge listening to everything you’ve produced. Followed you on social media, signed up to your email list or maybe even bought from you. As long as you’ve done a good enough job to make every listener feel as though they belong to the community, you will struggle to lose listeners.
Fifthly - there may well be some listeners that leave your podcast, either because they lost their opportunity to listen - they’re off furlough and back to the day job, or maybe, they found a new podcast because so many were started during lockdown and they can’t cope with another one, or because they were protecting themselves from all the stresses of lockdown. Now lockdown is easing, they don’t need you in the same way.
Sixthly - I suspect there will be a drop off in the number of active podcasts for very similar reasons as to why people may well stop listening to your podcast. Lives are changing again this summer. OK they are changing in a slightly different way than they did in March 2020 but they are changing and shifting, so people may decide that they need a bit of a refocus this year.
Seventh - You will no doubt see a bit of a drop off in listeners over the next couple of months. I am already calling this the summer of catch ups and even though the world of foreign travel is still uncertain, plenty of people are spending time in the UK for their holidays or heading off to spend time with family and friends who they’ve not seen for quite some time.
Podcast listening as I mention quite a lot is a solitary activity so if your listener has decided to spend the summer seeing people then they are going to have less time to listen to you. Sorry.
The good news is that they will probably come back to you. I suspect come September, which always feels a bit like New Year, there will be a settling down of life and routines.
So what does this mean for you and your podcast?
First of all now is as good a time as any to do a podcast spring clean/refresh/audit - whatever you want to call it. Decide if it’s still doing what it needs to do and what you want it to do.
If it’s not - change it. Use the summer as your tweaking time. Listen to my episode all about refreshing your podcast - it’s episode 64 and came out on May 14th.
Step up your awareness of your podcast. Make sure people know it exists, even if they’re not listening to it. Stay in people’s minds so that when they are ready to get back to podcast listening after the summer break you are the first place they go to!
Keep going and don’t be disheartened if the numbers fluctuate. That’s the nature of podcasting. Go back to what you decided your measure of success was, are you still hitting those targets or at least on the way to those targets? It’s not all about the numbers, it’s about what you want your podcast to achieve.