IAB UK Audio Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted on Monday 16 August 2021 | Antonio Forte - Industry Initiatives Executive, IAB UK

IAB UK’s Antonio Dale Forte looks into reports from leading IAB UK Audio Advisory Group members to see what the key consumer listening trends are during COVID-19. Read his summary here or download the full reports below for more detail

The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound effect on all of our lives. The impact that the shift to a home-based economy has had on our businesses, personal lives and communities is huge, both from a financial and social standpoint. We at the IAB want to understand these shifts in behaviour as best we can, in order to keep the industry informed during this difficult time. 

Through analysis of consumer trends provided by our members, we are attempting to understand how audiences are reacting to these changes, and to keep our members informed of opportunities that have presented themselves across growth channels during the crisis. 

In the first of a series of exploratory pieces, I will be taking a look at the audio sector, with the aim of shedding some light on an area that has seen an uplift in both consumer demand and content supply since the introduction of social distancing.

Firstly, it is worth considering why audio channels are uniquely positioned to adapt to a home-working scenario. Indeed, while every company has been affected in some way, mediums such as podcasting are partially shielded by the fact that they are predominantly digital, meaning that creators are perfectly positioned to adapt to the current situation by recording remotely and changing show formats to fit shifting demand. Podcasting companies Acast and Podfront have both cited the adaptability and perseverance of creators through this crisis as a key reason why audio remains in a position of strength among the wider industry. To put it simply, content can keep being released without significant structural change.

The relative ease of producing digital audio content in a world of social distancing has led to increases in output across the board. Acast reported the most podcast episodes ever published in a week at the end of March, whilst DAX have seen a 50% increase in creators uploading tracks to SoundCloud (including 30,000 new #covid19 tagged tracks). The marriage of agile content creation and an increasingly bored population seeking new forms of entertainment have laid the foundations for audio consumption to boom in this period.

In terms of consumer demand for audio, audience data has indicated rises in use across the board. Podfront, Acast, Adswizz and DAX have all reported between 5% and 30% increases in podcast listens depending on publisher and content type, while Bauer have seen a 96% uplift in Easter weekend radio listeners year on year as well as a 23% increase in radio streaming. Additionally, DAX have reported an 11% increase in music streaming and Adswizz have noted a 100% rise in smart speaker usage in the home.

DAX, Podfront and Acast have all observed that the largest increases in demand have come from entertainment, binge listening and comedy podcasts, while family and news content has also seen a rise. This suggests a UK wide appetite for light-hearted distraction and learning new skills, as well as staying informed. 

All our participating members reported that they are increasingly not seeing peaks around traditional commuting times or troughs over the weekend as usual, and that listening rates had moved to a more sustained average throughout the day as people start to adapt to more flexible working patterns. The traditional “audio day” is being disrupted and consumers are listening to content at all times, regardless of work hours. Additionally, Bauer has reported an increase in radio use across mobile, tablet and smart speakers, largely due to people moving away from desktop-based office listening habits.

As consumers settle into new habits, it is important for us as marketers to understand how audiences are reacting and how we can best connect brands with people over this period. Audio content - be it radio, music or podcasting - enables these connections at a time when other routes may struggle to do so. With increases in both the supply and demand of audio content, and more flexible targeting timeframes as listening becomes more sustained throughout the week, it is certainly an important channel to consider when planning activity in the age of coronavirus.

IAB UK Audio during Covid-19 Podcast Episode - listen here.

The insights



Acast’s insights into podcast listening in a pandemic  



Adswizz’s report looking into Digital Audio advertising in “The New Normal"



Bauer’s weekly report on audio listening trends across their brands



Dax’s insight on audio listening via connected devices during the Coronavirus pandemic



Podfront’s take on how Podcasts fit into our new ‘norm’

Written by

Antonio Forte

Industry Initiatives Executive, IAB UK


Related content


Brands’ handling of the COVID-19 pandemic will impact buying habits

Learn more

IAB UK Video on Demand Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn more

IAB UK Gaming Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Learn more
Stay Engaged

Stay Engaged Session 2: Social Media Stories can Help Save the World

Learn more

Rediscover the joy of digital advertising

Champion connections instead of clicks. Capture audiences' imaginations, not just their attention. Boldly move to your own beat instead of letting tech set the pace. It’s time to rediscover the joy of digital.