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Escapism and Changing Habits: how 2020 influenced podcasting

· By · 2.9 minutes to read

Looking back at 2020, the changes in our listening habits have told us the story of a year unlike any other. In 2020, podcasts provided us with an ability to maintain our connection to wider communities and bring conversations back into our homes when it had been physically difficult to do so.

So, what exactly had people been listening to during the pandemic? Comedy, true crime, business, and music podcasts offered a means of escapism from the sometimes overwhelming day-to-day. Medical podcasts saw increased listenership, and daily news remained strong as we tried to make sense of the changing medical and political landscape.

Changes to our morning commutes and daily routines, like going to work and the gym, also meant changes in our listening habits. With 44% of podcast listening taking place during commutes, listenership dropped at the start of lockdown in 2020.

However, it recovered to normal levels, showing the medium’s resilience and public demand, with over 10 million people listening to a podcast every week in the UK, and 100 million monthly podcast listeners in the US. Year on year, podcasts have seen modest growth, and it was reported that podcasts took up 5% of listening share in 2020, as opposed to 2% in 2019 in the US.

Storytelling acts as a means of introspection, and escapism.

2020 wasn’t easy going. Humans are social and habitual creatures, so being able to maintain those aspects was extremely important to our collective wellbeing.

Increased time at home gave us more time to immerse ourselves in podcasts, which became the perfect medium for us to decompress and make sense of the world, or even to escape the realities of it. This was a grounding and comforting means of enriching our minds and providing us with invaluable respite.

Keeping voices heard throughout the pandemic.

While social distancing had brought some creatives to a standstill, podcasting offered those of us with creative inclinations and a story to tell the opportunity to continue creating.

No stranger to podcasting, Focusrite has helped provide creative voices across the world with the tools needed to get their stories to their audiences. Earlier in the year, we spoke with Mason Lindsey, associate producer of Tenderfoot.TV, the creative collective behind podcasts such as Up and Vanished, and Culpable. They use the Scarlett 2i2 as an integral piece of production kit for their team. “No matter what level a producer is at in terms of technical knowledge, the Scarlett is totally user friendly,” Lindsay remarked.

In March 2020, to further strengthen our bond with podcasters, Focusrite partnered with other leading brands in content creation to host a Podcast Studio Makeover competition, providing studio makeovers to three innovative and unique voices in podcasting. Hundreds of entrants submitted audio samples and video pitches for the contest, with the winners chosen in August. The Doing It at Home Podcast with Sarah and Matthew Bivens, Jarika Johnson’s Blackpacking podcast, and Melanie Scroggins’ The Creator Speak Podcast were selected to receive complete prize packages from Focusrite, Hindenburg, Audimute, Heil Sound, and more, valued at over $2,300 each. “We’re so grateful to Focusrite for this opportunity,” said Matthew Bivens of Doing It at Home. “Winning this contest is a gamechanger in terms of polishing our show and improving our quality to bring listeners a fuller and richer experience. The team has been so amazing to work with. We’re honored to be a part of this!”

Although COVID-19's impact continues to keep us limited in our physical movement, podcasts have become the much-needed vessel for us continue to reach homes farther and wider than we can at present. While our listening methods have shifted, with many people listening at home rather on their commutes, demand for podcasts has stayed strong. With over 850,000 active podcasts at the start of 2020, podcasting continues to grow, and by the looks of things, we will have a lot to look forward to in 2021 and beyond.

Zainab Hassan is a London-based copywriter for Focusrite Audio Engineering Limited. She enjoys listening to a variety of podcast genres, ranging from true crime podcasts to offbeat comedy, including the likes of My Favourite Murder, Dissect, Reply All, and My Brother, My Brother and Me.

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