When pandemic lockdowns swept the country in Spring 2020, there were concerns that the booming podcast business might take a pause — the dramatic decline in people commuting meant fewer people listening on the go. Podcast downloads did initially decline, 10% between February 25 and March 25, but instead of that decline accelerating, digital audio rebounded, and 2020 catapulted a new generation of social audio companies into prominence.
The new format — live conversations — emerged as an audio trend that has social media giants stepping up efforts to keep their control over internet experiences. One of the audio upstarts, Discord — which started as a chat platform for gamers and has been around since 2015 — saw its popularity explode. Meanwhile, Clubhouse, which launched during the pandemic, quickly scaled its user base to number in the millions and its valuation into the billions.
Defying expectations, podcasting revenue continued to grow and eMarketer had to revise its 2020 estimate from a 1% decline in the time U.S. adults spend with audio, to 8.3% growth, for about an hour and a half a day. Clubhouse claims users spend over one hour, on average, on the app daily.
While people may have been commuting less,