Podcast Pandemic

Has the humble podcast survived the pandemic?

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Podcasts were a staple part of my daily commute long before COVID-19 arrived, but following on from the pandemic, my consumption of them has increased ten-fold.

From one podcast every day to more than ten a day. My new colleagues are voices emerging from my Google Home Speaker. They bring me a variety of news and humorous updates from the world around me. They help me get through the day, cutting through the silence like a group of friends that I have never met.

Each of my chosen podcasts conveys a mood. Either humorous, serious, or simply random. Depending on how the day is going, depends on which arrives next on the list. Podcasts are a great way to fill the void left behind through home working.

A Reduction in Downloads

Podcasts were previously reserved for the commute.

Typically, this is where most podcasts are listened to, whether that is on the train, cycle, car or walk. However people chose to commute, they invariably chose to commute with noise in the background.

With the arrival of the pandemic, the consumption of podcasts reduced, a large majority of the commuting population suddenly found their commute greatly reduced. From an hour to less than a minute.

Despite what most men tell themselves, it is not worth getting into something for such as short time period. With this came the inevitable decline in podcast downloads.

‘When coronavirus first upended American business back in March, people stopped commuting, and podcasting took a big hit, with downloads declining about 10%, according to Charitable.’
‘The downloads are back’: Podcasting finishes the first half of 2020 strong, Digiday.com

Any short, sharp shock in life results in a knee jerk reaction. Back in March, we were all struggling to find our feet. In England, we were only just reaching the stage of locking down towards the end of the month but still resulted in uncertainty.

A Quick Rebound

In a similar vein to any short, sharp, shock, people quickly adapt, and podcasts have returned. Not all shows have though and as you would imagine, those that focus on news and trends have shown the highest levels of resurgence.

‘Over the past two months, podcast downloads have returned to their pre-COVID levels. In June, Chartable tracked 825 million downloads, up from 600 million in March. And advertisers, more focused than ever on justifiable investments, have kept spending up, agency and publisher sources said.

Not every show or format has rebounded in the same way — news shows, for example, have driven a disproportionate share of the listening in the first half of the year.’
‘The downloads are back’: Podcasting finishes the first half of 2020 strong, Digiday.com

The data displayed above is missing one key consideration.

Is the return to podcast consumption due to people heading back to the office, or realising that they missed the format? Podcasts never really left for me. They keep me company when I am working, whether that is the gruelling one minute commute these days, or the walk to the shop.

A Key Boost for Mental Health

Mental health is a key consideration for all of us, all year round, not simply during a global pandemic. The consideration is heightened during this time but they are always here. I have good days and bad days, much like we all do. The key consideration is how we manage those bad days and how do we make the most of the good days?

There are hundreds of mental health orientated podcasts out there. Mind.co.uk is one of the top ones in the UK, which I would recommend listening to, but beyond the focus on the subject, sometimes all we need is a distraction.

If we are sad, then it is good to listen to something light-hearted and funny. If we are happy, then listening to something poignant can help us focus and think beyond ourselves.

You can easily match a podcast to your mindset to help you through the day. I have around ten on regular rotation, covering marketing, writing, humour and videogames, alongside mental health.

Each day I listen to my mood and choose a podcast to accompany it. When my flat is as quiet as it is, it is easy to get lost in the silence and so my podcasts are the voice calling to me through the night. They help me focus and are a boost to my mental health.


I like to share knowledge. This is how we move forward as a society and how I like to live my life, by giving back. With this in mind, these are my top three recommendations in regards to top moods they help to cover.

1. Sha**ed, married and annoyed
This is the latest to arrive in my rotation. I have finished listening to all episodes in less than a month because it is funny. The only goal with this podcast is to unwind and take your mind off other stresses. It has therefore been perfect for lockdown 2 and would be a great recommendation for anyone.

2. Serial, incorporating Nice White Parents
If you are in the mood for unsolved cases and facts that do not fit the case, then this is a great podcast. It won’t last you as long as number 1 on this list but it is worth a listen. The first season is the best, alongside the latest incarnation, Nice White Parents.

It explores themes that we don’t want to talk about as a society. It is eye-opening and one for a day in which your mood is high and you want something to draw you in and make you think.

3. GameScoop
This is focused on videogames. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is funny. It is informative and entertaining. This I would say is a must for those videogame fans out there who want to hear the latest reviews and recommendations. It is a podcast for most moods.

A Final Thought

It sounds odd to say that podcasts are mood boosters but they are. Rather than reduce consumption, I have increased the number that I listen to every day. Making use of my Google speaker set up I have created a routine each day in which the voices of my mood boosters follow me around the house, so I never feel lonely.

Podcasts, in a similar vein to game streams, offer us a glimpse of what the world was like pre-COVID-19. We were able to meet people when we wanted and in a manner of our choosing. With podcasts, we have voices in our house that hold our attention and make us want to listen more. They are the conversations that we are missing and the insight that we desire.

Whether the world goes back to the office as we once did or stays at home, I do not know. What I do know is that podcasts are great additions to your day. They can boost your mood and add to your thinking. They are my friends away from my friends.

Written by

A writer of many things, all of which make him think or smile.

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