[eMarketer] Digital audio took a huge hit in user engagement in 2020
Early when the coronavirus pandemic started, digital audio took a huge hit in user engagement and in the amount of time listeners were spending with the medium.
Many observers, including eMarketer, predicted dire results in the short term. However, the rest of the year played out very differently than those early weeks, and eMarketer ultimately revised our 2020 estimate from a 1.0% decline in the time US adults spent with digital audio to 8.3% growth, for a total of 1 hour, 29 minutes (1:29) per day.
As people stayed home in the early days of the pandemic, time spent initially swung heavily toward traditional TV and social media, and soon thereafter to all forms of digital video and gaming. However, as the months passed, consumers gravitated back to digital audio with gusto, even as behavior and patterns of usage changed substantially.
Listeners developed new habits and preferences while working and schooling from home. Apps like Spotify and Pandora reported increased usage via smart speakers and smart TVs, and increased usage at unusual times of day; for instance, weekday usage began to resemble weekend usage. Podcasts, too, reportedly saw an unexpected spike in popularity, as long-form audio engagement became easier to undertake at any given time of day.
Notably, eMarketer notes that 2021 will mark a major milestone between traditional radio and digital audio: 50.8% of US adults’ total audio time will be spent listening via digital services. This will be the first time digital audio surpasses traditional radio in time spent, albeit ever so slightly.