Will podcast ad revenue bounce back after COVID-19?

Acast CEO Ross Adams looks at the industry's future

There are early signs that media will be one of many industries to take a huge blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, with sharp declines in ad revenue and significant layoffs. Podcasting is unlikely to be an exception; Podtrac recently reported that downloads have fallen 10% since the beginning of March, while unique listeners fell by 20%.

A different picture emerged when I spoke to Ross Adams, CEO of podcast advertising company Acast, which works with both bedroom podcasters and large publishers like the BBC and PBS NewsHour.

Adams said listenership isn’t down — it’s just that audiences have changed when they’re listening and what they’re listening to, with Acast seeing its largest weekends ever in recent weeks. And plenty of people want to start new podcasts; signups for the Acast Open platform increased 49% month-over-month in March.

“What we’re seeing now is an opportunity for people to discover podcasting as a medium,” he said. “And once you discover it, you stick with it.”

Advertising may be a separate issue, with Adams admitting that the downturn is likely to affect “every business that has the majority of their revenue from ads.” But even then, he sees opportunity as marketing dollars move from traditional industries like radio and out-of-home advertising.

We also discussed Acast’s financials, the podcast discovery process and tips for new podcasters. Read a transcript of our conversation, edited for length and clarity, below.

TechCrunch: Let’s start with the good news. One of the prompts for this conversation is the fact that you guys announced some financial numbers — you doubled the revenue last year to $38 million. So first of all, congratulations.

Ross Adams: Thank you.

And secondly, there’s a lot of different factors at play and different conversations about podcasting breaking through in 2019. But when you look back, what do you see as the biggest factors that contributed to your growth?