Despite the hardships and life disruptions that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, millions of people are still listening to their favorite podcasts–and the audio industry is still growing. There are over 850,000 active podcasts, and in 2020, more than half of Americans had listened to at least one audio podcast. From true crime stories to daily financial advice, people are getting their information and entertainment through audio content.
Hosted by Michael Barbaro, “The Daily” is the New York Times’ morning news show which features reporting from journalists around the world. In twenty minutes, listeners learn everything they need to know on the biggest news of the day. “The Daily” tops the charts for both Spotify’s News Podcasts and Apple’s News Podcasts.
National Public Radio (NPR) ranks among the top podcast publishers in the world and draws in 20 million listeners each month. Its popular “Up First” podcast provides the 3 major news stories of the day in ten minutes, with analysis and reporting by hosts Rachel Martin, Noel King, and Steve Inskeep.
Comedy continued to be one of the top podcasting topics throughout 2020. It actually was the most popular genre in October, pulling in almost ⅕ of all listeners in the U.S. Listeners continue to enjoy shows that feature a central comedian or celebrity that speak candidly and provide entertainment.
This show, exclusively on Spotify, experienced a surge in popularity in 2020. It was the #1 podcast on Edison Research’s list of Top 30 U.S. Podcasts as well as #1 on Spotify’s Podcast Charts. Joe Rogan, a stand up comedian, hosts long-form conversations with a variety of guests and friends, including Elon Musk and WWE Hall of Famer Mark “The Undertaker” Calaway.
True crime has topped podcast charts for years, and people continue to love it. There is something about digging into true crime stories and unsolved cases that millions of listeners are hooked on. One theory is that true crime’s popularity is due to the fact that it triggers fear in a controlled environment, and listeners have the freedom to dig into the psychological factors to understand why crimes are committed. In 2020, people especially turned to true crime podcasts for their horror fix.
Ashley Flowers and Brit host this popular show that is among the most highly ranked on Apple true crime podcasts. Meant for listeners who can’t get enough of true crime, this weekly show provides straightforward stories that are easy to follow and digest.
This all-time best seller is hosted by four men who used to be advisers for President Obama (Jon Favreau, Jon Lovette, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor). Joined by activists and journalists, they host a bi-weekly conversation about politics and break down the news of the week.
Hosted by Ben Shapiro, this podcast features a comprehensive and conservative analysis of the news, including politics. Shapiro aims to provide the hard-hitting truth five days a week. His podcast has experienced a high amount of growth, especially among younger listeners.
A racial justice reckoning took over the United States when George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis at the end of May. Searches for information on racism spiked over the summer, as millions of people sought education on race in America. Among the top sources for this information were podcasts. Shows that tackled racism head on and featured fearless conversations were not only popular among podcast listeners, but also opened eyes and illuminated difficult truths.
Hosted by journalists of color, this podcast became one of NPR’s top ranked podcasts and was #1 on Apple’s podcast chart in June. “Code Switch” delves deep into how race impacts every aspect of society, and features conversations with people who have traditionally been underrepresented and marginalized.
Hosted by DeRay Mckesson, an activist and organizer, this podcast explores social justice as well as politics and culture. Once a week, Mckesson sits down with local and national leaders, experts, and influencers like Megan Rapinoe for deep conversations about the state of race and racism in the country
Although many sports were canceled in 2020, podcasts on the subject continued to remain popular. Listeners flocked to sports podcasts for breakdowns on games, entertaining reviews, and information on teams or individual players.
This podcast from Barstool Sports trends at the top of both Spotify sports podcasts and Apple sports podcasts. The hosts deliver sports takes on daily topics and events, and aim to always provide something new so listeners are endlessly entertained.
One of the main reasons why people listen to podcasts is to learn new things. Some of the most popular podcasts simply aim to educate their listeners on topics big and small. Exploring these shows gives people random tidbits of information and skills that they can use to improve their lives.
This podcast covers a wide variety of topics to provide information on basically everything. The hosts, Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, connect with like-minded listeners who simply want to expand their knowledge of the world. The company behind “Stuff You Should Know”, HowStuffWorks, draws almost 28 million downloads monthly for its dozen podcasts.
Pop culture still rules–and podcast listeners enjoy shows that feature this genre. From reviews on popular movies and videogames to breakdowns of TV episodes, pop culture podcasts have provided people the entertainment and sense of communal belonging they’ve been seeking.
#13 on Edison Research’s Top Podcasts, “Office Ladies” is hosted by Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, co-stars in the popular TV series The Office. This is a “re-watch podcast” in which the hosts break down one episode of The Office every week and give listeners exclusive, behind-the-scenes information and stories.
Hosted by journalists Michael Hobbes and Sarah Marshall, this podcast reconsiders an event or person from the past that has been miscast in the public’s imagination. “You’re Wrong About…” experienced a surge in popularity and currently ranks in the top 10 Apple podcasts.
This historical, award-winning podcast focuses on dark, supernatural tales. It explores creepy places, tragic events, and mysteries from history. There is a darker side of history, and “Lore” unearths it. The podcast won awards in 2015 and 2016 and has over 285 million listens.
Another podcast from NPR, Podcast Money aims to explain the economy in simple terms. It consistently ranks among top business podcasts and has been produced since 2008, when the Great Recession hit the country. Listeners have relied on this podcast for years to get useful advice and information.
News was the top topic in 2020–but in 2021, listeners may be looking for a break from our grinding reality. With the pandemic winding down and the election over, it’s predicted that many listeners will turn back to escapism forms of content such as fiction and history. Comfortable entertainment shows that provide a distraction from reality may see a boost. With sports coming back and being held normally as the year goes on, sports podcasts may increase in popularity as well.
As the podcasting space grows and grows, many people are eager to see what the year brings in terms of collaboration among podcasters. Cross-promotion and networking is one of the best ways to grow a podcast’s reach, and there are many shows that are similar in theme and narrative that hold potential for collaboration. There also seems to be a melding of art forms; TV shows and films are being created that originate from podcasts, and some people hope to see this trend take off as well.
2020 brought frank discussions about racial equality, and podcasts are a great platform to ensure that certain voices and perspectives are heard. Industry experts are hoping that podcasts continue to grow in diversity, in terms of both content and hosts. Hopefully the industry will become more inclusive with diverse creators as podcasts increasingly connect with a broader audience. Spanish-language shows, for example, may become the premier podcast to produce.
Check out our Top 7 Ways to Grow Your Podcast guide and learn how to instantly boost your downloads with some of the top techniques in the industry. If you want more hands on help, then reach out to Podcatalyst for a free consultation today.