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Steve Goldstein: Which Podcast Categories Have the Most Titles? You May Be Surprised

steve goldstein press march 2015 canvasSteve Goldstein’s Amplifi Media works with media companies and podcasters in developing audio content strategies. This column was originally published on Blogstein, the Amplifi blog.


Last week we did an X-ray of the top 200 podcasts from Apple’s podcast charts and divided them by subject matter. The findings were revealing and created a good deal of chatter.  Just 4 of Apple’s 16 categories are responsible for over 2/3rds of the Top 200.   You can see the post here.

This time, we were curious about the types of shows that comprise the 420,000 podcasts on Apple Podcasts.  We picked a random day in October. The chart below shows what may include a few surprises.

Religion & Spirituality tops the 16 major podcast categories in Apple Podcasts with over 58,000 titles.

There are more podcasts about religion and related issues than any other topic. 

Let’s start at the top.

  • Region & Spirituality is by far the largest podcast category – Put simply, there are more podcasts about religion and related issues than any other topic – over 58,000 individual titles from Joel Osteen to Elevation Church to Tara Branch on Buddhist meditation.  The category accounts for 13% of all podcasts. If you are looking for Oprah, she is in Society & Culture.
  • Given the arcane rules of music licensing in podcasting, we were surprised that music is the 3rd biggest category – Expected titles such as “Song Exploder” are here, along with lots of mix shows and time-shifted radio shows.  I don’t want to even think about the rights infringement that is occurring among these 41,000 titles.  You might want to refer back to the most-read blog post we have ever run; “Why can’t music be played in podcasts?”
  • Arts is #4 – Arts is a compendium of lots of varied topics ranging from architecture to food. You’ll find NPR’s “Fresh Air,” “99% Invisible”, book review shows and food podcasts including “Sporkful” in this category of 38,000 titles.
  • News & Politics – This category drove the second highest number of shows in the top 200 (34) analysis we did, yet is far down as the 11th category in terms of podcast titles.  For some perspective, that’s  almost 2/3 fewer than the number of titles in Religion.  We surmise, this has to do with the relative cost of creating effective content in this sector.

This chart provides a view featuring the percent each category comprises of the 420,000 podcast title in existence.

Last year there were some 460 actively produced shows in all of television, which includes over-the-air and cable. Contrast that to 32,000 podcasts just in the comedy section of Apple Podcasts.

We took the same data and sliced it differently in the chart above.  We show the percent each of the 16 major categories represent.  For example, 8% of all podcasts are related to education.

The data is illustrative on many levels.  For example, those who think that podcast discovery is not an issue need look no further than any single category. As a means of comparison, last year there were some 460 actively produced shows in all of television, which includes over-the-air and cable. Contrast that to 32,000 podcasts just in the comedy section of Apple Podcasts.

Not all podcasts are designed to swing for the fences.  There are many hobbyist and business podcasts, which by design, appeal to smaller but enthusiastic audiences. In fact, Libsyn, which releases monthly data on their large platform of podcasts, reports the median number of downloads in October was 151, and grading it on a curve, dropping the lowest and highest 1%, it comes in around 1,600 per podcast.

There are lots of ways to gauge success in podcasting.  Renowned business consultant Clayton Christensen may offer the best advice – be clear on the job the audience is hiring you to do.

A great short video on the subject.

Once again thanks to Chadd Hallowed for his remarkable data wizardry.

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Steve Goldstein

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