Podcasts continue to grow in popularity day-by-day, but what types of podcasts are trending?
Types of Podcasts
First, let’s take a look at the different types of podcasts that are out there. Most podcasts typically fit into one of the following types:
- Interview podcasts or in-conversation podcasts
Interview podcasts often have one host discussing a certain topic with a guest or a series of guests. These can also take the form of a panel discussion, in which a group of people get together to chat about anything from politics to pop culture.
- Fictional, scripted podcasts
These podcasts are a form of audio drama. They are scripted and feature narrated stories, often including voice-acting and heavy sound design to draw the listener into a fictional world.
- Nonfiction or documentary style
These can be informative and often discusses a certain theme, topic or event. They often borrow elements from the other types, featuring interviews and storytelling. The host is often well-informed on their chosen topic, or will take the time to research their chosen subject in advance.
Now we know what types of podcasts are out there, we can break these down even further into categories or genres. When uploading your podcast online, you must choose which category your podcast falls under. Whether that’s business or comedy, news or science or one of the many other categories you can choose from. Podcast Insights have devised a very handy list which shows each category used by Apple Podcasts. Every podcast fits into at least one of these categories, and often touches on several.
So out of all the different varieties of shows out there, what types of podcasts are trending?
This graphic by Flourish breaks down the most “crowded” Apple Podcasts categories by number of episodes in that category. Religion & Spirituality top the list, with True Crime at the bottom. This means there are more podcast episodes discussing religion and spirituality than all others. But that does not mean they are the most popular or widely listened to type.
In fact, this study by Nielson, published by Marketing Charts (based on statistics gathered in the US), shows which categories are the most popular and the category of Religion and Spirituality is much further down the list, while True Crime proves to be much higher. According to this study, Music and TV & Movies top the most popular podcast categories.
This list comprised by PodTrac goes even further, revealing the 25 most downloaded podcasts of 2020. Nice White Parents by The New York Times came in at number one. Nice White Parents is a Society & Culture podcast which looks at American public schools and how they are shaped by white parents. Meanwhile, Down the Hill: The Delphi Murders (WarnerMedia) and The Dating Game Killer (Wondery) were the second and third most listened to podcast of 2020, and both fall under the category of True Crime.
Quality Over Quantity
The statistics speak for themselves when it comes to what types of podcasts are trending right now, however it is nearly impossible to guess why.
Quality of podcast is hugely important, but “quality” includes more than just your recording set up and audio quality. While it can’t be denied that a polished, well-edited podcast with some sound design and good music certainly helps make a good podcast sound great, the core success of any podcast stems from the quality of its content. That might seem obvious, but it is something which can be easily forgotten about when focusing on all the other elements which go into starting a new podcast.
No one will listen to your podcast if you don’t have something entertaining or interesting to say. The one thing the three most listened to shows of 2020 have in common is the way they structure themselves. Each podcast develop narratives built around a clear question the audience want answered. Are white parents the number one problem at American public schools? How did a serial killer fool his employers, psychiatrists and parole boards?
Even if the focus of their podcast isn’t necessarily story-driven, podcasts do well when they are telling a story which hooks in the listener and leaves them craving answers. This allows them to build and grow a dedicate following who will tune in every release day and sees them trending time and time again.