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True crime - a favourite subject for podcasting.

True crime is favourite podcast subject. 15% focus on news

15% of top podcasts focus on news but crime is podcasters’ favourite subject, a new US survey shows. It confirms earlier studies showing that true crime is the most common subject in several countries, according to the Pew Research Center. After years of steady, double-digit percentage growth for podcasting, listenership in general is starting to slow, a recent report by market research firm Insider Intelligence shows. Listeners in key markets like the US and UK increase but growth was no more than 5% and 4.7% in 2022, respectively, according to Insider Intelligence.

Spotify recently laid off hundreds of employees working with the company’s podcast business that was a focus for growth a couple of years ago with the company investing some USD 400 million. So has the company cancelled a controversial agreement with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle who were supposed to become the company’s podcast stars. Spotify’s deal with power couple Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company ended last year.

 The new study by Pew shows a diversity of subjects in the US. No single topic is the main focus of more than a quarter of the US podcasts.

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True crime is the most common topic, making up 24% of these top-ranked podcasts.. The next most common topics are politics and government (10%); entertainment, pop culture and the arts (9%); and self-help and relationships (8%).

There are also a number of podcasts that don’t fit into any of these topics (12%), such as fictional radio stories and teams of people playing the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

“One-fifth of these top podcasts – which are those with the highest average daily rankings on Apple’s and Spotify’s lists of top podcasts in a six-month period in 2022 – discuss multiple topics. Many of these podcasts are like talk shows, with the discussion flowing across topics”, the Pew says.

“The list of top podcasts generally reflects the interests of US listeners. Among the 49% of US adults who said in a 2022 Center survey that they listened to a podcast in the last year, entertainment, politics, history and true crime were all among the most common topics these podcast listeners turned to.”

News-focused podcasts can be about any topic, though most are about politics and government (49%) or sports (29%). Many have their roots in talk radio.

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Across topics, the most common format among news-focused podcasts is commentary (49%), while smaller shares – 22% each – are centered around deep reporting (podcasts that do in-depth examinations or analyses of a topic or story) or interviews. 

Just 6% are news summaries. Commentary is especially dominant among sports podcasts (82%).

“News organizations have been investing in podcasts for several years, and some produce podcasts about news and other topics. They have had some success in this area: 18% of top-ranked podcasts are affiliated with one of several dozen news organizations, such as NPR, The Wall Street Journal or The Ringer. About half (51%) are affiliated with some other kind of organization, such as Wondery or iHeartRadio, and 31% of top podcasts have no affiliation (i.e., they are independent).”

Most of the top-ranked podcasts studied are available on four major listing sites – Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Stitcher – and roughly three-quarters have a website.

Some of these podcasts also experiment with other ways to engage their audiences. About half of top podcasts (51%) produce a video to accompany most episodes.

“Many of these videos show the podcast being recorded, providing a more engaging experience for viewers. And 8% have a discussion forum or Discord server, to directly engage with their fans or allow fans to connect with each other”, the Pew says.

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