What does the Edison Top 25 podcast data tell us?
Back in May at The Podcast Show 2023 in London, the U.S. company Edison Research announced that they would be surveying UK podcast audiences for the first time to find the most popular podcasts in the UK. Now, the ‘first comprehensive UK Top 25 Podcasts chart’ has been released – and it’s got the UK podcast industry talking.
Why the Edison Report is different
Many podcast producers and industry professionals are excited about this new report because it is providing very different data on what the ‘most popular podcasts’ are. Whilst we can go to charts from apps like Apple Podcasts and Spotify, these are limited to download data, and can miss many listener types – such as those that use smaller podcast apps, people who listen together (e.g. a car journey) and people streaming directly from a podcast’s website.
Instead, Edison is asking listeners directly, which (in theory) means they can get data that crosses all platforms, networks and listening habits. They have been releasing podcast data like this for the U.S. since 2019, and many see this as the UK industry starting to catch up with the more established U.S. market.
The Edison Top 25 list
What do the Edison UK Podcast Metrics tell us about popular podcasts?
1. UK listeners prefer UK shows
In great news for the UK podcasting industry, we can confirm that UK listeners do want to listen to UK shows! Only four shows from the U.S. Edison Podcast Metrics list were on the UK list. This is a great reason to keep making podcasts in our book.
2. YouTube and video isn’t essential
If nothing else, this is a big moral boost for podcasters who prefer audio, and shows us the video isn’t essential to be a popular podcast. The emphasis on video podcasting has been increasing in recent years, and particularly as YouTube turns its attention to podcasting. But of the top 25 most popular podcasts in the UK, only eight are fully available on YouTube according to this article by Adam Bowie.
3. The Top 25 podcasts lean white, straight, and male
The hosts of the podcasts in the list are majority white, straight and male. This is the general list for everyone surveyed, and Edison has weighted the results to represent YouGov data (so this list shouldn’t hold a bias in those surveyed). However, it would be interesting to see how the list would differ if it were split by demographics (Edison charges to look into that data).
We did hear in a Podnews interview with Melissa Kiesche, Senior Vice President at Edison Research, that if you consider only women, the Top 5 podcast list would look like this:
- Diary of a CEO
- Sh**ged, Married, Annoyed
- Off Menu
- Happy Place
4. It’s not all about interviews
The interview is without a doubt the most prolific podcast format, and the top two shows are interviews. However, it’s great to see there is a range of other formats in the list. Round-table style shows – like That Peter Crouch Podcast and The Infinite Monkey Cage – featured heavily, perhaps because these shows have more chances for listeners to connect with guests or multiple hosts. The BBC’s Uncanny was the only investigative podcast, and surprisingly there were no true-crime shows in the UK list (there were four in the U.S. top 25).
5. The BBC produced the largest number of popular podcasts
With six shows, the BBC has produced the largest number of the Top 25. But this may be a matter of having the most to offer in general – the BBC Sounds app currently has more than 600 shows in their podcast section, which are a mix of podcast-first content and podcast versions of radio shows. In comparison, Goalhanger Podcasts (the second most popular producer in the list) only has eight shows – three of which weren’t published at the time the survey was conducted.
Whilst the BBC has the most shows placing in the top 25, none of those made it into the top five. It goes to show that having one really good idea for a show and focusing on it can take a show really far.
6. The most popular shows are a mix of classic and new shows
It can sometimes be disheartening to see the same long-running shows feature in top charts over and over again. Being well-established with a big back-catalogue can certainly boost download numbers, but there were newer shows in this list. The Rest Is Politics is only 18 months old and The Therapy Crouch is less than a year old. Podcasting is clearly not an oversaturated market, and listeners are enjoying new shows.
7. Popular podcasts aren’t necessarily award-winning podcasts
We’re in the middle of the UK podcast awards season at the moment, with the British Podcast Awards last month, The International Women’s Podcast Awards and the new Independent Podcast Awards this month, and the Audio Production Awards rounding it off in November. But it is interesting to note that from the Top 25 list, The News Agents is the only show (so far) that has featured in any of these shortlists. And Redhanded, which has won Listener’s Choice at The British Podcast Awards three times, isn’t in the Top 25.
We wrote an article last month about whether it is worth you entering awards, and this is another point to consider.
Gaps in the reporting
This survey method can reach a more comprehensive cross-section of podcast listeners than download data, but as pointed out in this article by Matt Deegan “the main challenge is the sample size. Can you reach enough people to provide a comprehensive overview?”
Edison spoke to 2,273 weekly podcast listeners ages 15 and up, and as mentioned the data was weighted to avoid bias. But there are more than 20 million people who listen to podcasts in the UK, so this is still a tiny slice of listenership.
The amount of podcasts available for listeners to pick from is another factor that makes data collection difficult – with more than 3 million shows, it would be very easy for each of the 2,273 people to have middle-range or niche listens amongst their queue that get discounted. This means that the top of the list is likely to be fairly accurate, but the further down the list we get, the more skewed the data is likely to be. This is possibly why we only have the Top 25 UK podcasts, whereas the U.S. data (which has a bigger sample size of 5,352) goes into the Top 50 shows.
If podcast producers are looking to make the most popular shows, this list provides a useful starting point for what appeals to listeners. We can now prove that it’s not always the biggest production companies or the most established shows that are successful.
Melissa Kiesche, Senior Vice President at Edison Research, said “We’re planning to bring out the ranker regularly, with the goal of giving podcasts even more popularity.” We’ll be keeping an eye to see if there are changes to the list in the future – and if awards season does appear to affect it in any way.