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Most popular podcasts of 2021

Got a niche interest, or looking to learn more about a new subject? Don’t worry, there’s a podcast out there for that.

How can we be so sure? Well, with over 2 million shows and at least 48 million episodes at the touch of our fingertips, we can almost guarantee there’ll be a pod out there about your chosen subject.

For many, podcasts are a commute life-saver, and for others, it’s an essential step in news-gathering. Whatever the reasons, the medium has come to be a massive name in audio content, and its increasing popularity doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Last year, thanks to Covid, our listening habits changed. How we listened, when we listened, and what we listened to were all affected by the pandemic, but the one thing that didn’t change was how popular these shows are, and continue to be.

So, as we wrap up 2021, how have our listening habits changed this year? What have we been listening to as we adapt to the “new normal”? Here at Matinée, we specialise in audio production and are, admittedly, a team of podcast-lovers, so we thought we’d take a look at the most popular pods of 2021.

Most popular shows

With literally *millions* of shows to choose from, making it to the top spot in the podcasting world is no mean feat. So, which pods have soundtracked our year? And what does this show about the kind of content we enjoy most?

Well, according to official stats from Spotify, we mainly tune into podcasts for two things: a laugh, or the news. Yes, two different ends of the spectrum, but both genres are making big moves in the podcasting world.

The top five shows globally
  1. The Joe Rogan Experience
  2. Call Her Daddy
  3. Crime Junkie
  4. TED Talks Daily
  5. The Daily

This outlook hasn’t changed too much from last year, suggesting that, when it comes to podcasts, we’re either looking for escapism or education. Following 2020, a year where no one would blame you for wanting to keep up with current affairs or needing a bit of a break from reality, we can see that these trends have continued throughout 2021.

What does this say about our listening habits? In our ever-changing world, are we consuming audio content in different ways, and who is tuning in to podcasts the most?

Our listening habits

As our lives shifted to accommodate the “new normal” throughout this year, we still managed to make space for our favourite podcasts. This is reflected in the stats, with reporting 14.6 million podcast listeners in the UK, which is a 19.7% rise on previous estimates for the year.

Clearly, then, the pandemic and the multiple lockdowns that came with it haven’t deterred us from tuning in to our favourite audio shows. In fact, digital audio seems to have benefitted from the UK’s Covid lockdowns. Despite the fact that we’re spending less time commuting (a popular time to plug our earphones in), UK listeners have still found time elsewhere to tune into audio content.

The fact that podcasts are generally free to listen to and so easy to access understandably attracts a wider audience. As well as this, when you compare the production of a podcast to that of a TV show, it becomes clear why the podcast market has flourished despite the roadblocks put in place by Covid that slowed down TV and video production.

However, this isn’t to say that Covid hasn’t affected our listening habits at all. According to an Ofcom survey, of those who used to listen to podcasts but don’t anymore, 12% claim it’s because they’ve stopped commuting, and 4% because gyms closed, leaving them with no time to listen.

With a large share of UK audiences stating that they primarily listen to podcasts when driving or travelling, it’s not surprising to find out that the pandemic drove some listeners away from the medium.

Despite the pandemic altering who listens to what, and when they do so, there are no signs of podcasting’s sky-rocketing popularity slowing down. With UK listeners tuning in to everything from sports to comedy to music, it’s clear to see that, when it comes to the podcasting world, the only way is up.

Predictions for 2022

Following on from a successful 2021, experts predict that, next year, listener numbers will be up 23% on the pre-pandemic forecast, with 15.5 million listeners in the UK alone. As the popularity of podcasts increases, so are audience figures, with projections showing an estimated 20 million listeners by 2024.

In terms of genre, news and current affairs shows are expected to remain popular. Podcasting has changed the way we consume daily news, with great attention to detail and coverage of everything from breaking news to longer investigations. They deliver the information we need to stay up-to-date in a crazy world, in an accessible, easy-to-digest format.

As well as news and informational content, you can expect to see more sport, food, and comedy-related content, as well as shows based around myth-busting and activism.

Looking at the thirst for these kinds of show, it’s clear to see what we use podcasts for. We love switching on shows for a bit of entertainment, some escapism, or to learn about things we perhaps wouldn’t have time for otherwise. Thanks to its convenient format, and the myriad ways we can listen, it’s no surprise that podcasts are fast-becoming our favourite type of audio content.

How can we help?

Following another crazy year, it seems we’re more reliant on podcasts than ever, with this popularity only set to increase. As the world continues to adapt and change around Covid, it’ll be interesting to see how the industry evolves in 2022.

With more shows being created all the time, we’re sure the total number of podcasts will continue climbing from the already-whopping two million. There’s a lot that goes into making a successful podcast though, with 70% of survey respondents claiming that audio quality is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting podcast to listen to.

Here at Matinée Multilingual, we have two voice recording studios, with the facilities required to record podcasts in multiple languages with high quality, clean audio.

For help with your next podcast recording, or any audio project from IVR to explainer videos, why not get in touch with Matinée Multilingual today to find out how we can help you?

Call us on +44 (0) 118 958 4934

Or email