true crime podcasts are the most popular

A new study from the Pew Research Center concerning the booming podcast industry in the United States just hit and, among its more interesting findings, it appears that ‘true crime’ is the most popular category among top-ranked shows.

The survey analyzed the 451 top-ranked podcasts in the country and found that 24% of the shows discussed this particular type of content. True crime shows typically portray and discuss non-fictional criminal cases. The hosts take the listener deep into the details of the events, the nature of the crime, the parties involved, and what was going on in the mind of the criminal.

One of the most popular podcast shows in this category, Serial, which is hosted by Sarah Koenig, has already released 3 seasons and a total of 33 episodes since it was originally launched in 2014. The length of each show varies from 16 to 65 minutes.

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Statistics indicate that the show had been downloaded over 340 million times by September 2018 – roughly four years after the release of its first episode. A staggering quarter of the show’s listeners said that Serial was the first podcast they ever heard.

No Other Category Accounts for More than 10% of All Top-Ranked Shows

pew research stats about podcastsPolitics and government, pop culture and entertainment, and self-help and relationships followed the undisputed category leader of the podcasts scoreboard but they all accounted for less than 10% of the total top-ranked shows.

Multi-topic podcasts accounted for 20% of this subset. These shows typically discuss news, recent developments, and matters related to different areas of life, business, and society. Despite true crime’s apparent leadership, Pew’s researchers highlighted that its findings emphasize the highly fragmented nature of the podcast industry in terms of content.

The same survey found that the category with the least number of top-ranked shows is health, science and tech, and religion, all of which accounted for less than 2% of the total. The study took into consideration shows that were at some point ranked in the top 300 listened to on the Spotify (SPOT) and Apple Podcasts platforms in the United States from April to September last year.

More Interesting Data About Top-Ranked Podcasts

The podcast industry has been growing rapidly in the United States. According to statistics from Pew, the percentage of Americans older than 12 years who have listened to a podcast at least once has grown from 11% back in 2006 to 64% in 2023.

Podcasts that were affiliated with a news organization accounted for 18% of the total top-ranked shows. Being produced by professional journalists and relying on the resources of these companies does not seem to be necessarily a factor that guarantees the success of a show.

Prominent organizations that have been investing in the podcast business for years include big names in the media industry like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

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In contrast, 51% of top-ranked podcasts were affiliated with other types of organizations – not news outlets. These include those produced by podcast studios like Lower Street, Fame, Podfly, Evergreen, and Meanwhile, around 31% of top-ranked podcasts are produced independently from any of the above-mentioned organizations.

A commonality among top-ranked shows is that 73% of them have a website while a bit more than half release videos of their shows. Deep reporting is the most common methodology to discuss the topics proposed by the hosts followed by interviews.

Other findings discussed the number of hosts per show and the length of the content, with the majority of top-ranked podcasts being moderated by a single host (58%) while most of them last less than 60 minutes.

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