The Best Podcasts of 2019, By The Numbers
by Dave Zohrob · February 05, 2020

The Golden Age Continues

In February, Chartable called 2019 the “Golden Age of Podcasts,” and the numbers have proven that out.

We saw 294,736 new podcasts appear in Apple Podcasts in 2019, publishing almost 16 million episodes — that’s a 35% increase in new shows and a nearly 60% increase in new episodes from 2018.

To put that new show number in perspective: that’s over 800 new podcasts per day, or one new podcast every 2 minutes for the entire year.

At the end of last year, I took some time to look at the best podcasts of the year in a few different ways: the most-reviewed podcasts on Apple Podcasts, podcasts that spent the most time at the top of the charts in the US and globally, and looking at critics’ best-of lists. Let’s take another look at those same lists for 2019 and see what’s changed.

Most-reviewed podcasts

We tracked 1.76 million podcast reviews written in 2019, up from 1.22 million in 2018, a 44% increase. The reviews were for over 153,000 unique podcasts in 2019, also a 23% increase over the 125,000 in 2018.

The most-reviewed podcasts of the year are:

Topping the US Charts

Last year was the first full calendar year that Chartable tracked the Apple Podcasts charts on a daily basis. Over the entire year, we saw 217 podcasts crack the Top 10, but one podcast really stands out. Here are the podcasts that stayed in the Top 10 the longest:

Yes, Joe Rogan really is that popular. Really.

Popular around the globe

Though Apple charts skew towards the US and other countries where iOS is popular, it’s still interesting to look at what shows gain popularity around the world. They tend to be pretty different than the shows topping the US charts:

Here, we see shows about language learning perform much better globally, which makes sense — though it’s also interesting to see Jay Shetty and Waveform reach audiences in so many countries.

The Critics

Last year we noticed many major media outlets publishing "best of" podcast lists for the first time. Continuing our tradition this year, I aggregated 348 recommendations from 18 different year-end lists, from US-centric publications like the New Yorker and The Atlantic to international sources like The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald. One caveat: we didn’t include shows that were only available on paid platforms like Luminary unless some portion of them was available elsewhere. (The full list of lists is at the end of the post, or you can click on the little icons next to a podcast to see the list it's featured on).

Here are the critics' favorites from 2019:

Like last year, the critics’ lists are different than the most popular shows — with the exception of The Drop Out and The Daily, there’s no overlap between the highest-charting shows and the critically-acclaimed shows. Critics prefer serialized documentaries rather than the weekly or daily chat shows that many listeners gravitate towards.

Another interesting trend this year is critics’ love of audio fiction (like MOONFACE and Gay Future).

Personally, I loved the New York Times’ audio documentaries (1619 and The Jungle Prince), as well as my longtime favorites Switched On Pop and Conversations with Tyler.

Farewell, 2010s

As podcasting enters a new decade (do we call this the Roaring Twenties like they did in the 1920s?) we at Chartable have a lot to celebrate. We’ve grown this year—from two to six employees (and soon more), from analyzing tens of thousands of downloads a day from a couple hundred podcasts to over ten million per day from over 5,000 podcasts.

Last year, we launched tools to help publishers grow their audience, like SmartLinks and SmartPromos. And we started serving advertising agencies and brands as well, with our SmartAds podcast advertising attribution. We think podcasts are a truly wonderful industry to serve, and we couldn’t be happier to keep learning and building and growing along with our customers and users.

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