Issue of the day: 2021 – the year of the podcast

THEY have been around for nearly 20 years, but podcasts exploded in 2021, with a surge in downloads and listeners tuning in.

The year of the podcast?

With figures up to November so far, the BBC said there have been 1.3 billion plays of radio, music and podcasts on its BBC Sounds platform alone – a rise of 8 per cent over a similar period in 2020. The latest figures also revealed there were 558 million plays of podcasts and on demand radio programmes on BBC Sounds in the UK in 2021, with a nearly 25% increase in podcast listening compared to the same period last year.


What were listeners opting for?

The BBC’s most popular podcast of the year was weekly political chat show, Newscast, followed by history show, You’re Dead To Me and then Fortunately…with Fi and Jane, described as a frank look behind the scenes of broadcasting. Other top 10 entries included That Peter Crouch Podcast, Grounded with Louis Theroux and Match of the Day: Top 10.


What about other platforms?

Globally on Spotify, The Joe Rogan Experience was the number-one podcast, featuring the comic conversing with guests, followed by ‘advice and comedy’ offering, Call Her Daddy, and weekly true crime podcast, Crime Junkie, in third place.


It was once considered a ‘commuter medium’?

Pre-pandemic, commuters made up a vast chunk of podcast consumers certainly, but the market is still expanding during work from home life, perhaps due to the rise of smart speakers in the home.


Podcasts are far from new?

US internet entrepreneur and media personality, Adam Curry, is regarded as the ‘podfather’, for starting his own podcast in 2004, but the format went mainstream with the podcast, Serial, in 2014, which covered a 1999 murder over multiple episodes.



We are tuning in in our millions. According to a new report, The Infinite Dial 2021 UK, 41% of UK residents aged 16 and over listened to a podcast in November alone – that’s around 23 million people, with 25% of the UK population age 16+ listening to a podcast in one week in November. Meanwhile, market data firm, Statista, say podcast listenership in the UK rose by 20 per cent in the last year.


Podcasts have even become plot points this year?

In the Sex and the City revival show, And Just Like That, central character, Carrie Bradshaw – played by Sarah Jessica Parker – returned as a podcaster, while in hit Disney+ show, Only Murders in the Building, the trio of sleuths are true crime podcast fans who start their own podcast.


And they have the royal seal of approval?

Prince William featured on Apple’s Time to Walk podcast earlier this month, talking about the importance of keeping mentally fit, recorded as he walked around the Sandringham Estate, reflecting on his childhood, the loss of his mother and his work for the air ambulance service.

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