Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the last decade. According to Edison Research, there are now over 100 million monthly podcast listeners in the U.S. alone. With over 2 million podcasts to choose from, there's a show out there for every possible topic and interest. But what genres do listeners tune into the most? Let's break down the most popular podcast categories of 2022.
Comedy Rules the Podcast World
Comedy remains the number one podcast genre, with 22% of U.S. monthly podcast listeners saying it's their favorite category. After a long day, people love to kick back and laugh along to funny chat shows hosted by comedians. Comedy podcasts dominated the iTunes charts in 2022, with shows like The Joe Rogan Experience, SmartLess, and Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard topping the lists.
Some of the elements that make comedy podcasts so addictive include:
- Banter between witty hosts with great chemistry
- Interesting celebrity guests dishing behind-the-scenes stories
- Games, improv scenes, and segments that generate laughs
- Relatable observations about everyday life
In addition to the breakout hits above, other comedy favorites include Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend, Office Ladies with Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey of The Office fame, and 2 Bears, 1 Cave with Tom Segura and Bert Kreischer. Comedy podcasts provide much-needed laughter during stressful times.
Society & Culture Podcasts Hit Their Stride
Society & culture podcasts cover everything from human relationships to social issues to pop culture analysis. This genre moved up to the number two spot in Q3 2022, knocking news podcasts down to number three. People have an insatiable curiosity about the world around them, which society and culture shows satisfy.
Some of the most popular shows in this category include:
Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard: Comedian Dax Shepard has in-depth conversations with celebrities and experts about things like parenting, addiction, relationships, and more.
Stuff You Should Know: This show tackles a new topic each episode, from the history of vampires to how horoscopes work. The hosts make complex subjects entertaining.
Fresh Air: Veteran interviewer Terry Gross talks with today's big names in arts, entertainment, culture, and news on this long-running NPR podcast.
This American Life: Host Ira Glass presents mini documentaries on wide-ranging themes about life in America.
The top society and culture podcasts showcase great storytelling on topics that fascinate modern listeners. People turn to these shows to learn something new or see the world in a different way.
News Podcasts Stay in the Top 3
Despite getting bumped from the number two slot, news remains one of the most popular genres, keeping podcast fans informed about current events. News podcasts provide in-depth analysis beyond the headlines, with insightful commentary by experienced journalists.
Some of the leading news podcasts include:
The Daily - This New York Times podcast dives into one major news story per 20-30 minute episode, providing details, analysis, interviews, and impact. Host Michael Barbaro talks with Times reporters covering the news beat.
Up First - NPR's daily morning news podcast recaps the most important headlines in a short 10-15 minute show. It's perfect for getting caught up on the latest as you start your day.
The Ben Shapiro Show - Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro offers his perspective on the day's news, including politics and culture wars. His fast-paced rundowns appeal to right-leaning audiences.
Pod Save America - A progressive viewpoint on politics from former Obama staffers who give colorful left-leaning commentary.
Listeners rely on the top news podcasts to stay informed beyond traditional media. The best shows feature engaging hosts that make sense of complex issues.
The True Crime Obsession Continues
Murder, mysteries, investigations, and forensics - true crime has all the elements of a gripping drama. It's no wonder this genre has exploded in popularity in recent years. In the U.S. and abroad, fans can't seem to get enough of real-life tales of crime and punishment. True crime podcasts let armchair detectives dive deep into puzzling cases.
Some of the most downloaded true crime podcasts include:
Crime Junkie - Hosts Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat cover mysterious crimes, with a new case each week. Their captivating storytelling style hooks listeners.
Dr. Death - This chilling podcast documents the case of the dangerous Texas surgeon Dr. Christopher Duntsch and the damage he inflicted on patients.
Serial - One of the first true crime podcast megahits, Serial investigates a different real-life case over multiple episodes per season. Season 1 about the trial of Adnan Syed was a cultural phenomenon.
My Favorite Murder - Comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark each share their favorite tales of murder and hear hometown crime stories from listeners. Their quirky banter built a huge fanbase.
Fans love getting sucked into these real-life mysteries and the compelling stories around them. The best true crime podcasts are insightful, suspenseful, and respectful of the victims.
Sports Podcasts Connect With Fans
Sports podcasts allow fans to indulge their passion for sports and feel connected to their favorite teams, athletes, leagues, and events. There's analysis on all the latest games, roster moves, draft picks, and more. Sports podcasts have attracted a sizable niche audience.
Top sports podcast downloads include:
The Bill Simmons Podcast - Bill Simmons, The Ringer founder and former ESPN personality, dishes sports takes in his irreverent style. He attracts big-name athlete and celebrity guests.
The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz - Dan Le Batard and co-host Jon "Stugotz" Weiner blend sports talk with pop culture commentary in this popular show that originated on ESPN Radio.
Pardon My Take - Barstool Sports hosts Big Cat and PFT Commenter give a comedic take on the sports world, with A-list athlete interviews.
30 for 30 Podcasts - This offshoot of the acclaimed sports documentary series turns each season into a multi-episode audio docuseries investigating one sports story.
Sports fans have plenty of options to get their fix from podcasts tailored to their favorite sports and teams.
Health and Fitness Fans Focus on Wellness
With health and wellness top of mind these days, it's no surprise that fitness and nutrition podcasts have attracted a loyal audience. These shows help listeners adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. You can learn anytime, anywhere from health experts dishing their best tips.
Some of the most downloaded health podcasts include:
The Mindset Mentor - Host Rob Dial focuses on mental health, interviewing psychologists, therapists, and authors about growth mindset strategies.
Get Sleepy: Sleep meditation and stories - This podcast helps listeners relax and fall asleep with calming meditations, sleep stories, and soothing music.
Maintenance Phase - Hosts Michael Hobbes and Aubrey Gordon debunk fad diet culture and misconceptions about health, weight loss, and bodies.
The Doctor's Farmacy with Mark Hyman, M.D. - Dr. Mark Hyman shares his functional medicine and science-backed advice for losing weight, reducing stress, and living healthier.
Listeners can make positive changes by learning from the top health podcasters and experts in the field.
Other Notable Genres
Beyond the major categories above, podcast fans also flock to genres like history, religion & spirituality, education, kids & family, fiction storytelling, technology, business, and more. Some examples include:
- Stuff You Missed in History Class - This show dives into overlooked historical events and figures.
- On Being with Krista Tippett - Interviews with poets, scientists, spiritual leaders exploring life's big questions.
- Planet Money - Explains the economy in entertaining ways.
- Radiolab - Science, philosophy, and human ingenuity stories.
The Two Princes - A fictional YA adventure series set in a magical kingdom.
Code Switch - Candid conversations about race and identity.
How I Built This with Guy Raz - Entrepreneurs share their business success stories.
The Podcast Buffet Has Something for All
This overview of the top podcast genres of 2022 shows the medium's versatility. Comedy, society and culture, news, true crime, sports, health - podcasts cover every subject imaginable. The variety of quality shows lets listeners customize their audio diet.
Looking at the most popular podcast categories reveals listener interests and trends. But niche podcasts on every topic thrive, too. Podcasting has opened up infinite possibilities for audio storytelling.
No matter your passion or curiosity, there's a podcast out there for you. So pick a few shows from the genres above or explore off-the-beaten-path podcasts in your favorite subject. Let podcasts inform, entertain, and accompany you wherever life takes you.