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The Right Pitch: A Look into the Popularity of Podcast Hosts by Gender

Do Top Podcasts Feature More Male or Female Voices?

Podcasting was first developed in 2004 by Dave Winer and Adam Curry. Podcasts were made free to download, which meant that radio-lovers could tune in to their favorites any time they wanted. Content creators had an easy time as well since producing audio content is inexpensive and relatively painless.

But how did podcasts get to the 62 million weekly listeners they have today? We can thank Sarah Koenig.

Koenig collaborated with WBEZ Chicago to produce and host Serial, a true-crime podcast that, unlike other podcasts at the time, told ongoing stories over multiple episodes. Released in October of 2014, the podcast had over five million downloads by the end of the year. From there, advertisers began jumping on board, motivating more and more production companies to get into the game.

We were curious: do most top-rated podcasts have male or female hosts? Also, which gender do audiences prefer? To answer that question, it’s helpful to see just how podcasts came to dominate entertainment.

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Podcasting by Gender:
Who is Behind the Mic, and What Do Audiences Prefer?

Most Popular Top-Rated Podcasts by Gender
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Male
61%
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Female
27%
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Both
12%
Male Hosts

NPR’s Code Switch, which Gene Demby hosts, is the most popular podcast overall. Following that is The New York Times’ The Daily with Michael Barbados and The Joe Rogan Experience with Joe Rogan.

Female Hosts

Even though most of the top-rated podcasts feature male hosts, female-led podcasts still account for 50% of the top ten top-rated podcasts. To name a few, The New York Times's 1619 with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Crime Junkie with Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat, and Barstool Sports’ Call Her Daddy hosted by Alexandra Cooper made the cut.

Both Male and Female Hosts

Seldom podcasts cohosted by a man and woman made the cut as a top-rated podcasts—in fact, every podcast in the top twenty except Crime Junkie contains only one host (with the exception of Call Her Daddy which previously had two female hosts). Despite bleak stats, Pod Save America, hosted by both Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, is the fourteenth most popular podcast overall.

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Gender and Genre

When it comes to sports, 58% of men that listen to podcasts prefer listening to a male voice. When it comes to true crime podcasts, 60% of female listeners claim they don't have a strong preference for the hosts' gender, compared to only 40% of men that listen to podcasts claim the same.

59% of male respondents prefer their comedy hosts to be male, while only 41% of male respondents claim they’d prefer a female-led comedy podcast host.

Of the people who don't have a strong preference on host gender for lifestyle podcasts, 67% are female and 33% are male. 69% of female respondents that listen to podcasts prefer female-led lifestyle podcasts, and 64% of male respondents that listen to podcasts claim they’d prefer to listen to lifestyle podcasts hosted by a man.

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Listeners Tune in to Their Own Gender

Surveys show majority of people want to listen to their own gender
Men are the Harsher Critics

71%

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71% of men are more likely to stop listening to a podcast based on the podcaster’s voice—they’re also more likely to stop listening if the podcaster has a male voice.

62%

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62% say the voice gender they’d stop listening to is male.

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Creators with the Most Top-Rated Podcasts

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The vast majority of the companies behind podcasts on our top rated list host only one show. The major exception to this trend is National Public Radio (NPR), which hosts nine of the top forty-two podcasts that we looked at.

In second place Joe Rogan and iHeartRadio tied with three top podcasts. In third place with two shows each are Barstool Sports, Earwolf and Jenna Fischer, and Brené Brown and Cadence13.

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Top Genres

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News
24.2%
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Comedy
15.2%
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True Crime
12.1%

News podcasts made up 50% of the top ten podcasts. A whopping thirteen news podcasts made the top fifty, and the top three podcasts overall fall into the news genre.

Society & Culture, another podcast genre, features ten podcasts in the top fifty (e.g., Brené Brown’s Unlocking Us with Brené Brown and iHeartRadio’s Stuff You Should Know), yet the genre doesn’t rank highly overall.

Hitting Rewind: A Brief History of Podcasting

Podcasting was first developed in 2004 by Dave Winer and Adam Curry. The duo created a program that converted radio feed into downloadable content for the iPod. While reporter Ben Hammersly suggested the term “podcast” in a 2004 article, Steve Jobs later claimed the term was a mix of “broadcast” and “iPod.”

Podcasts were made free to download, which meant that radio-lovers now had the ability to tune in to their favorite podcasts any time they wanted. Content creators had an easy time as well, since producing audio content is inexpensive and relatively easy.

But how did podcasts get to the 62 million weekly listeners they have today? We can thank Sarah Koenig. Koenig collaborated with WBEZ Chicago to produce and host Serial, a serialized true-crime podcast that, unlike other podcasts at the time, told ongoing stories over multiple episodes. Released in October of 2014, the podcast had over five million downloads by the end of the year.

From there, advertisers began jumping on board, motivating more and more production companies to get into the game. Now, you’re all caught up.

Encore: Additional Findings

Among the three primary platforms, Spotify Podcasts had the most equal share of male and female podcasters, while Google had the most unequal ratio. For top-rated Spotify Podcasts, 55% of podcasters identified as men. For top-rated Apple Podcasts, 60% of podcasters identified as men. For top-rated Google Podcasts, 73% of podcasters identified as men.

The vast majority of top-rated podcast companies host only one show. The great exception to this trend is National Public Radio (NPR), which hosts nine of the top 42 podcasts that we looked at. Trailing far behind in second place are Joe Rogan and iHeartRadio, tied with three of the top podcasts each. In third place with two shows each are Barstool Sports, Earwolf and Jenna Fischer, and Brené Brown and Cadence.

As most podcasts rely heavily on genre conventions, we looked to see which genres were the most popular. The following genres hold these percentages among top-rated podcasts:

  • Comedy: 15%
  • Lifestyle/Health: 15%
  • True Crime: 12%
  • Sports/Recreation: 5%
  • Education: 2%

Methodology

For podcast creator data, we used data from the top-rated podcasts of three popular platforms: Spotify Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. Each platform had a different number cutoff for the top-rated podcasts.

Apple has a top 50, Spotify has a top 20, and Google has a top 11. In referencing the “Lifestyle/Health” genre, we mixed the subgenres of “Society and Culture” and “Mental Health and Relationships.”

For audience data, we polled 1,000 people via Pollfish and analyzed user activity of 1,000 people via Mouseflow.