Spotify revealed the most popular podcasts on its platform for 2021 — with controversial talk show “The Joe Rogan Experience” taking the No. 1 slot globally. Rogan, who has been accused by critics of spreading misinformation on COVID and providing a microphone for far-right figures, signed an exclusive deal with Spotify last year. Rounding out the Top 5 on Spotify’s global podcast ranking are are Alex Cooper’s “Call Her Daddy” (also exclusive to Spotify) in second place, followed by Audiochuck’s “Crime Junkie” (#3), “TED Talks Daily” (#4), and The New York Times’ “The Daily” (#5). The audio streaming giant released the podcast rankings as part of the annual Spotify Wrapped event, highlighting the top trends on the platform and giving users their own personalized look-back on what they listened to in 2021.
Apple announced the Apple Podcasts Best of 2021 honors, naming “A Slight Change of Plans” with Maya Shankar from Pushkin Industries as Best Show of the Year and “Anything for Selena” with Maria Garcia from WBUR and Futuro Studios as Newcomer of the Year. Apple Podcasts also published new charts highlighting the most popular new shows, free channels, and individual shows and channels with subscriptions that launched this year in the U.S.:
Top New Shows
- “We Can Do Hard Things With Glennon Doyle”
- “Mommy Doomsday” with Keith Morrison from Dateline NBC
- “The Apology Line” with Marissa Bridge from Wondery
- “Dr. Death Season 3: Miracle Man” with Laura Beil from Wondery
- “Murdaugh Murders” with Mandy Matney
- “O.C. Swingers” with Justine Harman
- “The Ezra Klein Show” from New York Times Opinion
- “Suspect” with Eric Benson and Matthew Shaer from Wondery and Campside Media
- “Dark History” with Bailey Sarian
- “Unraveled” with Alexis Linkletter and Billy Jensen from Discovery Plus
Top Free Channels
- The New York Times
- iHeartPodcast Network
- Dateline NBC
- Barstool Sports
- ABC News
- Exactly Right
- Crooked Media
- TED Audio Collective
Top Subscriptions – Channels
- Sword and Scale
- Tenderfoot TV
- Pushkin Industries
- Imperative Entertainment
- The Athletic
Top Subscriptions – Individual Shows
- “Bad Blood: The Final Chapter” with John Carreyrou
- “The Just Enough Family” with Ariel Levy
- “U Up?” with Jordana Abraham and Jared Freid
- “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross
- “The Handoff” with Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo
- “How I Built This” with Guy Raz
- “Chameleon” with Josh Dean, Vanessa Grigoriadis and Trevor Aaronson
- “Diet Starts Tomorrow” with Aleen Dreksler and Sami Sage
- “Planet Money” with Amanda Aronczyk, Erika Beras, Mary Childs, Jacob Goldstein, Sarah Gonzalez, Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi and Kenny Malone
- “Swindled” with A Concerned Citizen
Headspace, the mindfulness and meditation app, appointed Morgan Selzer to chief content and studios officer, responsible for overseeing all content strategy and production and that live both inside and outside of the app, along with overseeing all brand, talent and content partnerships. Selzer, who joined Headspace in 2019, was previously VP of content. The company says she was instrumental in launching Headspace Studios’ partnership with Netflix and collaborating with BBC Studios’ Natural History Unit on a four-part series for BBC Four called “Mindful Escapes: Breathe, Release, Restore.” She also led partnership efforts with Spotify to launch “Sunday Scaries by Headspace,” as well as with Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Studios, Sesame Street and YouTube Kids for “Monster Meditations.”
Podcast company Acast promoted Veronika Taylor to the role of senior VP of its creator network, leading its podcast team globally. Previously, Taylor was Acast’s managing director for the Americas, and before that content director for the U.S., during which time she recruited talent to Acast including the Earios network and Danny Pellegrino. The Acast Creator Network also includes Fat Mascara, Forever35, Giggly Squad and Reality Gays, and premium publishers and media companies including Discovery, A+E, Vice, PBS NewsHour, the Daily Beast and CBC. In addition, Acast appointed SHE Media CEO Samantha Skey director of the board for Acast’s U.S. entity.
iHeartMedia’s iHeartRadio on Dec. 1 launched podcast series “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” featuring readings of the classic holiday poem by celebs and artists including Bon Jovi, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Pitbull, Elton John, Carrie Underwood and more. It’s the first first visual podcast experience for iHeartRadio: On mobile devices and tablets, listeners will be able to follow along with on-screen illustrations while each celebrity reads the poem in their own unique style. More than 40 episodes will roll out ahead of Christmas. In addition to the individual readings of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a Country All-Stars compilation episode features Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Kane Brown, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, Jake Owen, Old Dominion, Trishia Yearwood, Luke Combs and more taking turns reading together.
The Players’ Tribune on Dec. 15 will launch “Blindsided,” a podcast series about sports and mental health, hosted by former NHL goalie Corey Hirsch and psychiatrist Dr. Diane McIntosh. The duo will dive into the mental health journeys of athletes like Kevin Love, Kurt Warner, Taylor Townsend, Paul Bissonette and more, giving listeners an inside look at the struggles, triumphs and epiphanies that these they have gone through as they came face to face with their mental health scars. Hirsch has hismelf struggled with severe anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder throughout his hockey career and since retiring from the NHL has become an outspoken advocate for youth mental health education and destigmatizing mental illness.
Pushkin Industries, co-founded by Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg, launched its own direct podcast subscription program: Pushkin Plus, available for either $4.99/month or $39.99/year. Pushkin Plus offers ads-free listening across most of the Pushkin catalog of shows and early access to shows like “Lost Hills,” “Deep Cover” and “A Slight Change of Plans,” along with exclusive content from select shows including “Revisionist History” and “The Happiness Lab.” The company launched a subscription channel in Apple Podcasts Subscriptions in June 2021.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has set next year’s IAB Podcast Upfront to take place May 10-12, 2022, as a virtual three-day event showcasing podcast programming and content opportunities for advertisers and brands. That will take place following IAB NewFronts digital video content marketplace, set to run May 2-6 both live in-person as well as streamed to a virtual audience.