Who couldn’t use a laugh, especially in 2020? That may be what is behind what Media Monitors reports was a “dramatic increase” in the number of comedy podcasts in its ranking of the Top 200 shows during the third quarter. The company reports there were 58 comedy podcasts on the list, a 29% jump from the second quarter when the tally included 43 shows.
The top-debuting comedy podcast was SmartLess, which unites actors Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett. In each episode of the self-published podcast, one of the hosts reveals his mystery guest to the other two, leading to an improvised conversation. It entered Media Monitor’s Top 200 at No. 34. Another comedy debut was Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine at No. 41. It features Dr. Sydnee McElroy and her husband Justin McElroy as they examine all dumb, bad, gross, weird, and wrong ways doctor have tried to fix people. There was also Fake Doctors, Real Friends, the iHeartPodcast Network show that paired “Scrubs” actors Zach Braff and Donald Faison at No. 113.
Even as Americans were laughing with headphones on, they were also catching up with the world. News genre podcasts made up 34 shows on the Media Monitors Top 200. That was an increase of three shows from the second quarter. Society & Culture dipped slightly while remaining in third place overall as it shed eight podcasts. The True Crime and Sports genres rounded out the top five. It was followed by Business, Arts, History, Leisure and Science.
Media Monitors says its listener recall survey had a razor-thin finish among the top two publishers. Coming out on top was iHeartRadio with 13 podcasts in the Top 200 chart. That narrowly beat out NPR, which had 12. Media Monitors said, “iHeartRadio’s ability to advertise and promote new and existing shows across their radio networks seems to have an impact on their ability to keep their large stable of shows top-of-mind for respondents.”
Coming in third was a three-way tie between Stitcher’s Earwolf, Westwood One and Wondery– at six shows a piece. Media Monitors points out that if the New York Times podcast were combined with This American Life/WBEZ – with which the newspaper is now aligned – it would have also given the Times a third-place finish.
In terms of specific shows, Media Monitors said that The Joe Rogan Experience was the podcast that most weekly listeners said they had listened to during third quarter. That was the same as in Q2. It was followed by the New York Times-produced The Daily and Audiochuck’s Crime Junkie.
The biggest new show was The Michelle Obama Podcast. The joint production of Higher Group and Spotify ranked No. 9. Another big debut came from the iHeartPodcast Network with its new show Paper Ghosts coming in at No. 13.“iHeartRadio has been advertising the show – and others – on their radio stations across the country, which has translated to a strong debut,” said Media Monitors.
Two podcasts conspicuously absent included 1619 from The New York Times and NPR’s Code Switch. “Both shows saw strong increases in reported listening through Q2 but as the national conversation around race has increasingly shifted towards the election, both have moved back down our chart,” the report said. Racial justice wasn’t completely off listener radar, however. The New York Times and Serial coproduction of Nice White Parents debuted at No. 25.
The Media Monitors Podcast Listener survey was fielded from Sept. 14-30 among adults aged 18 and older who said they had listened to a podcast within the prior seven days. Survey takers asked them the titles of the shows they listened to, with participants encouraged to open their listening apps to help remember what they consumed.