It can be one of the trickiest questions in podcasting: “Which category should we list our show in?”
Apple Podcasts supports more than 100 distinct categories (e.g.
Alternative Health), and Apple's category list is used by several other podcast apps and directories, too.
Sometimes, it’s easy for me to help our clients choose a category for their show:
- Command Line Heroes is a perfect fit for
- Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson feels right at home in
- Bring Back Bronco belongs in
But sometimes the choice isn’t obvious.
For example, Home. Made. is a show about “the meaning of home and what it can teach us about ourselves and each other.” It could fit inside
Home & Garden, but that doesn't feel quite right. Many of the stories in Home. Made. are deeply personal, so perhaps
Personal Journals is a fit? Then again, the show is presented in a documentary style, so maybe
Documentary is the best choice?
Choose the least crowded category
Any time a show can credibly fit into more than one category — or when you’re stuck choosing between two or three equally appropriate categories — I recommend choosing the least crowded category.
Why? When you choose your show’s category, you’re also choosing which of Apple’s “Top Charts” lists you’re eligible to appear on. The less crowded the category, the easier it is to chart. And as I’ve written before, appearing on a “Top Charts” list can have unexpected benefits.
So, then, which are the most most crowded categories in Apple Podcasts?
After running similar analysis in 2018 and 2020, I recently decided to update my findings. I pulled a sample of 1,651,004 podcasts and more than 38 million podcast episodes from Apple Podcasts. Then I crunched the numbers.
Religion & Spirituality no longer has the most shows
Religion & Spirituality was the most crowded top-level category, followed by
Society & Culture.
Now, in Spring 2021,
Education takes the top spot, just barely edging out
Society & Culture. Here’s the full breakdown (click to expand and explore):
The least crowded categories include several
Rugby. Also near the bottom of the list:
Which categories have the most episodes?
Another way to think about “crowdedness” is the total number of episodes within a specific category.
As in previous years,
Religion & Spirituality sits at the top of the list, thanks to a very large number of episodes belonging to shows in the
Christianity subcategory. Here’s the breakdown:
Yet another way to think about “crowdedness” is the average number of episodes per podcast, by category.
Or to put it another way: which podcast categories contain shows that produce the greatest number of episodes on average?
Religion & Spirituality top this list, with
Christianity among the most prolific categories in Apple Podcasts. On average,
News is also a very prolific category. I suspect this is driven in part by high-volume daily news shows.
To stand out from the crowd, you need to understand the crowd
Much has changed since my February 2020 analysis. The total number of podcasts has nearly doubled. The global pandemic has had a significant impact on both podcast production and consumption patterns.
But my advice around choosing a category remains the same:
- Your podcast’s primary category matters. Not only is it part of your show’s product packaging, it also determines the company you keep within Apple’s ecosystem.
- Whenever possible, choose a specific subcategory (
Society & Culture: Personal Journalsinstead of
Society & Culture) as your show’s primary category
- Crowdedness applies to both the number of shows within a category and the number of episodes in a category
- Choose your primary podcast category wisely. Don’t forget to consider how crowded your chosen category is.