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What makes a popular podcast?

mic and headphones

Podcasting has exploded in popularity over the past few years. Listeners subscribe to their favourite shows and wait with bated breath for new episodes to drop. But what’s the secret to a successful podcast? We went looking for answers in podcast reviews.

Using Relative Insight, a text analytics platform we sought to find out what makes people tune into their favourite podcasts. To do this, we gathered podcast reviews of three popular shows that regularly top the charts in the UK:

Next, we uploaded this review data to the Relative Insight platform. Relative Insight uses a comparative approach that pinpoints the significant differences in topics, words, phrases, grammar and emotion between two or more data sets. We compared the reviews of each individual podcast against all other reviews, to reveal what fans really think about each show and their hosts.

When looking for a new podcast to listen to, people will often rely on reviews or recommendations. However, review data also holds an enormous amount of consumer insights and business value. Analysing podcast reviews enables hosts and podcast hosting platforms to understand why certain shows regularly top the charts.

Comfort Eating with Grace Dent

The first episode of Comfort Eating with Grace Dent was released on June 15th 2021, making it a fairly new entrant on the podcast charts. Grace Dent is an award-winning restaurant critic, who chats to an all-star line-up of guests about their lives and the comfort food that’s got them through.

In our analysis, we found that listeners of the podcast are 12.6x more likely to describe it as good, easy listening. Words such as conversation and chat appeared more in these reviews, suggesting that fans enjoy the informal, chattiness of the podcast and the host’s relaxed interview style.

insight card - easy listening

We found that the main reason people tune into Comfort Eating is because of the warmth and charming personality traits of the host, Grace Dent. Listeners are 49.3x more likely to describe the host with an extensive list of positive adjectives such as wonderful, soothing, soulful, endearing and comforting. Considering this fairly new podcast is topping the charts week after week, this highlights the importance of having a likeable host to make a podcast successful.

insight card - charming podcast host

Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed.

Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed. is a podcast about the realities of life, relationships, parenting and all things in between. Hosted by married couple, Rosie and Chris, the podcast gives listeners an honest glimpse into their lives which is precisely why fans love it.

Listeners of Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed. praised the relationship of the two hosts, declaring that Rosie and Chris they are the ultimate couple goals. We also found that listeners were 18.1x more likely to claim that they started listening to the podcast in lockdown, and wouldn’t have been able to get through it. This shines a light on listener behaviour during the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that many people started to listen to podcasts as an escape and a means of entertainment while the rest of the world lay dormant.

We found that fans of Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed. also tuned in as they found the content of the podcast to be relatable and honest. Listeners particularly liked the section when hosts read out stories from the public, suggesting that an element of realness is key to producing a chart-topping podcast.

insight card - relatable

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Most people would be mortified to discover their dad had written an erotic novel. But instead, Jamie Morton thought it would be funnier to share it with the world. My Dad Wrote a Porno sees Jamie and his two friends, James Cooper and Alice Levine read a chapter of Blinked Belinda each week, which has now been dubbed “a cultural phenomenon” by The Sunday Times.

But what do everyday people really love about it? It might not be surprising that in comparison to other top performing podcasts, listeners tune into this show for its unbeatable comedic value. Throughout their reviews, fans are 9.9x more likely to use phrases such as never laughed harder, hysterical laughter, cried laughing and a simple haha haha. Clearly, comedy is king.

insight card - podcast reviews suggest listeners like comedic value

Furthermore, listeners commented on the friendship that exists between the three hosts and what they individually bring to the podcast. One reviewer commented “It does feel like hanging out with hilarious friends, at a time when real life hanging out is impossible.” This again highlights the importance of creating a welcoming ambience between hosts which people can accessibly feel a part of.

insight card - friendship

So how do you create a must-listen show? We found the answer in podcast reviews and the secret recipe appears to be relatable and likeable hosts, a pinch of everyday realness, some guests to make things interesting and a splash of comedy to give people the giggles.

Are you interested in learning more about the power of language analytics? From comparing podcast transcripts to analysing open ended survey results, Relative Insight can help you find fascinating insights you wouldn’t have thought to search for. Get in touch with our team to find out more.

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