29 million reasons to celebrate World Podcast Day on 30 September

September 30, 2021
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World Podcast Day

Podcasts have been described as the Netflix of radio, opening up a world of audio content on demand. Although it may feel like a relatively recent phenomenon, podcasting – which was known as “audio blogging” - is as old as the Internet itself. It was only in 2004, with the launch of the iPod, that podcasting became more mainstream. Today there are some 29 million podcast episodes in more than 100 languages, from art to zen meditation and everything in between.

According to Edson Research, 51% of Americans over the age of 12 (197 million) have listened to podcasts, with the majority being millennials and gen Zeers. In the UK, listenership is smaller – at 15 million – but growing steadily. A recent study showed that while music radio remained the most popular form of audio in the UK, podcasts came in at 50% for ‘ever listened to’, which is not that far from talk radio (68%) and higher than audiobooks which came in at 39%. The UK demographics also reflect listenership profiles worldwide: mostly male and mostly young. (Thank you, Joe Rogan!) In fact, Spotify reportedly paid more than $1million for the Joe Rogan podcast in a bid to unseat Apple and Google from the top of the Podcast charts.

Little wonder then that everyone from high street retail brands (True Tales of Luxury, brought to you by Harrods) to the World Bank and traditional media such as the BBC, Deutsche Welle, The Economist and the Washington Post, are using podcasts to establish brand loyalty and gain a share of ear among new audiences.

The flipside of this is that for the uninitiated, the sheer choice of material can be overwhelming. Consequently, 37% of people in the US (32% in Europe) relied on recommendations from friends/ family and work colleagues.

Here’s our list of top favourites from the AltoPartners’ community - If you were expecting a list of leadership podcasts, you’re in for a surprise:

  1. The Jazz Bastards. This recommendation comes from Dr Thomas Heyn, of Jack Russell Consulting / AltoPartners Germany, a music-lover and jazz connoisseur.
  2. WTF with Marc Maron - one of the longest-running podcasts hosted by comedian, actor and recovered addict, Marc Maron. This is a favourite of Michael Sarnoff, Managing Director and Practice Leader, Financial Services, Diversified Search Group/ AltoPartners USA, who values Maron’s candid approach to complex subjects. A brilliant long-form interviewer.
  3. For short insights on topical stories, you can’t beat The Daily by the New York Times, says ardent podcast fan Caroline Rofe-Woess of AltoPartners Austria. Caroline recommends pairing it with Stories of our times – one remarkable story, told in depth each day, brought to you by The Times, and hosted by Manveen Rana and David Aaronovitch.
  4. The wonderfully titled How To Fail With Elizabeth Day features interviews with successful people about the moments when their lives went wrong. It’s honest, thoughtful, humble, brave and curiously uplifting, says Johannesburg-based Julia Scheffer, AltoPartners’ Global Director of Business Development
  5. The Drop OutKatie Brunt of Fowler Fox, AltoPartners Hong Kong, recommends the fascinating story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, which is especially topical given the Theranos case currently playing out at a California federal courthouse. If you like that, chances are you’ll also enjoy Audible’s explosive new podcast Chasing Ghislaine, in which New York Times best-selling author Vicky Ward chronicles her 19-year quest to uncover the people behind Jeffrey Epstein’s wealth, influence, and criminality.
  6. For anyone who loves the cut and thrust of big business, Wondery’s Business Wars are binge-worthy, bringing you the unauthorized version of what drives some of the best-known companies and their leaders, inventors, investors and executives to do what they do
  7. Feel like something more uplifting? Try Simon Sinek’s a bit of optimism – A covid and Lockdown-inspired series about love, life, leadership and silver-linings from a self-confessed unshakable optimist who believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together.
  8. As you might expect from a team who make it their business to understand what motivates people, true-crime podcasts are firm favourites among the AltoPartners community. If this is your thing, we bet you’ll enjoy COLD, a brilliantly researched series about unresolved missing persons cases from the team at Salt Lake News in Utah. In a similar vein and from the same media stable, Suspect and The Vanished are equally well-researched, giving a voice to victims and their families who have yet to have closure. Dr Death, from the award-winning Wondery stable, also emerged as a firm favourite among our team. And, finally, a quirky but compelling offering brought to you by the BBC World Service in collaboration with the Norwegian public broadcaster (NRK) is Death in Ice Valley, in which listeners are invited to help investigate a mystery dating back almost half a century
  9. For those who love language – from sex slang to the invention of zero (no other number caused as much trouble), The Allusionist is a fascinating, thought-provoking and often mind-blowing series for anyone curious about why and how we label things, thoughts and emotions.
  10. Finally, no list of podcasts would be complete without NPR’s Hidden Brain. Host Shankar Vedantam uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive us and the biases that shape our choices and direct our relationships.

Heard a great podcast? Share it with us.

Thomas Heyn
Managing Partner AltoPartners Munich
Michael Sarnoff
Managing Director and Practice Leader, Financial Services AltoPartners Mission Viejo
Julia Scheffer
AltoPartners Global Director : Business Development AltoPartners Johannesburg