Investigative podcasting was the most popular genre on BBC Sounds in Q1

I’m Not A Monster’s second series on Shamima Begum tops podcast list

Hit investigative podcast series were the most popular content on BBC Sounds in Q1, according to a new report from the corporation

The second series of I’m Not A Monster with investigative journalist Josh Baker on the life story of Shamima Begum became the most popular podcast on the platform overall, after its release in January this year.

In comparison to last year, this marks a shift from the popularity of news and current affair podcasts such as Newscast, which was the most listened to across the two previous quarters - however, Newscast still proved to be popular in this quarter, moving to second place. Other investigative podcasts that were popular in Q1 of 2023 include Gangster: The Story Of John Palmer, Love Bombed and Assume Nothing: Typhoid Mary

“With more people listening on-demand, we’ve upped our editorial ambition for BBC Sounds and it is paying dividends, as BBC Sounds is repeatedly reaching record numbers and our investigative podcasts like the eye-opening The Shamima Begum Story are proving hugely popular,” said BBC chief content officer Charlotte Moore.

The Shamima Begum Story also proved to be most popular for listeners aged 35 and under according to number of plays, followed by Newscast and history podcast You’re Dead To Me. However, the podcasts with the highest proportion of listeners under 35 by percentage were comedy podcast Pressed, followed by a number of on-demand radio programmes including Radio 1’s At Home with Vick and Jordan Podcast and Radio 1’s All Day Breakfast with Greg James.

Overall, BBC Sounds set a new record for on-demand plays this quarter, going up by 13.5% year on year from 179 million to 207 million. The report also revealed that its data shows a new record for an average weekly audience of 4.6 million users across the app with a peak of 4.75 million.

In terms of global downloads, there was a total of 222 million worldwide between January and March 2023. The top-played global podcasts were mostly news and political series including the Global News Podcast, The Documentary Podcast, and Newscast

BBC Sounds has also recently released its latest investigative podcast with host of The Missing Cyptoqueen Jamie Bartlett, which quickly shot to the top 10 most popular podcasts in the UK charts. The series, titled Believe in Magic, centres on the story of the 16-year-old girl who started the charity of the same name and was later accused of faking a brain tumour. 

Bartlett, who also wrote the recently-launched hit investigative podcast A Very British Cult, talked about how this genre is still emerging and that there is still space to experiment and be creative during a guest appearance on the latest episode of PodPod

“Don't listen to more podcasts and think, oh, it has to be like The Lazarus Heiststory, it has to be like the Shamima Begum podcast; this is still such an emerging genre that you can really make your own style of one,” said Bartlett. “Make sure you develop yourself as a character. It really does matter, focus heavily on structure, and how far the story says something about the wider world.”