Personality-led chat shows reign as the most popular news format in the UK

Reuters’ Digital News Report 2023 explores consumption of news podcasts worldwide

As news podcasts rise in volume, varied formats in the genre have emerged across countries, with extended chat shows proving to be the most successful news podcast format in the UK - according to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2023. 

The relevant section, written by journalist and digital media strategist Nic Newman, surveyed podcast listeners across 12 countries and asked them to name which news shows they listened to most often and used that data to identify four key podcast groups - news round-ups, deep dive podcasts, narrative documentaries, and extended chat.

Extended chat shows like The Joe Rogan Experience were proven to be popular in multiple countries, with that podcast in particular ranking in the top 10 news podcasts across the US, UK, and Australia. However, Newman does note that the definition of news and current affairs podcasts was open to the respondents. 

“Our data capture the vibrancy of the podcasting scene across countries, but current levels of audience growth are unlikely to match the amount of content now being produced, let alone the new shows in the pipeline,” said Newman. “In this context, it is vital that news podcasts stand out – with high-quality content, strong formats, and engaging hosts still being the most important ingredients for success.”

In the UK, the top three podcasts are all chat-shows with Goalhanger’s The Rest is Politics, BBC Sounds’ Newscast and Global’s The News Agents in joint first place. The only other show that is not categorised as “extended chat” and ranked in the top 10 was The Guardian’s Today in Focus, which is considered a deep dive. 

This is different compared to the US which has more varied news podcast formats like The New York Time’s The Daily deep dive podcast, Crooked Media’s Pod Save America extended chat podcast, and NPR’s Up First news round-up podcast all ranking in the top 5. News podcast consumption in the US also ranked as the highest with 19% of respondents listening in the last month, compared to the overall average of 12%.

Australia, similarly, has slightly more varied formats of news podcasts than the UK but with a stronger preference for deep dives such as Guardian Australia’s Today in Focus and Schwartz Media’s 7am

Overall, long-form narrative documentary news podcasts such as Partygate: The Inside Story are the least popular news podcast formats across the US, UK, and Australia. In other countries such as France and Spain, repurposed shows from public service and commercial podcasters dominate the news podcast scene, making up nearly half of the top podcasts as opposed to native podcasts. 

While the consumption of news podcasts has remained relatively steady, only growing from 11% to 12% in the past six years, more young people are starting to engage with news the more that publications explore digital formats. 19% of respondents aged 18-24 said that they were more likely to listen to news compared to the 4% of respondents aged 35-44.

Video is also a format that has grown in popularity with at least 13% of respondents from all age groups saying they prefer it, especially younger ones aged 18-34. The report also highlighted that video platform YouTube is the most preferred podcast platform for consumers in the US while Spotify, which also offers video, was the number one most popular in the UK, Australia, and Germany. 

As a result, news publishers are encouraged to expand their news output into multi-formats across text, audio, and video, in order to continue reaching new and younger audiences. 

“Visual and audio formats won’t replace text online, but they are set to become a more important part of the mix over the next decade,” said Neman. “But across formats, we still see the convenience and aggregating power of platforms trumping direct access, even if some smaller countries with strong publishers and high levels of trust have been able to buck these trends.”