NZ’s top 30 podcasts revealed

Data listing the country’s most popular podcasts shows that old listening habits die hard, even when the platform changes.

The top 10 list for September is dominated by hosts and personalities who will be familiar to New Zealanders who listen to conventional – or terrestrial – radio.

The two most popular podcasts in the country, according to research from Triton Digital, are NZME shows the Mike Hosking Breakfast and Fletch, Vaughan & Megan.

You have to go to third place to find a pure-play podcast, with the Australian-produced Casefile True Crime taking that slot.

The data compiled for the Triton report include listening stats from Audioboom, Headgum, Kast Media, LiSTNR (SCA), MediaWorks Radio, NZME/iHeartRadio, Stitcher Media and Sports Entertainment Network (SEN).

The initiative has been launched in conjunction with the Radio Broadcasting Association to give advertisers and listeners a sense of what is popular among local listeners.

While the early adopters already give a decent sense of what Kiwis are listening to, platforms Spotify, Apple Podcast and the Google Podcast app are all absent from the list.

The hope is that more podcast publishers will join the initiative, certified by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, in the coming months to give a full, rounded view of listening habits on a monthly basis.

The aim is two-fold: giving sponsors an indication of which podcasts are worth backing while also giving creators a sense of their worth in relation to the rest of the audio listening market.

The data shows that in September, New Zealanders downloaded 5.8 million shows.

Around 700,000 of those downloads were contributed by the Mike Hosking Breakfast show, followed by just shy of 300,000 for Fletch, Vaughan & Megan and 204,000 for Casefile.

Next came the Leighton Smith Podcast, iHeartRadio’s Stuff you Should Know, the Heather Du Plessis-Allan Drive show and the Matt & Jerry Show.

The full rundown indicates that well-known New Zealand radio personalities are essentially going toe-to-toe with some of the biggest podcasting brands in the world.

Freakonomics, the Hidden Brain, Revisionist History and Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend are among the major podcasts attracting significant audiences in the local market.

James Butcher, the co-chair of the RBA’s Podcast Ranker Committee, told the Herald that the recent lockdowns have been a major driver for podcast listening.

He says the dominance of local radio personalities is indicative of the loyalty of New Zealand listeners have for their favourite brands and radio stars.

Asked whether aspirant podcasters have any hope of competing against the well-resourced international brands, Butcher said New Zealander podcasters have the advantage of a local perspective.

“Local editorial, local stories, local voices – Kiwis absolutely love connecting with local content,” he said.

“So, while we do compete on a global scale, we’ll continue to tell the stories and produce content that matter to Kiwis.”

Butcher, who works as the head of NZME digital audio division, said it also makes sense for podcasters to collaborate with major media companies to give their shows more reach.

“We recently brought the podcast Between Two Beers into the Alternative Commentary Collective stable, which resulted in that podcast quadrupling its monthly download volume as a result of connecting the content with our passionate ACC fans.”

Butcher says he would welcome a conversation with any podcasters doing something interesting in the local market.

Given that the podcast scene is still relatively new in New Zealand, it presents revenue growth opportunities.

International podcasts have been incredibly successful in collaborating with both major and start-up brands on sponsorship opportunities, which often involve the host reading the ads.

“Advertising investment in podcasts is growing significantly in global markets and we are seeing that trend extend to New Zealand,” Butcher says.

Given the rapid growth of podcasting, this sector is set to evolve quickly in the coming years. The question, however, is whether local brands and creators have what it takes to hold their ground against the growing international ocean of podcasting options.

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