Despite Censorship Controversy, ‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ Remains Today’s Most Popular Podcast, Study Finds

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Despite facing much-publicized criticism and grappling with several censorship-related controversies, the Spotify-exclusive Joe Rogan Experience remained the most popular podcast in the U.S. across Q3 2020 and Q2 2021, according to a newly published study.

Edison Research surveyed over 8,000 podcast listeners as part of the study, which aimed to identify the 50 most popular podcasts in the United States by weekly listeners. Worth noting at the outset is that the study factored solely for “actual listening, not downloads,” with the participating podcast fans (age 18 and up) having disclosed the names of the shows that they enjoy (besides providing related demographic and consumption information) on a weekly basis.

“The results are then coded and analyzed to ascertain the genre, network, and sales representation for each podcast,” study organizers specified. “The relative audience size of each podcast network is then calculated and expressed as the percentage of weekly podcast listeners reached by that network.”

As was also the case in an identical study that covered 2020, The Joe Rogan Experience topped this latest list, followed by the NYT’s The Daily, Audiochuck’s Crime Junkie, and Chicago Public Media’s This American Life, respectively, in a testament to the competitive nature of the contemporary podcast landscape. Plus, the three uppermost podcasts were ranked in the same order in the 2020 survey of weekly listeners.

Notwithstanding the fact that Spotify added 300,000 podcasts during Q2 2021, increasing the size of its library to 2.9 million programs, The Joe Rogan Experience represents the only Spotify-exclusive show that cracked the list’s top 10. Alex Cooper’s Call Her Daddy, which became available solely via Spotify last month, placed 11th.

Needless to say, that historically popular podcasts are continuing to lead the pack in weekly listeners, in coordination with the above-mentioned influx of new shows, suggests that many emerging podcast creators could have a difficult time attracting consumers and developing dedicated fanbases. The points also provide additional context to the substantial sums that Spotify and others have spent in the podcasting space.

It bears reiterating in conclusion that the percentage of Spotify monthly active users who engage with – not necessarily listen to from start to finish – podcasts has improved just modestly since Q4 2020, with the figure still hovering around 25 percent as of Q2 2021.

This fact, considered alongside the Stockholm-based company’s ever-growing podcast library, could suggest that many music fans are largely uninterested in other forms of audio entertainment, while those who regularly enjoy podcasts may be willing to pay extra to do so.

Though some controversial Joe Rogan Experience episodes didn’t make the transition to Spotify – whereas others yet were deleted from the platform earlier this year – Daniel Ek indicated this month that his company doesn’t plan to scrub future JRE episodes.