These are the Top 20 Most-Downloaded Podcasts of 2020
There are many reasons to be excited about the end of 2020. One of the non-depressing reasons is that it’s the magical time of the year when Podtrac releases their year-end rundown of the 20 most-downloaded podcasts of 2020!
Podcast analytics company Podtrac compiles their list by calculating the number of downloads per episode for all of the podcasts they track that launched between December 1, 2019 and November 31, 2020.
An incredible 50 percent of the top 20 most-downloaded new podcasts on Podtrac’s list this year were produced by independent podcast network Wondery. However, Wondery may not retain the title of “independent” much longer as rumor has it that late-to-the-podcast-game behemoth Amazon is eying Wondery closely for a potential acquisition.
It’s fortunate that Amazon has a lot of cash on hand, because Wondery has most recently been valued at over $300 million — a meteoric rise from their valuation of $100 million during their last round of funding in June 2019.
Now that Spotify has acquired several formerly-independent podcast networks — Anchor, Gimlet Media, and Megaphone — Wondery has earned the title of being the last major independent podcast network on the market. That means that this deal could easily be the last chance for a major tech or media giant like Amazon to buy a late entry into the exploding field of podcasting.
The iHeartPodcast Network came in second to Wondery on the Top 20 list this year, with 7 shows on the docket.
With no further ado, here is Podtrac’s list of the Top 20 Biggest New Podcasts of 2020 —
1. Nice White Parents – The New York Times
2. Down The Hill: The Delphi Murders – WarnerMedia
3. The Dating Game Killer – Wondery
4. Missing in Alaska – iHeartRadio
5. Motive for Murder – NBC News
6. Dr. Death Season 2: Dr. Fata – Wondery
7. Guru: The Dark Side of Enlightenment – Wondery
8. Monster: DC Sniper – iHeartRadio
9. The Piketon Massacre – iHeartRadio
10. Paper Ghosts – iHeartRadio
11. Blood Ties – Wondery
12. WeCrashed – Wondery
13. Joe Exotic: Tiger King – Wondery
14. Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald – iHeartRadio
15. Billionaire Boys Club – Wondery
16. Do No Harm – Wondery
17. Dying For Sex – Wondery
18. Bunga Bunga – Wondery
19. Forgotten: The Women of Juarez – iHeartRadio
20. The Dream Team Tapes with Jack McCallum – iHeartRadio
Examining this list of the most-downloaded podcasts this year, my main takeaway is that the 2020 podcast audience was all about leaning into the darkness. By my calculations, 15 of the 20 most downloaded podcasts of 2020 are centered around death, murder, negligent homicide and/or unsolved disappearances.
Of the remaining 5, one is about the spectacular failure of a promising business. One is about the spectacular failure of an Italian politician. One is about the spectacular failure of public schools. And then we round out the top 20 with a podcast about an NBA basketball in 1992, and a podcast that rehashes each episode of a TV show about fake doctors.
Given all of the stress and hardships of the year, it would have been reasonable enough to assume that podcast listeners would have gravitated more toward content that would assist in upbeat escapism or self-improvement pursuits. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see more comedy podcasts on the list, or podcasts focused on relaxation, inspiration or learning.
But no — apparently in 2020, we really just wanted to consume as much f-ed up content as possible. (And as a fellow murder podcast enthusiast, I’m certainly not here to judge.)
So…I don’t know about you, but this list has me feeling a bit apprehensive about the future of podcasting…and, well, humanity.