The 10 most popular podcasts in the UK
This articles was originally published in December 2022 and updated on 23rd March 2023.
The official British singles chart turned 70 last year, and while we’re all obviously delighted for that venerable institution to celebrate its Platinum Jubilee it should probably be looking over its shoulder. There’s another numerical ranking that might one day overtake it as the barometer of exactly what the nation is thinking about and feeling: the podcast charts.
There are a few different podcast charts around, and they all seem to have slightly different ideas of what’s popular and who’s going, as Smash Hits used to put it, down the dumper. For this article, we’re going by the Apple Podcasts chart, and this is just a snapshot of things as they stand when I write this in March 2023. That said, there’s a fair few instant hits, which have clamped themselves to the upper reaches of the charts on launch and might be difficult to dislodge.
The Diary of a CEO
Part business heavyweight, part new age sage, all podcast behemoth, Dragons’ Den’s Steven Bartlett is Britain’s highest profile example of a very 2020s archetype: the CEO who’s almost as much a spiritual leader as someone who knows how to stick a business together. His podcast is all about finding that thing every business leader with their LinkedIn recommendations likes to talk about now, purpose, with the help of guests who’ve been down to the bottom as well as up at the top, much like him. Listen now >>
The Rest is Politics
One of the many unexpected narrative turns of British politics in the last few years is the rebirth of Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart as centrist dads with a runaway hit podcast reflecting on domestic and international politics twice a week. Originally pitched as a classic odd couple dynamic – Campbell the trenchant Labour scrapper, Stewart the old Etonian liberal Tory – the reason it works is actually that they realise they’re so similar, and happy to do what they call ‘disagreeing agreeably’. They’re both fuming with the government, for one thing, and both good at taking a global view on the news. Listen now >>
The Therapy Crouch
After sewing up the football podcast game, Peter Crouch of – let me check my notes here – The Peter Crouch Podcast has planted a long, surprisingly cultured foot into relationships podcasts. If you’re doing a relationship pod these days you’ve got to do it with your real life partner, and Abbey Clancy is ideal for it: funny, opinionated, and only too happy to take the mick out of her husband. Each time they dissect a difficulty your love life might throw up, from working out when to move in together to the perfect proposal. Listen now >>
Sh**ged Married Annoyed
Of course, The Therapy Crouch follows in the footsteps of the relationship pod that set the new agenda: Chris and Rosie Ramsey’s giant hit passed 100 million downloads more than a year ago, and doesn’t look like it’ll slow down any time soon. The format is loose and freewheeling, the better to let the Ramseys’ easy chat flow and bring forth the relatable laughs about the day to day irritations and agitations your nearest and dearest are so good at landing in your life. Listen now >>
The News Agents
BBC heavyweights Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall all left the corporation earlier this year to lead Global’s banner current affairs pod, and even this early on in proceedings it looks like the gamble’s paying off. Through the late Johnson collapse, the Tory leadership scramble, the Truss interregnum and the Sunak ultimatum, they’ve been around Westminster and the party conferences reporting with authority and confidence. Listen now >>
The Rest is History
The other big hit in the Goalhangers production house stable sees historians Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland (not that one) digging through corners of history both familiar and obscure, and also using it as a means to look at current affairs with a longer view than most other podcasts tend to take. The series of World Cup-themed specials, which dive deep into a slice of a competing nation’s history, have been particularly good. Listen now >>
These days Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing is in and out of podcast studios more often than he’s in and out of those odd MIC bits where they happen to bump into each other off the King’s Road, and he and his fiancée Sophie Habboo’s has stuck around at the top of the charts for most of the year. It’s all about wedding advice: what to do, and, more often than not, what not to do. Very funny stuff. Listen now >>
You know your podcast is doing quite well when you collab with a menswear brand on a run of tie-in t-shirts. Ed Gamble and James Acaster’s food pod is that kind of big, and you can see its popularity in the rash of podcasts where guests think up a fantasy thing: festival line-up, film screenings, that sort of thing. But Off Menu still does it best, and draws on guests as varied as Stanley Tucci, Rina Sawayama, Ed Sheeran and Rylan – plus Rylan’s mum, who called in during their recording because she was worried he’d died. Listen now >>
Why do empires rise, and how do they start to fall apart? How do they change the people and places which they absorb – peacefully and violently – and what is left in the wreckage when they’re gone? The first season of William Dalrymple and Anita Anand’s podcast explored Britain’s colonisation of India in the kind of detail that makes you look afresh at the country we see today, however much you know about it already. The second focuses on the Ottoman Empire. Listen now >>
There are a lot of popular science pods out there, which connect the latest research with digestible take-homes that are going to improve your everyday life, and Huberman Lab does exactly that with psychology and behavioural studies. The Huberman with his name above the door is Andrew Huberman, a neurobiology professor at Stanford with a manner that’s in the sweet spot between engaging and intense. Listen now >>