Ranking in the Spotify or Apple Podcasts charts is the ultimate goal of many new podcasters. It's no wonder; podcast discoverability remains pretty basic compared to other platforms. Making the charts gives you a good chance of getting found by more listeners.
The ranking algorithms powering the charts are famously opaque, although Apple recently revealed that the listens, follows and completion rate are the factors that affect their podcast chart rankings.
We dug in to see if there are any other notable traits for top-ranking podcasts by analyzing Rephonic’s data on chart rankings, gender skew, episode frequency and more, across a few dozen countries with the highest podcast listenership.
- Top-ranking shows on Spotify tend to be newer
- Society & Culture, Comedy and True Crime shows chart the highest on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts
- Top-ranking podcasts tend to publish new episodes weekly
- Audiences of top-ranking shows on Apple Podcasts tend to skew male
👶 Top-ranking shows on Spotify tend to be newer
We first looked at the founding year of podcasts that rank in the top 20 in Apple Podcasts and Spotify for at least one category, including the Top Podcasts charts (note: it's called Top Shows by Apple Podcasts). 
Top-ranking shows on Spotify tend to be newer than top-ranking shows on Apple Podcasts. In fact, shows that make the top 20 on Spotify were most commonly launched in the last twelve months, whereas on Apple Podcasts they were most commonly launched two to three years ago.
Does this mean your newly launched show will have more luck on Spotify?
Probably not. There are significantly fewer podcast categories on Spotify than Apple Podcasts (18 versus over 100), so there’s a lot more competition to get a top spot.
📈 Society & Culture, Comedy and True Crime shows chart the highest on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts
Next we looked at which categories perform best in the country-wide Top Podcasts charts. Society & Culture, Comedy and True Crime are the three most common categories on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts, but in different orders .
Here's how it looks in Apple Podcasts:
And this one is for Spotify:
We checked to see if the similarities could be due to a high number of podcasts having been founded in these categories in the last three years, but that's not always the case. Society & Culture and True Crime and other categories in green are over-represented in the Top Podcasts charts, and those in red are under-represented.
📅 Top-ranking podcasts tend to publish new episodes weekly
We then looked at the publishing frequency of top 20 podcasts and found that most shows publish new episodes weekly. Top-ranking shows in Spotify tend to publish slightly more frequently than those on Apple Podcasts .
👨 Audiences of top-ranking shows in Apple Podcasts tend to skew male
Looking at the gender split, we found that the audiences of top-ranking shows in Apple Podcasts tend to skew male. In contrast, there are few top 20 shows with very female audiences .
This could be due to podcasting skewing slightly male overall. The majority of podcast listeners in the US and UK are male (although the gap is closing), and Edison Research recently reported that women would listen to more podcasts if there were more shows hosted by women.
While there are no golden bullets for making the podcast charts (apart from maybe becoming a Spotify exclusive), one thing we’re pretty confident about is that it’s much easier to rank in Apple Podcasts as there are significantly more categories.
There are a lot of ways to increase your chances of ranking on these platforms, including choosing the right category, producing quality content, and having a strong launch and marketing strategy (just to name a few).
Rephonic is a database of over 2.5m podcasts that makes all of this less daunting. We provide data like estimated listener numbers, chart rankings, contact info, and more so you can research the competition, get content ideas and when you’re ready, reach out to potential cross-promotional partners.
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 When we mention the Top Podcasts charts, we are referring to the Top Podcasts charts on Spotify and the Top Shows charts on Apple Podcasts.
 We looked at the percentage of total ranked podcasts by category in the Top Podcasts charts for all countries. To do this, we looked at the "primary genre" as reported by the Apple Podcasts API and assumed that podcasters generally choose the same main category when they submit their show to Spotify.
 We put podcasts into buckets based on their average episode frequency. For example, some podcasts in the 'weekly' bucket will publish new episodes slightly more frequently than every 7 days on average, and some will publish slightly less frequently.
 Rephonic estimates the gender skew of a podcast audience. Our data is therefore not 100% accurate but rather a best guess. We believe the error to be low when taken in aggregate.