What It Takes to Make a Chart-Topping Podcast

A closer look at three high-performing, fan-favorite shows.

Let’s put this simply; if you’re ready for corporate podcast production, you should absolutely be planning to hit the charts with your branded show…

This is the kind of performance you need to maximize impact, the size of your audience, and your company’s long-term growth.

But what does it take to make truly competitive audio? Well, suffice it to say we can learn a lot from the pros.

Below, we take a look at three top-performing podcasts — all plucked from listeners’ favorite genres.

Through this process, we’ll see not only what exceptional audio has, but what saavy content marketers should aspire to.

If your team is ready to dive into the world of audio, you might want to take some notes.

Morbid: A True Crime Podcast

Currently the top comedy show on Apple Podcasts, Morbid is the series to beat in 2022.

There are a number of things this show does right, and depending on the nature of your series, you might want to follow suit.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at what this heavy hitter offers.

Double whammy

There is one asset here that’s pretty hard to miss; this spine-tingling series straddles not one, but two top-performing genres…

Comedy, which is the favorite category of weekly listeners in the US, and true crime, which follows close behind in spot number four.

Clearly, this is a smart move if it’s something you can effectively execute as it positions your series to attract a wide array of fans.

While true crime has fallen from third to fourth place as of this year, it still remains an extraordinary success, especially among folks who identify as women.

In fact, this group massively outnumbers the male true-crime fandom, with one of the most viable explanations being that women are looking for strategies to stay safe.

No matter the draw, it’s clear from the numbers that folks love the intrigue and the laughter — and this hit series expertly delivers on both.

Community and camaraderie

In listening to any given episode of Morbid, there is a friendly, warm atmosphere that clearly comes across — a true feat given the nature of this content.

Hosts Alaina Urquhart and Ash Kelley establish a tone that conveys community, friendship, familiarity, and camaraderie.

This is driven home through informality and language, from the best-buds vibe between the two hosts to the way they address their audience and foster back-and-forth.

Listener engagement

In fact, this is a podcast that really calls on listeners to get involved.

Morbid invites audience members to share on-theme stories from their own lives in a series called “Listener Tales,” currently approaching its 40th installment.

The result is a show that feels truly participatory, and fosters a deep-seated sense of investment among fans.


Last Day

As we write, Last Day is the top performer in society and culture which just so happens to be the third-favorite genre of weekly listeners in the US.

There are of course several factors that make this series so successful, but let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

Riveting & purposeful content

This hit show takes on some seriously daunting topics — there’s no doubt about it — and its fearless nature is part of its draw.

Last Day has explored the opioid crisis, suicide, gun violence, and mental health in difficult and vital conversations about the tragic realities that touch most of our lives.

Sensitivity & tact

While this series certainly explores topics that are as painful as they are gripping, the creators take care to do this with sensitivity and tact.

Leading experts, meticulous composition, and perspectives from lived experience help to ensure this series stays effective, considerate, and appropriate — no matter where it goes.

Practical application

Another stand-out factor of this purpose-driven show is that it doesn’t just point to problems, it offers what it can in terms of help.

One great example is episode 13, “How to Survive the Holidays.”

In this substantial installment, Last Day hosts clinical psychologist Dr Neha Kumar and drug and alcohol counselor Wilma Hawkinson.

Both experts provide practical advice on how to make it through a time of year that — for many of us — is simply devastating.

Stuff You Should Know

Also a hit in society and culture, Stuff You Should Know currently sits at spot number two on the Apple Podcast chart — and is another example of truly inspirational audio.

Let’s take a look at what this top performer offers.

Education on the go

In contrast to shows in true crime or comedy, for example, this hit series aims to inform first, and entertain second.

While a truly exceptional podcast will do a great job of both, Stuff You Should Know really appeals to the lifelong learner.

This is a show that enlightens its audience on topics they might otherwise never consider — and empowers them to explore these subjects while they’re at the gym, walking their dog, or on their way to work.

Schedule-friendly episodes

Even better, Stuff You Should Know offers bite-sized, lifestyle-friendly episodes.

In a series called “Short Stuff,” listeners are able to tune in and learn something new with installments that are only ten or 15 minutes long.

While the bulk of its episodes run from 45 minutes to an hour, these special installments are accessible even with an ultra-full schedule.

As an added bonus, low-investment content like this may serve as the perfect lure for prospective (and perhaps hesitant) audience members.

Content variety for maximum appeal

Another great thing about the concept of this series is that it allows the creators to touch on a wide array of topics.

This is not just great for existing audiences, it’s also an effective way to attract new listeners.

Whether you’re interested in punk rock, absinth, or mindfulness, this series has the power to draw you in and — given its production quality and storytelling prowess — get you hooked in just one episode.

Across-the-board assets

While each of these shows is different from the next, there are some qualities all three share — so you can take the following as a list of must-haves for top-performing audio.

Professional production

Suffice it to say that, while most anyone can make a podcast, this really isn’t amateur hour.

All of these podcasts feature exceptional audio, expert storytelling, and thoughtful and strategic creative choices.

With over 2 million shows accessible today, the standards are through the roof — so you should absolutely be working with professionals if you want to stand out.

Put simply, there really isn’t room on the charts for content that’s off the cuff or haphazardly thrown together.

The curiosity factor

Whether it’s through topics that are hard hitting, spooky, or seriously unusual, all three of these shows share the curiosity factor.

Looking to audio and beyond, we’re absolutely inundated with content these days, and most of it is available with the swipe of a finger…

So, if you’re looking to attract listeners and grow an audience that’s perfect for your brand, you’re going to need some level of intrigue to get you started.

Consistency & volume

It’s also worth noting that all of these shows have been airing for a while, and have earned their fan base with substantial libraries of high-quality content.

As we write…

  • Last Day is on episode 65

  • Morbid is coming up on number 400

  • And Stuff You Should Know boasts nearly 2000 episodes

Whether you’ve been creating for years or are just getting started, you should know that spotty production and short-running shows can’t promise this kind of performance.

In other words, if you want to create a seriously competitive corporate podcast, you should probably get ready to stick with this thing for the long haul.

Want to learn more about making stand-out audio? Check out these posts…

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