Recently, two stories caught my eye regarding The New York Times and Europe.

The first was from the international climate conference COP26 in Glasgow. Wolfgang Blau, the former President and COO at Condé Nast, who is currently a Visiting Fellow at Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, tweeted how The New York Times’ Climate Hub at the event signals to the attendees and the world it is taking climate journalism seriously and is prepared to invest in it.

There are other outlets that recognize this as well. The Guardian was the first major newspaper in the world that started to call climate change a climate crisis

Then there is Bloomberg Green, a global multi platform news brand focused on climate coverage, and many others.

The second was from Vanity Fair, who published a piece titled ‘What happened to The New York Times’ grand podcast ambitions?” This article looked at the current state of podcasting at the Gray Lady.

Per the author, Charlotte Klein, The Times is still figuring out its next steps as it rebounds from the Caliphate podcast scandal (the paper had to retract the core of its reporting) and also tries to build upon the success of The Daily news podcast.

The issue seems to be there is much pressure to present something that’s going to be a hit and not just another podcast. According to Vanity Fair, an afternoon show, a sort of Daily spin-off has been in discussion for at least a year but it does not seem to be launching anytime soon.

Still, the article suggested The Daily has the largest reach of any news podcast, according to Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer Tracking Report. It ranks behind only Joe Rogan’s show which is exclusive to Spotify.

Based on what I understand, the data is US-only, still, I was curious to find out whether it is also true in Europe.

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Europe and English-language news podcasts

I wish podcasts statistics would one day be transparent and well-reported enough that anyone could look up the most popular podcasts in each country in the world.

For websites, there are several such rankings like the ones operated by Similarweb or Amazon.

For videos, there is the YouTube trending feed and IAB is slowly onboarding more and more publishers to share video views on their sites (here is Belgium as an example).

When it comes to podcasting, various podcast consumer trackers like the one mentioned above from Edison Research or this ranker from Podtrac exist. The problem is, they are mostly US-focused.

In Europe, only Sweden and France keep a list of most listened to podcasts. Though, you have to be included in the measuring, so those charts won’t show you whether a foreign podcast is doing good in the country or even how good compared to native production.

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So, at the moment, in most of Europe the Apple Podcasts and Spotify charts are the only brands that compare across countries. I’m not going to go deep into what those charts measure. If you’re interested in reading more about that, there is a very comprehensive podcast chart explainer over at Podnews.

Both charts measure a combination of new listeners (subscribers, followers), their listening activity and in Apple’s case also completion rates. So they don’t show overall downloads, though as Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer Tracking Report shows, the charts show a not-too-distant reality.

To get a sense of what English-language international podcasts are most popular in European countries I selected the most popular daily news podcasts in the USA and UK based on Apple Podcasts and Spotify podcast charts with the help of Chartable.

Popular US news podcasts

  • The Daily (NYT)
  • Up First (NPR)
  • Post Reports (Washington Post)
  • Today, Explained (Vox)
  • CNN 5 Things (CNN) – ended up ranking too low for many countries, so did not use it 

Popular UK news podcasts

  • Global News Podcast (BBC World Service)
  • FT News Briefing (Financial Times)
  • Today in Focus (The Guardian)
  • The Economist Morning Briefing (The Economist)
  • The Intelligence (The Economist)

More from The Fix: Why is Sweden the world leader in podcast listening?

The Daily and Global News Podcast

The second chart above shows all the European countries Chartable had data for and the first one is showing data rankings for the countries which the Digital News Report 2021 used in its latest edition.

I decided to take a snapshot of the rankings data from one week in November. Before deciding, I checked in the biggest countries whether the ranks were somewhat stable or fluctuating. They were fairly static for the past 30 days.

I looked at the rankings of the ten podcasts. I soon dropped CNN 5 Things while gathering data because it was ranking too low.

For each of these nine podcasts I ranked their positions in each country in the News category. Some countries had the Daily News category but the international podcasts were ranking too high, I presume the publishers did not fill in the correct category.

Unfortunately, most data came only from Apple Podcasts as Chartable did not have the rankings of many countries in the News category for Spotify.

Still, two clear winners emerged – The Daily (NYT) and Global News Podcast (BBC World Service). Looking at average and median ranking in the second chart above, BBC’s Global News Podcast is the winner.

But looking at the selected countries in the Digital News Report, The Daily from NYT is no.1.

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Conclusion and NYT’s 10 million subscribers goal

Now, knowing how the charts work and the fact that BBC’s podcast publishes twice a day on weekdays and daily at weekends, gives it an advantage and also obscures the rankings when you want to compare the two podcasts. Therefore, I ended up penalizing it.

Based on this snapshot data, NYT’s The Daily seems to be the most popular English-language news podcast in most of Europe. Rising above BBC, The Guardian, FT even The Economist.

Of course, if there were real numbers published and a breakdown of downloads for each podcast above in each European country per listening platform available, I could have been certain. 

The general hard data, though, is also in favor of The Daily which reported 4 million daily listeners in 2020 (globally). On the other hand, in 2020, the Global News Podcast had 1 million weekly listeners.

I think it’s implied, but just to be certain, the rankings still show that national daily news podcasts are more popular than The Daily. There are only a handful of countries where podcasting is not that popular where it ranks very high, or countries like Ireland where The Daily goes head to head with other Irish and British audio news production.

During its Q3 earnings call, NYT reported it had crossed a significant milestone; there are now one million NYTdigital subscribers outside the United States. That means roughly 12 percent of its subscriptions are international.

I would love to see a breakdown, at least per continent, of how Netflix does it with its subscribers to get a better sense which international markets NYT is targeting the most and succeeding. My guess is Europe is high on its radar and based on the data above it has plenty of European audio fans waiting to be converted.

That of course means that European publications targeting educated audiences already have to compete with the Gray Lady for subscribers. And that’s a tough opponent.

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