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iTunes Podcast Categories | What Are They & Are They Important?

When you create your own podcast series, and submit it to be listed in iTunes (AKA Apple Podcasts), you need to pick at least 1 category for it to be listed under.

You can pick up to 3 of these categories in total. This isn't done via iTunes/Apple, but inside your media host. Here's an example from inside our Libsyn account.

iTunes Podcast Categories

The asterisk here isn't because your first category carries anymore weight than the other two. It's simply because you need to pick at least one to be approved and listed in iTunes/Apple Podcasts.

What Are The iTunes Podcast Categories?

There are 16 overall categories, and 11 of these are broken into subcategories. You're free to choose an overall category or a subcategory as your own primary category.

  1. Arts (Contains Design, Fashion & Beauty, Food, Literature, Performing Arts, & Visual Arts)
  2. Business (Contains Business News, Careers, Investing, Management & Marketing, & Shopping)
  3. Comedy – No subcategories
  4. Education (Contains Educational Technology, Higher Education, K-12, Language Courses, & Training)
  5. Games & Hobbies (Contains Automotive, Aviation, Hobbies, Other Games, & Video Games)
  6. Government & Organizations (Contains Local, National, Non-Profit, & Regional)
  7. Health (Contains Alternative Health, Fitness & Nutrition, Self-Help, & Sexuality)
  8. Kids & Family – No subcategories
  9. Music – No subcategories
  10. News & Politics – No subcategories
  11. Religion & Spirituality (Contains Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Other, & Spirituality)
  12. Science & Medicine (Contains Medicine, Natural Sciences, & Social Sciences)
  13. Society & Culture (Contains History, Personal Journals, Philosophy, & Places & Travel)
  14. Sports & Recreation (Contains Amateur, College & High School, Outdoor, & Professional)
  15. Technology (Contains Gadgets, Podcasting, Software How-To, & Tech News)
  16. TV & Film – No subcategories

Do the iTunes Podcast Categories Matter?

They matter for a couple of reasons.

Any listeners browsing these categories for new shows will do so by interest. So if your cooking podcast is listed under Aviation, you're unlikely to get in front of your target audience and attract new listeners.

Apple are also becoming increasingly strict on the way their store appears to users. So if your show is listed in a category that's completely irrelevant to its content, you run the risk of being removed from the entire directory.

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Whilst it's good practice to choose 3 relevant categories for your show, there can be an over-emphasis on strategically choosing less competitive categories in order to grow your audience.

The amount of listeners who find new content by browsing iTunes categories is pretty low.

The majority of podcast listeners find their favourite shows through word of mouth recommendations, or by hearing about them on other podcasts.

Listeners who do browse apps like Apple Podcasts will tend to primarily do so using the search function. So choosing a good podcast name and writing descriptive episode titles is definitely more important than the categories you're listed in.

The iTunes Podcast Categories all have their own charts and ranking systems, and we break down how they work in this article.

But with over 85% of downloads coming from mobile devices these days, these charts have little or no value because it takes a lot of digging in the Apple Podcasts app to find them.

Most listeners simply aren't doing that to find new shows.

itunes podcast categories What Are The Most Popular Categories?

Dan Misener of Pacific Content did a great job summerising this data recently, in his article These Are the Most Crowded Categories in Apple Podcasts

He found that Christianity, Music, and Comedy were the most popular categories, whilst Christianity is also the category with most overall episodes by some distance.

Summary: iTunes Podcast Charts

Some takeaways for you then.

  • Choose 3 categories that best sum up your content, but don't worry about these being crowded markets. Hardly anyone is browsing them.
  • For discoverability, choose a good name for your podcast and write descriptive titles for your episodes. That'll give you much more chance of being discovered than being in sparsely populated categories.
  • Focus your time, energy, and attention on creating good content that people want to share and tell others about.

And if you need some more help with the latter, don't forget to check out The Podcast Host Academy.

There you'll find courses on everything from promotion, and audience growth, to audio editing and presentation skills. On top of that, you'll get access to our regular live Q&A sessions too!


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Written by:

Matthew McLean

Matthew is an audio drama writer and producer who enjoys talking about podcasts. He makes the tea at The Podcast Host, and is a loyal servant of adopted house rabbits.

November 12th 2018