iTunes Podcast Categories | What Are They & Are They Important?
Do iTunes Podcast Categories matter when it comes to podcast discoverability & growth? Find the answer here & how to use them here.
Apple Podcasts has long offered a set of Podcast categories to choose from when you submit your podcast. But what's on the list, and which is the best to select? Here, we'll guide you through the options, and show you why it's important to select the right category for your podcast.
When you create your own podcast series, and submit it to be listed in Apple Podcasts (AKA iTunes), you need to pick at least 1 podcast category for it to be listed under. There are plenty to choose from. This list was re-jigged by Apple last year to include much requested categories like Fiction and True Crime.
Don't worry too much about finding the perfect fit, though. Look at the later sections in this article to find out how much this matters.
You can pick up to 3 of these podcast categories in total to match your show topic. This isn't done via iTunes/Apple, but inside your media host. Here's an example from inside our Libsyn account.
What Are The iTunes Podcast Categories?
There are 19 overall categories, and 15 of these are broken into subcategories. You're free to choose an overall category or a subcategory as your own primary category.
- Arts (Contains Books, Design, Fashion & Beauty, Food, Performing Arts, & Visual Arts)
- Business (Contains Careers, Entrepreneurship, Investing, Management, Marketing, & Non-Profit)
- Comedy – (Contains Comedy Interviews, Improv, & Stand Up)
- Education (Contains Courses, How-To, Language Learning, Self-Improvement)
- Fiction – (Contains Comedy Fiction, Drama, Science Fiction)
- Government – No subcategories
- Health & Fitness – (Contains Alternative Health, Fitness, Medicine, Mental Health, Nutrition, & Sexuality)
- History – No subcategories
- Kids & Family – (Contains Education for Kids, Parenting, Pets & Animals, & Stories for Kids)
- Leisure – (Contains Animation & Manga, Automotive, Aviation, Crafts, Games, Hobbies, Home & Garden, Video Games)
- Music – (Contains Music Commentary, Music History, Music Interviews)
- News – (Contains Business News, Daily News, Entertainment News, News Commentary, Politics, Sports News, Tech News)
- Religion & Spirituality (Contains Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Religion, & Spirituality)
- Science – (Contains Astronomy, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Nature, Physics, & Social Sciences)
- Society & Culture (Contains Documentary, Personal Journals, Philosophy, Places & Travel, & Relationships)
- Sports – (Contains Baseball, Basketball, Cricket, Fantasy Sports, Football, Golf, Hockey, Rugby, Running, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Volleyball, Wilderness, Wrestling)
- Technology – No subcategories
- True Crime – No subcategories
- TV & Film – (Contains After Shows, Film History, Film Interviews, Film Reviews, & TV Reviews)
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 Running, 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.
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.
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.
What Are The Most Popular Categories?
In February 2020, Dan Misener of Pacific Content did a great job summerising this data, in his article These Are the Most Crowded Categories in Apple Podcasts.
He found that “Religion & Spirituality is the is the most crowded top level category, followed by Society & Culture.”, whilst the least crowded categories were Science: Mathematics, Sports: Swimming, and Science: Chemistry.
Summary: iTunes Podcast Charts
Some takeaways for you then.
- Choose 3 podcast categories that best sum up your content, but don't worry about these potentially being crowded markets.
- 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!