Skip to contents
Hot Pod Insider

A Top 40 Chart for UK Podcasts, or at least a dream of one.

James Purnell, the BBC's Director of Radio and Education, raises the need for a UK podcast chart.

Spotted this a few days ago, but decided to roll it around a little before writing it up. Last Friday, James Purnell, the BBC’s Director of Radio and Education — who is also a former politician with a most interesting history — published a Medium essay (of all things) that functioned as something of a signal flare: specifically, Purnell raised the need for some sort of charts system for UK podcasts.

The essay isn’t particularly long, but it starts off a little windingly, so here’s the relevant chunk:

Charts can reflect the mood of the nation. Novelty songs used to do well in holidays seasons…

The official top 40 measures sales; streams and downloads as agreed with the music industry.

But none of the other charts are industry standard.

They indicate what’s trending which is great for audiences but content creators and distributors want to know reach and value.

For live radio we have RAJAR to help with that.

As these charts become more and more important, we need a conversation in our industry about how we get an equivalent for podcasts — one which includes as many of the different ways that audiences are consuming podcasts, where we can all see all the data, and know how it’s been collected.

That will help commercial podcasters and distributors speak about their value to advertisers and the BBC measure the value it’s getting from the licence fee for audio content and services.

Oh, and the last line is probably worth flagging:

We’ve already started talking to colleagues at Apple and in the UK about how to do that. If you’d like to be involved, get in touch.

Okay, one thought on this: what’s particularly interesting here is the fact that the BBC is probably super well positioned to pull off by itself something that, arguably, no one entity in the US can: establish, advocate, and enforce an “industry standard” onto an emerging podcast community within which it is a participant. After all, the public broadcaster is said to be the most dominant podcast publisher in the UK — private competition from Acast and Audioboom, included — and it occupies a space within its community where it has adequate authority to do so. I can’t think of an equivalent entity in the US that has the authority, power, and currency to push forward and enforce a standard all by itself. What we’re seeing Stateside is a great deal of messiness; such is the consequence of a competitive market, I suppose.

Anyway, I’m keeping an eye on this, because what happens there will most definitely have a ripple effect here. And if you’re looking for more background on Purnell’s thinking re: the BBC’s programming role across all digital stuff, I found this piece by The Guardian fairly interesting.

On a related note: “How the BBC Women Are Working Toward Equal Pay.” (The New Yorker)