Podtrac data shows all but two of the top 20 publishers it measures had an increase in their monthly audience in March versus February.  iHeartRadio had the biggest audience and most streams and downloads of any of the publisher. NPR remained in second.

In fact, iHeartRadio set a new record with more than 30 million podcast listeners in March, a 19% month-to-month increase, and downloads and streams that topped 257 million, a 13% increase.

NPR had more than 22 million unique listeners in the U.S. last month as its portfolio of podcasts had nearly 187 million downloads – both 5% increases from February – as the big radio operations – one commercial, the other noncommercial – held a sizable lead over the other publishers measured by Podtrac.

The New York Times remained in third place with a unique U.S. audience of about 11.5 million, or a 14% increase from February. Wondery held onto fourth place with an 8.5 million audience, up 4% month-to-month. And PRX returned to the top five with a reach of nearly 7.8 million in the U.S., up 6% from a month earlier.

The biggest mover among the top ten podcast publishers was Barstool Sports which fell from No. 5 in February to No. 7 in March. It was one of the two publishers that had declines in March with a 4% decrease in its unique U.S. audience and a 10% drop in global streams and downloads.

The other publisher to have a month-to-month drop was Shankar Vedantam’s self-published podcast Hidden Brain. Its unique U.S. audience was 1.9 million in March, a 7% decline from a month earlier, with 9.5 million downloads during the month, a 6% drop.

Eighteen of the top 20 podcast publishers measured by Podtrac had month-to-month increases in their U.S. monthly audience during March. Among the top 20, downloads were up an average of 11% between February and March although downloads were flat last month compared to a year ago.

Podtrac also reports that among the top ten publishers, their U.S. monthly audience during March was up an average of 11% between February and March with a 4% gain over March 2020.

Stability Among Most Listened-To Shows

March was a month of uncharacteristic stability in the top ten podcasts. Podtrac’s monthly report of the most listened-to shows among those it measures includes no change in the top nine podcasts, with the only difference from a month earlier at No. 10. There, CNN’s renamed CNN News Briefing – which it renamed to the CNN 5Things podcast mid-month – moved up one spot swapping places with Westwood One’s The Dan Bongino Show.

The New York Times-produced news podcast The Daily remained the most downloaded and streamed show in March according to Podtrac. The Daily has sat on top of the ranker for 29 consecutive months. It was followed by NPR’s hourly five-minute podcast NPR News Now and the NPR-produced morning news podcast Up First. The Daily Wire’s politics-driven talker The Ben Shapiro Show rounded out the top five.

There were more moves among the second half of the top 20. Podtrac reports WNYC Studio’s RadioLab was the biggest mover of the month, advancing three spots from a month earlier. NPR’s Fresh Air was up two.

Once again proving the adage what goes up, must come down, was Shankar Vedantam’s self-published podcast Hidden Brain. It was the biggest mover in February only to have the biggest drop in March. The series slid four to No. 16 last month.

NPR had the most podcasts among the top 20 during March – with seven shows making the cut. Barstool Sports had two entries on the ranker.