Podcasts have become an integral part of many people’s daily routines. With a diverse range of content catering to any interest one can think of, however niche, it’s little surprise that the medium has flourished since Sarah Koenig‘s “Serial” captured the mass imagination in 2014.

2023 has seen a massive growth in the popularity of South African podcasts on Spotify. Here are just some of the trends that Spotify Wrapped year-end roundup reveals about the South African listenership’s favourites.

Standout episodes of 2023 in South Africa were led by Jordan Peterson‘s guest appearance on “The Joe Rogan Experience“; “Rorisang Thekiso talking purity, faith and being a child star” and “Nomzamo Mbatha: The Power of Finishing, Self-Awareness and Representation“, both on “Wisdom and Wellness with Mpoomy Ledwaba“.

Hot Mess with Alix Earle“, the podcast by TikTok‘s ‘It Girl’, was the most anticipated launch of 2023, followed by comedy podcast Brain Leak” and South Africa‘s very own “JazziQ and Friends“, which covers the local music scene with guests like Kamo Mphela and Amapiano artist MFR Souls.

Wisdom and Wellness with Mpoomy Ledwaba, Gugulethu Nyatsumba‘s “After School is After School with Sis G.U.” and TikTok influencer Ayandastood of “Paradigm Shift with Ayandastood” who shares topics about reframing and reimagining the social constructs all around us, are among the breakout creators of the year. New shows in the running for the best new podcast of 2023 include the Spotify produced “What Now? with Trevor Noah“, “Popcorn and Cheese” with Robot Boii and Mpho Popps and “Outspoken Owls” hosted by Katie Mohammed and Lynne Forbes

The top podcasts lists for South Africa include “Podcast and Chill with MacG”, “Ideas That Matter” hosted by Vusi Thembekwayo, and “Wisdom & Wellness with Mpoomy Ledwaba“, a series centered around personal development and holistic well-being. Host Mpoomy, who had an epiphany after a battle with postpartum depression, created a Wellness Hub offering courses and resources – and a podcast – for those seeking self-care, while the list of popular podcasts would not be complete without the obligatory true crime entry. “True Crime South Africa“. The podcast caters to the age-old and still-growing fascination with true crime stories, an internationally popular genre. This South African podcast, hosted by Nicole Engelbrecht, describes itself as “[A] victim-centred podcast [that] offers detailed coverage of solved and unsolved South African true crime cases”. With episodes like “A South African Mindhunter with Dr Brin Hodgskiss“, Engelbrecht has nailed what makes the genre so appealing to listeners.

“It has been an amazing year for podcasting in South Africa, with so many creators doing live shows, some for the first time, and we have also seen several new podcasts coming up. We are excited to continue supporting this industry, through various initiatives that help creators grow their podcasts on-platform. ” 

says Ncebakazi Manzi, Spotify’s Sub Saharan Africa Podcast Manager

These podcasts have built dedicated fan bases, some over several years, through a combination of relevance to South Africa‘s diverse audiences, engaging hosts and consistency of quality content. The most popular shows understand the pulse of their audience, addressing topics that appeal to them – whether it’s societal issues, personal development or homegrown true crime stories.

It also helps to have a charismatic and relatable host with the ability to communicate effectively, inject humour when needed – Gugulethu Nyatsumba being a case in point, as well as Darren “Whackhead” Simpson‘s prank calls – and foster a sense of connection with the audience. Podcasts that consistently deliver well-researched, well-produced episodes keep people coming back for more.

The evolving podcast landscape in South Africa reflects not only the power of digital media but also listeners’ desire to connect with content that resonates with their lives, interests and aspirations.