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Political podcasting is the hottest career right now: with MPs, journalists, and comedians netting multimillion-dollar deals and sell-out shows

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The 2024 General Election marked a milestone for political podcasts in the U.K.

Once a niche on the fringes of mainstream media, political podcasts have now come of age. They’ve spurred best-selling book launches, sold-out shows and for the first time, broken into mainstream TV, putting these stars of new media front-and-center during one of the biggest media moments of the year.

The country’s swathe of newly minted political podcasters became some of the most important of the campaign, relaunching their careers and cementing their position as entrepreneurs in their own right.

Former political heavyweights like Alastair Campbell, Rory Stewart, Ed Balls, George Osbourne and some of the BBC’s former top talent all took a leading role in the election coverage on the country’s major television networks, blazing the trail for a new world of podcasting that’s taking on the mainstream media.


The Rest is Politics 

At first glance, the pairing of Former Conservative Cabinet Minister Rory Stewart and Tony Blair’s Labour Communications Chief Alastair Campbell might appear like an odd couple, but in the space of just two short years, their show has blossomed into the U.K.’s most popular politics podcast. 

'The Rest is Politics' podcast hosted by Alistair Campbell and Rory Stewart.
‘The Rest is Politics’ hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart.

HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images

The Rest is Politics lifts the lid on the secrets of Westminster, and in their own words offers  “…an insider’s view on politics at home and abroad, while bringing back the lost art of disagreeing agreeably”. In January 2023, the duo added Leading, a weekly interview series with some of the world’s biggest names in politics.

And in April 2024, the podcast expanded across the Atlantic, launching The Rest is Politics USA, creating another unlikely couple with political heavyweights Anthony Scaramucci (former White House press secretary for Donald Trump) and Katty Kay (formerly BBC World News Anchor).

Rory Stewart
Former Conservative Cabinet Minister, Rory Stewart. Stewart co-hosts ‘The Rest is Politics’ with Campbell.

Lorne Thomson/Getty Images

Stewart and Campbell are published by Goalhanger podcasts, which is now one of the U.K.’s largest independent podcast networks with a reported 17.5 million downloads each month. 

Goalhanger was founded by football pundit and former England footballer Gary Linekar, and the company has grown a roster of successful podcasts including The Rest is Football, Empire, and Match of the Day Top 10.

Alastair Campbell, host of Britain's podcast,The Rest Is Politics.
Tony Blair’s Labour Communications Chief, Alastair Campbell.

Euan Cherry/Getty Images

Financial information on Goalhanger is limited, but company accounts show its “current assets” more than tripled to £842,936 ($1.08 million) last year. 

20,000

The number of sold-out live shows.

The company’s revenue-sharing model means when their podcasters win, Goalhanger wins too. That makes Stewart and Campbell one of its most-prized assets.

The Rest is Politics has grown into a sizable media franchise in its own right, boasting premium memberships and live shows across the U.K., selling out arenas as large as the O2 Arena in London with 20,000 seats. 

Stewart and Campbell have both rebooted their careers, spanning bestseller book deals and presenting gigs, including coveted slots on Channel 4 TV’s overnight coverage of the 2024 General Election, marking a significant transition from new media to mass media television.

Unsurprisingly, revenues from advertising, subscriptions, and live shows like their O2 performance have beefed up the pair’s bank accounts as well. Speaking to the Times of London last year, Stewart said: “It’s extraordinary. It’s good money. I’d say it’s Championship footballer money.” Championship footballers, playing in the second tier of the English football league, routinely earn thousands of pounds a month.


The News Agents 

Stewart and Campbell were joined on Channel 4 for the U.K.’s election night coverage by Emily Maitlis, formerly one of the BBC’s biggest stars, known for her 2019 interview with Prince Andrew, the disgraced Duke of York with links to Jeffrey Epstein.

Maitlis is now best-known as one-third of The News Agents, the arch-rival to The Rest is Politics, which it has continued to battle at the top of the charts since the podcast launched in August 2022. 

The News Agents features two other superstar heavyweight presenters alongside Maitlis, including her former BBC Newsnight colleague Lewis Goodall and BBC News’ North America correspondent Jon Sopel. Published by radio and advertising giant Global, poaching some of the BBC’s biggest talent at the time of launch was seen as a significant milestone in the meteoric rise of podcasting in the U.K.

The News Agents's Emily Maitlis (holding the trophy) with Jon Sopel (M) and Lewis Goodall (R).
The News Agents’s Emily Maitlis (holding the trophy) with Jon Sopel (M) and Lewis Goodall (R).

Jordan Pettitt/PA Images via Getty Images

Freed from the strict reporting constraints of the BBC, The News Agents gained rapid popularity by, for the first time, allowing listeners to hear what seasoned journalists Maitlis, Goodall and Sopel really think. Publishing episodes every weekday, the show has seen commercial success since its launch, attracting launch sponsorship from BT and a recently extended deal with HSBC UK.

Mirroring their arch-rival The Rest is Politics, in June 2023 former BBC North America editor Jon Sopel and Emily Maitlis launched a weekly spinoff called The News Agents USA. The spin-off attracted international attention after a recorded spat with Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene went viral, after telling Maitlis she was a “conspiracy theorist” and “why don’t you f**k off, how about that?” In a brilliantly British retort, Maitlis responded “Thanks, thank you very much”.


Full Disclosure

Award-winning presenter and best-selling author James O’Brien also has broadcasting roots from the BBC’s Newsnight TV show and has gone on to become one of British radio’s biggest political presenters.

Mid-morning presenter James O'Brien
O’Brien has grown a reputation as one of Britain’s toughest interviewers and harshest critics of Brexit.

Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images

LBC radio (part of the Global Media group, which also publishes The News Agents) has become his full-time home since 2004, where he’s grown a reputation as one of Britain’s toughest interviewers and harshest critics of Brexit. Known as a divisive figure on the political scene, O’Brien has been described both as “liberal firebrand” and a “thundering, sanctimonious bore”.

4,000,000

The number of viewers tuning into O’Brien’s rants.

His team has skillfully used social video on platforms including Twitter (X), Facebook and YouTube, to amplify his epic rants, which have sometimes lasted over 10 minutes long and reached up to 4 million views. LBC has spurned three podcasts from his on-air radio shows, including James O’Brien, The Whole Show, James O’Brien’s Mystery Hour, and The Best of James O’Brien.

In March 2019, O’Brien launched Full Disclosure into the podcasting world, featuring hour-long interviews with leaders from the worlds of politics, entertainment, and news. The long-form, in-depth format has become a standout success and a contrast to a media world dominated by short soundbites and clips for social media.

Global’s bet on podcasting with heavyweights like James O’Brien and The News Agents has helped it become a billion-dollar revenue company. Turnover last year surpassed £806 million ($1.03 billion), company accounts show, helping it net £138 million ($176 million) in profits.


Political Currency

Continuing the earlier theme of unlikely pairings, Political Currency brings together former Labour Cabinet Minister Ed Balls and former Conservative Chancellor George Osborne for a fascinating look into the murky worlds of politics and economics.

Production house Persophonica produces the show, and also is the company behind rival show The News Agents and Dua Lipa: At Your Service, one of the world’s most listened-to entertainment podcasts. 

2023

The year ‘Political Currency’ was launched.

Described as former ‘frenemies’, Osborne and Balls launched the podcast in September 2023, and quickly rose to the top of the podcast charts across the U.K. At the time of launch, one writer quipped that Political Currency has an ironic name “a resource of which these men are utterly spent”. 

The hosts:

Former British politician, George Osborne and politician to presenter to podcaster, Ed Balls.
Former British politician, George Osborne (L) and politician to presenter to podcaster, Ed Balls.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Osborne and Balls have perhaps had the last laugh, as like their rivals Rory Stewart and Alastair Campbell from The Rest is Politics and Emily Maitlis from The News Agents, the pair broke through to the mainstream media this election, both featuring as guest co-hosts for ITV News’ coverage of the 2024 election.


The Political Party

Launched in 2013 by impressionist and writer Matt Forde, The Political Party is one of Britain’s most established political podcasts.

Matt Forde
Forde is known as one of Britain’s best impressionists and is known for making his guests on the show burst into laughter with his hilarious, realistic impressions of well-known figures including former Prime Minister Boris Jonhson and former President Donald Trump.

Venla Shalin/Redferns

Like its rival The Rest is Politics, Forde’s venture into podcasting has grown into a serious media business in its own right, with live recordings in theaters selling out often months in advance. To date, the series has featured 70 sold-out shows over the past seven years.

Uniquely, the show’s format blends political parody and comedic impressions alongside in-depth interviews with some of the biggest names in politics, including former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who now acts as President of Global Affairs at Meta.

70

The number of sold-out shows the series has featured.

Forde is known as one of Britain’s best impressionists and is known for making his guests on the show burst into laughter with his hilarious, realistic impressions of well-known figures including former Prime Minister Boris Jonhson and former President Donald Trump.

For the 2024 General Election, Forde started an ambitious project to interview a candidate from as many of the U.K.’s 650 constituencies as possible. At the time of writing, across 24 episodes during the campaign, impressively he interviewed 133 candidates in total, offering an insight into behind-the-scenes campaigning across the country.

“I will find a way to hit 650,” he said in his last episode before the election on July 4. “….I think I’m going to interview every MP before the next election and give myself a bit more time”.






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