The big guns
When talking about podcasts, there are a few that cannot be left out of the conversation. And for good reason: they are well structured, meticulously researched, often intimate and always entertaining. We’re talking about Serial, This American Life, TED Radio Hour, Stuff You Should Know, Radiolab and WTF with Marc Maron. If you haven’t heard them yet, click on the links above for recommended episodes to get you started.
Podcasts can generally be split into the scripted and non-scripted variety, the latter including edited interviews and around-the-kitchen-table rants. I tend to lean towards scripted storytelling but some non-scripted banter can be equally insightful and hilarious.
- No Such Thing As A Fish – curious facts presented with plenty of sarcasm by the QI elves
- The Moth – true stories told from The Moth stage
- Another Round – smart women from Buzzfeed chatting about race, feminism and life over a cocktail or two (check out the Hillary Clinton episode)
- 2 Dope Queens – stand up and storytelling by comedians Jessica Williams (The Daily Show) and Phoebe Robinson (Broad City)
- The Bugle – nearly 10 years old; John Oliver calls Andy Zaltzman each week from across the pond to talk satire
Imagine a small column in a newspaper, or maybe an article in a specialist magazine you would never read except maybe in your dentist’s waiting room. It’s about something as obscure as a single microbe, as complex as the art of tipping, or as intriguing as the concept of boredom. And now imagine someone explaining it all to you like a skilled storyteller with thoroughly researched facts and interesting anecdotes. Mind-blowing.
- Reply All – a show about the internet and all its nooks and crannies
- Planet Money – the economy expertly explained in an enjoyable, engaging way
- Note to Self – how tech rules our world and what we can do about it
- Only Human – with the best tagline, ‘Every body has a story’, issues related to health are covered in thoughtful, nuanced conversations with patients, relatives and experts
- Hidden Brain – your brain is doing all kinds of things behind your back
What sets podcasting apart as a medium is the intimacy it creates with the audience. It is the ideal platform for emotions that cannot be easily expressed in writing or details too close to home to share on film. Personal, eye-opening and incredibly moving: here are some of the best.
- Death, Sex & Money – yes, it’s as intriguing as it sounds and as intimate as can be
- Criminal – less about investigating and more about ‘people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle’
- Reveal – in contrast to Criminal, Reveal is all about investigative journalism
- StartUp – a podcast about starting up a podcasting company, way more interesting than it sounds
- Embedded – feel like an undercover journalist as you listen to stories from the inside
And finally, if you’re hungry for more suggestions, there’s a perfect podcast for you: a podcast about podcasts, Sampler.