What podcasts are good to listen to these days?
I’ve been listening to podcasts since their first wave, even before Ben Hammersley coined the term way back in 2004. Now, during their second wave, this golden age of podcasts, when there are too many podcasts for any one person to listen to in a lifetime, I like to learn about interesting programs from other people. To be fair, and in classic open/social Web practice, I share my own recommendations. To that end, every year or so I blog about which podcasts I’m listening to. (previous posts: January 2021, 2019, 2018, 2017, early 2016, mid-2016, 2015, and 2013)
How I listen to podcasts has been changing this year. I pushed the Stitcher app very hard, adding a lot more shows, and this didn’t go well. The app hangs, bogs down, or just fails to load new content too often. My patience with its awful search tool ran out, as did my frustration with programs which aren’t on it for whatever reason. And I’d forgotten how much I disliked Stitcher’s lack of organizing programs. So I’m using that ancient technology called “the Web” to play some shows. Meanwhile, I’m experimenting with several other apps to see how they do: Google’s podcast app, Pocketcasts, and Podcast Addict.
Some caveats about what follows: I don’t endorse the views of each of the following shows or their hosts/creators/guests. Instead, I recommend them solely to the extent that I enjoy and/or learn by listening to them.
Also, I haven’t listened to every single episode of each of these. There are some series I’m still working through. Others which appear regularly – I’m just too busy to necessarily devour each of them. Besides, while I enjoy a given podcast, I might not be into each topic they cover or guest they host.
Each of these programs is live, currently offering episodes, to the best of my knowledge. I have not included some limited series which finished more than a month ago. It might be worth recommending some of those in a separate post.
The categories below are pretty general. Some podcasts really do stretch across two or more of each.
I linked to each podcast’s web presence, if it’s available, rather than their presence on various platforms, because I still love the web. I resist linking to a podcatcher platform’s link. I haven’t linked to video versions, when they exist, because I usually prefer the audio editions.
I’m also excluding audiobooks. That’s a different topic, although you can see some overlaps.
This is also not an exhaustive list. I’m listening to some now which I don’t feel like sharing here, often because I’m trying to figure out if I like them.
Design Thinking 101 – my Georgetown colleague Dawan Stanford hosts discussions on the many ways design thinking can play out.
EdUp – interviews with educational practitioners.
FutureU – interviews with people researching and/or leading changes in higher education. Jeff Selingo and Michael Horn are genial, thoughtful, and energetic hosts.
Higher Ed Social – conversations about different aspects of education.
Teaching in Higher Ed – Bonni Stachowiak interviews a wide range of guests involved in postsecondary instruction. (my first appearance)
TOPcast – concerns teaching online.
What We Are Learning About Learning – a fine podcast by my colleagues in Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS).
City of the Future (episode one) – each episode dives into one way to possibly redesign urban areas.
The Disruptors – a look into visions of the future, through interviews with a wide range of people. Matt Ward’s a fine host. (my appearance)
Flash Forward – a nice mix, with each episode focusing a particular “what if,” offering a story taking place in that world, followed by a discussion from the present.
Future of Everything – a look at emerging science and technology. From the Wall Street Journal.
Jim Rutt Show – the titular host interviews a wide range of people with thoughts pointing to possible futures.
The Portal – Eric Weinstein and other people bash around big ideas at top speed.
Secret History of the Future – two hosts explore interesting ideas. From Slate/The Economist.
Seminars about Long-term Thinking – presentations to the Long Now Foundation on a variety of topics (history, science, culture) through the lens of very long-term thinking.
Spark – a CBC exploration of the future. Norah Young is a great host.
Current Events and Politics
Analysis – a BBC program about political issues and current events, mostly from a British perspective.
Angry Planet (Substack) – each episode examines one global conflict or dynamic thereof.
Arms Control Wonk – a group of experts probe current developments and recent history.
Behind the News with Doug Henwood – host and guests discuss current events (American and international) from a left perspective. Henwood is always a sharp host and has fine musical taste.
Best of the Left – a grab bag of left/liberal/progressive political commentary. Uneven but very useful and generous in its inclusion of other podcasts’ content.
The Brian Lehrer Show – an old-school call-in program. As a native New Yorker I enjoy the attitude shown by callers and guest. As a facilitator I admire Lehrer’s balanced hosting.
Conspirituality – explorations of the many ways New Age and related spirituality/new religious movements can be terrible. The hosts are part of that world, so their presentation is starkly self-aware, often tinged with disappointment.
The Daily – each episode (one per day, as promised) looks into a single current news story, then adds a summary of leading events. It’s from the New York Times, so their reporters are usually guests.
Deconstructed – a left-wing examining of current events. Part of The Intercept.
The Dig – left-wing news analysis. Part of the Jacobin world.
The Dream – a deep dive into the grift-heavy world of multi-level marketing. This is important stuff, alas.
Economic Update – a look into major economic issues from current affairs from a left perspective. Richard Wolff is very engaging.
The Foreign Desk – a deep dive into a different international dynamic or crisis with each episode. I enjoy the host’s wry sense of humor.
Global News Podcast – world news from the BBC. At least one story is in depth.
Intelligence Squared – Oxford-style debates about current events.
Intercepted – furious discussions about current events from a left/civil liberties point of view. Part of The Intercept media world.
Little Red Podcast – good podcast about contemporary China.
NPR News Now – a very very short (<5 minutes) headline-level sketch of news, updated every few hours. Handy in a pinch, although very limited and wastes time on things I’m not interested in (sports). National Public Radio.
On the Media – analyses of contemporary journalism and related issues. The hosts usually take a liberal perspective and have an anti-technology ax to grind.
Popular Front – an examination of war and conflict, especially irregular struggles.
QAnon Anonymous – a very useful update on, and investigation into, the Q conspiracy movement in its various permutations and mutations.
Radio Open Source – not about technology, but a wide range of current events and culture, with a strong Boston-area flavor. One of the first podcasts and still going strong.
Useful Idiots – a contrarian and left view of current events.
The World Next Week – a thoughtful reflection on international relations from the Council for Foreign Relations, looking ahead to developments over the next week or so.
Science and Technology
a16z – a look into emerging technology from the perspective of Silicon Valley venture capital fund Andreessen Horowitz.
Engines of our Ingenuity – short, well done monologues on technology, inventions, and people. There are several hosts. Every single episode has a transcript and references. Did I mention they’ve done more than 3,200 shows so far?
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) – very useful updates on public health. US Centers for Disease Control.
Nature Podcast – discussions on science.
Reply All – looks into the digital world, pulling out cultural or whatever stories it finds interesting. It’s energetic, friendly, and trend-focused.
Science Sessions – conversations with researchers, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Techdirt – conversations about various digital topics. This can include rich details about technologies and policy.
Drilled – an exploration of how the fossil fuel industry fights against climate change activism.
How To Save A Planet – an energetic discussion of many climate issues.
Matter of Degrees – a good discussion of many elements of climate change.
Economics and Business
EconTalk – interviews with major economists conducted by a puckish, provocative MC. Every single episode has an annotated, hyperlinked transcript completed with time markers, references, and suggested readings.
Masters of Scale – discussions about modern business. Full disclosure: I just started listening to this one.
Slate Money Podcast – very useful, both informative and engaging, with a healthy amount of disagreement.
ThinkCast – an energetic look into emerging business ideas. From Gartner.
Behind the Bastards – stories of terrible people, such as mass murderers and/or grifters. Robert Evans hosts with a mix of historical curiosity, moral passion, political axes to grind, and a cruel sense of humor. Comedians and sometimes journalists guest.
Hardcore History – excellent, thoughtful, detailed explorations of intense historical events, from ancient Persia to the Cold War. Host Dan Carlin is mesmerizing in a growling, thoughtful, passionate late night radio way.
History Extra podcast – interviews with writers who have recently published books on a range of historical topics with a strongly British perspective.
In Our Time – superb, high-speed conversations about history, science, and culture. One of my all time favorites. Melvyn Bragg is a brilliant host: direct, probing, funny.
The Memory Palace – short, moving, lyrical glimpses into the past through very curious stories. Always a pleasure.
My Momma Told Me – two comedians explore black conspiracy theories.
Revolutions – excellent, accessible, rich history of revolutions in Russia, Britain, America, France, Haiti, and south America, among others. Mike Duncan is very good, offering well organized and compelling presentations laced with a mordant sense of humor. Currently he’s on the Russian Revolution and doing a fine job.
Stuff You Missed in History Class – each episode covers a historical incident from a wide range of time, with an emphasis on relatively modern and western subjects. Hosts Holly Frey and Tracy V. Wilson are splendid: deeply knowledgeable, humane, funny.
Risk! Personal stories about, well, risky stuff: sex, drugs, violence, madness, fun, and horror. It’s as if the Moth showed up at your door at 3 am, drunk, half dressed, waving a stick of dynamite, and insisting that you have to listen.
The Story Collider – good personal stories about science, performed Moth-style.
Genre Fiction: Science Fiction and Horror
Creepy – one or two horror stories each episode. Uneven but intense.
Hypnogoria – Jim Moon reads classic horror stories and also presents historical contexts about the genre.
Janus Descending – a finely produced audio drama about a doomed mission to an alien planet. I’m 1/2wya through and enjoying it.
King Falls AM – two hosts of a small town’s community radio station are the protagonists. Like Welcome to Night Vale, but less lyrical, more hyper and goofy. (thanks to Ed Webb)
The Magnus Archives – excellent British horror. Each episode is a single recording from the titular archives, a first-person relation of some creepy event. All stories knit together into larger arcs involving the archives, their hapless staff, and their own mysteries. Excellent audio performances.
NoSleep – scary short stories, initially told as campfire tales, and now as something like anthology horror with detailed frame narratives. Excellent voices and MC-ing. Very funny riffs on sponsors.
Pseudopod – horror short stories read aloud.
SFF Audio – the indefatigable Jesse Willis hosts readings of and discussions about classic and little-known science fiction and fantasy stories. I’ve been a guest a bunch of times.
The Silt Verses – a dark fantasy series. I’m only a couple of episodes in, and struggled with what seemed like a very quiet audio design.
Spooked – scary stories, nicely hosted.
Starship Sofa – science fiction stories short and long, plus poetry, science, discussion, and the awesome MC-ing of Tony C. Smith. The first science fiction podcast to win a Hugo award, and the first denizen of the District of Wonders.
Tales to Terrify – horror stories long and short, plus some commentary and bouts of ghost hunting. Also in the District of Wonders. I should approach them to read stories.
Weird Tales Radio Show – discussions about horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
Beyond the Book – a look into the book publishing industry. It’s clearly biased in favor of strong copyright policies and practices, a bias I don’t share, but the program is also very informative with interesting guests.
Reading Envy – a librarian and her friends discuss what they’ve been reading. I’ve been a guest several times (2014, 2014 again, 2015, 2016, and 2017) and still Jenny allows me back.
Conversations with Tyler – economist Tyler Cowen talks with people about anything that interests him. Plenty of topics and bright folks. Cowen is a very direct, challenging host.
The Economist Asks (most recent episode; they don’t seem to have a dedicated page) – interviews with very interesting people.
Reply All – stories about and around internet culture.
Vox Conversations – interviews with a range of people.
That’s all for now. Are you listening to these, or any others? Happy to read of your recommendations, friends.
(podcast bunny by Cogdog; podcast booth by Web Summit; La torre de vidre by Saül Gordillo; nice podcast setup also from Cogdog)
Oh man. This post is worth it for your review of Risk!
Thank you for a guide to more than I will ever have time for. I know your time is limited too, but if you have a second, do make time for Kara Swisher’s interview with Hans Zimmer. Even if you don’t care about music, the music business, or Dune, the conversation is delightful just because it is brilliant minds thinking about interesting things.
Thank you for this exhaustive list which is now making my life impossible. To which, I contribute:
Stuff the British Stole: Historical accounts of … uh.. stuff the British stole. Think Lord, Elgin: Parthenon, Māori artifacts, etc. [ https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/stuff-the-british-stole/ ]
One Year: Multiple deep dives into issues that occurred in a selected year [ https://slate.com/podcasts/one-year/s1/1977 ]
Slow Burn: Multipart episodes focused on specific historical events (6 seasons) [ https://slate.com/podcasts/slow-burn/s1/watergate ]
Thank YOU for including The EdUp Experience Bryan!
We really appreciate YOUR #EdUP support!
I use RSS Radio on iOS as my podcast tracker/downloader/player. It occasionally gives me warnings that tracking so many will slow performance, but I haven’t noticed that in practice. Its search function works fine for me. No frills, but that’s what I want.
I recommend the History of Philosophy podcast and its spinoff series on Indian and Africana philosophy.
The BBC’s African output is generally good for those with that interest (Africa Today, Africa Daily). The China in Africa podcast has extended to broader coverage of China’s relations with the Global South and is possibly essential listening for futurists.
On The Middle East from Al Monitor is consistently good on that region.
Power Corrupts by Brian Klaas and Enemies of the People by Maria Norris are both excellent political/social science pods on our most pressing political problems.
Apart from On The Media, I find the most satisfying journalistic pod to be Reveal.
Joey Ayoub has a niche pod called The Fire These Times that appeals to me greatly, covering Lebanon, migration, climate change, and other issues. Long conversations with specialists and creative people.
I listen to far too many pods from the Trashfuture/Nate Bethea extended universe of lefty troublemakers: Trashfuture, What a Hell of a Way to Die, Well There’s Your Problem, Ten Thousand Posts…
I’d love a post on “podcasts which have ended.” I suspect there are folks who “don’t do podcasts” who might find some of the contained series easier to deal with. And for myself, it might be nice to know what older things are worth dusting off. (Especially since podcatchers seem to encourage you to focus on new episodes; adding an old show takes a bit of focus.)
Ed, I get the same warning from RSSRadio! I feel like I have, a couple of times, seen it balk when it tries to update all my feeds at once, and some of them time out. But since the whole problem is that I already have too many podcasts to listen to, it doesn’t really affect me. Working from an index that’s a day or two old changes very little, and in a few minutes or hours it always seems to clear up. I’ve never seen any other performance issues.
Always interesting to see where we overlap and checking out hitherto unknown podcasts in our shared interest areas, added more to an already too long to listen to list but crossed Higher Ed Social off list after counting only two casts mentioning adjuncts, both in 2018.
I was, however, especially glad to add all three climate podcasts (especially Drilled) and would recommend Heated (podcast and Substack). I was pleasantly surprised by The Ezra Klein (NYT podcasts) after listening to his interview with Tressie McMillan Cottom, subscribed and have not been disappointed.
Since I don’t commute or take frequent long trips my listening pattern is not the same. Your list also reminds me how long overdue my own collection is for major re-organizing.
Can you link me to Ezra Klein / Tressie McMillan Cottom?
Have you tried Cristina Groeger?
Podcasts at the bottom:
I’ve been able to limit myself to one source — Cory Doctorow’s podcasts.
Cory is expert at many of the categories and genres listed here, so I am surprised that his name does not appear here.
The blog he runs — and has been running for the past 20 years — hits all these topics, and adds a nuanced analysis of legal shenanigans of FANG, privacy controversies, class warfare, but its really his dystopian futurism that appeals.
For example, Cory’s latest on Disney FastPass — starting with a history of the technical analysis of queuing practices — also applies to higher education in-so-far as it is an elite sorting device. Although no one here would like to admit it, I wish that Cory could see the connection. https://pluralistic.net/2021/11/23/jump-in-the-line/#stay-in-your-lane
I enjoyed How We Survive from Marketplace, with tech reporter Molly Wood looking at the trade-offs we’ll need to make to give ourself a fighting shot against climate change.