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.
TOPcast – concerns teaching online.
City of the Future (episode one) – each episode dives into one way to possibly redesign urban areas.
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.
Secret History of the Future – two hosts explore interesting ideas. From Slate/The Economist.
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.
The Dream – a deep dive into the grift-heavy world of multi-level marketing. This is important stuff, alas.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.