I listen to a lot of podcasts and people often ask me where to get started. Here are my recommendations, tiered into four sections: Immediate Listen, Consistent Listen, Casual Listen and Gone Too Soon. I listen on Overcast and at 1.5x speed but you do what works for you. My preferences are clearly in culture and tech with some storytelling in there, too.
Regardless of the title and description, I always listen to these podcasts immediately when they have a new episode out.
1. Reply All
Coined as 'a show about the Internet,' Reply All is TLDR rebooted as Gimlet Media's first podcast. The hosts have a great rapport, they know A LOT about the Internet and internet culture and track down great stories. It is by far my #1 podcast.
2. Still Processing
Jenna and Wesley make me laugh, challenge my worldview and come across as besties. Even though they often talk about similar things as other culture podcasts, their voices are unique and stand out in what is an otherwise very straight and white podcast world.
3. The Shepod
I love this podcast so much I showed up to an event they hosted and weaseled my way on to the podcast. Every other week, Rachael and Sara talk about what they are eating, wearing and watching followed by what is grossing them out and some 90s nostalgia. It is easy, fun and relatable AF.
4. The Awlcast
The Awl has not had consistent episodes up and has played with a few formats for their podcast, but I've been a fan of everything they put out. Most recently, they were talking to Awl employees about their hobbies and how they got into them but ditched that for other interesting stories sprinkled in. Not sure what their future holds, but I always listen right away when an episode is in my feed.
First, Phoebe Judge's voice is like ASMR for me. I've seen the show live three times and she is magic. She finds "Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle" and it's always interesting and a pretty quick listen. Each episode has custom artwork accompanying it as well. It's storytelling blended with true crime but less objective.
If the title or guests on an episode appeal to me I'll listen right away, otherwise these will be the second or third in line, but ALWAYS played. You've probably heard of some of these.
1. Pop Culture Happy Hour / Pop Rocket
PCHH is the first podcast I found and loved. It will always be my OG. It is from NPR thus not edgy and pretty white, but delightful and intellectual when it comes to pop culture. Pop Rocket is the R-rated offshoot with a slightly different structure and no NPR voice. I love them both and have never been more influenced by anyone as I am by Linda Holmes. I usually hold off on an episode if they are talking about a show or movie I want to see first.
2. Radiolab / This American Life
Do you even podcast, bro!? These two are the gateway drug of podcasts and have been at it a long time. They have story arcs down and win awards. You've probably heard of them already. Older episodes of TAL you have to buy, but they have a favorites list if you're just getting started.
3. Death, Sex and Money
Anne Sale is not afraid to ask her guests about anything and gets them to really open up. Episodes are typically funny, insightful and sad all at the same time.
Tricia and Greta are nerds and talk to other (mostly female) nerds about their passions. They are smart without being heavy handed and one time talked to Stephen King exclusively about corgis. They make everyone smarter and the podcast world better. They have every guest assign their listeners homework and remind everyone to always do your homework. Start with this episode about bad robots.
5. How To Be Amazing
You may recognize Michael Ian Black from VH1s "I love the 80s/90s" shows as a talking head comedian but on his podcast he shows his depth as an interviewer. He has great range in guests from people in show business to authors, athletes and scientists and ends every interview asking for the same 5 recommendations.
6. My Favorite Murder
Karen and Georgia both have other podcasts and this was their side project because they love true crime. Turns out, so does the world. Sandwiched by their own banter and chatter, they each share a chilling true crime story and have coined lots of phrases that they now sell in various forms. I don't do the live events (too much screaming) or the mini-sodes.
7. Terrible, Thanks For Asking
This podcast will make you cry. I don't do the mini-sodes. She talks to people who have experienced critical losses about how you keep putting one foot in front of the other. It is only one season in and I'm hoping will develop from just plain ripping your heart out. Make sure you have something positive to listen to afterward.
I loved Season 1 of Startup, the 'making of' story of Gimlet Media. Since then they've done two seasons each focused on one person or business and two seasons that are more standalone episodes. I strongly prefer the long form format but so it goes. If you like Shark Tank and the business section of newspapers, this is for you.
Casual Listens: If There's A Guest/Topic I Like
1. How To Be A Person
I really enjoy the senses of humor of both hosts and appreciate the attempt to teach you something, but with the length of episodes I only listen when there is a guest that I like. Embedding is not being friendly.
2. More Perfect
My dad is a lawyer so listening to someone go on and on about the nuances of law is more like Wednesday at dinner than anything else, but More Perfect is a great way to feel the impact past cases have on our everyday life.
3. WTF with Marc Maron
I think Marc Maron talks too much about himself. But he is also a skilled interviewer. He is the reason this tier of my list exists. I skip the 30 minutes of him talking and just listen to the interview. Listening to him and his producer talk about having Obama on is my favorite episodes.
4. How I Built This
Another one from NPR, Guy Raz's astonishment and vocal patterns are predictable but hearing from creators is fascinating. You know their company, you don't know how many other companies they've had to shut down or already started and sold. It will make you feel unaccomplished.
5. Note To Self
I used to listen to this regularly (when it went by New Tech City) but the story arcs became too predictable and I could not handle the vocal beats and feigned shock.
6. First Time, Last Time
This one has been inconsistent with content but is back for a summer season. Ben talks to people about the first time they did something and then the last time (think drugs, base jumping, writing a song, etc). It's interesting to hear someone's process through something in their past that they walked away from, willingly or otherwise. Again with the unfriendly embedding.
Mini-Series/Gone Too Soon
These podcasts aren't producing original content anymore but I enjoyed them while they lasted.
1. The Intern
An Ivy grad pivots from non-profit work to the start-up world and adjust to NYC. Relatable if you've every taken a risk and been a fish out of water.
2. S-Town / Missing Richard Simmons
Both received criticism for how they handle investigating and revealing things about people and situations without consent but both tell stories in an addictive way.
3. Mystery Show
Starlee Kine is like no one else out there. RIP Mystery Show.
4. Surprisingly Awesome
Well, mostly just this episode.
5. Daily Active User
This podcast has come and gone a couple times. It is tech talk and was always an immediate listen for me but hasn't had a new episode since January :(
Other people love them, you might too.