There’s no denying that podcasts are slowly becoming one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the world, so it can be somewhat daunting trying to figure out where to start listening. Although the top download charts are a good place to start, we at EdgeTheory thought it might be helpful to share some of our favorites given the number of podcast enthusiasts we have in the office. Some were able to narrow it down to just one favorite, but others of us have so many favorites that we just had to include them all. While these range in subject matter, they are all great programs and are fantastic for both new podcast listeners and podcast veterans looking to expand their horizons.
Radiolab was the podcast that convinced me that podcasts are cool.
The Moth is my favorite podcast. It’s a recording of public story telling, usually around some kind of theme, but I think the coolest thing about it is that the stories are just told from memory with no notes. I love hearing all of the different speakers’ styles and points of view — speakers include everyone from former drug addicts, to cops, to Molly Ringwald. You kinda never know what you’re gonna get when you press play.
True Story is also in the realm of The Moth, but stories are recorded in people’s homes, and usually, it’s a group of friends who have come together for the purpose of telling stories. I’ve just recently started listening to this one, so I only have a few episodes to judge.
If you’re like me, and you like shows like Law and Order SVU, Criminal Minds, and Dexter – you’ll likeCriminal. I think it’s a fairly new podcast (like a year old), so there are only 21 episodes, and the episodes are relatively short (usually around 20 minutes), which is great for someone like me with a short attention span. And it’s exactly what you would expect from a name like “Criminal,” just a storytelling of some mystery or criminal activity.
Every week, I wait patiently for the releases of the two new episodes of the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast. Hosted by the wonderfully witty James Richardson, this podcast provides ample doses of my two favorite things in the world, football (soccer) and great (terrible) puns. The panel of guests every week is always a pleasant surprise, consisting of the top football writers in the world including (but not limited to) James Horncastle, Raphael Honigstein, Philippe Auclair, and a semi-regular phone call to Sid Lowe. The analysis is consistently insightful and thorough, covering all of the major stories of the week as well as bringing to light information that even the most avid football editorial readers might have missed. How often do you get to listen to brilliant journalists discuss their league of choice? Twice a week, actually, on Monday and Thursday.
The podcast I listen to the most is Stuff You Missed in History Class. It’s from the makers of How Stuff Works and focuses on the stories that get lost behind the dates and places and all the things they don’t teach you in the typical American classroom. They’ve covered all sorts of topics from Maria Tallchief to Pharaoh Djoser and are really meticulous with their research. However, the episodes aren’t dry. The two hosts are having a conversation with each other and discussing what they’ve found out so it doesn’t come across as a dry lecture.
My favorite podcast is The Memory Palace by master storyteller Nate DiMeo. He tells short, surprising stories of the past; the emotional range on the episodes is outstanding. It’s similar to Stuff You Missed In History Class but with a bigger focus on telling the individual people’s stories. It’s like listening to your grandfather tell zany stories about the folks he met as a grunt in the army during WWII. If you love stories, this is the perfect podcast.
I like Let My People Think by Ravi Zachariah. Weekly apologetics, worldview issues, and challenging the thinking of the day. Understanding the times and learning how to dialogue with people of other views while staying grounded in truth.
The Podcast that I’ve been enjoying the most recently is StartUp, which as the name implies, is a firsthand look at what it’s like to try to get a StartUp off the ground. Part of what makes this podcast so much fun to listen to is that it’s not a retelling- it’s a real time firsthand account. Alex Blumberg is simultaneously the host and the subject as CEO of his startup Gimlet Media- a podcasting company. It gets very meta and self referential very quickly, but that’s part of the fun. You hear the actual audio of him flailing through horrible venture capital pitches, consulting with his wife, and even him quietly lamenting his self doubts at 3am to just his recorder. It’s frequently touching, informative, and exciting, but it’s always entertaining. Season 2 shifts focus and follows online dating start up Dating Ring, and so far is just as good as Season 1.
I also recommend This American Life. This podcast focuses on real life stories from all across the country, ranging from lighthearted to deeply moving. While they run the spectrum of topics and tones, they almost always strike the perfect balance between objective distance and sentiment. TAL gets my vote for best place to start if you’re new to podcasting.
VP of Marketing
Here’s a few I listen to though not as often as I’d like. I’m a serial podcast polygamist. I’m not faithful to any one podcast and am never up to date on any of them.
Sodajerker on Songwriting – I’m not a songwriter at all but these guys do great interviews with people who do. It’s unique and fascinating to hear Johnny Marr or Andy Patridge talk about what they do.
The Nerdist- celebrity interviews but way better
RadioLab – Every episode is based on a theme. In the episode on color they used the harmonics of a choir to illustrate how dogs see the spectrum.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour – It’s like a old-time radio serial from the 30’s. Great stories. Makes me laugh.
99% Invisible – Cool fascinating stories about design and architecture that don’t really seem like that’s what they’re about at all. The walled city of Kowloon is a great one.
Monocle 24: The menu – Sort of uppity but I like hearing about international restaurants.
The Thrilling Adventure Hour - A modern style podcast done in the style of old time radio. It is performed live in front of an audience and then edited into segments. The performances include multiple stories. When it is released as a podcast the stories are stand alone. There is a lot of elements of improv and live music in each episode. I enjoy the talent of the actors reading the parts as well as the story telling. I’m not good at describing things.
Welcome To Night Vale - It’s a weird public radio type podcast in the fictional town of Night Vale. It’s absurd and somewhat spooky. Honestly the thing I love about this podcast the most is the talent of Cecil, the main voice actor. It’s not for everyone but it has a cult following.
Harmontown - Definitely not for everyone. Very NSFW due to language and content, but if you look past that, there is wonderful social commentary. It started when Dan Harmon was fired from Community and didn’t want to go therapy. He stands on stage with his comptroller, Jeff Davis of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and just talks. It is stupid honest and absolutely hilarious. Through his alcoholism and confessions you get a glimpse into the mind of Harmon. The thing I get out of this podcast, apart from a lot of laughter, is a sense of acceptance. Harmon reaches out to all those who maybe don’t fit the norm of what society says is “acceptable,” through Dungeons and Dragons and sharing his life. It’s for the nerds and dorks and fetishists and losers and anyone who wants to know it’s okay to be themselves, no matter how messy that is. By far, this is my favorite podcast.
Hopefully this gives you a good place to get started digging into the wealth of great podcast content out there. As marketers, it’s important to be well acquainted with how people are getting information and how communication and information trends are shifting. But if you don’t want to listen for that, you can always just listen because it’s fun!