For a long time I resisted the podcast craze. I was unaware of the content and personality behind the internet phenomenon that has its roots deep in radio broadcast history, and has a deep fanbase of highly addicted individuals. I’m now one of them. Welcome to the world of podcasting – the unsung entertainers of the web.
The podcast universe is wide and diverse. All it takes is a microphone, a basic recording program, and operational vocal chords to have a podcast, but the brightest stars of the genre have something extra special that sets them aside. I’ve collected here a small but pretty diverse list of podcasts that will hopefully provide something for everyone’s taste out there. Here we go:
I put this at the top, because it is a very well-known radio show that is available through many NPR carrier stations in the country. The episodes follow a 3-act set of very personal stories tied together by a common weekly theme. It is consistently one of the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes and has had its own television show, tour, and has had live performances transmitted nationwide to theatres. This American Life is undoubtedly one of the most respected shows in the audio format and has garnered awards and critical acclaim for its heartfelt stories that can leave you weeping or laughing – sometimes uncomfortably close to each other. This is a must-listen.
This is a show for the people who want to be entertained and learn something at the same time. If you’ve ever read a Wikipedia page and wished it was a bit more engaging, this is the podcast for you. The hosts give in-depth descriptions of a wide variety of subjects and keeps them fresh and interesting – no matter how weird the subjects are.
Nerdist has morphed a bit over the years from an all-geekery podcast to something more focused on comedy and entertainment. Host Chris Hardwick has had everyone from astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson to Zack Galifianakis to Tom Hanks on the show. It has grown into an industry leader that has its own YouTube channel, spinoff television show, and late-night comedy revue. All from the humble roots of a podcast recorded in the back of a comic book store. Who knew?
Another radio-turned-podcast show, The Moth is another storytelling program, but with a more literary bend. It has a rotating gauntlet of presenters who share first-person narratives about pretty much any subject from a huge variety of perspectives. This show will always be as much about the craft of storytelling as much as the stories themselves. This is a huge show for literary and artistic types, so don’t pass up on this if live storytelling is your thing.
This is one of the rare one-man shows that tends to hold up based upon the sheer personality of the host. Marc Maron is a well-known comedian much in the same vein as Louis C.K. He’s a bit depressive, kind of a mess, and really fun to listen to. His show covers entertainment where he interviews celebrities and comedians – but really it’s a show about Maron himself. It’s almost like a soap opera about a guy who is pretty famous who talks to friends who are more famous while he wishes they were less famous. Does that make sense? Even if it doesn’t, this may still be the podcast for you.
HDTGM is a special little corner of the podcast world. The three hosts, all accomplished writers, actors, and comedians tear apart the worst movies Hollywood has ever pumped out. These are in-depth reviews that actually tend to get into the meat of how a movie is produced and written. While this is definitely a funny podcast, it is a good look into what makes stories good – and what doesn’t. It’s a weekly podcast, but since the hosts are all actors and screenwriters, they only do full podcasts every other week and fill the in-between with minisodes full of contests and listener interaction. If you’re a film lover, this is not a show to pass up.
For the more music-oriented people, this is a good place to find new music from a variety of genres, compiled by adept hosts. What is great about this show is it’s variety. This isn’t a straight indie-rock show, but one that embraces a wide spectrum of musical tastes. All Songs considered is produced by NPR, so while you probably won’t get exposed to extremely edgy material, the quality of what is presented has stood the test of time. This is a wildly popular show and the hosts regularly grab some undiscovered acts that haven’t even hit it big yet.
NPR, as a radio network helped blow up the podcast world, so it’s no surprise that they have a number of selections on this list. Fresh Air is no exception. Diane Gross is an enormously accomplished interviewer who has spoken to huge celebrities, politicians, and musicians. Anyone who takes a quick browse through the Fresh Air catalog will undoubtedly find an interview with some notable person worth listening to. This is the antithesis to the Nerdist podcast and has a more formal feel than conversational. However, this show highlights just how important a good interviewer is to a conversation.
Time for some hard science. The TED (technology, entertainment and design) talks have been growing in popularity and innovation.The podcast is an audio rip of the TED lectures, which are held at pretty exclusive conferences and give special access to anyone with an internet connection. These are presentations on cutting-edge thinking and human development that have grown into a powerhouse in inspirational innovation. The podcast showcases experts in a variety of fields who present ideas on the forefront of the world’s progressive discovery. Technology gets a big slice of the subject matter. Have you ever wondered what color sounds like? TED has covered it. But there has always been room for philosophy, social change, and morality. If you want to get smarter while driving to work or sweating at the gym, these motivational speeches are the perfect source.
Gadget Lab is a weekly podcast that discusses the latest news in tech. This is a must-listen for people who keep up with the ever-shifting landscape of the products of our technology industry. This is a long-running show and doesn’t fall under the weight of its subject matter. This is like The View for tech nerds. As a roundtable discussion, the discussion can get intense or send the listener into fits of laughter. If you want to hear about this week’s Facebook blunders or the joys of early adoption, check this podcast out.
So there’s the roundup. If you don’t find anything on here worth listening to, podcasts may not be your thing. Stick to television or funny cat videos on YouTube. You can find these all in the music player in your WebRoom bookmarks. As if you didn’t have enough websites to waste all your time on, I know.
Have your own favorite podcasts? Toss them in our comments section so we know what we’re missing!