Chances are, you listen to something during the workday. A carefully curated playlist or ambient sounds while you check off items on your to-do list. Quite a few of our associates are pretty passionate about podcasts. We discuss them in our break room, and tell our fellow associates which podcast they absolutely need to check out. So, we put together a list of our top 10 favorite podcasts we think you might enjoy (in no particular order).
1. Reply All
The internet affects all our lives in entertaining, mysterious, and sometimes infuriating ways. This simple and obvious statement is the basis for the podcast Reply All. Each episode is a little different. Sometimes, hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman will explain tweets to their boss or provide tech support for some confusing internet problems. And sometimes the show delivers true investigative journalism. Have you ever wondered how a phishing scam works? Or who the actual people are in viral memes? Whether you’re as familiar with the internet as Al Gore or just a simple surfer, we highly recommend checking this one out.
2. This American Life
Nothing compares to starting a road trip with the words “It’s This American Life. I’m Ira Glass. Stay with us,” reverberating from your car radio. The quintessential podcast, you might say This American Life started it all. Launched in 1995, the show is based on a simple premise: Each week they choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. It’s a pure slice of Americana — from an entire episode recorded in the halls of a high school, to a week spent interviewing travelers at a roadside gas station to an episode explaining the 2008 economic collapse. Pair the diverse themes with some of the best long-form radio journalism out there, and you get the gold standard of podcasts.
It’s not a stretch to say that Serial put podcasts on the cultural map. Of course, it’s not a new medium; the first iteration dates back to the 80s. But podcasts didn’t seem to garner fans on a massive scale until This American Life created a sensational spinoff. Season one of Serial focuses on the murder of high-school student Hae Min Lee, and the person convicted of the crime, her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed. This podcast sparked debate and kept listeners wanting more until the very end. Sure, it may have pandered to America’s love of true crime, but it was more than that. It was great storytelling — produced and edited beautifully. Serial set the bar for what podcasts can be and revealed opportunities for listeners, podcasters, and marketers alike. Season one is a must-listen. Season three is out now, and it’s all about the Cleveland criminal court system. (Let’s just not talk about season two, OK?)
4. 99% Invisible
If you’re in the design world, you’ve probably heard that “great design is invisible.” This is the idea behind 99% Invisible. Creator and host Roman Mars dives deep into the history and ideas behind the unnoticed objects and architecture that shape our world. The subject matter sounds like it could be dry, but you find out how things you never gave a second thought turn out to be super interesting. The show has a unique voice, that uses an everyday object of design as a jumping off point to tell a wider story about history and human experience. For example, did you know that sidewalks used to end in a sharp drop-off into the street instead of the slope you see almost everywhere now? They were changed nationwide thanks to a group of activist wheelchair users in the 1960s. The group would go out at night with sledgehammers to bust up curbs and build their own ramps. This forced the city of Berkeley, California, to do something about the issue. This podcast will make you look at the world in a different way. Plus, it makes you look super smart and cool when you point out an architectural feature to your friends and give them a five-minute history lesson on it.
Radiolab is a podcast about science, but nowhere near as boring as you remember it in high school. Their tagline, “investigating a strange world,” pretty much sums it up. Each episode takes a complex, often bizarre, scientific concept and makes it easily digestible and fun. Co-hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich take a subject and create a soundscape using music, sound effects, and interviews. Through the use of sound, they are able to paint a vivid image in your mind which makes the science come alive. One of the standout episodes explores the question: “Does a color exist in the world or in your head?” They seek the answer using interviews, scientific facts, experiments, the Iliad, a vocal choir, and a mantis shrimp. Somehow they take basic science and turn it into philosophy. You’ll walk away from each episode knowing a little more about the world. But you’ll probably end up having more questions, too.
We live in a world where 24-hour news runs the show. This format often covers a little bit about many different topics. Embedded turns that idea on its head by taking one news story and going deep. Host Kelly McEvers (formerly of NPR’s All Things Considered) uses her skills to provide listeners with an in-depth view of today’s headlines. She does this using some old-fashioned on-the-ground reporting. Episode topics have ranged anywhere from Trump’s travel ban to police shootings caught on video, to life in “Coal Country.” McEvers finds a variety of voices involved with each subject that will leave you seeing things from a new perspective.
7. Dear Sugars
If you’ve ever been among “the lost, the lonely or the heartsick” (and who hasn’t at some point?), then this podcast is for you. Hosted by the original “Sugars,” advice columnists Cheryl Strayed (you might remember her as the author of “Wild”) and Steve Almond, the show fields questions on every human condition and experience under the sun. The empathic advice is chock-full of anecdotes and explores every conceivable angle and response. After four years on the air, the podcast is no longer churning out new episodes, but don’t worry, the archive of episodes means the Sugars are still available to speak advice “straight into your ears.”
8. The Daily
Keeping up with the news these days is basically a second (and possibly more stressful) job. Stay informed without all the work with The Daily, a 20-minute news rundown powered by New York Times journalism and hosted by Michael Barbaro. The five-day-a-week show deep-dives on one current headlining story then gives you a quick rundown of “what else you need to know today.” It’s the perfect way to learn more about the news that matters, while still keeping up to date on all the issues on the front page.
Invisibilia is about nature, nurture, and all the invisible things that make people act and think the way they do. It calls into question what we know about memory, the effects of trauma, and even our own emotions. This level of introspection might seem more appropriate in a therapist’s office. Yet Hanna Rosin and Alix Spiegel entertain and surprise with each episode. The most recent season takes aim at our love of defining things as black and white. You’ll likely find the grey areas of our experiences a lot more interesting.
Criminal looks beyond the nightmare-inducing tales of murder you might expect from a true crime podcast. Host Phoebe Judge interviews criminals, victims, and experts. While it’s never vocal about its ambitions, Criminal humanizes the genre. It’s not a commentary in a vacuum or gruesome retellings. It’s conversation with people whose lives have been affected by crime. Tune in for stories of murder, theft, hijackings, and even a famous dognapping. No matter how you listen to this podcast, check out the website for beautiful original artwork accompanying the episodes.
It’s no surprise that as listeners and marketers, our associates appreciate podcasts that tell great stories. We want to know which podcasts are on your top 10 list. Share your favorite podcasts on social, and be sure to tag us!