Ask LH: What Podcasts Should I Be Listening To?

Dear Lifehacker, Could you recommend some podcasts to me? I've been listening to This American Life, TED and Radiolab and want to broaden my horizons with some fresh content. I'm most interested in podcasts in mp3 format as I like to download them to my phone for later listening (no internet connection required). Easy Listener

Photo: HBO

Dear EL,

Podcasts have been declared a dying breed in certain circles due to the increased accessibility of online video. But this is plainly hogwash. As the murder-investigation series Serial amply proved, podcasts remain hugely popular and provide benefits that visual entertainment lack; particularly for motorists and people who like to multitask.

Unfortunately, finding new, worthwhile podcasts is surprisingly tricky. You can't just channel surf like on TV and the lack of visual cues makes it difficult to determine a show's quality within a few minutes. Plus, there's no easy way to share podcasts on social networks like Facebook, which makes discovery of new content even harder.

I asked my Allure Media colleagues to share some of their personal favourites. While not all of these podcasts are still running, they remain archived for all future listeners.

Here are their recommendations (click on the headlines to start downloading):

WTF with Marc Maron: A twice-weekly podcast hosted by standup comedian Marc Maron. It mainly consists of interviews with comedians, comedy writers and other entertainers. Recently, US President Barack Obama also appeared on the podcast which should give you an ideal of the show's clout and quality.

How Did This Get Made: A podcast that gives you a bad movie to watch and then comes back to savagely rip it to pieces.

The Bugle: A satirical comedy podcast from the UK starring John Oliver. The series has an estimated potential global audience of 7 billion people.

Call Your Girlfriend: The girls at CYG talk politics, women's issues and feminism every fortnight. The show is heavily geared towards XX chromosomes (a recurring topic is "menstruation news") but it's definitely worth a listen regardless of your gender.

Smodcast: Do you like comic books, pop culture and Kevin Smith? If so, this podcast is for you.

Movie Fights: A bunch of cinemaphiles debate a particular movie topic from different angles. Often the arguments get passionate, which is when the show is at it's funniest.

Serial: The aforementioned Serial caused Game Of Thrones-levels of engagement on social media last year. Each season explores a real-life murder over multiple episodes.

Criminal: If you've already up to date with Serial, this is another great true crime podcast that will keep you enthralled for hours.

Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4: A satirical take on the week’s news with the cream of UK comedy talent, hosted by Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis. If you're a fan of stand-up and sketches this is well worth a listen.

The Ricky Gervais Show: A comedy panel show starring Ricky Gervais, his writing partner Stephen Merchant and their exceptionally odd acquaintance Karl Pilkington. This show formed the basis for the animated HBO series of the same name.

Meanwhile In The Future: What will the future look like when the internet doesn't exist? What about if the world stopped spinning? Gizmodo's Rose Evelyth pontificates on the future in bite-sized episodes every week.

The Inquiry: A BBC World Service podcast gives you the best in audio explainer journalism.

Download This Show: A fantastic dissection of the week in tech from the host of The Feed on SBS and Triple J's Movie Guy; Marc Fennell. (Shameless plug: Keep an ear out for regular guest appearances from Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker staff.)

Five Great True-Crime Podcasts For Armchair Detectives

Everybody loves a good whodunnit. It’s why true-crime documentaries like Making a Murderer, The Keepers and now The Staircase have all been big Netflix hits. Yet away from television screens, true crime has found another very happy home – podcasting.

Read more

Okay, that should be plenty to get you started. For more suggestions, check out The Audio Signal, a weekly newsletter of new podcast series and episodes that are worth lending your ear to. Oh yeah, and have a listen to our own podcast, Static!

If any readers have additional suggestions, let EL know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

This story has been updated since its last publicaton.


    You Are Not So Smart.

    For Simpsons fans, I highly recommend Everything's Coming Up Podcast.

    Last edited 13/08/15 7:07 pm

    C-Realm - consistently good every week, though the free podcast will move to monthly once KMO hits 500 episodes.

    Dan Carlin's Hardcore History - fascinating, epic, infrequent episodes.

    I also love The Bugle and keep waiting for John Oliver to have some time for another episode. Great back episodes.

    Hello Internet - CGP Grey and Brady Haran are jsut two really interesting guys talking about things.

    You Are Not So Smart - As the name implies, explains why we do stupid things.

    Hardcore History - Is really long and quite full-on (some might say, hardcore) but really well put together.

    99% Invisible - All the reasons already stated above.

    The Truth. Like a movie for your ears.

    Second TAL, Gimlet Media shows, Radio Diaries, Radiolab, Snap Judgment, Planet Money, Invisibilia

    If you are a history buff then I highly recommend the 'The History of Rome' and 'Revolutions' by Mike Duncan. Still waiting for a new season of Serial to start, the first was enthralling.

    If you are looking for a great app to listen to all these great podcasts I can't go past Pocket Casts - made by Aussies (pretty sure)

    The Bugle is great. Not that frequent since John Oliver got famous, but the old episodes stand up well. My Brother, My Brother and Me (MBMBAM) is very funny - they answer ridiculous questions from Yahoo Answers. Gets funnier as you get to know the personalities involved, so stick with it. Also, Chat10Looks3 with Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb, and Rum, Rebels and Ratbags by Dom Knight.

    If you like genre fiction, check out the Escape Artists podcasts:
    * EscapePod (sci-fi)
    * Pseudopod (horror)
    * PodCastle (fantasy)

    I genuinely think they're great but full disclosure: I'm pretty heavily involved with Escape Artists.

    Last edited 14/08/15 12:36 pm

    The podcasts that are filling up my queue are the following:
    - Overthinking It: For smart and funny analysis of popular culture (plus the TFT and Book Club podcasts).
    - The Partially Examined Life, Very Bad Wizards, and Axons & Axioms: For deep dives into philosophy and psychology.
    - Sources & Methods and Longform: For interviews with interesting people and tools for productivity/research.
    - AskHistorians Podcast: A fortnightly history podcast from the flared users of the AskHistorians subreddit. Fortunately avoids the pitfalls of the more amateurish approaches of Dan Carlin and other less rigorous podcasts.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now