The radio didn’t die. It evolved, evolved into podcasts. Podcasting is the future of oral storytelling.
While the movie industry had havoc wreaked upon it during the last two years, the podcast industry boomed, and it has been growing even before COVID. This is because podcasts are ridiculously easy to make, and everybody is realizing that. All you need is a microphone, a laptop, and a clothes closet.
That’s why everybody is podcasting, leading to more than 2 million registered podcasts. That is twice the population of Fiji!
These days, whenever a new show or movie is released, there is a podcast accompanying it, interviewing the actors, or just describing what’s happening behind the scenes. Every big-shot celebrity, politician, and scientist has a podcast, and they are striking multimillion dollar deals with platforms like Spotify and Apple Podcasts to exclusively produce for them. You read that, right?
You can earn millions just by making great content at your home. But it needs to be spectacular, because podcasting giants like Joe Rogan and Alexandra Cooper already dominate the field, and it’s difficult to get your voice heard.
The podcasts we listen to are liked because of the storytelling, the painstakingly curated topics, and the ability to hook you from the first line. They talk to you about history in a way that doesn't make you want to murder the person speaking. They make you feel a myriad of emotions at the same time, just by the power of the voice. They make you leave your monotonous life for a while and travel to faraway lands with knights, warrior princesses, and dragons.
Podcasts don't need to be hosted by celebrities to be worth listening to. They just need to be orated by someone who knows how to make you want to keep listening. So, here are some of the best podcasts worth listening to in your free time.
1. Science VS (Gimlet Media)
This is one of my favorite podcasts! If you like science or learning about something from a scientific point of view, Science VS is the podcast for you. Hell, even if you hate science, this show will “pit facts against your aversion to science” and make the subject so enjoyable that you will start to love it.
I would recommend listening to the episodes “Artificial Sweeteners- not so sweet?” and “Weight- Is Fat Unhealthy?” if you want to start your Science VS journey.
2. The History Chicks (Wondery)
Can you listen to two women talk about famous female characters in history, real or fictional, for about an hour? You’ll probably reply ‘no’. That was what I thought too before I discovered The History Chicks.
Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider, the hosts of THC, convert the history of these influential women from just a topic to rote learn for a history test to something you would actually want to listen to every day. In the hosts’ own words, “Any resemblance to a boring history class is purely coincidental”, though I haven’t found a resemblance yet!
If you want to start listening to The History Chicks, I would recommend their episodes on the lives of Marie Curie (first person to win The Nobel Prize twice), Jane Austen (writer of Pride and Prejudice and Emma), Lucy Maud Montgomery (writer of Anne of Green Gables), and Sarah Bernhardt (the first A-list celebrity).
3. Duolingo French and Spanish Podcasts (Duolingo)
If you want to learn how to speak conversational French or Spanish, Duolingo’s French and Spanish Podcasts are the perfect resources for you. From Duolingo, the pioneer of language-learning apps, these podcasts help you improve your language skills by delivering fun stories in easy-to-understand French and Spanish, along with the English translation of the stories. Most of the episodes have transcripts, so you can open them on the side and learn how to read the language as well.
4. Switched on Pop (Vulture)
I love music, but not just listening to it. I like learning about how the music was created for the song, what was the inspiration for the lyrics, what is the key, and why ‘Happy Birthday’ is the worst song ever (it is!). If you also like learning about the “making and meaning of music”, Switched on Pop is the podcast to which you should listen. Hosted by musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding, this podcast dissects popular songs, talks to artists, producers, and music experts, discusses albums, the Grammy’s, and the technical aspects of making a song.
I would recommend tuning in to these episodes- “Kimbra reflects on a song that we used to know”, “Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” is a full throttle power ballad”, and “Billie Eilish is a Different Kind of Pop Star (ft. FINNEAS)”.
5. Smash Boom Best
This was one of the first podcasts I started listening to, and I haven’t stopped since then. Smash Boom Best is the debate show for kids and families from American Public Media, and the makers of the award-winning podcast, “Brains On!”. Every episode, they take two things, make their case for each ‘team’ (which means the people rooting for each thing), and then decide which one is the best. The coolest part of this podcast is that they get kids who are enthusiastic about debating, or the topic, and make them the judges!
The debate is done in rounds like the Declaration of Greatness (a rousing speech on the history and might of their side), the Micro Round (in which there is a creative challenge like making a vacation ad for your side), the Sneak Attack and more. You can also go to their website, https://www.smashboom.org, and vote for your favorite side. My favorite episodes from SBB are Books vs Movies (books all the way!), Pizza vs Tacos, Bermuda Triangle vs Loch Ness, and Godzilla vs King Kong.
6. Something Scary (Studio71)
This is a great podcast if you’re fascinated with eerie legends, ghost stories, and creepy pastas. Even if you don’t go out of your way to listen or read about scary things, I would recommend this podcast because of its impeccable editing and production. Listeners send in the creepiest tales from their towns, and they’re spine-chilling- ghost festivals, child serial killers, deadly lakes, cannibalistic octogenarians, and others.
The host, Markeia, then narrates these stories and the whole effect of listening to one of their episodes is really satisfying, as the music, the narration, the different voices, and sound effects are all coordinated with each other and transport you to the scene of the crime itself. If you want to start your petrifying podcast journey with The Something Scary Podcast, I recommend listening to Serial Shivers, Morbid Ill-usions, It’s All Fun and Games, Ravenous Ravings, and Midnight Murders.
7. Global News Podcast (BBC News)
This is one of the best podcasts to catch up on the top news from around the world. The Global News Podcast is the news podcast from BBC News. They have a regular posting schedule, and they post twice a day on the weekdays, and once on the weekends too, which is something I have found lacking in most news podcasts. The episodes are only around 30 minutes each, which is great for anyone who wants to get a summary of the news of the day and not spend an insane amount of time on it.
8. Criminal (Vox Media)
I love listening to true crime podcasts, and Criminal is one of the best true crime podcasts out there. In the podcast team’s own words, it is a podcast about “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Criminal has won countless awards for the great production and outstanding narration by the host, Phoebe Judge, and has been featured by many renowned publications like The NY Times, Vulture, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Rolling Stone, Wired, and Time.
This podcast isn’t just a humdrum narration about a crime that happened years ago, it is a searching look at true crime that makes you think about the state of the legal system that punishes criminals, and how it isn’t always right.
There are always two sides to every story, and you shouldn’t judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Criminal is raw, unadulterated, and alive with emotions.
My favorite episodes from Criminal are The Many Lives of Michael Malloy, How to Sell a Haunted House, Who’s There, The Less People Know About Us, Like a Page From a Book, and Money Tree (listen to this episode before listening to The Less People Know About Us, which is kind of a sequel to Money Tree) .
One more thing....
I started The Word Affinity Podcast in 2020, and it's still going on. Word Affinity is a podcast which has everything to do with words. From interviews to book reviews, stories to speaking about random stuff, I cover every aspect of words.
It is said that words have the power to change everything in the world, and I truly believe that. By the way, if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will like listening to my podcast, as I have done lots of episodes on The Wizarding World!
If you would like to listen to WA, I would recommend these episodes- 3 Minutes of Potter- Voldemort's Death Eaters (Part 1- 6), The Physician Who Killed Elizabeth The 1st (and French wine), and Hey, Voldy! Wanna Ruin Harry's Life?