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The Golden Age of Podcasting: 20 Must-Listen Shows According to Reddit

Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the past decade, evolving from a niche medium to a mainstream form of entertainment and information. We are truly living in the golden age of podcasting. There are now over 2 million podcasts available covering every conceivable topic, with something to appeal to every taste and interest.

The numbers paint a picture of a medium on the rise:

  • 62% of the US population aged 12+ (an estimated 177 million people) have listened to a podcast, up from 57% in 2021 (Edison Research, 2023)
  • Podcast listeners averaged eight podcasts per week in 2022, up from five in 2017 (Edison Research, 2023)
  • Ad revenue from podcasts is projected to exceed $2 billion by 2023 (IAB, 2021)

As an avid podcast listener and technology enthusiast, I‘m fascinated by the way advances in digital media have fueled the unstoppable rise of podcasting. The proliferation of smartphones and smart speakers means we can now carry an endless library of audio content in our pockets and access it anytime, anywhere with a simple voice command.

"Podcasting is such an intimate medium," says Alex Blumberg, co-founder of Gimlet Media. "You‘re literally inside someone‘s head, going about their day with them. That creates a powerful connection."

The on-demand, portable nature of podcasts makes them the perfect fit for our busy modern lifestyles. Unlike traditional radio, podcasts allow us to listen to what we want, when we want. Long commutes, workouts, household chores – any chunk of time can be transformed into an opportunity to learn something new or get engrossed in a captivating story.

Perhaps no online community appreciates podcasts more than Reddit. A quick search of the popular AskReddit subreddit yields hundreds of threads with people seeking and sharing podcast recommendations. I‘ve pored over these discussions and compiled a list of 20 of the most frequently mentioned and passionately endorsed podcasts.

Whether you‘re a podcast veteran looking for your next auditory obsession or a newcomer to the medium wondering where to start, this list has something for everyone. Encompassing a variety of genres from true crime to comedy to educational, these shows represent the best of what podcasting has to offer.

True Crime

  1. Crime Junkie
  2. My Favorite Murder
  3. Up and Vanished
  4. Serial
  5. Someone Knows Something

True crime continues to be one of the most popular podcast genres and it‘s not hard to see why. These shows tap into our morbid curiosity and allow us to play armchair detective from the safety of our headphones.

Crime Junkie and My Favorite Murder are hosted by engaging hosts who strike the perfect balance between respectfully discussing tragic cases and injecting some much-needed levity. Up and Vanished and Serial are masters of the serialized mystery format, unraveling complex cold cases over the course of a season. And Someone Knows Something excels at highlighting lesser-known missing persons cases with exhaustive investigate reporting.

Podcast Downloads per month
Crime Junkie 31.4 million
My Favorite Murder 35 million
Up and Vanished 15 million
Serial 5 million
Someone Knows Something 1.5 million


  1. Conan O‘Brien Needs a Friend
  2. The Dollop
  3. My Brother, My Brother, and Me
  4. The Always Sunny Podcast
  5. Comedy Bang Bang

When you need a mood boost, these comedy podcasts are like an instant shot of serotonin. Conan O‘Brien brings his signature quick wit and self-deprecating humor to long-form interviews with fellow funny people. The Dollop serves up bizarre tales from history with hilarious commentary.

My Brother, My Brother, and Me features three brothers dishing out terrible advice to listener questions. The Always Sunny Podcast is a must for fans of the show, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a beloved sitcom. And Comedy Bang Bang has been a staple of the comedy podcast scene for over a decade, blending interviews with improv and absurdist humor.


  1. Stuff You Should Know
  2. Ologies
  3. Hardcore History
  4. 99% Invisible
  5. RadioLab

For the eternally curious, these educational podcasts make learning a joy. Stuff You Should Know and Ologies are like auditing the most interesting college courses taught by the most passionate professors. Each episode dives deep into a single topic, delivering a densely-packed payload of fascinating information.

Hardcore History turns the past into a riveting story, with host Dan Carlin bringing key moments in history to vivid life. 99% Invisible reveals the hidden marvels all around us, uncovering the fascinating design elements we often overlook. And RadioLab is a master of immersive, sound-rich storytelling that makes complex subjects accessible.

"With podcasting, we have the freedom to let a story breathe," says Jad Abumrad, host of RadioLab. "We‘re not constrained by arbitrary time limits. We can follow our curiosity down whatever rabbit holes it leads us."


  1. This American Life
  2. Snap Judgment
  3. The Moth
  4. Heavyweight
  5. Welcome to Night Vale

Narrative storytelling is an art form that podcasting has perfected. This American Life is the gold standard, presenting profound, poignant first-person stories grouped around a weekly theme. Snap Judgment picks up the pace with rapid-fire personal stories on a topic.

The Moth features true stories told live without notes, capturing all the dynamism of live storytelling. Heavyweight ventures into more serious territory, following host Jonathan Goldstein as he helps people try to resolve past conflicts or unanswered questions. And Welcome to Night Vale serves up an uncanny, unsettling tale in the style of community radio dispatches from a desert town where the surreal and supernatural are commonplace.

Podcast Discoverability and Curation

With over 2 million podcasts out there, the biggest challenge for listeners is discoverability. How do you find new shows tailored to your interests? Podcast platforms are tackling this problem through a combination of human curation and machine learning.

Spotify has assembled a team of human curators to create a "podcast for every listener, and a listener for every podcast," says Courtney Holt, VP, Global Head of Studios & Video at Spotify (Spotify Newsroom, 2020). These curators handpick shows and assemble them into niche interest categories and playlists.

At the same time, Spotify and other platforms are deploying machine learning algorithms to provide personalized podcast recommendations based on a user‘s listening history. By analyzing episode listening data, these systems can surface new shows that align with your tastes, helping you discover hidden gems you might have otherwise missed.

Interactive and Multimedia Podcasts

As podcasting matures, creators are looking for ways to push the boundaries of the medium beyond simple audio. One emerging trend is interactive podcasts that allow listeners to shape the story through their choices, similar to choose-your-own-adventure books.

Spotify has been a pioneer in this space with exclusive shows like The Horror of Dolores Roach, a fiction podcast that lets listeners make decisions for the main character at key moments (Engadget, 2020). These branching narratives enhance listener engagement and add replay value.

Another burgeoning frontier is multimedia podcasts that supplement the core audio experience with additional visual elements. This can range from feed artwork that changes with each chapter to optional video components. Platforms like Spotify and YouTube are investing in native video podcast support.

One notable example is The Chernobyl Podcast, a non-fiction series hosted by podcast creator Craig Mazin that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the eponymous HBO miniseries. The show seamlessly integrates video clips from the series and interviews with the cast and crew, resulting in a richer, more immersive experience.

The Future of Podcasting

Looking ahead, the future of podcasting looks brighter than ever. As 5G networks roll out and wireless headphones become ubiquitous, people will have more opportunities than ever to consume audio content on-the-go.

We‘re already seeing hints of spatial audio and surround sound being used to create more enveloping, immersive podcast experiences. Imagine true crime shows that put you in the middle of the scene or science podcasts that sonically transport you to the far reaches of the universe.

Personalization will also continue to evolve, with AI assistants like Siri and Alexa able to proactively suggest new podcast episodes based on your mood or current activity. Dynamic ad insertion will allow for hyper-targeted advertising, making podcasting an even more appealing medium for brands.

But perhaps most exciting is the potential for podcasts to emerge as a new form of social media. Apps like Breaker and Swoot already allow users to share and discuss their favorite shows and episodes with friends. As these social features become more integrated, podcasts could foster the kinds of fan communities and water cooler moments now dominated by TV and movies.

"I really believe that audio is the most intimate form of social media," says Anchor co-founder Michael Mignano. "It‘s a way to feel like you‘re hanging out with your friends even when you can‘t be together in person."

No matter what innovations emerge, one thing is clear: Podcasts are here to stay. In a world of constant visual stimulation, the power of audio storytelling offers a welcome respite – a chance to unplug, learn something new, and let your imagination run wild. All you need is a pair of headphones.