A Beginner’s Guide To The Best Podcasts On The Web

Listen up – these could be the best use of your headphones yet.

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Make no bones about it – this is the golden age of podcasting. Once an obscure digital medium full of amateurish productions that were cumbersome to download and listen to, podcasts have experienced a tremendous resurgence of late, thanks to smartphones, blazing internet speeds and tons of great content. And the numbers speak for themselves – in 2013, podcast subscriptions in iTunes hit the one-billion mark, and in 2015, there were 46 million podcast listeners in the U.S alone.

With hundreds of thousands of podcasts available on the Web today, covering a wide range of topics from healthcare to the X-Men, cutting through the noise and getting to the good stuff can be difficult. Here are 5 awesome (and free) podcasts to get you started.

99% Invisible With Roman Mars

Roman Mars is on a mission to uncover the oft-overlooked bits of design genius that make our world tick – and we’re all the better for it. Covering an eclectic range of objects and architecture, from the common (high heels, barcodes) to the esoteric (Kowloon Walled City, Ouija boards), 99% Invisible might not be the easiest of podcasts to get started on. But once you do, Mars’ keen eye for great design, light-hearted touch and the podcast’s wonderful production values will make you come back for more.

Serial

The fastest-ever podcast to hit 5 million downloads and streams on iTunes, Serial’s a 12-part series chronicling host Sarah Koenig’s investigation of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee in Baltimore, Maryland, through a mixture of narrative, audio clips and actual witness testimony. Did her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, sentenced to life imprisonment for strangling her to death, really do it? Or was he framed? There’s only one way to find out.

Stuff You Should Know (or SYSK)

Published by the HowStuffWorks website, SYSK features HowStuffWorks writers Josh Clark and Charles W. Bryant getting to the bottom of the stuff we’ve always wanted to know, but were too lazy to do the research. Packed with useful information and delivered with heaps of wit, charm and irreverent humour, SYSK makes difficult topics such as human trafficking and schizophrenia a breeze to swallow. Start with the episodes “How Tupperware Works” and “What’s The Deal With The Bermuda Triangle”.

StartUp

Alex Blumberg, producer of award-winning podcasts This American Life and Planet Money, is one of the best in the business. And he’s decided to strike out on his own. With zero entrepreneurial experience, will it be sink or swim for his podcast startup Gimlet Media? From Alex’s first, disastrous pitch to a billionaire investor, to tense conversations with his wife and his crises of confidence, StartUp provides a true-to-life, serialized account of the ups and downs of starting a business.

Working

The folks over at Slate Magazine wants to know what people do on an average working day, and the Working podcast is their way of finding out. Each episode consists of an interview with a professional, where he (or she) shares about the routines, tasks, challenges and quirks he (or she) faces in an average working day, often in fascinating detail. Discover what it’s like to be a waiter, hospice nurse or even Stephen Colbert, and take heart that the best of them can have messy, unpredictable workdays like yours too.

Have a podcast that you love? Let us know in the comments!

Featured image: Flickr user Patrick Breitenbach

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