most popular podcasts

16 Most Popular Podcasts – Lit and Worth It

The booming podcast popularity has brought about a revolution. And we love it.

We can now listen to any kind of material anytime and anywhere – even while doing number two, if you know what I mean.

All it takes is a simple tap of a finger (just make sure that finger’s washed nicely).

Even as I consider my own favorite podcasts, it’s hard to count them anymore. There’s a whole lot of them falling in various categories.

I’m gonna share with you the top picks – the winners that stand above the sea of others – those that are making waves in the podcast world.

Truly lit and worth it!

1. Serial

serial

Every Thursday morning, Serial consistently produces high-quality episodes.

It holds the world record for having the most number of downloaded episodes – a whopping 175 million times as of June 2017.

Hosted and produced by Sarah Koenig, this investigative journalism podcast was also a Peabody Award winner in 2015.

It currently tops the list of popular podcasts and running on its 3rd season.

If you haven’t started listening to Serial yet, come to Earth! There’s a lot to catch up on and you can start from any season.

Earthlings have been obsessed since day one and so will you!

2. This American Life

this american life

This American Life (TAL) is a weekly radio show hosted by Ira Glass.

It’s extremely popular in the US and has won all the major awards in broadcasting.

The podcast has been downloaded by listeners 2.5 million times.

Known for excellent journalism and skillful story-telling, the show captivates listeners instantly.

Listen to stories about real people and ponder, laugh or cry. The unexpected twists will get you hooked big time.

If you have an hour to spare, tune in and minutes will fly unnoticed.

3. Dirty John

dirty_john

Hosted by Christopher Goffard from the L.A. Times, this investigative journalism podcast has got listeners on the edge of their seats.

Only six weeks into the podcast’s release, and it has crossed over 10 million downloads.

It’s the story of Debra Newell, a successful interior designer. She’s supposed to be the victim but everyone seems to hate her after listening to the podcast.

Anyway, she’s in her late 50s and she meets this “perfect” guy on the internet. That prince charming, in the person of John Meehan, turns out to be the villain.

She gets conned into marrying him and ends up putting herself and her family in jeopardy.

Now, I won’t continue spoiling the story for you because it’s only six episodes long.

Just go ahead and give it a listen. Get hooked, thrilled, or maybe annoyed at wit’s end!

4. Dr. Death

dr. death

What happens when 33 patients put their trust in the wrong neurosurgeon?

What’s behind this mysterious system that protects this doctor and allows his sick practice to continue endangering more lives?

From Wondery network (the same creators of Dirty John), comes another disturbing true-crime story.

This is the story of the infamous Dr. Christopher Duntsch.

How he got away with severe medical malpractice – injuring one unsuspecting patient after another – you’ll find out in this podcast.

Hosted by seasoned medical reporter Laura Beil, it’s a magnet for crime series suckers.

It’s already had more than eight million downloads since its launching last September 4th.

5. Radiolab

radiolab

My all-time favorite!

This nationally syndicated radio program by WNYC has been received with the same love by the podcast community.

Hosted by nerds Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, it’s looking at scientific and philosophical concepts through a creative lens.

The way these two collaborate produces fascinating stories.

The show has earned well-deserved accolades such as a National Academies Communication Award and two Peabody Awards.

But don’t just let the awards speak for themselves. Give it a go. Now!

6. The Daily

the daily

There’s a lot going on every day around the world.

There’s news every day, every hour, gosh, every minute and second!

And you always want to be the first to know what’s going on.

But also because of this, you end up soaking everything and retaining nothing. Too overwhelming if you ask me.

From The New York Times, this 20-minute daily news podcast focuses on one main story.

Yes, one. The Daily podcast takes on a different approach, digging deeper into the heart of the matter, one story at a time.

Michael Barbaro’s adroit interview skills make the reporting spontaneous and interesting.

He keeps the aim of the narrative true to the subject at hand.

If you’re the type who prefers quality over quantity, you gotta check this one out.

Don’t’ think that you’ll miss out on other stories because the show closes with a summary of the headlines of the day.

7. Stuff You Should Know

stuff you should know

From animals to war and everything in between – literally, these are stuff you should know!

It’s a light-hearted educational podcast.

Hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant show great chemistry and make learning about stuff fun and entertaining.

Tri-weekly episodes usually last from 40 minutes to an hour, but they’ve also started “Short Stuff” which is a much shorter version.

Let’s hope that continues too.

The podcast has been downloaded millions of times which simply shows that people’s hunger for knowledge doesn’t stop – and a podcast like this is handy-dandy today.

8. S-Town

s-town

Another investigative journalism success from the creators of Serial and This American Life, this award-winning podcast has been downloaded 77 million times after a year of its release.

FYI, S-Town is a euphemism for “Shit Town.”

It’s what horologist John McLemore calls his hometown, Woodstock, Alabama.

The host, Brian Reed comes to investigate what McLemore claims a murder committed by the son of a wealthy family in S-Town.

In June 2015, while the podcast was still in production, McLemore kills himself.

The show goes on to explore the life of the “queer” and colorful McLemore.

The podcast has gotten mixed reviews from critics.

From being described as “complex and voyeuristic” to being commended as “a noble attempt to understand life.”

Now it’s up to you to decide what you think about it.

9. The Joe Rogan Experience

the joe rogan experience

As soon as you download a podcast application, you’ll see The Joe Rogan Experience popping up in the recommendations.

As pointed out on the title, the show is hosted by comedian and UFC commentator, Joe Rogan.

You’ll hear a lot of conversations about sports, science and everything else under the sun with a little bit of fun.

The show’s been voted Best Comedy Podcast of 2012 by iTunes users and Best Overall Show by Stitcher for its 2013 edition.

In 2015, it crossed another milestone getting 16 million downloads a month.

10. Planet Money

planet money

Now you don’t need a degree in Economics to understand concepts about money and business.

NPR’s Planet Money podcast is a rather interesting way to listen to ideas about economics by means of relatable and entertaining stories.

Topics like Anatomy of a Scam, for instance, create more awareness about this scheme that has victimized far too many over the years.

You don’t need to worry about technical terms that might leave you in the dark. The show uses commonplace language for everyone to easily follow.

With two episodes airing weekly, there’s a lot to learn from the hosts and the experts on the show.

Since time is money, it might be good to use some of it to learn also about money.

11. TED Talks Daily

TED talks daily

Nothing presents ideas better than TED Talks.

I love the format of the show that’s no more than 18 minutes – a real winner!

TED Talks Daily is the perfect distraction when you have a few minutes of idle time during the day – whilst queuing, waiting for the bus or enjoying your afternoon coffee.

Powerful, fun and stimulating ideas – it’s a refreshing podcast for everyone.

Even as I take a break from writing this article, I’d be happy zoning out with a couple of episodes.

TED Talks Daily has nearly a million subscribers on Player FM and is on demand on Stitcher.

12. Pod Save America

pod save america

If you’re a Republican or a hardcore Trump supporter, it would be best to stay very far away from this podcast.

You won’t like it one bit. But if not, this might actually work for you.

Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer, and Tommy Vietor, former aides to the Obama administration, host this left-leaning political podcast.

So you can probably guess how liberal this can get.

You’ll be listening to discussions about news related to politics, issues about Trump, rants, jokes, a lot of sarcasm, and a sufficient flow of cusses in between.

The liberal gang invites “friends of the pod” who are either politicians, comedians, journalists, activists, or someone from the press.

Garnering around 1.5 million listeners an episode, the podcast obviously has a huge reach.

By November 2017, it’s been downloaded over 120 million times.

So yeah, depending on your political stance, you could either hate it or love it.

13. Fresh Air

fresh air

Here’s another widely-syndicated radio show made available in a podcast.

Hosted by Terry Gross, the show boasts nearly 5 million listeners and a Peabody Award.

In addition, it was also the most downloaded podcast on iTunes in 2016.

The show welcomes a wide range of personas from different trades and backgrounds, with conversations that go deeper and ask the important questions.

14. WTF with Marc Maron

wtf with marc maron

People’s love for good humor and laughter explains why this show isn’t getting anywhere off the list of popular podcasts.

And the host isn’t just any comedian – it’s Marc Maron.

I love Maron’s honest, humble and calm demeanor. It simply shows that you don’t need to be boisterous to be funny.

He’s had the most interesting assortment of guests including former President Barack Obama, Kevin MacDonald and Kevin McDonald (which sprung from a confusion between the two guys), Louis C.K., and many others.

Most, if not all of them were interviewed in his studio which is actually his home garage.

15. Reply All

reply all

The Internet is indispensable in our modern lives.

But have you also thought about how our lives have shaped the Internet?

This tech podcast explores the mutual connection of the internet with our present culture through engaging stories relevant to our present time.

The podcast has been generally well-received since its launching in 2014, getting an average of 5 million downloads per month.

It’s hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman.

16. Criminal

criminal

With crime podcasts getting more popular, it’s quite reasonable for me to be checking my main door five times every night before sleeping.

Criminal is a critically-acclaimed collection of well-reported and true crime-related stories.

Take a peek into those criminal minds responsible.

Answer that ubiquitous question, “What were they thinking?” Or learn about the victims and everything else related to crime.

The stand-alone episodes last only for around half an hour – perfect for a pizza delivery waiting time.

This is excellent journalism in compact episodes. T

he only sad thing is that new episodes only come in twice a month. But that’s also probably why it has quality content.

And for the record, Phoebe Judge’s hosting voice alone is reason enough to listen.

The podcast pool is huge and growing, but I’ve shortlisted these 16 of the most popular ones for you.

Leave a comment and let me know which ones you like best.

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Laura Baxendale

I am Laura, a mid-twenty-something woman with a mild obsession with listening to podcasts. When I don't have my headphones glued to my ears I enjoy running, fashion and spending time with my friends.

Oh! Almost forgot, I am also addicted to green tea and Harry Potter.
Laura Baxendale
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