New ears’ resolution: 10 of the best podcasts to listen to in 2017

19 Dec 2016

Woman listening to podcast. Image: mimagephotography/Shutterstock

Podcasts are more popular than ever, and to get you started on some new shows in 2017, here are 10 we picked out that are definitely worth a listen.

The stats don’t lie; podcasts are now more popular than ever, as more and more people are not only listening to them, but making them too.

In the US alone, there are an estimated 65m regular podcast listeners, with a reasonable majority (64pc) of these listening on a phone or tablet on the move.

In fact, as more people catch the podcast bug, the process of starting your own one isn’t as complicated as you might think, as we showed here and here.

Following the success of Serial last year, which brought a whole new global audience to podcasts, the months that have followed have thrown open the doors to a seemingly never-ending number of true crime podcasts.

But fear not, those who have no interest in the topic – there are a whole number of different podcasts across a range of topics out there to sink your teeth (or ears) into.

Here are just a few that might pique your interest.

2 Dope Queens – WNYC – Comedy

While it was released towards the end of last year, 2 Dope Queens made the big time when it was featured on its fellow WNYC podcast giant, Radiolab.

Unlike many other podcasts out there, this one, hosted by comedians Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, tries to stay as far away as possible from the typical white male-led show.

The format is simplicity as its best, with both Williams and Robinson inviting fellow comedians to a live recording to discuss practically anything, but particularly race, gender and sex in the modern world.

At around an hour long, the podcast has won critical fame and was recently named as the best comedy podcast of 2016 by Vulture.

More Perfect – WNYC – Politics

It really is hard to avoid the talented group of people over at WNYC, whose podcasts regularly top the charts.

One of its latest efforts has been something of a pet project for Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad. Called More Perfectit turns seemingly boring legal matters of the US supreme court into fascinating tales.

Taking some of that high production value from Radiolab, subjects like race-based jury selection and the Baker v Carr case that led to mental breakdown of Chief Justice Earl Warren are all mentioned.

A must-listen to anyone interested in American politics.

Science Vs – Gimlet Media – Science

When not contributing to such prestigious publications as New Scientist, science journalist Wendy Zukerman is the creator and host of Science Vs, a critically acclaimed podcast about – you guessed it – science.

But unlike some other shows, Zukerman takes a stance against some of today’s hot topic situations, ranging from major global issues like climate change to the Zika virus, and puts scientific fact to the front of the conversation.

One episode that discussed the science behind cannabis was recently featured on for its insight into an otherwise murky topic, regarding legality and its effects on the human body.

Crimetown – Gimlet Media – True crime

Were you a big fan of podcasts like Serial and that little TV show called Making A Murderer?

Then you might want to check out this very popular true crime podcast Crimetown, created by the makers of the HBO show, The Jinx.

The premise of the show follows a similar ‘one story, one season’ format, investigating the culture of crime in a different American city.

So far, the producers have looked at the city providence Rhode Island, where organised crime and corruption seem to infect every aspect of public life.

Hosted by Marc Smerling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, Crimetown might not be of the same fame as Serial, but the critical acclaim heaped upon it is enough to at least give it a listen.

Ahead of Their Time – FiveThirtyEight – Sports

Not all sports podcasts are interviews with sports stars about how their team played that week.

Over at the data-loving team at FiveThirtyEight, one podcast that is definitely for sports fans with a love of numbers and statistics is Ahead of Their Time.

The show is a miniseries of sports audio documentaries about the athletes and coaches who weren’t appreciated in their era, but who, when examined through the lens of modern analytics, can be better appreciated.

Hosted by ESPN senior sportswriter Neil Paine, just five episodes have been recorded so far. They cover a number of different sports from the football played with hands in the US, to football played everywhere else with feet.

Ahead of Their Time

Image: ESPN/FiveThirtyEight

BroadMic – Independent – Business

“How many times have you seen or listened to an entrepreneur profiled in the media as a ‘white male, hoodie-wearing, unicorn-hunting Stanford engineer’? Hungry for substantive advice from accomplished entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders who look and sound like you?”

That’s the opening gambit from BroadMic, a weekly podcast hosted by Inspirefest 2017 speaker Kelly Hoey that highlights the unique accomplishments of female entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders.

Within the realm of business, Hoey and her guests – others who have also spoken at Inspirefest over the years – discuss promoting diversity, start-up advice and opportunities for social entrepreneurship.

One for everyone to learn a few tricks of the business.

The West Wing Weekly – Independent – Pop culture

Last year, we featured a podcast dedicated entirely to the hit show Frasier, so now, naturally, we feature a show dedicated entirely to the political drama, The West Wing.

In a similar fashion to Talk Salad and Scrambled Eggs, The West Wing Weekly format sees its hosts go through each episode, discussing the topics and going behind the scenes on occasion.

What makes the podcast particularly interesting for a diehard West Wing fan is that it is co-hosted by Joshua Malina, who played the character of Will Bailey in the later seasons of the show.

Joined by musician and composer Hrishikesh Hirway, the pair have welcomed some familiar faces from the show to add to what is already a great listen for fans.

DTR – Gimlet Media – Comedy/dating

While Tinder could be questioned for some of its business choices, like putting its app on Apple TV, it seems like a good fit for the dominant dating app to have its own podcast in DTR.

Most people who have friends using the app will likely have plenty of stories, whether they be funny or a fable warning of the strange side of dating life.

While it is only two episodes in so far, it is worth a listen to get an insight into the modern dating world of swipes, super likes and the incredible awkwardness of the first date.

So far, the topics covered include what people say in their opening message and the ones they received, as well as unsolicited pictures of people’s nether regions.

Hosted by This American Life’s Jane Marie, this podcast will either be an eye-opener to your traditional view of dating, or a funny reminder of just how weird online dating can be sometimes.

Those Conspiracy Guys – Independent – Conspiracy/comedy

At a time when fake news is being blamed for much of the world’s woes, the suggestion of a podcast dedicated to delving into conspiracy theories might seem like a strange suggestion.

Despite being one of the most successful Irish podcasts ever, Those Conspiracy Guys remains more of a global hit than one in its native land.

Within the space of four weeks of launching back in 2014, the podcast quickly grew a cult following to the point that it made the top 10 chart of the most downloaded podcasts.

Hosted by the duo of Gordo and Paul, the show delves into topics like the JFK assassination and 9/11, over the course of a number of hours in some cases.

Unlike other podcasts that might take this type of topic very seriously, the pair offer some thought-provoking ideas with a strong dose of comedy.

99% Invisible – Radiotopia – Design

99% Invisible is a podcast that shouldn’t work because it is so reliant on visuals, but its quality is of such a standard that it makes it a must-listen.

Focused on the unnoticed architecture and design creations that shape our world, it was started as a project of KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco.

Throughout the series, host and creator Roman Mars looks at a number of different areas where design places a crucial unseen role, even things that seem quite boring from the outset, like revolving doors.

With 150m downloads, 99% Invisible has been a regular feature on the iTunes podcast charts over the last number of years.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic