Media, Politics, Design & Everything Else: Essential Podcasts 2017

Podcasts are like radio. They’re like Netflix for radio. There are so many great podcasts, people often find themselves lost in the forest of choice.

Let me lead you deeper into the woods.

Note: If you don’t know how to listen to podcasts, scroll down to the bottom of this article — there’s a quick tutorial for the uninitiated.

I did my best to include evergreen episodes next to each recommendation. 
If you’re unsure where to start — just pick a podcast that sounds fun, or has a nice graphic on the cover, and give the example episode a shot.

This American Life

One of the most popular radio programs of all time, and I think the first podcast I listened to. Each week they choose a theme, and bring you different stories on that theme. If you’re new to podcasts, try it.

99% Invisible

Mostly about the intersection of architecture and society. Best episodes explore the threads that connect us with the world we’ve built for ourselves, and explain origins of the things we never even thought to think about.

Imaginary Worlds

Science fiction with a pinch of philosophy. Fantastic if you’re into subjects like “how loans work in Westeros” or “why do superhero costumes look like they do”. Seriously geeky stuff.

Hardcore History

Dan Carlin brings out the commonly overlooked human–level details from the past, and paints extremely vivid pictures with them. His series on World War I takes just under 20 hours (I know!). And it really makes you feel it.


Produced by NPR, a podcast about the “invisible forces that control human behavior”. Currently between seasons, but you can listen to past episodes. They’re still fresh.

Planet Money

This is your weekly supplement to all the politics — shining a light on terms you may have heard, but you’re not sure you really understand what they mean. US–centric, but doesn’t shy away from featuring other countries.

On The Media

Podcast about politics, the media, its inner workings, our relationship with it, and its relationship to politics. Fun fact: of all the episodes in my feed marked as “favorite” — most are episodes from this podcast.

The Economist

What can I say? One of the best media outlets out there runs a podcast. Quality stuff, frequently echoing and supplementing the print edition.

The United States of Anxiety

A series on the state of USA during the 2016 presidential election. Worth giving it a listen if you’re interested in understanding more about politics in America. I certainly learned a lot.

The Run–Up

Initially only about the 2016 presidential election, but the good people at The New York Times decided to keep doing it. Episode below is not a regular episode. It’s an audio journey in time through the 2016 election.


Famous for accurate, level-headed and insightful polls analysis. These nerds are one of the most reliable sources of information during US elections. Without elections to cover, it’s “just” a great politics podcast.

New York Times Daily

Daily analysis of most prominent news, from fantastic New York Times reporters. Thanks to great storytelling, many episodes are entertaining and informative even outside of their native news cycles.

Pod Save America

From the dangerously smart dudes who ran the wonderful Keepin’ it 1600 podcast. Unique, in that all of the four hosts used to work for Barack Obama as advisors or speechwriters.

The Axe Files

Speaking of Obama advisors, David Axelrod — the person responsible for getting Obama elected in 2008 — also runs a podcast. Chill interviews without the usual emotional charge.

Pod Save The World

Made by the same guys who are doing Pod Save America. This time saving the world with their damn liberal agenda and interesting interviews.

The Gist

Mike Pesca is fast, witty and super liberal. Worth listening if only to hear Mike’s rants at the end of each episode. See if you can keep up with the digressions to the digressions.

The Pollsters

Two professional pollsters — a republican and a democrat — dissect recent polls and talk about changes in public opinion. Includes a fair amount of less–serious content, like “most popular Halloween costumes for girls”.

NPR Politics

The NPR politics team does weekly roundups of all the news (minus the stuff that breaks on Fridays). For your first episode, listen to the roundup. 
Or try a different kind of episode, not tied to a particular news cycle.

Common Sense

Dan Carlin, of “Hardcore History” fame, does a politics commentary podcast. A third party kind of guy, Carlin doesn’t quite fit in the democrat/republican world. This is the closest to talk radio I can bear to listen.

Inside Intercom

Content marketing is strong in Intercom, and their podcast is no exception. Fantastic interviews with leading design practitioners, product management specialists & everything in between.


Smart people from Andreessen Horowitz — one of the most well–known VC funds around — chat about business of technology & technology of business.

High Resolution

Interviews with design–minded individuals (“design leaders”). Similar in format to the Intercom podcast, but there’s also video. New & fresh.


Advertising agencies want in on the podcast game! Oglivy runs this monthly series on behavioural science. Good stuff from established guests.

Design Matters

In her own words, the world’s first and longest running podcast on design. Millman is a well–known design thinker, and her interviews are always a pleasure to listen to. Even if they sometimes need a little speeding up.


A roundtable of The Verge contributors talking about whatever is trending, and what they ate for breakfast. Entertainment for the tech geeks.


Alex Blumberg decided to leave a safe job at a great media company to start his own company producing podcasts. And the first season of his first podcast was about starting that company. Spoiler alert: it went pretty well!

Codepen Radio

From the people behind Codepen comes a podcast talking about various aspects of running a product business. I recommend listening to some early episodes about the basics like infrastructure or finances.


Daily tech news. If you need to know something about everything that happens in the tech world — this is for you. From all the tech news podcasts, this is the only one I can still sometimes listen to.

There’s just so many, isn’t there?

And I didn’t even mention Script Notes, Science Vs, Intelligence Squared, Radiolab, History of Philosophy, DRT, Surprisingly Awesome, Sampler, Freakonomics, Design Details, Critical Path, Release Notes and many others.

You can’t listen to them all, but I think that’s also ok 😎

How to listen to podcasts?

If you don’t know anything about podcasts, I’ll let a more experienced person explain:


I’m using an app called PocketCasts. It’s available both on iPhone and Android. The way it works is you subscribe to podcasts, and they get added to a list in your app. Easier than Winamp.

To hell with all that configuration!

If you really want, PocketCasts allows you to create playlists, set up complicated filters, auto download when you’re on wifi, skip intros, choose playback speed (listen to 1 hour in 40 minutes) or just say to hell with all that configuration, and just click to play an episode.

My Pocket Casts statistics

How I Roll

You don’t have to listen to every episode of every podcast. That would be pretty wicked, but also you wouldn’t have a life. That said, I recommend subscribing to a bunch of stuff & always having something fresh to.

On a bike? Podcast. Commuting to work? Podcast. Having sex? No podcast. Just put on Womack & Womack or something.

Want More?

The good folk at PocketCasts made their Popular and Trending charts public, so you can check them out for yourself to see what’s hip this week.

Watch out, though. That’s how you’ll end up with a list like mine.