The 7 Best Podcasts of the Moment

2017 will go down in history as the year in which podcasting secured a place in the media landscape — at least in the English speaking part of it. Never before have so many high-quality series ever appeared in such a short time. With long car rides and lazy afternoons ahead of this summer holiday, I — as a keen podcast fan and listener — list the 7 best podcasts of the moment.

Mogul

This podcast is one of the best produced series of this moment. Anyone who doubts whether you can tell a rich story with audio needs to listen to Mogul. Already in the first few minutes, none of that doubt can remain. The series is about Chris Lighty, for a long time one of the most powerful men in the American hip-hop scene, until suddenly in 2012 he is found dead in his apartment. Apparently a suicide, but is that really true? And with this question, begins the series. Host Reggie Ossé sketches a biographical portrait of Lighty, while simultaneously showing the young hip hop scene developing into a prominent industry. The voice-over, old hip-hop songs, interviews, the soundtrack: it all melds smoothly together. Mogul is a great listen.

In the dark

The current podcast revival started with Serial in 2014 and the ‘true crime’ genre continues to be loved by podcast creators today. The reconstruction of old, never resolved matters naturally produces dramatic tension, which keeps you listening. In the dark is about the disappearance of 11-year-old Jacob Wetterling in 1989. The story is well built, but what makes this podcast especially interesting, is that the story rises above the case itself. This series shows how the American judicial system functions in rural areas (spoiler alert). You go from one surprise to another.

Rabbits

Fiction podcasts are on the rise. A fascinating series is Rabbits, the latest episode of which appeared last week. The story revolves around the character Carly Parker, who discovers that her friend has disappeared without a trace. She records the search that follows — and these recordings form the podcast. As a result, the illusion is maintained that this is a true story. The site also displays ‘real’ newspaper clippings and other documents. A well-made production.

Revisionist History

Writer and science journalist Malcolm Gladwell of The tipping point and David and Goliath, among others, is a hero of mine. He started last year with his own podcast, in which he investigates ‘something’ from the past: an event, person or idea. Something that, in his opinion, deserves a second look. In a recent episode, he searches for the people captured in an iconic photo of the ‘race riots’ in the United States during the early 1960s. The image shocked the world at the time. Gladwell investigates what actually happened that day. By sketching the background and making connections he places the event in a different light. Continually resulting in intriguing stories over and over again.

De man met de microfoon

This is the best Dutch-language podcast of the moment, meaning ‘the man with the microphone’. Chris Bajema searches monthly for stories in his neighborhood (Amsterdam East), around the themes of ‘water’ or ‘the night’. It is a variation of ‘real and almost real stories’ where actors regularly appear. The episodes are very well produced, with careful editing and music support. The power of this podcast mainly arises from ‘the man with the microphone’ himself. The passion he puts into every episode is audible throughout. As a listener — you will love this show.

S-Town

Already acclaimed by many — yes, also by me — but this podcast should not be missing in this overview. The podcast has written history with the largest amount of downloads in a short time period. S-Town tells the story of an eccentric clockmaker in the American countryside. As a listener you are sucked into the story and always surprised with a new sidetrack or unexpected plot twist. A non-fiction podcast that sounds just like a written novel.

Reveal

Podcasts are perfect for investigative journalism. This ‘slow medium’ offers the time to dive into a topic. Reveal does this exceptionally well and knows how to present the revelations in catchy stories of around an hour. The affiliated journalists make daring documentaries such as the creator who decides to become a human smuggler to show how that industry works. It produces a shocking episode.


This article was originally published on Nederlands Media Nieuws (Dutch), July 2017. It is available in Dutch here.