The 20 Best Podcasts of 2015: As Recommended by MakeUseOf

Jessica Coccimiglio 23-11-2015

Have you ever wondered what your favorite MakeUseOf authors listen to when they want to learn something new, hear a good story, or simply be entertained? I recently invited the team to discuss their favorite podcasts, and we have rounded up the best so you can check them out for yourselves.


What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is a digital audio program that you can download from the Internet. It’s radio for the digital world. No more waiting until it comes on the air, and no missing it because your schedule changed. While podcasts have been around for many years now, it’s a format that is continuing to grow, and find new audiences all the time.

The Best of the Best

The MakeUseOf team named over 50 podcasts we listen to regularly. There were six standout podcasts that caught the attention of more than one of us, and 14 more gems still being produced in 2015 that members of our staff wanted to highlight.

We begin with the Top Six…

1. 99% Invisible


Produced by: Roman Mars, in partnership with Radiotopia by PRX.
Recommended by: Justin Pot, Tina Sieber, and myself (Jessica Coccimiglio).


“99% Invisible is a must-listen radio show about design.” – Justin Pot

What makes it unique: Have you ever wondered what makes a great flag, how the hashtag (or “octothorpe“) came to be, or when the first designed object came to be? Roman Mars, the 99% Invisible team, and their guests, explore all these questions through the lens of design. For a subject most people think of as purely visual, it’s an audio experience well worth a listen.

2. Planet Money


Produced by: NPR
Recommended by: Justin Pot, James Bruce, and myself.

“Planet Money makes economics interesting, which isn’t easy.” – Justin Pot

What makes it unique: Planet Money is the place to go for entertaining explanations of economics and money issues. Hosts Adam Davidson, David Kestenbaum, and their guests help you understand the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, what happens when employee salaries aren’t secret, why we can’t bet on elections, and so much more.


3. Freakonomics


Produced by: Stephen Dubner, in partnership with WNYC
Recommended by: James Bruce, Tina Sieber, and myself.

What makes it unique: Freakonomics, the radio show based off of the bestseller of the same name, looks at the hidden side of everything. Host Steven Dubner (and guest Steve Levitt, his co-author) explores everything from how to win a Nobel Prize, to why belts became more popular than suspenders despite being less functional, to better ways to fight terrorism. The show will pique your curiosity and cover stories from all kinds of angles you would have never thought of.

4. Invisibilia



Produced by: NPR
Recommended by: Justin Pot and James Bruce.

“Invisibilia is so so so so good why isn’t it back yet oh man I want more get in my ear holes” – Justin Pot

What makes it unique: Invisibilia (Latin for “all the invisible things”) explores the intangible forces that affect the way humans behave. From what life would be like without fear, to how to become Batman, to the power of categories, Hosts Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel use both narrative storytelling and scientific research to unravel the mysteries of the human mind.

5. This American Life


Produced by: WBEZ Chicago Public Media
Recommended by: Justin Pot and James Bruce.


“Despite not being American and in fact usually hating everything American (it’s a British thing), I find a lot of the stories in TAL just fascinating. It also explains to me why America is so messed up sometimes.” – James Bruce

What makes it unique: The hosts of This American Life podcast weekly about current events in America. It’s in-depth journalism and fantastic storytelling. In each episode they dig into a new topic to help us understand everything from a Jeep dealership’s fight to sell 129 Cars in one month, to what happens when children from a poor public school visit those at a wealthy private school just Three Miles away, to how life changes for two 43-year-old daughters when they learn that they were Switched at Birth.

6. The Tim Ferriss Show


Produced by: Tim Ferriss
Recommended by: Mark O’Neill and Rob Nightingale.

“The Tim Ferriss show is an absolute must, if you are determined to improve the quality of your life, or if you like offbeat topics.” – Mark O’Neill

What makes it unique: On The Tim Ferriss Show, the eponymous Tim Ferriss (best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek) has been deconstructing how world-class performers (in everything from investing, to sports, to art) achieve their goals. Episodes like “Thomas Edison’s Formula for Greatness“, “‘The Iceman’, Wim Hof“, and “A Chess Prodigy on Mastering Martial Arts, Chess, and Life” will give you practical insights and strategies to apply in your own life and become a high-achiever.

More of Our Favorite Podcasts

The list continues on with podcasts chosen by one member of the MakeUseOf team. The following pods may not be as universally loved as those above, but they still come highly recommended.

7. Radcliffe & Maconie


Produced by: The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
Recommended by: Christian Cawley

Who should listen: Anyone who likes interviews, funny banter, and British accents.

“BBC DJs Radcliffe & Maconie have a weekly podcast that condenses their daily show of interviews and chat into a single dose.” -Christian Cawley

8. On The Media


Produced by: WNYC
Recommended by: Justin Pot

Who should listen: People who want to learn how media gets made, and the issues in it.

“On the Media is the best review of what’s happening in the media and one the web” – Justin Pot

9. The LEDE


Produced by: Jerod Morris and Demian Farnworth, with Copyblogger
Recommended by: Saikat Basu

Who should listen: Writers, marketers, and web content producers who want to hone their craft.

“This is aligned to my interests as an editor and writer. Copyblogger is one of the best sites on the subject and the podcast is excellently produced.” -Saikat Basu

10. Infinite Monkey Cage


Produced by: The BBC
Recommended by: Daniel Price

Who should listen: Curious people who like to laugh.

“Quality comedy meets deep science done by Prof Brian Cox (famed UK TV scientist/physicist/astronomer) et al.” -Daniel Price

11. The Game Over Greggy Show


Produced by: Kinda Funny
Recommended by: Dave Parrack

Who should listen: Gamers, geeks, and fans of pop culture.

The Game Over Greggy Show is a podcast by four guys who used to work for IGN, and who now run the Kinda Funny network thanks to Patreon supporters. I like its simplicity, with each of the four bringing a topic to the table and discussing it for 20-30 minutes. They also have guests sitting in with them regularly, all of whom are geeky in some way. -Dave Parrack

12. Serial


Produced by: Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder in partnership with WBEZ Chicago and This American Life
Recommended by: James Bruce

Who should listen: Lovers of crime drama, law and order, and long-form serial storytelling.

“I’m not normally a crime drama fan, but Serial was just such a great exercise in storytelling – the mixed media format of interviews, phone calls with Adnan, field work of actual visiting the crime scene, casework analysis – just made for a really compelling listen. I was fitter than I had ever been while Serial was on, because each new episode I would deliberately extend my walk until it had finished.” -James Bruce

13. Married with Luggage [No Longer Available]


Produced by: Sarah Koenig & WBEZ Chicago
Recommended by: Tina Sieber

Who should listen: Those who can’t shake wanderlust.

In Married with Luggage Warren and Betsy Talbot talk about how they manage to travel the world, live remotely, and keep their relationship happy. Whether you’re longing to be a digital nomad, work independently, or are stuck in your relationship, this podcast is a great resource and inspiration. -Tina Sieber

14. NPR: TED Radio Hour


Produced by: NPR
Recommended by: Tina Sieber

Who should listen: Fans of TED talks, and anyone else who loves big ideas.

TED Talks are awesome and what NPR’s Guy Raz does with his TED Radio Hour is brilliant. He connects the dots, interviewing different speakers from groundbreaking TED talks on related topics and bringing it all together into an hour long radio documentary. -Tina Sieber

15. Art Bell


Produced by: Art Bell
Recommended by: Ryan Dube

Who should listen: Mystery-loving science nerds.

While I don’t normally get my tech fix via podcasts, I do focus on podcasts to satisfy my interests in the weird and unusual scientific mysteries in our world today. Art Bell is a long standing celebrity in the area of strangeness, and since I’m usually up around midnight anyway, I often tune into his life podcast to catch one of the quirky/interesting interviews. They aren’t all grounded enough in reality to suit my tastes all the time, but occasionally there’s an interview that really gets me thinking during those quiet, late night hours. Such deep thoughts are a writer’s best friend – they ward off writer’s block. -Ryan Dube

16. Untitled: The Adam Savage Project


Produced by: Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage
Recommended by: Harry Guinness

Who should listen: Fans of Mythbusters.

Untitled: The Adam Savage Project is one of the best shows around. Adam himself is super interesting and has a really unique take on a lot of things. Will and Norm, his co-hosts and Tested founders, aren’t just window dressing and actually add to the show too. -Harry Guinness

17. BackStory with the American History Guys


Produced by: Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
Recommended by: Bertel King Junior

Who should listen: Anyone who wants a better understanding of American history.

BackStory is produced locally in Virginia. In each episode, the American History Guys trace a topic through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in a way that sticks with me long after the podcast comes to an end. Since the subject matter often deals with timely issues, this is a great way to get an informed perspective on current news as well. -Bertel King Junior

18. Denzel Washington is the Greatest Actor of All Time Period [No Longer Available]


Produced by: W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery
Recommended by: Bertel King Junior

Who should listen: Movie-lovers, Denzel Washington fans (and non-fans who need to be shown the light).

Denzel Washington is the greatest actor of all time period. W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery know how to bring this fact home in a way that keeps me laughing throughout every episode. -Bertel King Junior

19. Found My Fitness


Produced by: Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D.
Recommended by: Kannon Yamada

Who should listen: Anyone who wants to understand the science and technology driving health and fitness studies forward.

We tend to think of technology as existing independent of health and fitness. The quantified-self movement integrates the two, combining the bleeding edge field of genetics with the age-old study of diet and exercise. Found My Fitness is one of the first podcasts to combine all three elements. -Kannon Yamada

20. The Partially Examined Life


Produced by: The Partially Examined Life
Recommended by: Rob Nightingale

Who should listen: Humans who like to philosophize.

I only recently came across “The Partially Examined Life” podcast, which is a recorded, philosophical debate centered on a philosophical idea or text. In a sense, it reminds me about being back studying Philosophy at university, but also raises some important points about life and society in general, and delves into these ideas usually much deeper than you would find elsewhere on the web. -Rob Nightingale

How to Listen

Are you eager to listen in to these pods, but not sure how? Check out our guides to podcast apps and managers for iOS The Best Podcast App for iPhone and iPad: 7 Top Choices Compared Looking for the best podcast app for iPhone and iPad? Enjoy your favorite podcasts with these great feature-filled podcast apps. Read More , Android 4 App Showdown: Which Is the Best Android Podcast App? There are great podcast apps available for Android, whether you're willing to pay for an app as good as anything you'd find on an iPhone or want a polished, free app. Read More Windows The 6 Best Podcast Managers for Your Windows PC What's the best way to listen to podcasts on a Windows PC? Pick one these podcast managers to queue them up and get started. Read More , and Linux 3 Fresh & Lightweight Music Players For Enjoying Your MP3s on Linux If you're a Linux user who loves music, you've probably noticed that audio players come in all shapes and sizes, from iTunes alternatives to lightweight apps. Which lightweight music player should you choose? Read More . Don’t forget that some podcasts are actually videos you can watch on YouTube, Twitch, or with the right podcatcher!

Discover More Great Podcasts

Obviously we’re fans around here of NPR, the BBC, and WBEZ Chicago, and they are masterful storytellers. That said, one of the best things about joining the club of podcast-listeners is that once you start listening, you’ll find it much easier to discover new podcasts you’ll like.

Podcast hosts occasionally recommend new ones at the end of their show, or on their websites. That said, if you’re a long-time listener and are looking for something fresh, you can rely on apps and tools to find fresh podcasts What Is The Best Way To Find New Podcasts? Finding good podcasts takes some digging. Word of mouth remains the best way to discover the next great podcast. If the grapevines are silent, here are a few more ways to find new podcasts. Read More .

We have several more round-ups of podcasts to share, including a collection of 10 podcasts for book lovers Listen Up, Book Lovers: 10 of the Best Podcasts for Bibliophiles If you're always on the lookout for great book recommendations, these podcasts will keep your “to read” list full, and offer some insightful commentary into the lives of authors everywhere. Read More , eight podcasts about the world of finance The 8 Best Podcasts About The World of Finance Which finance-based podcasts are going to help you become obscenely wealthy? We take a look at some of the best. Read More , six for novelists, screenwriters, and storytellers 6 Must-Listen Podcasts For Novelists, Screenwriters & Storytellers Are you stuck in a writing slump? Have you ran out of story ideas? Are you puzzled and confused over the publishing industry? Do you need guidance on becoming a professional wordsmith? There are lots... Read More , seven to boost your productivity Let's Talk Productivity: 7 Podcasts You Should Listen To For Working Awesomely Let us talk about productivity -- or let these seven life hackers talk about the little things we can do to work awesomely. Plug in...sit back...and listen. Read More , a few podcasts to take your biohacking up a notch Top Podcasts to Take Your Biohacking to the Next Level Can you biohack your way to improved mental and physical performance? Read More , and 10 podcasts for gamers Attention, Gamers! Here Are the 10 Best Gaming Podcasts Video games were one of the first mediums to go all in on podcasts, and there are now a wealth of gaming podcasts from which to choose. Here are 10 of the best. Read More , too.

Now, it’s your turn, as we would love to learn about your favorite podcasts. Which great pods did we miss off our list? Make your case in the comments below!

Image Credits:wearing headphones at computer by bikeriderlondon via Shutterstock

Related topics: BBC, Podcasts.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. John Jones
    December 27, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    Security Now

  2. Noeeri
    February 27, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    Mystery Show

  3. Anonymous
    November 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    I personally enjoy Rooster Teeth Podcast

  4. Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    Risk! True stories, often untouched subject manner, told by famous people, unknown people, always entertaining, even when the story may be sad. The host is fun and energetic and tells his own stories as well. My favorite of all my podcasts.

  5. jackfrost
    November 25, 2015 at 12:50 am

    americas test kitchen

  6. Classy Little Podcast
    November 24, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    You Must Remember This is an exceptional podcast! I'm surprised it didn't make this list! Old Hollywood stories, unknown, unheard of and the most well-researched show I've heard! Karina Longworth is an amazing podcaster, and her guest voices have been spectacular!

    Her last season focused on Hollywood around Charles Manson and it was riveting, to say the least! It's worth a binge-listen!

  7. parkylondon
    November 23, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Just as an FYI, Brian Cox is an ASTRONOMER and NOT an astrologer... #smh

    • Dave Parrack
      November 23, 2015 at 8:30 pm

      Ha, good find. I'm ashamed I missed that as the editor of the piece. In my defense, it's a direct quote. But still, thank you, will fix.

      • parkylondon
        November 23, 2015 at 8:53 pm

        If it's a direct quote, it's probably someone taking the rise out of Cox. He hates being connected to astrology... Probably best to change all the same :-)

        • Dave Parrack
          November 23, 2015 at 9:07 pm

          It's a quote from one of our writers, but as he recommended the podcast I suspect he's a true Cox fan and just made a mistake. Either way, I have fixed it. So, thanks again.

  8. Denis
    November 23, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Personally, I enjoy "Hello Internet" (www.hellointernet.fm) with Brady from Numberphile, Computerphile and other popular channels on Youtube and CGP Grey (also a famous Youtuber).

  9. Anonymous
    November 23, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    for just entertainment and weirdness -- 4 words: Welcome To Night Vale

    For writing I really like the Nerdist Writer's Panel

    And for comics, my go to podcast is Wait What?

  10. Anonymous
    November 23, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    There's absolutely nothing wrong with this public radio heavy selection, but just to add some variety:

    For the This American Life / Serial fan:
    Mystery Show - another podcast from a This American Life Producer, Starlee Kine, tries to solve someone's minor personal mystery.
    Radiolab - Storytelling about science. It's neat.
    The Moth - Competitive, true-life storytelling.
    Risk! - 100% completely, totally NSFW storytelling. Not always sex-related, but nothing at all is off-limits. So, so good.

    Judge John Hodgman - The Deranged Millionaire / PC from the Apple Ads / played a Doctor once on Battlestar Galactica guy dispenses justice from his fake internet court. Listen to find out if machine guns are robots. Stay for the Sadness Tree.

    Savage Lovecast - Dan Savage has a particular political viewpoint that might not sit well with some people, but his extremely not-work-safe podcast about sex and relationships is entertaining and highly informative. Because Dear Prudence never answers questions about orgy planning etiquette.

    I Was There Too [Broken URL Removed] - Non-star actors are interviewed about their presence in great movies. Find out what it was like to be a Space Marine in Aliens or the Apple Store Guy in Captain America: Winter Soldier. Way more interesting than it probably sounds.

    ... and my personal favorites of all:

    The Thrilling Adventure Hour - Now sadly concluded, this is a long-form comedy series in the style of old fashioned radio serials, mostly performed by very familiar and talented character actors with an occasional guest celebrity. There are hundreds of hours to enjoy, which sounds daunting, and it needs to be given a bit of a chance since the episodes are divided by their cast segment (i.e. You'll hear a "Beyond Belief" or "Captain Laserbeam" and might have to listen to three or four more episodes to get another one). There's really nothing else quite like it in the world of podcasting.

    Welcome To Night Vale - Again, audio fiction. Here, we're introduced to the very weird town of Night Vale by way of its community radio host, who tells us all about the Mysterious Glow Cloud, the dangers of Wheat By-Products and that if we see something, say nothing and drink to forget. It's like having a dry NPR host read aloud the work of HP Lovecraft.

    • Jessica Coccimiglio
      November 24, 2015 at 12:36 am

      What an awesome list! I'll make sure our This American Life/Serial fan on staff (James Bruce) sees your comment.

      ...All hail the Glow Cloud.

    • James Bruce
      November 24, 2015 at 8:15 am

      Wow, thank you. I'll have to figure out a new walking route if I'm going to listen to all those ;) I am seriously in need of some good NSFW podcasts, so I'll start with those.

      • Arjay
        November 29, 2015 at 8:16 pm

        The reason why you like This American Life is because they hate the United States, too.

  11. ksavai
    November 23, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I would like to add few to above list.
    TWIT - Tech news weekly
    Mortified - People share their old diary
    The inquiry - Nice topic of discussion
    Star talk - must for neil tyson
    Resume - famous people resume discussed

    • Anonymous
      November 23, 2015 at 6:01 pm

      I second the recommendation for TWIT, and also add Everyday Linux. Don't be put off if Linux isn't your thing. The guys on the show don't actually discuss Linux very much, and the name of the show is being changed soon in order to reflect the wider ranging topics.

  12. Anonymous
    November 23, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    If you like the Infinite Monkey Cage, then a great companion podcast is NO SUCH THING AS A FISH - made by the good people who find the facts and answers for QI.
    A weekly podcast which keeps me entertained and is guaranteed to make quizzical minds go "oooh" and "Well I never. It's also rather funny to boot.