5 ways to find your next favorite podcast
AI-powered algorithms are useful, but sometimes you just need to ask a real person what they think.
This story has been updated. It was originally published on December 19, 2019.
It’s a golden age for podcasting, with a plethora of top-quality, ear-catching broadcasts available from a host of sources and suppliers. Whether you’re a science fan, science fiction enthusiast, or need to feed another interest, there’s surely a podcast (or two) out there to suit.
And you’ve got a wide choice of ways to find podcasts, too—some of which you might not have considered before. If you’ve already gone through all the episodes of PopSci’s The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week and Ask Us Anything, there are simple ways to ensure your podcast well never runs dry.
Ask Spotify for help
Spotify is serious about podcasting, and that extends to recommendations, too. Next time you open up the Spotify app on your laptop or phone, look on your home screen for the Daily Podcasts playlist that the streaming service has created for you.
Just like the music recommendation playlists built by Spotify’s algorithms, this one is crafted using data from what you’ve listened to in the past. In theory, the more podcasts you listen to, the better Daily Podcasts’ algorithms should get at recommending titles you’re going to like.
Note that the playlist only appears if you’ve listened to at least four podcasts in the last 90 days, and it may recommend episodes from shows you’ve already listened to, as well as completely new ones. The feature is available on both free and premium tiers, and if you don’t see it on your home screen, you can hit Search and Made For You to find it among the other custom lists.
Get advice from Apple’s Podcasts app
When Apple’s Podcasts app declared its independence from iTunes with the release of macOS Catalina in 2019, it arrived complete with well-stocked recommendation pages. Even if you don’t use the app to listen to your podcasts, it can still offer up some useful suggestions.
The Browse section on the left is the perfect place to start—you’ll see some noteworthy podcasts recommended by Apple staff, and then scroll down to find even more podcasts organized by categories such as news, sports, comedy, and more. You may not even realize what sort of podcast you’re looking for until a particular category name catches your eye.
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You can’t always rely on other people’s taste, but try the Charts section anyway to see what other listeners have liked. If there’s hype about a particular podcast, you’ll likely never miss it if you check this section regularly. This peer-reviewed section is also available on the Podcasts app for iOS and iPadOS, but it’s a little harder to find: tap Search on the bottom of your screen and then find Charts among the categories that appear.
Let your podcast app choose
We can’t cover every single podcast app out there (there are a lot), but whichever one you use most likely has some form of discovery option included—make sure you dig through the menus and options to see what recommendations are available.
We will highlight one, though—the popular Pocket Casts for Android and iOS. Tap the Discover option at the bottom and you’ll see Trending podcasts at the top, which are chosen by the app’s staff. Farther down, you’ll see what’s proving a hit with other listeners, and you’ll be able to go deeper into specific subcategories you might be interested in, like history or music. There’s also the classic search box at the top, too, which you can use to look for particular topics of interest.
To start listening to a podcast, just tap on it and choose an episode to download. As with most podcast apps, sign up to get future episodes automatically by tapping Subscribe.
Ask your friends (or strangers)
Although algorithms and rankings can be powerful, don’t let them take over your life completely. Balance your AI-generated diet with some old-school recommendations by asking everyone you know about which podcasts you need to be listening to.
Every social interaction is an opportunity: an awkward dinner party, a catch-up with an old friend, sitting in the work cafeteria at lunchtime, standing at the bus stop and noticing someone is listening to something (just be respectful of personal space). If you ask for recommendations from friends and relatives who have a taste most like yours, you’re likely to get some high-quality suggestions.
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When you’ve exhausted everyone you know well, you can always throw out a request for advice on Twitter or Facebook—you’ll find that people are often super excited to pass on a podcast recommendation or two, even to complete strangers.
Other discovery options
A good old-fashioned search online can turn up some good podcasts too. We recommend running a search in Listen Notes, which will look through podcast titles, episode titles, and episode notes for matches to your queries (whether you’re looking for particular people or specific topics).
Newsletters are booming in popularity right now—Podcast Delivery is really worth a click, and searching “podcast recommendation newsletters” in your search engine or newsletter app of choice will inundate you with options. If you do a little rummaging around, you should be able to find one or two that fit well with the sort of podcasts you’re interested in.
People are also always posting lists of what they consider to be the best podcasts, and you can find these via web searches as well. Try looking for the “best podcasts” in a category that you enjoy, or “podcasts like” something you’ve been into in the past. You should find enough quality results to keep your podcast player busy for a while.