Best podcasts 2017: the top online shows you should listen to

Remember way back in 2005 when podcasts were heralded by the media as the future of radio? Well, a few years later everyone collectively became a bit sick of audio, and the same publications were quick to ring the death knell for the once-beloved podcast. 

But, thanks to a number of outrageously popular podcasts over the past few years (we’re looking at you Serial), podcasts have had a huge resurgence. 

Now it’s not just the interview format that makes the best podcast ear candy, but advice shows, conversations between friends, comedy series, horror series, tales about the past and so much more. 

We’ve collected together just a few of our favorite podcasts to liven up your morning commute. Whether you like to laugh, cry, scare yourself silly or expand your mind on your way to your 9-to-5, we’ve got something for you.

The Guardian's Audio Long Reads

Average length: 30-120 minutes | How often is it released? 1/2 times a week | Why should you listen? In-depth investigations on a variety of topics

If you've ever read The Guardian's Long Read features, you'll know you need to carve out a lot of time to sit down and be able to make a dent in them. Luckily The Guardian now records some of them too so you can listen to them on your commute and fit in even more in-depth pieces.

Topics covered by the Audio Long Reads vary from the history of Indian restaurants in the UK to political topics from across the globe. You can get some amazingly varied topics from subscribing to Audio Long Reads and we'd recommend checking it out to see if anything takes your fancy.

Marathon Talk

Average length: 90 minutes | How often is it released? Once a week | Why should you listen? Motivation to get off the sofa for a run

Plan to start running soon? Marathon Talk may be the show that will persuade you to get up and out for a jog. It's the UK's number-one running podcast and is listened to all over the world by people trying to start out running for the very first time as well as jogging veterans.

There's currently around 700 hours of Marathon Talk episodes out there, so if you plan to start running a lot you'll have lots of material to get you motivated and out the front door.

The Allusionist

Average length: 10-20 minutes | How often is it released? Once every two weeks | Why should you listen? Interesting facts about the English language

Ever wondered if we can resurrect languages that have entirely died out? That's one of the topics The Allusionist covers, but this show also dives into the intricacies of the English language that you've never noticed.

Designed to be short little bursts of information about the way we write and talk to each other, The Allusionist is a great listen for anyone with a passing interest in the way languages have developed and continue to change at great pace.

Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review

Average length: Two hours | How often is it released? Every Friday | Why should you listen? An expert film critic and lots of wittering

If you're a film fan, you have to check out Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's podcast. You may have heard it refereed to as Wittertainment, and it's essentially two guys who love cinema reviewing the week's releases and chatting in-between.

The show brings in a lot of massive stars, exhaustive film knowledge and one of the UK's best film critics to make a must-listen show about the latest releases. Plus, there's a great dose of Jason Isaac too.

The Football Ramble

Average length: 60 minutes | How often is it released? Every Wednesday | Why should you listen? Passionate football chatter

A light-hearted, genuinely passionate podcast that celebrates the game. Marcus, Pete, Jim and Luke have picked up a huge following, do live shows and offer an ad-free version and host of extra shows if you're prepared to pay for Acast, but the weekly classic and another (ostensibly) betting focused show remain freely available and well worth a listen - plus there's a new move into European football that has fans excited too.

The Adam Buxton podcast

Average length: 60-90 minutes | How often is it released? Once every two weeks | Why should you listen? If you want to laugh with great guests

Beloved British comedian Adam Buxton became the joint king of comedy podcasts when, many years ago, he presented with chum Joe Cornish on cult UK radio station BBC Radio 6 Music.

Fast-forward to the present day and Buxton has begun a new, interview-based podcast, which he releases roughly every other week. Each episode sees Buxton having deep conversations, also known as ‘ramble chats’, with the likes of Louis Theroux, Richard Ayoade and Jonny Greenwood.

They feel much more real and relatable than other interviews you’ll hear, and Buxton shares a lot too, rather than just firing questions at his guests.

My Dad Wrote a Porno

Average length: 60 minutes | How often is it released? Once a week, split into seasons | Why should you listen? If you want to both cringe and laugh

Let’s imagine that you found out your dad had written an actual porno. Your dad. A porno. *Shudders*.

Well, that’s exactly what happened to Jamie Morton. But, rather than ignore it, or bottle it up, or feel rather disgusted like most of us probably would, he decided to read through it with the help of Radio 1’s Alice Levine and James Cooper.

And that’s how My Dad Wrote a Porno was born. Carter reads a new chapter each week, and it makes for truly laugh-out-loud-funny listening.

Hip Hop Saved My Life

Average length: 45 minutes | How often is it released? Scattered release times | Why should you listen? Hip hop chat and some laughs

Even if you aren't into Hip Hop, this is a great listen. Brit-based comedian Romesh Ranganathan chats all things rap with a number of special guests who recollect the first time they heard their favorite hip-hop tracks and how they tie in with their lives. 

Ranganathan maybe known for his stand up but he's a great talk show host too, managing to uncover brilliant stories from his guests - who range from Frankie Boyle to DJ Yoda. His own rap insights are great, too, although the less said about his lack of love for De La Soul the better.

Hey, It's Okay

Average length: 30-45 minutes | How often is it released? Every Tuesday | Why should you listen? Chatter with great guests

Hey, It’s Okay is essentially the weekly talk-show version of Glamour Magazine UK’s monthly feature of the same name. Every episode the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Jo Elvin is joined by a member of her editorial team and a celebrity guest to discuss anything and everything. 

Each episode runs from 30 to 45 minutes and usually covers three topics of discussion but they can range from Googling yourself and social media to mental health and relationships. The show attracts a good range of guests that have included Dawn French and David Baddiel and the discussions are consistently funny, down-to-Earth and guaranteed to cheer you up.

TED Radio Hour

Average length: 60 minutes | How often is it released? Once a week | Why should you listen? If you want to learn about big ideas.

Brought to you by the team behind the fascinating and addictive TED Talks, the weekly TED Radio Hour podcast presents ideas, new ways of thinking, and compelling stories for you to mull over on the way to your dull office job.

Topics range from ways to save our dying planet and unpicking the problems with democracy, to a frank peek at the ways in which we love. If it’s brain food you’re after on your commute, rather than creepy stories or endless laugh-out-loud moments, then TED Radio Hour is what we prescribe. 

The Cycling Podcast

Average length: 45-60 minutes | How often is it released? Every Wednesday (every day during big events) | Why should you listen? If you want to immerse yourself in the world of cycling

If you’ve even got a smidge of an interest in cycling, you’ll love The Cycling Podcast. Presented by award-winning journalists Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe, it focuses on the world of professional cycling, covering the weekly talking points of the sport and the stories behind them.

With expert analysis and interviews with the biggest names in cycling, their encyclopedic knowledge of the sport is infectious. And while they take the sport seriously and don’t shy away from cycling’s more challenging topics, their talk of the food and culture of the region they’re visiting on a Grand Tour adds a layer of color and atmosphere that’s all nicely wrapped up with the teams relaxed (but far from amateurish) presenting style. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most respected sports podcasts out there.

For the likes of the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, there are daily half-hour podcasts to really immerse yourself into the story of a three week Grand Tour. That’s not forgetting the The Cycling Podcast Féminin, a new monthly show dedicated to women’s cycling 

Important If True

Average length: 60 minutes | How often is it released? Once a week | Why should you listen? Something funny and informative

Having only started in 2017 you might be forgiven for thinking that the Important If True gang are new to the world of podcasting, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Chris, Jake and Nick are podcast veterans, having hosted the successful Idle Thumbs podcast for a number of years. 

Important if True is obsessed with all things tech and pop culture. At their heart, Chris Remo and co are phenomenal story tellers, taking the best niche tales and spinning them out into epic tales which all too often get integrated into classic pop culture tropes. 

It’s not uncommon for an episode to start with an innocuous piece of technology news, only to grow into a pitch for a B-movie screenplay that then gets referenced throughout the rest of the episode.  With laughs aplenty and some genuinely interesting observations, Important if True is a must-listen for any fans of nerd culture. 

No Such Thing As A Fish

Average length: 30 minutes | How often is it released? Once a week | Why should you listen? You'll gain great facts for dinner parties

What do the Large Hadron Collider, Toy Story 2 and the estimated cost of the Death Star in Star Wars have in common? All have been topics covered on No Such Thing As A Fish. 

Every week, the brains behind BBC's long-running entertainment panel show QI sit down around microphones to share some very strange facts, and believe us you'll gain some peculiar knowledge from this show.

Lore

Average length: 30 minutes | How often is it released? Twice a month, on a Monday | Why should you listen? Campfire stories without horrible weather

You can get an ultra-creepy, yet totally captivating, dose of award-winning podcast Lore every two weeks.

Each episode digs up a new, dark tale from our past in a ‘gather around the campfire and share your most spine-tingling stories’ kind of way. A mixture of strange creatures, tragic events, unsolved mysteries and unusual places makes for super-addictive listening that’s almost impossible to pause.

And with a tagline like ‘sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction’, you know you’re onto a winner.

Welcome to Night Vale

Average length: 20 to 40 minutes | How often is it released? Twice a month | Why should you listen? Escapism

Welcome to Night Vale is very different to anything else on this list. Night Vale is a fictional town and each episode tells the story of the place through news and announcements.

It's usually shared by the show's main character Cecil Gershwin Palmer, but sometimes secondary characters pop up to share more about Night Vale too.

For this one we'd recommend starting at the very beginning, but be warned there are a lot of episodes of Welcome to Night Vale so it's sure to suck up a lot of your time.

The Adventure Zone

Average length: Around an hour | How often is it released? Every second Thursday | Why should you listen? If you want a fun way to get into D&D

The Adventure Zone is a simple concept - three brothers have roped their dad into starting a Dungeons and Dragons campaign and you get to hear what happens along the way.

TAZ is a great introduction to the complicated world of D&D, but even if you're not a fan of tabletop RPG games the story and characters are sure to hook you in and encourage you to go along for the ride.

This American Life

Average length: Varied, usually around an hour | How often is it released? Every Tuesday | Why should you listen? A few stories around a similar theme

One of the most popular podcasts on the planet, This American Life couldn't be missed from our list of the best shows out there right now. Each week the show finds a topic and tells a number of different stories on the same theme.

Sometimes you'll find it's a journalistic story and other weeks it'll be a comedy routine instead. Over 2.5 million people regularly download This American Life, so you should make sure you're one of them to work out if this is the show for you.

Giant Bombcast 

Average length: Up to three hours | How often is it released? Every Tuesday | Why should you listen? Gaming experts chatting away

Few people alive understand video games to the same extent as the editorial team of Giant Bomb. The team have been writing and talking about video games since the 90s, and share a phenomenal wealth of knowledge about the gaming industry. 

Their experience also means that during the big gaming shows throughout the year they consistently get some of the biggest names in gaming on as guests. Over the years everyone from Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida to Microsoft’s Phil Spencer have been guests on the show, and the casual nature of the discussion means they’re often incredibly insightful. 

Were they just knowledgeable the podcast would be interesting enough, but what sets the Giant Bomb team apart is their wit. They’re a funny group, and the fact that they’ve been podcasting together for as many years as they have has done wonders for their ability to riff off one another. 

It’s a lengthy podcast, but few other gaming shows can match the quality of the Giant Bombcast. 

S-Town

Average length: Around an hour| How often is it released? Weekly, but in seasons | Why should you listen? Investigative journalism presented in a unique way

It's likely you've heard of S-Town before, and that's because it had over 10 million downloads in the first four days it was live. It offers investigative journalism from the super smart brains of those behind This American Life and Serial, and it's well worth your time.

It centers on a murder investigation and we're not going to share any more than that as it could quite easily be considered a spoiler and we want you to enjoy every moment of S-Town. Be warned, it's not always an easy listen but it's a fascinating story and is well worth your time if this is your kind of show.

Call Your Girlfriend

Average length: 45-60 minutes | How often is it released? Every Tuesday | Why should you listen? Two great friends, having a chat

The structure of this podcast isn’t rambling or interviews; instead it’s two best mates having a good ol’ chat about everything from feminism, ‘free boobin' and friendship to politics, periods and pop culture.

Fronted by two extremely smart and hilarious women, digital strategist Aminatou Sow and journalist Ann Friedman, the weekly podcast also answers listeners’ problems, and features a Phone-a-Friend episode in alternating weeks, full of in-depth interviews with some of their most interesting best friends.

Criminal

Average length: 30 minutes| How often is it released? Twice a month | Why should you listen? It's full of fascinating stories

Another hugely popular podcast, but this time for true-crime lovers who want to get engrossed in quirky cases and the odd murder mystery on their way to work.

It’s not really overly gory, but instead explores curious legal tales that you really couldn’t make up, and centres on the people who have done wrong (or are accused of doing something wrong, at least).

It’s truly a must-listen for fans of Serial who just can’t get enough of playing podcast detective on the bus.

You Must Remember This

Average length: Around an hour| How often is it released? Every Monday | Why should you listen? Tune in if you're a huge Hollywood fan

You Must Remember This is a beautiful, and in many ways tragic, storytelling podcast that delves back into the secret history, long-forgotten mysteries and lesser-known figures of early Hollywood.

Former film critic Karina Longworth puts an amazing amount of research into each episode, which in the past have covered the largely untold stories about the likes of Charles Manson, Theda Bara, Frances Farmer and Ronald Reagan.

A must for those interested in movie nostalgia and unearthing the hidden gems you wouldn’t usually read in a Hollywood history book.

Athletico Mince

Average length: 45 minutes | How often is it released? Every second Sunday | Why should you listen? Some football chat, mixed with surreal humor

The superb Athletico Mince podcast isn't really about football but the sport provides the backbone to a podcast filled with the surreal comedy we have all come to expect from Bob Mortimer (the Bob half of British cult comedians Vic and Bob) who has teamed up with Twitter's very own Profanity Swan (Andy Dawson) for what is one of the funniest things you will hear. 

Whether they are wittering on about Bob's fascination with real crime or former England manager Steve McClaren's pet snake called Casper, you'll have trouble listening to it above your own laughter.