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

Let’s imagine for a moment that it’s 2005 again, when podcasts were hailed by everyone as the future of radio. It’s bizarre to think that in just a couple of years, people would get pretty tired of audio, and the same outlets who had hailed podcasts as the new king were quick to tear them back off of the throne. 

Thanks to a myriad of extremely popular podcasts over the past few years, though (we’re looking at you, Serial), podcasts have had their own huge renaissance. 

Fast forward to 2017, and it’s not just interviews that make the best podcast material anymore, but advice panels, conversations between good friends, comedy shows, scary stories, tales about the past and so much more. 

We’ve gathered together several of the best podcasts out there to spice up your morning and evening commutes. So, if you like to laugh, cry, scare yourself silly or open your mind on your way to and from your 9-to-5, we’ve got the best podcasts you can listen to today. 

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 articles, you know you need to set aside a lot of time to sit down with them to really be able to digest them. Luckily, The Guardian now records some of them, too, so you can listen to them on your commute and explore even more in-depth stories.

Stories covered by The Guardian’s Long Reads range in topics from the history of Indian restaurants in the UK to political themes from around the world. You can get some extremely diverse topics by subscribing to Guardian Long Reads, and we'd advise checking it out to see if anything piques your interest.

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

Have you decided that now is the time to start running? Marathon Talk may just be the podcast that will convince you to get up and out for a run. It's the UK's number-one running show and is listened to all over the globe by people trying to motivate themselves to start running for the very first time as well as running experts.

There's currently around 700 hours of Marathon Talk shows out there, so if you anticipate that you’re going to start running a lot you'll have plenty of material to get you motivated and out the 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

Do you ever catch yourself contemplating complex ideas like if it’s possible to resurrect languages that have completely died out? That's just one of the subjects The Allusionist covers, but this show also delves into the intricate minutiae of the English language that you've never even imagined.

Designed to be short little bursts of knowledge about the way we write and speak to each other, The Allusionist is an indispensable listen for anyone with even a passing interest in the way languages have evolved and continue to change at a rapid 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 cinephile, you need to check out Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's podcast. You may have heard it referred to as Wittertainment, and it's essentially just two guys who love cinema reviewing the week's releases and chatting in-between.

The podcast brings in plenty of massive celebrities, exhaustive film knowledge and one of the UK's best film critics to make one of the best podcasts 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.

Stuff You Should Know

Average length: 60 minutes | How often is it released? A couple of times a week | Why should you listen? Introductions to topics you need to know about

Stuff You Should Know is perhaps the most self explanatory title for a podcast ever. The show features Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant discussing topics and trying to get to the core of the information you need to know about them.

Recent episodes have been based around satanism, stuttering and even ketchup. Essentially, this is the perfect show to listen to if you are looking for great new dinner party material.

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 king of comedy podcasts when, many years ago, he presented with chum Joe Cornish on UK radio station BBC Radio 6 Music.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Buxton has begun a new, interview-centric podcast, which he releases about 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 himself 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

Just imagine that you found out that 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 and cry 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’re not a huge Hip-Hop Head, 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 basically the weekly talk-show version of Glamour Magazine UK’s monthly segment of the same name. In 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 is about 30 to 45 minutes long and normally covers three topics of discussion but they can range from Googling yourself and social media to mental health and relationships. The show brings in a healthy range of guests that previously included Dawn French and David Baddiel and the discussions are consistently funny, grounded 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.

 Coming to you from the team behind the engrossing and addictive TED Talks, the weekly TED Radio Hour podcast poses new ideas, ways of thinking and compelling stories for you to contemplate on the way to and from your mundane office job.

Topics can range from ways to rescue our suffering planet and unraveling the problems with democracy to a straight look at the ways in which we love. If it’s thought provoking material you’re after on your commute, rather than creepy stories or endless laugh-out-loud moments, then TED Radio Hour is what you need.

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’re interested (even remotely) in cycling, you’ll adore The Cycling Podcast. Produced by renowned journalists Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe, the show is centered around the world of professional cycling, detailing the weekly talking points of the sport and the stories behind them.

Featuring expert analysis and interviews with the biggest names in cycling, their expansive knowledge and love of the sport is contagious. And though they take the sport seriously and aren’t afraid of cycling’s more controversial topics, their talk of the food and culture of the region they’re visiting on a Grand Tour adds a touch of atmosphere and color that’s all nicely wrapped up with the teams relaxed (but far from amateurish) presenting technique. It’s easy to see why it’s easily one of the best podcasts for anyone who is interested in cycling.

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

Important if True is a relatively new podcast, only starting in 2017. Because of this, it’s forgivable to assume that the Important If True gang are new to the world of podcasting, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Chris, Jake and Nick are podcast veterans, having hosted the successful Idle Thumbs podcast for several years.

Important if True is infatuated with everything tech and pop culture. At their heart, Chris Remo and co are wonderful storytellers, taking the best obscure tales and stretching them out into epic sagas which all too often get integrated with classic pop culture tropes.

It’s not unheard of for a story to begin with an ineffectual piece of technology news, only to morph into a pitch for a B-movie screenplay that then gets called back to throughout the rest of the episode.  With laughs abound and some genuinely interesting observations, Important if True is a must-listen for any lover 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 does Toy Story 2, The Large Hadron Collider and the estimated cost of the Death Star in Star Wars all have in common? It’s simple, they’ve all been topics discussed on No Such Thing as a Fish. 

Each week, the minds behind BBC's long-running entertainment panel series QI sit down around microphones to share some very bizarre facts and, believe us, this is the best podcast around if you’re looking for some very peculiar knowledge.

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 has a basic concept – three brothers have talked their dad into starting a Dungeons & Dragons campaign, and you get to listen to what happens along the way.

TAZ is a wonderful introduction to the complex world of D&D but, even if you're not a fan of tabletop RPG games, the story and characters are sure to bring 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 famous podcasts in the world, This American Life could not be justifiably absent from our list of the best podcasts out there today. Every week the show finds a theme and tells a collection of unique stories on the same topic.

Some weeks you'll discover it's a journalistic story and other times it'll be a comedy routine instead. Over 2.5 million people regularly download and listen to This American Life, so you should make sure you're one of them to figure out whether 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

There are few people in the world that know video games to the same level as the editorial team of Giant Bomb. The team have been writing and talking about video games since the 90s, and share an immense wealth of knowledge about the game industry. 

Their experience also means that during the big gaming events throughout the year they consistently get some of the biggest names in gaming on as guests. Through the years everyone from Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida to Microsoft’s Phil Spencer have been guests on the podcast, and the casual nature of the discussion means they’re often intensely 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 long as they have has done wonders for their ability to riff off one another. 

It’s a long podcast, but there aren’t many 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

You have probably heard of S-Town previously, and that's because it scored over 10 million downloads in the first four days it was live. It features investigative journalism from the super intelligent minds of the people behind This American Life and Serial, so it's well worth your time.

It revolves around 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 really want you to enjoy every second of S-Town. Proceed with caution, because it's not always an easy listen but it's an interesting story and is well worth your time if this is your kind of thing.

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.