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The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

Podcasting is still in its infancy. Only recently have we seen companies spring up to try and capitalize on its popularity. While we’re all for giving everyone a shot at audio glory, we do appreciate the polish that comes along with a bit of a cash flow. That, along with some insanely talented individuals, made 2017 the best year in podcasting yet. Since there’s such a vast amount of programming to listen to, you’d be forgiven for not even scratching the surface of what 2017 had to offer. Luckily, we’re here to help you choose the best of the best. Here are the 10 best podcasts we heard in 2017.


As all of these year-end lists flood your inbox with prized podcasts, there will be one name that is on each one—and for good reason. S-Town changed the game earlier this year, blending real reporting with a narrative structure ripped from the hottest paperback. Developed by the This American Life team and hosted by This American Life Senior Producer Brian Reed, S-Town is the story about a town in Alabama—a shitty town (hence, the more radio-friendly “S-Town,” by the way). Reed heads down after receiving a tip at This American Life from one John B. McLemore about a cover up going down. What starts as a loose assignment about digging up dirt on this supposed cover up turns into something else completely, with John at the center of the story. To tell you more would give away too much, but we will say this is a beautiful study of life in a small town. Link

The Daily

The formula is simple: deliver the most important news of the day, every weekday, in digestible chunks. While it seems like that would be easy to pull off, so many have tried and failed. This year, The New York Times got it right with The Daily. Hosted by Michael Barbaro, the podcast comes in 20-minute episodes, each available in the morning for your commute. What makes The Daily succeed where so many others have failed? It’s hard to pick one thing, but if you had to it would have to be Barbaro, who doesn’t sound like your standard evening news anchor. Ditching the tired “Host with the Voice of God” approach, something that’s been out of fashion for years but hasn’t infiltrated major news networks it seems, The Daily has a host who is friendly and relatable, making the news sound like it’s being delivered by an old friend. It’s a good way to start your day. Link

Reply All

Reply All probably had our single favorite podcast episode of the year (okay, it was technically two episodes, but you know what we mean). “Long Distance,” which spanned episodes 102 and 103, centered on a phony tech support company that called Reply All‘s Alex Goldman. Goldman, hip to the fact that he’s being scammed, begins on a quest that takes him overseas to a bizarre club to hunt down this call center. It’s fantastic, and so is the rest of Reply All, which is a Gimlet podcast focused on modern technology, primarily the Internet, and how we interact with it and because of it. Start with #102 and go from there. Link

Dirty John

Dirty John, from the Los Angeles Times, saw newspaper reporting brought to life. The story focuses on Debra Newell, a 59-year-old divorcee, looking for love. She finds that love—or so she thinks—in John Meehan, a fit, attractive man a few years younger that she mets through a dating service. Everyone (including you) realizes something is off with John from the getgo. That is, everyone but Debra, who goes to ridiculous ends to defend him, often alienating her own family. The podcast moves fast and is only six episodes long, meaning this one is perfect for that road trip you have on the horizon. Link


Crimetown launched toward the end of 2016 but found its audience this past year. A look at organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island, Crimetown feels very much like a hardboiled detective show of years past. The fact that it deals with the real life misdealings of the made men of Providence only makes it more enjoyable. A collaboration between Gimlet and the creators of HBO’s The JinxCrimetown is a polished product and the investigation into the underbelly of Providence, Rhode Island, doesn’t leave any stone unturned. Another location will be featured in Season 2, so subscribe now and don’t miss out. Link

Origins With James Miller

With access to the Internet, diving behind the scenes of your favorite show isn’t hard. You can find out some funny stories, original plot details, and voided casting decisions in minutes. But if you want to really go deep, to learn how your favorite show came to be in intricate detail, you should download Origins With James Miller. James Miller is an award-winning journalist who’s byline has appeared on ESPN and Saturday Night Live. He lends his talents to this podcast, as he works with the people involved with a popular show, movie, or business and walks listeners through the entire process of getting it off the ground. He kicked it all off with a bang this year, giving us an unprecedented look at the formation and success of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Stories any hardcore fan will love are included in the episodes, straight from the mouths of the shows stars. Link

Up and Vanished

Mystery works exceedingly well on radio, and Up and Vanished is one of many podcasts that prove that. Up and Vanished is the story about Tara Grinstead, a Georgia beauty queen who goes missing in the early 2000s. The missing persons case has the largest case file in Georgia’s history, but it’s gone cold in the 11 years since the disappearance happened. Payne Lindsey, host of Up and Vanished, is a film director and investigator who decides to open the case back up. You have about a year and half’s worth of episodes to catch up on, and you’ll want to binge them the second you hit play. Link

Radiolab Presents: More Perfect

Radiolab is in the pantheon of great podcasts and radio programs, so anything else Jad Abumrad or Robert Krulwich touch is worth at least a listen. Radiolab Presents: More Perfect is worth more than a quick listen; it’s worth subscribing to. The idea here is to bring Supreme Court cases to the masses, so you can hear how certain decisions came to be. With classic Radiolab production level, More Perfect makes the Supreme Court entertaining and understandable. Currently in its second season, More Perfect is one of those educational podcasts that doesn’t feel like one. Link

Missing Richard Simmons

There were a few podcasts this year that seeped into standard water cooler chat the way Serial did a couple of years back. Chief among them were the aforementioned S-Town and this pick, Missing Richard SimmonsMissing Richard Simmons had one of the most intriguing premises of the year: Why is Richard Simmons missing? That’s right, the Sweatin’ to the Oldies star disappeared from the exercise class he hosted, stopped appearing in public, and slipped out of the spotlight, but he never said why. A TV producer who attended the exercise classes Simmons hosted decided to find out. The result is a bizarre, frequently sad journey of discovery that tests the limits of voyeuristic entertainment. Feelings aside, the podcast was a smash hit when it came out earlier this year. Link

Ear Hustle

Radiotopia brought us one of the more unique podcasts of the year. Ear Hustle takes listeners inside a prison to give them a glimpse of what life is really like there, which happens to be fairly different than most movies would have you believe. The stories are told from inside San Quentin State Prison and offer a brutally honest look at life behind bars. Earlonne Woods, co-creator and co-host, is currently serving 31 years-to-life and brings his love of storytelling to the podcast. The stories are funny, heartbreaking, and unlike the ones seen on the big screen. Link