We’re 15 years into the podcasting revolution and, despite the flourishing of quality content in the medium, podcasting still has one huge problem that remains unsolved: podcast discovery is terrible. When word-of-mouth is still the best option for discovering new podcast, you know there is a big missed opportunity.
Finding new podcast content is challenging. Popular podcast clients like Apple’s Podcast app, Spotify and Pocket Casts provide basic discovery tools: searching and browsing. But I never seem to find new content effectively with these tools. The problem is the sheer volume of content available. The abundance of choice is overwhelming. In addition, the podcast clients tend to surface the most popular podcasts month after month. It’s tough to find new programs to listen to when shows like Serial, S-Town and the long defunct Mystery Show are still appearing on the charts.
A 2019 Edison Research report on consumer behavior found two key impediments to greater podcast consumption. 65% of those polled stated they would listen to more podcasts if there were “more podcasts available on topics interested in” and 50% cited a lack of discoverability as another obstacle to consumption. Both of these are discoverability problems. There are dozens of podcasts for any given topic. The problems is finding those podcasts. And while it’s easy to find established podcasts, uncovering new or up-and-coming programs can be tough unless the show is affiliated with one of the big podcast networks or has a hefty marketing budget.
This is not a comprehensive overview of the discovery tools out in the wild. I tend to find lists of that sort overwhelming and unhelpful (information overload is a problem in so many ways!). Instead, it’s a shortlist of the best tools that I've found for the task.
- Podcast Community
r/podcasts (reddit.com) is the biggest of Reddit’s podcasting communities and the best podcast community I’ve found on the web. You’ll find daily threads with podcast recommendations and episode discussions. If the signal to noise ratio is too high when using the default thread sorting, switch over to “top” and set the timeframe to “this week”, “this month”, or even “this year.” This will give you a filtered view of really important topics and is a fantastic way to sift out the real gems of discussion. In addition to the active posting, you’ll find useful ideas for category favorites in the FAQs as well as links to other Reddit communities focused on podcasting (including history, true crime and audio dramas).
2. Podcast Search
Listennotes (listennotes.com) is the best podcast search engine. You can search individual podcast episodes which is great if you are searching for episodes with a specific guest or topic. The search filters are also robust and you can modify your results by duration, language, category and publication date.
Listennotes offers excellent browsing capabilities. Want to see a list of the most recently published financial investing podcasts? No problem. Moreover, Listennotes allows users to share their curated lists publicly so you can find things like “The 14 Best Parenting Podcasts” and “10 Podcasts to Download if You Have a Short Attention Span.” The quality can be uneven for these lists, but it’s still a great way to find new programs.
An honorable mention for Podcast Search is Podchaser which has similar functionality wrapped in a slightly clunkier interface.
3. Podcast Blogs
There are dozens upon dozens of blogs for finding podcasts recommendations and reviews. Some are professionally produced and others are charmingly amateur. The problem for most listeners is (a) finding a blog that matches your taste in programming and (b) finding a blog that consistently publishes new content recommendations.
My favorite podcast blogs for discovery are:
- Discover Pods (discoverpods.com): Their genre roundups are a great way to start digging into a topic. Examples include “The 20 Best True Crime Podcasts (Beyond Serial and S-Town)” and “The 20 Best Sports Podcasts.”
- Podcast Notes (podcastnotes.org): Publishes bulleted lists of highlights from podcast episodes. This is a great way to get some key takeaways from a podcast beyond the program’s episode description or slogging through a full transcript. This site focuses on business, technology and health topics. Note that some of their content is only available to premium subscribers and is paywalled.
- Podmass (avclub.com): Publishes weekly articles highlighting a handful of new and notable podcasts with short capsule reviews.
- This Week in Podcasts (mailchimp.com): Michael Yessis’ newsletter published, unsurprisingly, on a weekly schedule. He does have a proper blog site but his Mailchimp archive has the most current collection of posts (the website updates are sporadic).
The Listener is a premium subscription newsletter that provides three curated episodes (with capsule summaries) delivered to your email inbox on a daily basis. You can test the newsletter out for a month by going here.
Hot Pod is an industry-focused publication. While you won’t always get program specific recommendations, you will read about interesting business trends and corporate moves which sometimes yield interesting programming discoveries. There are other industry-specific publications, but this is easily the best one.
If I’ve missed any interesting resources for podcast discovery, let me know.