A few years ago, a little-known Oakland-based podcast called “99% Invisible” ended up raising over $500,000 on Kickstarter, proving small podcasts could make it on their own. These days, swarms of new podcasts are popping up across the web, with shows like “This American Life” spinning off their own and major distributors scrambling to harness these shows into profitable networks. Listeners are definitely hungry for more: one billion podcasts were downloaded in the last year. What does it take to start a successful podcast? And what do all these new ventures mean for the future of podcasting and radio?

Podcast Resources

Podcasting 101: Transom.org

The Business of Podcasts: Transom.org

The Surprisingly Profitable Rise of Podcast Networks: Fast Company

The Association of Independents in Radio

The Public Radio Exchange


KQED Staff Favorites

Improv 4 Humans

"Hosted by Matt Besser, one of the original four founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade (along with Amy Poehler and Matt Walsh), Besser and 3 other improvisors (some famous, some not) take questions and suggestions, which they use to inspire hilarious improvisational comedy. Besser gets some big stars – Tim Meadows, Horatio Sans, and Ben Schwartz are all regulars — as well as some up-and-comers, and the results are always hilarious."

-Kevin Jones, Producer, KQED Arts

Juan Epstein

"Hosted by Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds of New York's Hot 97 FM. Rappers past and present put promotion on hold to dig deep into the weeds of hip-hop history. The MC Serch interview lends incredible insight into the 80's New York hip-hop scene."

-Guy Marzorati, AM Producer, KQEDNews and The California Report

Death, Sex & Money

"Despite its title, this podcast does NOT star Michael Douglas or James Spader. Really insightful interviews that get people to talk outside their comfort zones about tough issues like finances, the ups and downs of marriage and relationships, and the like.  I thought I'd try one episode, and I binged through the whole list." 

-Irene Noguchi, Producer, Forum

The New Yorker Fiction Podcast

"The last time I heard people really engaging in fiction, discussing the language, the imagery, etc., was college. And I didn't know I missed it until I started listening to this podcast. It's hosted by Deborah Treisman, the magazine's fiction editor. Every episode, she chats with a writer about a short story that's appeared in the New Yorker in the past that's not by that writer, then the writer reads the story. So, for instance, you hear Nathan Englander read and discuss John Cheever, or Joyce Carol Oates on Cynthia Ozick. Nothing flashy, nothing crazy. Just smart conversations about literature. And then, of course, good stories, too."

-Molly Samuel, Producer, KQED Science<


"I know he's a guest, but Alex Blumberg's StartUp podcast is really, really well done, all about (as you know) his own attempt to start a podcast business. Very meta. But also really personal and transparent, as podcasts often are."

-Amy Standen, Reporter, KQED Science


"Think 'Law and Order' for the radio. This podcast is equal parts suspenseful, fascinating, and morbid, yet still manages to occasionally make me laugh out loud. The production quality is great, as is the variety of stories. If you've ever gotten hooked on a police procedural, or found yourself trying to solve a crime you read about in the newspaper,this podcast is for you."

-Amanda Stupi, Online Producer, Forum

Title18L Word Crimes**

"If you want to hear crime fiction that sounds suspiciously like political news."

**KQED Sacramento Reporter Scott Detrow is very happy to shamelessly plug this monthly podcast, which he voices.

Roman Mars, host and producer of "99% Invisible" and co-founder of Radiotopia
Alex Blumberg, co-founder of HearStartup.com, a podcast about startups, and a longtime producer for "This American Life" and "Planet Money"
Lea Thau, creator and host of "Strangers," a podcast sponsored by KCRW and Radiotopia from PRX and former director of the storytelling for The Moth
Jeff Emtman, creator of "Here Be Monsters," a podcast featuring stories about the unknown

  • Charles Templeplate

    M. Dung on his Mutant Idiot Show podcasts! Here’s a SF radio superstar/music lover who’s spinning the Big Fun on his own dime. He has high energy, good taste and a great love for rock’n’roll. Get some! http://idiotshow.podbean.com “O-day!!!!”

  • ES Trader

    Interestong as these little stories are they are addressed by “this american life, radio lab, and moth radio” ?

    Does it warrant a full hour presentation/discussion.

    What about a discussion on the growing threat of ebola or the “gorilla glass” or “sapphire glass”, that Julia Pierson installed on the glass ceiling instead?

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    A few podcasts for those who like the strange, paranormal, weirdness generally. most of these are free, labors of love (though donations coming in handy for equipment, web hosting, etc.). Many of these shows have been going for years, some for decades, and you can browse the archives for “new to you” material.

    The Gralien Report
    Mysterious Universe
    Project Archivist (currently on short hiatus but will be back soon)
    Anything Ghost
    Occult of Personality
    Spooky Southcoast
    Where Did The Road Go
    The Grimerica Show
    Radio Misterioso
    Binnall of America

    I’ve loved listening to radio, especially talk radio, since i was a girl. I so enjoy being able to listen to longer discussions on the freaky topics i adore from all over the world! Happy listening, steph

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    oh i forgot Church of Mabus!

    It’s also much much easier to have personal contact with podcasters by e-mail, fbook, call ins, etc. I’ve corresponded with 5 of the hosts of the podcasts i’ve recommended here. This communication really adds to the experience.

  • Jill Center

    Truly, a Golfen Age! Here’s my podcast list (I donate to most, in addition to KQED):
    — SLATE / The Gist, with Mike Pesca
    — Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie
    — The Bowery Boys, New York City history with two buffs
    — Spilled Milk, accesible, fun, real food, with two terrific writers
    — The Dinner Party Download, from the Marketplace folks
    — Slate’s Political Gabfest (posted Thurs night)
    — Planet Money
    — The Moth
    — Selected Shorts
    — PRI: To the Best of Our Knowledge
    — The Daily Show Podcast (new)
    — The Bugle with John Oliver and Andy Zoltzman
    — Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

    99% Invisible (available Tuesdays)

    This American Life (includes complete archive if accessing via their app)

    Alex Blumberg TheStartup

  • Kishore Hari

    I have a question – are these folks worried about so many podcasts inundating the space that audience will have a tougher time finding the great signal amongst all the noise?

  • James

    My favorite podcasts are:
    -The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
    -Stuff You Should Know
    -Professor Blastoff
    -Oh No Ross and Carrie
    -Stuff You Missed in History Class
    -I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere

  • James

    RISK! is probably my favorite podcast.

  • Ponchyan

    Under the radar podcasts I recommend:
    -Film Vault – an entertaining and passionate discussion of films new and old with two guys who have an interesting relationship

    – Flite Test – for anyone interested in RC flight or with kids who want to get into the hobby. Produced by an amazing crew dedicated to expanding participation in the hobby. They make it easy to to get started building and flying low cost planes, multirotor craft and first-person-video (FPV) flying. Check out their website and videos too.

    My favorite podcasts include:
    – Film Vault
    – NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour
    – Dinner Party Download
    – Slate Political Gab Fest
    – and of course, The Gist

  • S David H de Lorge

    Count me as an internet radio listener. In addition to a nation’s worth of mostly PRI broadcast carriers, I would call attention to Science360 Radio, and BBC4 Extra.

    I’m rather poor at following podcasts, being rather passive and preferring the intercession of a DJ, although Player FM has facilitated my grabbing some favored topics, and my usual Tuneln Radio increasingly facilitates podcast stumblings-upon. Might note that WNYC seems to have transformed everything into a podcast, although I don’t seem to have much time to get there.

  • Rich Rizzo

    There was a clip at the beginning of the program from a podcast about a bank robbery. Does anyone know what that podcast was called?

  • Vic Monae

    Sexploration with Monika is a great, educational podcast. Great interviews and topics, informational links, and much more, hosted by a very smart and kind host, Monika Thomas

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