Podcasts are a growing force in the entertainment industry, and seem poised to only become more popular. Juggernaut media personalities like Katie Couric host their own podcasts, and listenership is rapidly increasing. A study done by Edison Research found that 21 percent of Americans listened to podcasts on a monthly basis in 2016, and a majority of American adults (55 percent) displayed an awareness of the term “podcasting.”
This increased interest in listening to podcasts has accompanied a boost in production. A fact sheet on podcasts published by the Pew Research Center indicates that the number of podcasts published on hosting platform LibSyn has steadily increased year after year.
Sorting through the hundreds of thousands of podcasts available on iTunes or Soundcloud to find the best ones would be an exhausting and fruitless search. Instead, here are the 10 best new podcasts of 2016, sorted in ascending order.
10. In the Dark
In the Dark tackles the disappearance and murder of Jacob Wetterling, and the decades-later arrest of his murderer, Daniel Heinrich. The Serial-esque true crime podcast features interviews with members of local law enforcement and the Wetterlings, as well as old news footage. In the Dark quickly found critical success, with publications like the Huffington Post calling it “the true crime podcast everyone should be listening to right now.”
9. TheBeef and Dairy Network
Surprisingly, The Beef and Dairy Network is a comedy podcast set in a Welcome to Night Vale-style absurdist universe where sinister corporations loom over everything and cows can be sentient. Host Ben Partridge interviews fictional characters who are involved in beef and dairy production, and the results range from silly (each episode features a “beef weather forecast”) to horrifying (in Episode 2, a distressed guest recalls feeding beef to her pet cows).
8. Sooo Many White Guys
Sooo Many White Guys was primed for success — host Phoebe Robinson became podcast royalty earlier in 2016 when her comedy podcast 2 Dope Queens made waves. Sooo Many White Guys has a simple format: Robinson interviews guests who aren’t white men. In the world of podcasts, this is somewhat of a rarity.
7. The Male Gayz
The Male Gayz is a podcast about sexual identity, pop culture, gender norms, and ultimately, friendship. Per their bio at Little Empire Podcasts: “it took Eli Matthewson and Chris Parker 8 years of their friendship for them to both come out to each other, there’s a lot to catch up on. The Male Gayz is their weekly attempt at being better gays and better friends.” The two friends share tidbits like “Fact of the Gay” and always manage to dig up old embarrassing stories from their childhoods to share on the podcast.
6. My Favorite Murder
A podcast about murder certainly sounds overdone — the iTunes Podcast section is filled with true crime retellings. My Favorite Murder sets itself apart with its tone — the two hosts swap stories as if they’re sharing gossip with each other — and the wit of its hosts, comedians Georgia Hardstark and Karen Kilgariff. While they tackle tough topics like child murderers and serial killers, they end every podcast episode with the excellent advice: “stay sexy, and don’t get murdered.”
5. 2 Dope Queens
The podcast 2 Dope Queens has a star-studded rotation of comedians as podcast guests: John Mulaney, Nick Kroll, Nicole Byer, and Hannibal Buress have all performed on the show. However, the highlight of the podcast is the easy back-and-forth between hosts Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, who spur their live audience into shrieks of delight and shouts of podcast catchphrase “YQY!” (Yas, queen, yas!)
4. CoolGames Inc
Polygon writers Griffin McElroy and Nick Robinson create hypothetical video games based on user suggestions. The podcast often veers into the surreal (the pilot episode features a fake cooking video game called “Grandma Wants It Al Dente”) and while a working knowledge of video game trends and terminology might improve listener understanding, sometimes it’s more fun to let your imagination take over instead.
3. Boners of the Heart
New Zealand comedians Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden have created a podcast that is as shallow as it is delightful. Each week, the two hosts debate over hypothetical people or concepts that they would like to engage in sexual intercourse with, but they often get distracted by random bursts of improv comedy. Boners of the Heart is the only podcast where the two hosts debate the sexual attractiveness of communism vs. capitalism.
2. Hard Nation
Hard Nation, an Earwolf podcast, features comedians Mike Still and Paul Welsh playing two fictional brothers Mark Hard and Pete Hard on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both play up stereotypes associated with liberalism and conservatism, but the shining stars of the podcast are their weekly guests. Daniel Van Kirk’s Jeb Bush believes he is a cat, and D’Arcy Carden’s Jill Stein improvises songs on her guitar and shares a hotel room on the campaign trail with Gary Johnson. Each podcast episode goes off the rails more spectacularly than the last, and the Hard brothers encourage their guests every step of the way.
1. Rose Buddies
Griffin McElroy makes his second appearance on this podcast list for Rose Buddies, a recap of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and any and all other reality dating shows. Griffin hosts with his wife, Rachel McElroy, and their relationship anchors the podcast and turns it into an exploration of love in all its forms, both for the right reasons and for the wrong ones.
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