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Podcasting has exploded in popularity over the last few years. If you are looking for great podcasts to gain new perspectives, you're not alone.
With podcasts, you can learn self-improvement techniques, get up to speed on current events, laugh with your favorite comedians, or reduce your kids' screen time.
A 2021 study by NPR found that 45% of the U.S. population listens to spoken word audio (non-music public radio and podcasts) every day.
Here you'll find ten of the best free podcasts for adults and kids. Also, if you want to emulate your favorite podcaster, we have some great tips on starting your podcast for free.
So without further adieu, let's get started!
5 Best Free Podcasts for Adults
1. Crime Junkie by Audiochuck
Synopsis: If you are a fan of true crime, you'll love Crime Junkie. Hosted by Ashley and Brit, the team has been painstakingly researching and retelling real-life crime stories since 2017.
Crime Junkie is hugely popular, consistently ranking near the top of the podcast charts. It has over 500 million downloads with 600+ stories for you.
Episode Length: Usually between 40 to 60 minutes.
Episode Frequency: New episodes are released every Monday.
Our Take: Crime Junkie is the best show in this genre. The episodes don't needlessly drag on (unlike some other true crime podcasts). The team researches each story thoroughly yet keeps the content concise and relevant. Early episodes felt more like two friends casually discussing details of recent crime stories. With a few years of experience under their belt, the hosts have since polished the podcast's production and script.
2. Smartless With Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett
Synopsis: Smartless is all about the hosts, secret A-list guests, hilarious conversations, and entertainment. The show is unscripted and relies on the spontaneous discussions between the three hosts and surprise guests.
Recent episodes have featured guests like Ben Stiller, John Mulaney, Mike Myers, Liam Neeson, and Bill Maher. The conversations are all about personal and shared experiences, so be prepared for anything. Some of the topics they've discussed include acting resumes, hypnotism, baby swaddle techniques, gambling, golf, and even bulls made out of butter.
Episode Length: Usually between 60 to 70 minutes.
Episode Frequency: New episodes are released every week.
Our Take: Smartless is a new podcast for our team, but anything Jason Bateman does is just fine with us. The hilarious Ben Stiller episode is what converted us into true fans. If you are new to podcasts, start with this one.
3. Freakonomics Radio
Synopsis: Picking up from where the popular Freakonomics book series left off, co-author Stephen J. Dubner illuminates your mind with topics that challenge your preconceived notions. You will get to grips with wide-ranging issues such as college education, abortion, corruption, car insurance, art, unions, and more.
Episode Length: Between 30 to 60 minutes.
Episode Frequency: A new episode is released weekly.
Our Take: Freakonomics is one of our favorite podcasts. We love that the podcast uses data and evidence to educate listeners.
4. Dateline by NBC
Synopsis: This one needs no introduction. The long-running NBC show featuring true crime stories, investigations, and controversies is also a podcast. You can dig into the archives to listen to classic episodes or catch up with current affairs.
Episode Length: Anywhere between 45 to 90 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Two episodes a week on Thursday and Friday.
Our Take: We love being able to take Dateline on road trips. There are enough episodes to keep you listening for hours and have you lose track of time. Most episodes are based on true crime and follow the unbeatable Dateline narration style we all love.
5. “The Daily” by The New York Times
Synopsis: Michael Barbaro hosts and delivers the latest news on what's happening worldwide. The Daily usually does a deep dive into one issue and pulls it apart in an investigative style that offers different viewpoints.
Episode Length: 20 to 30 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Every weekday, Monday to Friday.
Our Take: This is an excellent podcast for staying up-to-date on current events. The episodes are usually pretty short, so it's perfect for listening to on your commute to work or getting ready in the morning. The New York Times is a reliable source, so you can trust that your information is accurate.
5 Best Free Podcasts for Kids
When it comes to podcast listeners, we cannot ignore kids as a demographic. In reality, podcast categories aimed at children have seen a 20% increase in listeners between 2019 to 2021. Whether it is for entertainment or to reduce screen time, occupy time during long car rides, or learn something new, podcasts for kids are exploding in popularity.
Here are the top 5 free podcasts for kids to get started.
1. The Story Pirates
Synopsis: This podcast features original stories written by kids, told using sketch comedy and songs. The podcast has celebrity guests and talented comedians acting out the sketches. The stories are often funny, creative, and heartwarming.
Episode Length: 30 to 40 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Weekly.
Our Take: Some of these kids should be writing screenplays for Hollywood. The Story Pirates is an excellent weekly podcast for kids of all ages. The stories are usually short, so they're perfect for younger listeners. The Story Pirates is a great way to get your kids interested in storytelling.
2. Wow in the World by NPR
Synopsis: This podcast is about science and discovery. Each episode features kids and adults learning about something new and exciting.
Episode Length: 10 to 30 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Weekly on Mondays.
Our Take: This is an excellent podcast for kids interested in science. The episodes are usually pretty short, so they're perfect for younger listeners. This NPS podcast is a great way to spend time with your kids as they listen to a podcast and learn about the world around them.
3. The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel by Serial Box
Synopsis: The podcast is a mystery story performed by kids throughout a season and targeted toward 8 to 12-year-olds. Each season covers a different case, and they're all incredibly well-produced. There are usually around 12 episodes released per season.
Episode Length: 20 to 30 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Five days a week (Monday to Friday).
Our Take: This is an excellent podcast for kids who love mystery stories. The stories are entertaining but short enough to hold young kids' attention—the perfect option for car rides.
4. Ask Me Another by NPR
Synopsis: This podcast features guests answering trivia questions and playing games. The show is often funny, and the guests are usually experts in their field.
Episode Length: 50 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Weekly.
Our Take: We think that the show is seriously entertaining and full of knowledge. It seems perfect for teenagers and older kids who like learning and games. The show frequently features celebrity guests like Melissa McCarthy, Padma Lakshmi, Ken Jeong, and Yo-Yo Ma.
5. The Big Fib by Gen Z Media
Synopsis: A hilarious game show format podcast. Previously known as ‘Pants on Fire,' The Big Fib requires kids to interview two experts on a particular topic. One of the experts is a real-world expert, whereas the other is a fake expert. In the end, the kids interviewing the two experts have to identify the liar.
Episode Length: 25 minutes.
Episode Frequency: Weekly.
Our Take: This highly-original show format has been incredibly successful. So much so that it has been adapted to other mediums. Even Disney copied the podcast called ‘Pants on Fire,' renamed it ‘The Big Fib,' and created a Disney+ show based on it.
Best Free Podcast Apps
Now that you know what you want to listen to, here are some of the most popular podcast apps to find the podcasts listed above. Podcast players essentially allow creators to set up RSS feeds so listeners can stream their content. Note that while we have only listed audio podcasts, there are plenty of trending video podcasts you could enjoy.
Most of these have perfectly usable free versions, or you can subscribe to a premium membership to access additional features. You can access exclusive content and download episodes for offline listening with premium memberships.
You can even connect these apps to Chromecast, Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo, Sonos, Carplay, Android Auto, or your smart TV to listen to your podcasts.
- Apple Podcasts: Hugely popular podcast player, this is the perfect option if you have an iPhone or other Apple device.
- Spotify: Music streaming services like Spotify are also an excellent option for listening to music and podcasts. They have a long list of good podcasts on true crime, personal growth, etc. If you subscribe to Spotify Premium, you can listen to podcasts ad-free and uninterrupted.
- Google Podcasts: If you have an Android device or use Google products, Google Podcasts will integrate seamlessly with them. You can download it from the Google Play store.
- iHeartRadio: This famous media player incorporates radio stations, podcasts, and on-demand music in one app. You can download the app from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, Amazon App Store, etc. Like others, you can access some additional features by subscribing to a premium membership.
Starting a Free Podcast
Do you want to create a podcast yourself? If you have plenty to say or a fantastic idea, there is no better time to get started. It is no longer just a hobby. You can make a living as a podcaster, with the podcasting industry worth almost $2 billion in 2022. So if you have the gift of gab or if people are always saying you should be on the radio, then it's time to take the plunge.
Here is a summary of steps to launch your podcast:
- Choose a topic that you're passionate about and that you think others will find interesting. Let out your creativity, whether it's a topic that targets a niche or appeals to a broad audience!
- Buy a decent microphone to record your episodes. You can use free software like Audacity to edit your recordings.
- Choose a podcast hosting site like Soundcloud and upload your episodes to the major players. It's critical to choose the right service upfront to help you host, publish, promote and monetize your content. Most hosting sites have free starter plans to help you get started.
- Promote your podcast on social media and on your website. Some hosting platforms will help you with marketing as well.
- Listen to your audience and adapt your content to suit them.
- According to the CDC, almost 26% of adults in America live with a disability. Consider making your podcast accessible to make them usable for everyone.
Put On Your Headphones
That's our take on the best free podcasts for adults and kids. We hope that you find one that you love. Soon, like us, you will be a podcast listener veteran and never miss an episode. Follow the steps above to follow your heart and start a podcast. We wish you tons of success and loads of listeners!
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Ash & Pri are the Founders of AshandPri.com where they empower others to make smart money decisions across all aspects of life. They achieved financial freedom in their 30’s and have traveled to over 30 countries, thanks to a disciplined approach to money management. Both hold an MBA degree and have 13+ years of experience in financial services, consulting, and telecommunications.