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What is this thing?

It isn’t easy to discover new podcasts. There are just SO many out there. Sometimes the best approach is to simply turn to a friend and say, "Hey, what are you listening to these days?" That’s why we created, NPR’s friendly guide to great podcasts. Each of the episodes in this app was hand-picked for you by a listener or a radio/podcast pro. It’s like getting recommendations from a couple hundred of your savviest friends.

Where did all of these recommendations come from?

This past spring, we asked listeners to tell us about their favorite podcast episodes. More than 6,000 people responded, recommending episodes from more than 800 different podcasts. There were podcasts devoted to astronomy, beer, breakfast, nuclear arms control and Saved By the Bell. There were poignant stories and informative conversations. Our job was to find the ones we thought you would love. We had our listening cut out for us.

How did you choose?

NPR produces a lot of podcasts, and a number of them were submitted for consideration. So to keep things fair, we convened a panel of people from all over the biz who really know their podcasts. Here’s our team:

Terryn Hall, contributor to the PostBourgie podcast

Max Linsky, co-founder of Longform Media and co-host of the Longform Podcast

Matt Martinez, director of content at KPLU in Seattle/Tacoma and formerly senior producer of programming at NPR

Nicholas Quah, head of audience development at Slate’s Panoply Media, creator of the Hot Pod newsletter

Jenna Weiss-Berman, director of audio at Buzzfeed

Anne Wootton, CEO of and Pop Up Archive

Over the course of the summer, the panelists joined us for multiple rounds of listening and voting. They also had the opportunity to fill in gaps and add podcasts that they felt should be included. The result was the initial list of 200-some episodes that we published on Nov. 3.

NPR’s Arts Desk (that’s us!) produced the project and helped curate the selections. NPR’s Visuals team built and designed the whole experience.

So was this a straight-up listener poll?

No. We sorted through each and every one of your 6,000 recommendations, but it was not a popularity contest. (We see you, ballot stuffers!) This was not 100 percent scientific or comprehensive — the world of podcasts is just too big for that. Our goal was to create a listening sampler that would help you discover something new.

We also solicited recommendations from people who do audio storytelling for a living. We were curious: What do the pros listen to? We heard back from folks like Marc Maron, Ari Shapiro, Brooke Gladstone and many more. (One rule: No one was allowed to recommend their own podcasts or their company’s podcasts.)

And then, just for fun, we asked some celebrities, too. Because don’t you want to know what Matthew McConaughey, Roxane Gay and Neil Patrick Harris listen to in their spare time?

Why ask for specific episode recommendations?

One of the hardest things about exploring new podcasts is knowing where to start. The first episode? The most recent episode? This app is designed to give you a point of entry.

Any tips for how to browse?

If you are someone who likes narrative storytelling, we recommend you peruse the results of the "Tell Me A Story" tag. If you are someone who likes casual conversations, then we suggest the “Hanging Out” tag. And everyone should check out the “Feast For Your Ears” tag — it’s full of beautifully crafted, produced podcasts that make for wonderful listening.

So are these the best episodes of the best podcasts?

The Internet loves using the word "best," but we just don’t find it very useful. Podcasts are diverse and varied. People are diverse and varied. Different podcasts and episodes speak to each of us for different reasons. These episodes are favorites. They are recommendations from people who were touched by something they heard and wanted to share that with you.

Is NPR really recommending other people’s podcasts? That’s weird.

We love podcasts! And we’re excited that you’re excited about podcasts. We see this effort as a natural extension of public radio’s role in facilitating discovery, whether it’s in music, books, theater or podcasts. We want to help you find something wonderful that you haven’t heard before. We hope you discover something new today.

Beth Novey, Nicole Cohen and Rose Friedman

NPR Arts, Books & Culture


Produced By: Nicole Cohen, Rose Friedman and Beth Novey

Designed And Developed By: Annette Elizabeth Allen, Danny DeBelius, David Eads, Tyler Fisher, Becky Lettenberger and Wes Lindamood

Copy Editor: Amy Morgan

Supervising Editors: Brian Boyer, Ellen Silva

"Headphones" Icon By: Ben Hsu, The Noun Project

Date Published: 11/03/15

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