How To Find Quality Podcasts In The Sea Of Toxic Ones

Looking for a new favorite podcast to keep you entertained while you fall asleep, take care of housework, or endure your daily commute? Good luck finding the right one. These days, it seems like everybody has a podcast. In fact, Listen Notes reports that there are over 3 million different podcasts out there. And it's no wonder why this market is becoming so crowded — Exploding Topics suggests that these shows are vying for an impressive global audience of over 460 million podcast listeners.


This glut of competing podcasts is enabled by the medium's low barrier to entry. At its most basic, all you need to start your own show is a microphone and some recording software. While that's good in a lot of ways — inviting everyone from amateur enthusiasts to bonafide celebrities to jump on the podcast train — it can also mean that hopeful listeners are left wading through a lot of dreck or outright toxicity before finding a high-quality podcast that ticks all the boxes.

But discovering a hidden gem isn't just the luck of the draw, and certain strategies can help you unearth amazing podcasts amidst all the negative or subpar offerings. So whether you're seeking the best podcasts for a long drive or podcasts to listen to while relaxing on the beach, do yourself a favor — the next time you go hunting for a new show, use these tips to cut through all the noise and find the right podcast for you.


Seek out subject matter experts

Many people look for their next podcast based first and foremost on the topic. Whether you're into economics or TV recaps, astrology or nutrition, there's a podcast for everything and everyone. However, there could be dozens or even hundreds all on the same topic. So how can you wade through all the options to find grade-A podcasts on your preferred subject?


One straightforward criterion is to look for podcasts hosted by subject matter experts. Especially when seeking out educational or thought-provoking shows, ask yourself: Does this podcast have the chops to provide worthwhile information or perspectives in exchange for your time? For instance, say you're looking for a great science show. Trying out a podcast like "StarTalk," which is hosted by renowned astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, seems like more of a sure thing than rolling the dice with a podcast hosted by someone with no credentials.

Can amateurs and hobbyists also produce incredible content? Of course they can. But a lack of credentials can also make good amateur-hosted podcasts harder to spot. So when you want a shortcut to high-quality podcasts, expertise may be a useful metric.


Popular examples of expert-led podcasts include "Marketing School," which offers advice from digital marketing gods Neal Patel and Eric Siu, "Dan Snow's History Hit," which is hosted by a legit historian and features a rotating cast of expert guests, and "The Ramsey Show," which delivers finance tips from budgeting guru Dave Ramsey himself. But these are just the tip of the iceberg. Whatever your specific podcast interest, there is sure to be a truly knowledgeable host just waiting to share their expertise with you.

Follow guest hosts back to their podcast source

Many podcasts occasionally feature guests who host other shows. Some will even take part in crossovers or swaps, wherein the hosts will team up or trade shows for an episode — especially if their podcasts are hosted on the same network. Similar to the old "backdoor pilot" trick from television programming, this can be a convenient way for networks to introduce other audio personalities and shows you might enjoy.


Yes, it's a pretty transparent marketing tactic. But it can also be helpful in your hunt for fantastic content. Say your favorite podcast of the moment is a show on horoscopes. When taking a deep dive into a certain chart aspect or astrological phenomenon, the hosts might invite a guest from another astrology podcast to share their insights. And if you enjoy that host's guest appearance, it's a sign that you may also enjoy their original content.

Whenever you encounter an entertaining or intriguing guest host, take note of their home show, then try out a few episodes to see if it's a good fit. They may cover different subjects or follow a different format, but if the quality is there, the podcast could still be a win. This strategy is especially great for finding new personality-forward podcasts, such as talk shows or comedy programs. After all, if you like a host's guest appearance enough to remember them, their personality clearly resonates with your listening habits.


Step outside of your comfort zone

Has everyone and their grandmother tried turning you on to a podcast that doesn't sound like your usual fare? You don't have to be a fan of every genre, certainly. Self-development shows might bore you to tears while a "Bachelor in Paradise" reaction podcast may hold zero relevance to your life. But sometimes you may find yourself unexpectedly adoring a show that you'd normally scroll past.


When debating whether to cave and listen to that podcast everyone is pushing at you, consider this: Are the people recommending this show folks who you respect or have a lot in common with? Then their suggestion could hold some weight.

To broaden your podcast horizons, let go of your own idea of self a little bit. Instead of saying, "I don't like interview shows" or "I'm not interested in true crime," test an episode or two to find out what everyone is raving about. There may be a unique twist that makes it more engaging to you than other shows in the same vein.

Get to know the show's hosts

Podcasting can be an oddly intimate medium. Often, you're listening to the hosts' voices speak directly into your ear. And even in an informative show, those voices may be sharing personal stories or glimpses into their private lives. Over the course of enough episodes, podcast hosts can start to feel like familiar friends. As such, you may want to make sure you're attaching yourself to hosts that you'd actually get along with in real life.


Now, the world of podcasting doesn't have to be an echo chamber where you only engage with media that reiterates your own point of view. And not every decision you make has to revolve around hot-button issues like politics or religion. But it can be a nasty shock to get invested in a podcast and then hear something radical or offensive that just doesn't gel with your worldview. So when looking for a new podcast to love and adore, it can be worth finding out whether the hosts' basic values align with yours.

Seek out podcasts from celebs you respect

Most podcasts hinge on the talent and charisma of their hosts. So it seems natural that a lot of celebrities are getting into the podcasting game, with offerings like the comedic interview podcast "Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend," the quirky and informative "Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness," and the widely beloved "Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard."


Exploring shows from your favorite celebs is one of the easiest paths to unearthing your new number-one podcast, as it embodies several quality-seeking strategies simultaneously. For instance, you may already know some celebrities who are experts in their field or whose values and personalities vibe with you. 

That said, being a celebrity doesn't automatically translate to being a skilled podcast host, so there's still reason to be choosy when deciding which A-listers' shows to explore. Start by seeking out podcasts by people you genuinely like and respect. After all, what qualities attracted you to those stars in the first place? Putting personality above their status as a household name will net you better luck with podcasts that appeal to your interests.


Don't worry about commitment

Are you the type who demands closure and forces yourself to finish books or movies you don't even like? You may need to try a different tactic when choosing new podcasts. Some podcasts can run for hundreds of episodes, so feeling like you have to commit to your next show wholeheartedly can be an impossible standard. Remember, podcasts are for your own entertainment and enrichment — and no one gets to decide what fits that goal but you.


Especially when you're looking for a new podcast to follow, let yourself experiment without any expectation of commitment. It's like going to an ice cream parlor that offers free samples — why risk ordering a whole dessert before you've had a chance to taste it? If structure helps allay your completionist tendencies, consider implementing a personal trial period. If the show hasn't hooked you by, say, three episodes in, decide that you've done your due diligence and move on without guilt.

Listen to the hype

Popularity isn't always the best gauge of any medium's quality. Just look at the contradictory popularity of so many cult classic, so-bad-they're-good movies. But when it comes to podcasts, paying attention to trends, rankings, and reviews can help you uncover some real audio gems.


While film and TV can sometimes hide a lackluster script behind attractive cast members or glitzy visual effects, podcasts contain fewer distractions. As such, they are much more straightforward and dependent on the strength of their content. So if a particular show has managed to amass a large audience, earn a top spot on your favorite podcast platform, or even appear on some "Best of" lists, it's probably a sign of genuine quality.

Of course, this still doesn't mean that every well-liked podcast is going to be your personal cup of tea. But if a popular show's premise catches your eye, it could be a convenient place to start the hunt for your next favorite listen.