A Storytelling Renaissance Is Happening Right Under Your Thumb

I'm Addicted to Podcasts—and Radiolab Is One of My Favorites


Frankly, I've found Radiolab to be far too gimmicky, broken-up, interested too much in soundbite presentation, cutesy sampling and other distractions - in short, the editors are caught up in being "edgy" (in a dorky NPR way) and catchy. And maybe that's necessary for a generation of short attention-span listeners. But let's not pretend it's good story telling. The subject matter IS interesting, but they're trying way too hard to dumb it down, which is as unnecessary as it is insulting.
@1, I like Radiolab but agree that they often dumb things down in irritating ways. And I've never bought this framing: "On each episode of Radiolab, the hosts go through the process of learning about a compelling topic as the show unfolds, rather than the usual journalistic process of understanding everything about a topic before explaining it." Having listened for a long time, it seems much more likely to me that this is pretense, just as seem the "faith vs. science" type arguments that the two hosts occasionally get into.
Other podcasts to add to the list:
The Memory Palace: short, well-researched stories about most anything
Invisibilia: Radiolab-ish, with a bit more length and sometimes depth per story (each episode is one thing)
The Truth: good radio plays
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: history lessons interpreted from history books and processed into storytelling
KUOW Speaker's Forum: local lecture circuit
Song Exploder: popular musicians describe how each piece of a song is created and mixed together, and you hear the raw tracks. start with the tUnE-yArDs episode
McGinn has a podcast, but it's really only for the hard-core local politics enthusiasts.
Oh, and Reply All: A fun little tech show.
The Allusionist: about language and etymology by Helen Zaltzman

Freakonomics Radio
Let me add to the list:
Sawbones (Medical History)
Throwing Shade (Gay and Women's issues, but much more fun and interesting than that sounds)
You Must Remember This (tales of old hollywood)
The Smartest Man in the World, for comedy and politics like the stranger had 10 years ago.
I can't handle RadioLab. It's a shame, because I like the topics, but they take as a given that adults have a very short attention span and need all kinds of editing gimmicks too keep listeners from thinking too hard. This may actually be true, but I think we should be challenged to think harder and be more focused, not just have our stupidity accommodated. They even have one of the hosts always act kind of dumb and confused, as thought that's what they think we are. I find it patronizing.

One show that doesn't get as much attention but I find really good is Studio 360. Lots of interviews on different, unusual topics. I'll definitely check out the ones listed in this thread.
I want to like Radiolab more than I do. Too often it's about some kind of cognitive science. Watching them learn about that gets a little too meta for me.

I'm glad to see TBTL getting some love. That show is criminally underrated.

No Spanish speaker alive right now should go another day without checking out Radio Ambulante.
On Radiolab: of course one of them is just acting dumb. That's just a prop to be able to tell the story. I find it quite entertaining and well crafted, but understand why it's not for everyone. Though I do find it strange that Krulwich stayed in character during the interview - he should have explained the technique.
I can't believe that The Moth wasn't mentioned in an article about storytelling podcasts.
serial back y'all
@13 or Risk!
Radiolab is amazing storytelling and Jad's obsessive sound engineering makes it shine. You naysayers are just dumb and wrong.

Risk!, everything gimlet makes, and I listen to tons of How Stuff Works podcasts (stuff to blow your mind, stuff you missed in history class, stuff you should know, etc), Planet Money, all are great.
All the technical artifice in Radiolab is incredibly grating. I can't listen to it without remembering the "Yellow Rain" controversy when they shat all over the Hmong genocide survivor.
@6, Yes, yes, yes to Reply All. And a sprinkling of Planet Money, although I fear their star may be fading.
@8 - You Must Remember This sounds great, love that stuff.
@9 - Have you heard the Dollop? One of my favorites for history/comedy.
For a sampling of them, check out the CBC's Podcast Playlist Saturday mornings.