Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

The Elite 8 of Podcasting Madness

A definitive bracket of the Internet's top podcasts to help turn your March around.

Photo Illustration

Photo Illustration

I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, but I hardly listen to any of the most popular titles. That's why I decided to listen to an episode from each of the top eight podcasts on iTunes, and see how they compare against each other in a March Madness style bracket.


No. 1 Fresh Air: Pen-Pal Passion Is Revived In Broadway’s ‘She Loves Me’

I don’t know how else to say it — this feels like it was made for old people. The subject of the episode was the upcoming revival of a 1963 musical called “She Loves Me,” something I have an almost-moral objection to due to the fact that it takes opportunities away from contemporary writers and composers. The show’s host, 1994 Peabody Award winner Terry Gross, had the audacity to play full-length tracks from the musical’s original soundtrack, which, compared to songs from modern masterpieces such as "Hamilton," were absolutely painful to listen to. This podcast is not for me.

No. 2 Stuff You Should Know: Some Really Interesting Cases of Mass Hysteria

While the hosts of the show were not particularly engaging orators, their explanation of mass psychogenic illness, a phenomenon that occurs when people communicably exhibit physical symptoms of an illness without the presence of a physical cause (basically the opposite of a placebo), was just barely interesting enough to justify the episode’s title. The show’s sterile tone and lack of information density left a lot to be desired. Within a single 10 minute period, there were two advertisements for Delta Studio, a service that allows you to stream the (already-free) “Stuff You Should Know” podcast during Delta Air Lines flights. Now that I think about it, this kind of makes sense because the only way to get me bored enough to listen to this podcast again would be to put me on an airplane.

No. 3 MouseChat: March 2016 Disney News

I really like Disney, but I find the notion of keeping up with “Disney News” to be a bit counterintuitive. In my view, Disney is in the nostalgia business. My enjoyment of Disney comes from being reminded of when I was a little kid. Listening to grown adults discuss Disneyland gossip wasn’t entertaining or interesting for me; it was just weird.

No. 4 This American Life: When the Beasts Come Marching In

The only other time I tried to listen to this podcast, I lasted about five minutes before I got bored out of my mind and had to turn it off. The show’s scripted format causes it to come off as so phony and inauthentic that it’s impossible for me to get emotionally invested in the story, no matter how good the writing and editing may be.

No. 5 The Nerdist: Iggy Pop and Josh Homme

Technically, I’m subscribed to this one on iTunes, but I hardly ever listen to it because, in most episodes, the host, Chris Hardwick (who also hosts AMC’s "Talking Dead" and Comedy Central’s "@midnight"), interviews pop culture figures whom I don’t really care about. But every once in a while, I’ll fire up a newly released episode, and discover a super-intriguing person (like Steve Aoki). And the light-hearted, conversational nature of the show makes it great for multitasking.

No. 6 The Joe Rogan Experience #775 - Greg Fitzsimmons

I should probably disclose my bias here — I spend an average of about nine hours a week listening to this show, and I’ve been doing so since I was in high school. Why do I devote so much of my time to this podcast? Because it's fantastic. To put it simply, "The Joe Rogan Experience" is about exploring what it means to make the most of your human experience. Rogan interviews anyone and everyone doing novel or extraordinary things athletically, intellectually or creatively. I suppose the general theme of the podcast can be summarized like this: Just because you're different doesn't mean you can't be great, and just because you're great doesn't mean you're invincible. 

No. 7 Serial: S02 Episode 01 DUSTWUN

For each of the other Elite Eight podcasts, I listened to the most recent episode. But for “Serial,” I figured I’d respect the title and start at the beginning of Season 2. Unlike “This American Life” (the show’s parent program), this one didn’t feel disingenuous at all. Long-form journalism isn’t exactly my thing, but I think “Serial” does exactly what its creators intended for it to do.

#8 The Adam Carolla Show: Ari Shaffir

If you like talk radio, you'll also like this podcast. Adam Carolla (who hosted “Loveline” in the '90s and early 2000’s) effectively combines all the professionalism of FM radio with the convenience of a digital download. I can tolerate this style because, as a kid, I would always listen to these kinds of radio shows when I was supposed to be sleeping, but I don't think shows like this are going to survive into the next decade.

When I decided to listen to eight popular podcasts in a row, I was sure I was going to discover something great. But I was wrong. It turns out the best podcast on iTunes is the one I've loved for years.

Reach the columnist at or follow @CodyFitzStories on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

Want to join the conversation? Send an email to Keep letters under 300 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.

Like The State Press on Facebook and follow @statepress on Twitter

Continue supporting student journalism and donate to The State Press today.

Subscribe to Pressing Matters



This website uses cookies to make your experience better and easier. By using this website you consent to our use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie Policy.