Ten of the best podcasts from 2020

We’ve cut through the noise to find 10 fresh podcasts that engage and delight.

Apple’s recent announcement that its podcast catalogue now contains more than a million unique series has many of us asking — with so much variety on offer, how do we find shows that are worth listening to?

One method is to look for podcasts that are both popular with listeners and acclaimed by critics, which is exactly what we’ve done below. Each of these programs has received glowing press reviews and been downloaded thousands of times.

Discover your new favourite shows.

Birds Eye View (StoryProjects)

A word-of-mouth sensation, this compelling series about the women imprisoned at Darwin Correctional Centre won Podcast of the Year at the 2020 Australian Podcast Awards. The show took two years to produce, and the attention to detail is audible throughout.

The Daily (The New York Times)

Exhaustively researched and largely non-partisan, this weekday podcast from The New York Times provides Australian listeners with authoritative analysis of the US and beyond. News podcasts flourished in 2020, but “few were as incisive and thoroughly reported as this journalist-led flagship show,” said The Guardian.

Two Shrinks Pod (independent)

Tagged as one of 2020’s best independent podcasts by the Sydney Morning Herald, this hour-long show manages to be both accessible and intelligent. The titular psychologists tackle topics as diverse as ‘Schadenfreude’ and ‘Mental health in the Star Wars universe’ with warmth and honesty.

Floodlines (The Atlantic)

This nuanced eight-part examination of the US response to Hurricane Katrina was 2020’s most widely acclaimed podcast: it topped both The New Yorker’s and New York magazine’s annual Top 10 lists, with New York declaring it “one of the best-sounding audio productions you’ll ever hear.”

Unearthed: Mysteries from an Unseen World (Royal Botanic Gardens Kew)

Praised by tech bible Wired for telling “thrilling stories about the hidden impact of plants on our lives”, the debut podcast from the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew in London owes much of its success to charismatic host James Wong, who tackles plant smuggling, poisoning techniques and more with panache.

Blackout (Endeavour Content)

This nine-part thriller would have once been called a ‘radio play’, but times have changed. Starring Oscar-winner Rami Malek as a small-town DJ trying to navigate the apocalypse, Blackout snagged a 2020 Webby award in the Scripted (Fiction) category.

Days Like This (ABC)

No one tells the tales of ordinary — and extraordinary — Australians quite like the ABC, and the broadcaster’s new weekly podcast is a fine example. Offering “consistently brilliant storytelling” according to Broadsheet, the show moves from opal mining to the Melbourne underworld with ease.

Mark Pesce – The Next Billion Seconds (PodcastOne)

The latest podcast offering from Australia’s best-known futurist examines the tech innovations set to shape our world in the months and years ahead, from pocket-sized gadgetry to artificial intelligence. Pesce’s enthusiasm is contagious, and his choice of guests is inspired. The program, presented in conjunction with GIO, scooped Best Technical and Scientific Podcast at the Australian Podcast Awards.

Field Recordings (independent)

It’s as simple as it is delightful: a program in which audio-makers stand silently outdoors and record their surroundings. “If you’re going stir-crazy and longing to be outside during self-isolation, do not despair,” the Financial Times said in a glowing review. The debut episode was recorded in Hill End, NSW.

The Sound of Anger (The Emotions Lab)

An ingenious blend of analysis, drama and music, this program about our fiery emotions was one of 2020’s most talked-about UK podcasts and won two British Podcast Awards. The judges said The Sound of Anger’s experimental approach was “both valuable and refreshing.”

Cover for your listening gear

One of the more popular ways to listen to podcasts is out and about, on your regular walk or jog while you take in some fresh air. If this sounds like something you’d make part of your routine, make sure your portable devices — like your smartphone and headphones — are covered by your Contents Insurance in case of accidental loss or damage, even while you’re not at home.

Explore Portable Valuables Cover

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This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.