A Look Beyond

This is part one of a 10 part series exploring cult worthy, but under-appreciated podcasts.

With over 30 million podcast episodes available at your fingertips, picking out a new podcast can be daunting. The good news is, no matter what subject you’re interested in, there’s a podcast out there for you. Kitcaster is here to help.

When selecting a new podcast, you might be tempted to do what most people do, and roll the dice with a couple of so-called “listen worthy” podcasts. Traditionally, podcasts qualify themselves as listen worthy by generating a credible number of reviews, a large following on social media, and a high position on Apple’s Podcast Chart. 

Don’t do that. Instead, we suggest that you look beyond the top podcasts. There are other, smaller podcasts, podcasts that will feel like they were made just for you. When you limit yourself to “top podcasts” you’re excluding thousands of series that can provide you with invaluable insight, or pique a new curiosity. Everyone has unique interests. Luckily for us, there is literally a podcast about everything.

In our ongoing, weekly, Look Beyond the Top Podcasts Series, we will give you a high-level overview of the top podcasts in one genre. Then, we will list out some equally great, lesser-known podcasts in the same arena. Please use this list as a guide as you seek out the best podcast for you. 


If you’re looking for new ways to exercise your brain, people will probably recommend these podcasts:

  1. Stuff You Should Know

    1. Stars: 4.6

    2. Number of Reviews: 39.3K

  2. Ted Radio Hour 

    1. Stars: 4.4

    2. Number of Reviews: 13.3K

  3. Lore 

    1. Stars: 4.6

    2. Number of Reviews: 31.3K

  4. How I Built This 

    1. Stars: 4.8

    2. Number of Reviews: 19.2K

  5. Radiolab

    1. Stars: 4.7

    2. Number of Reviews: 26.6K


While these podcasts are great, we’d like to offer five alternatives to these top podcasts to prove that quality content can be found beyond the fringe. 


Cult-Worthy Educational Podcasts

  1. Ologies with Alie Ward

    1. Stars: 4.9

    2. Number of Reviews: 6.3K


Why we love this podcast: This is a podcast dedicated to uncovering the bizarre stories behind what fuels professional “-ologists” obsessions. From Mycology to Hagfishology (look below) Alie Ward will not only pique your interest, but she will bring on guests who are experts in their field to deepen your understanding of any given topic.


What we learned from this podcast: Hagfishology. It stems from Hagfish, the floppy hotdogs of the deep sea. They’re coated in slime that The Atlantic described as, “100,000 times softer than Jell-o, and fends off sharks and Priuses alike.” You can give this episode a listen here


  1. Overdue

    1. Stars: 4.7

    2. Number of Reviews: 1.3K

Why we love this podcast: In Overdue, the hosts, Andrew and Craig, understand that not everyone has time to read and that your backlog only continues to grow with time. In this engaging version of an audio Cliff Notes, Overdue allows you to dive into everything from classic literature to goofy murder mysteries.


What we learned from this podcast: Why everyone lies to each other in the Odyssey! In this episode, Andrew, Craig, and their guest, Emily Wilson, chat about the need for lies in order to survive war. Emily also points out that the storytelling and witty banter associated with lies and relationships within the Odyssey is a way of mythological flirting. 


  1. In Defense of Plants Podcast

    1. Stars: 4.9

    2. Number of Reviews: 434

Why we love this podcast: In Defense of Plants is an interview-based podcast where the conversation never feels forced. The show is a great way to build your plant repertoire. These people love plants and educating people on plants.


What we learned from this podcast: Did you know that the trees at Joshua Tree are Yuccas? Yuccas have a downright fascinating pollination ecology. (SPOILER ALERT!) What started as a parasitic relationship between moths and Yucca has since evolved into an extremely specific mutualism. The Yucca plant relies on moths for pollination and moth’s themselves could not exist without the presence of Yucca flowers. You can find out more about Yuccas here.


  1. American Scandal

    1. Stars: 4.6

    2. Number of Reviews: 5K

Why we love this podcast: Every scandal begins with a lie, but we all know the truth will come out. Scandals have shaped American history, from business to politics to sports, corruption runs rampant. When the dust finally settles, the American public is left wondering how did this happen? Who is to blame? This podcast sheds light on the American scandals that have shaped the course of history.


What we learned from this podcast: What Payola is, how it started, the attempts to end it, and how it shaped the music we hear and the music we don’t. This episode of American Scandal dives into the dark side of music history and the corruption (payola) within the record industry. And at the heart of the scandal? DJ Alan Freed and American Bandstand host Dick Clark. This is the first episode of a five-part series and you can give it a listen here.


  1. The Knowledge Project with Shane Parrish

    1. Stars: 4.8

    2. Number of Reviews: 966

Why we love this podcast: This is the perfect podcast for those of you who are always thinking about going back to school. The Knowledge Project helps its listeners to build a multidisciplinary education that they can use to make better decisions and live a more meaningful and productive life. Host Shane Parrish explores the best ideas, methods, and mental models that people discovered. 


What we learned from this podcast: In this episode, “When Good Intentions Go Bad,” Shane and his guest Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, explore the effects that helicopter parenting, the rise of “call-out culture,” and social media has on society. You can get the full scoop here.


By no means is this the end all be all for educational podcasts, but it is a good place to start. These five lesser-known podcasts are truly incredible and will be sure to boost your appreciation for a myriad of topics. Give them a listen and check back next week as we explore the world of true crime podcasts in A Look Beyond the Top Podcasts Redux. 


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