NPR Podcasts: Why You Need To Take Notice And Have A Listen

Rom Raviv
May 25, 2020
What Is The Best NPR Podcast

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The popularity of NPR podcasts does not only come with its association with the National Public Radio name, but for its collective ability to entertain and provide value to its listeners. And the fact that most people outside the continental US are not even familiar with what NPR is says a lot about the quality, variety and reach of their shows.

From shows like All Songs Considered where the discovery of new music is at the heart of things, to the thought provoking deep dive into the human psyche that is Invisibilia, NPR online content is something that you don’t just listen to – it sticks with you and make – no, forces you to consume more.

In this article, we will try to explain to you what NPR is and does, as well as why it has become a go to name when it comes to the global podcast listening demographic.

Are you ready?

How Does NPR Work Anyway?

Well to start with, NPR is technically made of several “public” radio stations around the United States. Most of these stations are government owned – or subsidized by the government.

And though the idea behind NPR is for it to be “independent” per se, with the doctrine of creating objective news and cultural programs – it is technically funded by the government and was even created by an act of congress.

So yeah, if you’re a fan of their show Embedded, and see it as somewhat anarchistic in nature, yes, it’s partially funded by the government.

Weird huh?

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What Is A NPR Podcast And What Makes It More Effective Compared To NPR Radio Shows?

The difference between NPR radio shows and its podcast cousins stems from these 4 main points:

  • Scheduled vs On-Demand Programming
  • Niche vs Mass Appeal Targeting
  • Pre-Recorded vs Live Broadcasts
  • Evergreen vs Ephemeral Content
Scheduled vs On-Demand Programming

Convenience plays a huge role here as the listener has complete control as to when he/she wants to listen to a podcast episode.

Niche vs Mass Appeal Targeting

Radio has always used the “spray and pray approach” – meaning, you hope and pray that people will listen to it. Podcasts on the other hand use a more targeted approach – with each focusing on a specific topic.

Pre-Recorded vs Live Broadcasts

This factor is tied to presentability. With podcasts typically pre-recorded, it can then be edited and making it sound more professional and “presentable” for its listeners.

Evergreen vs Ephemeral Content

Even before, many live radio shows have recorded versions of its episodes.

The difference though between live radio recordings and podcasts is that live recordings are quite long – which lowers the chances of a person listening to it again. Then there’s the issue of outdated ads. Some might see this as nostalgia, but for me, it’s just a waste of my time and bandwidth.

How Many Podcasts Does NPR Have?

Short answer, a lot!

Since I don’t want this article to look like a really long shopping list, allow me to give you an idea of how many NPR org podcasts are out there by category.

  • Arts – 70
  • Business – 17
  • Comedy – 6
  • Health & Fitness – 57
  • Music – 156
  • News – 434
  • Science – 86
  • Technology – 27
  • TV & Film – 4

Each one of those podcasts are independently produced by NPR affiliate stations around the US.

And since views and opinions – for example in the News category – may sometimes vary from one region to the next, each has the potential of becoming a diverse melting pot of area specific talking points.

This provides outsiders a glimpse into the current pulse of that locality.

What Is The Best NPR Podcast?

Well as you can see, there are literally hundreds to choose from. What could be enjoyable and informative to me, might be dull and boring for you. So as much as I want to name a single podcast and claim that it’s the “best” out of the entire lot, let me just give you a list of NPR podcasts to choose from, okay?

The Best NPR Podcasts In My Opinion Are:

TED Radio Hour

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Yes, this is the audio version of those TED talks videos on YouTube that most often than not provides you with eureka moments.

The idea behind TED Radio Hour it seems is to further expand on already existing TED talks by using snippets of certain “talks” – with its speakers sometimes invited as guests to further expound on that “talk” of theirs, or update their arguments/ideas about the topic.

Fresh Air

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The NPR Fresh Air podcast has been running since 1975 making it not only one of the longest but also one of the most popular NPRnews type podcasts in the list.

With its interview style format, Fresh Air has played host to a wide spectrum of guests. From key players in US politics to pop culture icons, host Terry Gross is yet to deliver a show that is both engaging and entertaining.

Planet Money

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If you like your financial advice in 30 minute chunks, then you should listen to the Planet Money podcast.

Started in 2008, Planet Money is also one of the top NPR podcasts out there. This popularity stems from the fact that the show strives to present complex financial issues into something that almost anyone can understand.

It’s like having coffee with a financial advisor.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

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If I were to describe a Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! episode, I would say it feels like an SNL skit.

Why you ask?

Well first, it’s recorded live in front of a studio audience, and is a comedy show disguised as a quiz show about current affairs. And with humorists and comedians as guests, yeah, it definitely feels like a Jeopardy skit on SNL.


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Unscripted, no holds barred conversations between regular people about key issues that matter to them.

The appeal of StoryCorps for me is its rawness. The fact that it feels like you’re listening to a conversation happening in the streets – right now. Yes, it can get that intense at times.

If you like an insight as to what the reality is for other people, then this is a must listen.


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Living up to its name, Embedded focuses on current news, but takes a different route and focuses on related stories that more traditional media outlets don’t mind covering.

Those who don’t like the show say that it borders on being a regular puff piece, but from my end, I see it as a “different angle”.


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Though part of the newer crop of NPR podcasts, Throughline has garnered quite a following since its launch.

The podcast focuses on current headlines, but talks about it by going back to the past and examining the roots of the topic. Though not quite a typical history podcast, it does bring to light a few historical content which is then used to explain the current state of the topic.

Though not an NPR politics podcast, it’s still a great way to follow the news, and know the history behind it at the same time.


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This is for those who enjoy figuring out what makes people tick. Each episode of Invisibilia is a deep dive into the human psyche through explainer type narratives – that is surprisingly not in any way boring for a science podcast.
How I Built This

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Last but not least in my list of best NPR podcasts is the entrepreneurs podcast How I built This.

The show boasts of an extensive line-up of successful individuals, from the guys behind Fubu, Yelp, and even the creator of Wikipedia.

To a certain extent, I can say that How I built This was an integral part of Podblade’s birth.

How Do I Listen To NPR Podcasts Offline & Online?

It is absolutely easy to listen to NPR podcasts, as it is available through numerous platforms.

NPR Podcast Directory

A page within the NPR website that houses all its podcasts. All you need to do is choose the category you want to listen to, and then click on the podcast you want to listen to.

And to answer the question “How do I listen to NPR podcasts offline?” the NPR podcast directory is also the place to do this.

All you need to do is:

  • Click the podcast episode you want to download
  • Click on the Red “Down” arrow on the episode – and the download will start

Take note though that some podcasts are not available for download due to music licensing legalities.

Using The “NPR One” App

This is the official NPR News app. The app provides new stories from different NPR member stations across the country. It’s available for Android and iOS devices.

Using Smart Speakers

Regardless if you use an Apple Homepod, Amazon’s Alexa, or the Google’s Home system, it doesn’t really matter as all you need to do is say “Play NPR (plus name of podcast)” and your smart speaker will start playing it.

Streaming Platforms

NPR podcasts are available through all major streaming platforms like:

  • Itunes
  • Spotify
  • Soundcloud
  • Mixcloud
  • Deezer

You can even listen to NPR using SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

Anyway, NPR has been around for decades. And with their newly found fame and authority in the podcasting world, NPR will surely stay on and provide us with more engaging, informative, and cutting edge content for more decades to come.

And if all this talk of NPR podcasts has got you thinking of doing your own, go for it! There’s always space in the podcast sphere for fresh content ideas.

And if you need help with making your podcast sound more professional, without spending an arm and a leg, do get in touch with us and ask how we can help.

Anyway, that’s it for this introduction to NPR podcasts and why people enjoy them. If you have anything to add, or just want to share your thoughts about the topic, feel free to leave a line on the comment section below.

From us here at Podblade, you keep yourself safe, okay?

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