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3 of the Best Thought Provoking Podcasts

by Emily Iwankovitsch Social Media Marketing Manager

Why do you listen to podcasts?

“The very essence of podcasts has been around in one form or another even before the word ‘podcast’ existed in the dictionary. The term was coined in 2004 by Ben Hammersley in a piece he wrote for The Guardian titled ‘Audio Revolution’,” Blake Balbirnie writes.

“Journalists have linked the podcast boom to the ubiquity of smartphones, time spent in transit, and online music services. Others attribute it to the brain-stimulating and addictive effect of audio learning, or the multitasking potential of listening. The beauty is in the overlap.” Speaking of learning, the retention rate of auditory learning is 2x higher than reading, and 4x higher than attending a lecture. Did you know that you can actually improve your listening skills with podcasts, too?

Especially interesting are podcasts that have a panel of hosts to learn from — so when discussing various issues, multiple perspectives are brought up to consider. A podcast may have a permanent small panel of hosts, and / or bring on guest speakers to interview about different topics. Read more about various podcast formats here.

Let’s dig in now to 3 of the best thought provoking podcasts with a regular panel of hosts and guests.

3 Podcasts That Will Make You Think

Briefly, we should first acknowledge an important facet of this podcast format that should absolutely not be overlooked.

When there are multiple people speaking on a podcast, normally, hosts must be cognizant to not speak over each other — or better yet, find a good solution that allows them to still be easily understandable as they converse with each other and their guests. After all, audio is the only medium here, and if it’s too difficult for your audience to follow your podcast, listeners will end up expending more mental energy... and potentially exit your show.

So, how can you ensure your podcast conversation stays immersive, natural, as well as not too mentally taxing for listeners? We’ll give you a clear example below (in audio, of course!) in podcast suggestion #3.

1. Intelligence Squared

Intelligence Squared is the “world’s leading forum for debate and intelligent discussion. Live and online we take you to the heart of the issues that matter, in the company of some of the world’s sharpest minds and most exciting orators.”

The panel is often two pairs "for" and two pairs "against", with a moderator and live audience, “debating issues spanning the removal of statues or memorials that are deemed inappropriate in the present day, or the return of controversially acquired items like the Parthenon Marbles or Benin Bronzes, to whether blockchain is a ‘quantum leap forward or digital snake oil’.” One review describes the debate as “passionate, thoughtful, and forces me to question my opinions, and helps me understand issues from other perspectives.”

2. Upstream

Upstream is a “radio documentary and interview series offering themed episodes that explore a wide variety of topics pertaining to our tumultuous and thrilling 21st-century economy. Through a mixture of heartfelt stories, expert interviews, and rich sound design, we challenge traditional assumptions and invite our listeners to imagine what a democratic, just, and sustainable economy might look like.”

“The podcast was founded in 2016 and is listened to by millions of people today because of its sensible topics and heartfelt stories. Duncan’s goal is to challenge cultural norms,” writes one reviewer.

3. Team Human

Team Human is a “podcast striving to amplify human connection. Each week we are engaging in real-time, no-holds-barred discussions with people who are hacking the machine to make it more compatible with human life, and helping redefine what it means to stay human in a digital age.”

Earlier, we mentioned giving a clear example of a show that found a great solution to the common problem of confusing crosstalk. Rachel Corbett explains, “Identifying voices can be almost impossible above a certain number — and this is a problem because your audience needs to connect with everyone on the show individually. To do this, they need to be able to identify each voice.”

What is the solution? Listen to Team Human’s podcast below first, and see if you can spot the difference.


This episode was recorded in High Fidelity’s spatial audio. What does that mean?

Audio that is spatialized means you’ll be able to identify where voices in space are coming from — as the audio comes from different (virtual) “places”! Picture your friends and family sitting around a dinner table speaking, and being able to zero in on what two of them are saying to you while the others momentarily become background noise: This is known as the “cocktail party effect.”

What does that mean for podcasts? A much easier time understanding and identifying the panel of hosts and guests.

Spatial audio is essentially the opposite of mono audio, where sound is coming from one place, making it difficult and mentally taxing to understand who is speaking. There’s actually research on why spatial audio decreases cognitive load, and improves speech intelligibility, too.

And yes — you can now record your podcasts in spatial audio. Here are some other tips to improve the quality of your audio recordings

Interested to learn more about how it’s possible for platforms and apps to integrate spatial audio now, too? (Videoconferencing doesn't need to involve so much Zoom fatigue.) Check out the links below about our API and Local Spatializer.

We’ll end with a quote by Emma Rodera, cited in The Podcast Explosion: “Audio is one of the most intimate forms of media… because you are constantly building your own images of the story in your mind.”

Published by Emily Iwankovitsch October 28, 2021

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