The Best Podcasts in 30 Minutes or Less!
February 2, 2010 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Help me find high quality, short podcasts.

Before I got my Droid, there was no real place for podcasts in my life: my job doesn't leave me the time or ability to listen to them, and my morning commute was served just fine by NPR.

A few weeks ago, though, I downloaded the google podcast app and subscribed to Planet Money, and have already run through a years of archives on various short drives and commutes. I tried subscribing to a few more - about games, about history, about whatever - and they were all one and two hours long.

Seriously? Who the hell wants to listen to a two hour podcast? Not this guy!

So, there it is. I'm looking for the best podcasts that are thirty minutes or shorter. The topic, honestly, is less important than the length : my interests are sufficiently broad.
posted by absalom to Computers & Internet (46 answers total) 128 users marked this as a favorite
The Moth.
posted by cjemmott at 7:35 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Seconding The Moth
posted by lizbunny at 7:37 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stuff You Should Know is a great podcast from How Stuff Works that's usually around 30 minutes.
posted by Pontius Pilate at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Stuff you should know
posted by markblasco at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: John Hodgeman does some funny micro podcasts. I like "Poetry off the Shelf" from the poetry foundation - about 10 minute discussion of a single poem or poet.

"The History of Rome" is a really pleasant podcast, most falling under the half-hour mark if I remember correctly.
posted by Think_Long at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2010

The New Yorker: Out Loud
posted by cimton at 7:43 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Philosophy Bites -- 6 to 11 minutes most of the time. They were the perfect length for my walk to the parking lot. :)

I too like the History of Rome podcasts, those are very good. (Where can you currently get the back 'casts? I'm missing a few.)

Thinking Allowed from BBC4 is absolutely fantastic and comes in at about 28 minutes.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

In the comedy genre:

The Adam Carolla Podcast is my personal favorite. It's sometimes as short as thirty minutes and occasionally as long as ninety. Some longer episodes are broken up into two parts, probably for the convenience of commuters like you.

You Look Nice Today is usually hilarious, but new episodes are rarely published. Worth checking out the old material and subscribing in case they ever start doing a regular show.

For something incredibly British and often very funny, check out The Big Bang.

Hope you enjoy.
posted by xndr at 7:46 AM on February 2, 2010

Science Friday is pretty good -- each segment in the show is its own file, and they run between 10 and 25 minutes.
posted by cog_nate at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2010

Third Coast International Audio Festival / "Resound"

The Saltcast

The Memory Palace


Catalogue of Ships
posted by jon1270 at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stardate (3 minutes each) - a daily astronomy podcast, produced by the McDonald Observatory, which offers insight into the nightly sky. Not only is it great for party tricks ("Hey, look at Mars over there!" "Wait... how do you know that's Mars?" "Oh, well, anyone with half a brain knows that Mars is approaching opposition at perihelion making. Duh.")

Engines of Our Ingenuity (3 minutes each) - a daily engineering and inventing podcast put on by the engineering school at the University of Houston. Not nearly as dreary as it sounds. It is one part social science and one part science science, explaining everything from the impact of Nazi Germany on 20th Century composers to the Archimedes' Principle. I suspect growing up listening to this on the radio every morning was what made me a nerd.

Martini Shot (10 minutes or so) - Really more of an audio blog with all the wry commentary that you might expect from a traditional blog. Rob Long works in Hollywood and his insight is both interesting AND hilarious. Produced by KCRW.

Also, Storycorps and This I Believe are both pretty short programs and they play me like a fiddle just about every time. I save my sentimentality for emotional public radio programming.
posted by greekphilosophy at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

John Hodgman's "Today in the Past" is a good, daily, 2 minute dose of surreality.
posted by inturnaround at 7:52 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same boat as you. Listened to a few podcasts but ever since installing the Google Listen app on my Droid, I am listening to way more.

My favorite short podcast is the New York Time's Ethicist. Four to nine minutes in length and very interesting.
posted by tommccabe at 7:53 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Memory Palace. Averages about 5 minutes and covers fun, obscure bits of history, the kinds of things I enjoyed reading about as a kid.

From Scratch interviews business men & women who have started very successful companies from - you guessed it, from scratch.

How To Succeed in Evil, a deliciously quirky radio drama (one guy does all the voices) about an Evil Efficiency Consultant. Sort of a take on comic book stereotypes.

HOUR LONG (but interesting) ALERT!:

- Radiolab, but it tends to be an hour long, but highly entertaining. Broken into segments anyway, so you can listen in chunks.

- The same with This American Life, which I admit can get draggy when they do their short story segments, but again, broken into segments so you can listen in chunks.

Thirding The Moth.
posted by MesoFilter at 7:57 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I enjoy The Sound of Young America by Mefi's own YoungAmerican, Jesse Thorn.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 7:58 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer:
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:01 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Quick and Dirty Tips (Grammar Girl, Legal Lad, and House Call Doctor are my favorites) are all under 10 minutes. Ask the Podcast Doctor is short and excellent as well.
posted by jaimev at 8:03 AM on February 2, 2010

Radiolab has shorts (typically 20 minutes) you can download as well.

The New Yorker short story/discussions are 25-40 minutes.
posted by availablelight at 8:03 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: NPR Story of the Day

Slate podcasts - There are separate ones on Politics, Sports, Culture, etc.

Onion Radio News - funny stuff in 50 second chunks

The Sound of Young America - Metafilter's own has many interviews with comedians and culturally figures often in 15 to 30 minute chunks.
posted by mmascolino at 8:05 AM on February 2, 2010

TED talks are mostly 15-30 minutes and it's the only podcast that's held my attention for more than a few weeks. I think they're video podcasts, but a lot of them stand up to audio-only in my experience. Watch some online.
posted by tantivy at 8:08 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

KCRW's left right and center.
posted by modernnomad at 8:11 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Here's some of my favs:

B&N Meet the Writers - short interviews with authors
Cranky Geeks - tech news
Doug Benson's I Love Movies - Funny, live at UCB
KCRW's the Treatment - talking with entertainment people
Never Not Funny - not bad
NPR Fresh Air - Depends of the guest
NPR Wait Wait Don't Tell Me - NPR game show

Longer But Worth It:
The Sound of Young America - Jesse Thorn is excellent
Jordan, Jesse, Go! - Jesse Thorn and Jordan Morris talking
Comedy Death Ray - Always makes me laugh, lots of characters, music and improve
Comedy and Everything Else

Thanks, Rob
posted by Fun Bobbie at 8:16 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stuff You Missed in History Class sometimes is a little too short because I find it so fascinating :) It is also from the How Stuff Works people.
posted by spec80 at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: From BBC Radio 4: A History of the World in 100 Objects. (About 15 minutes each)

Director of the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, narrates 100 programmes that retell humanity's history through the objects we have made. The series spans two million years of history and uses objects from the British Museum's collection to tell a history of the world, from the earliest times to the present day.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 8:29 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: The Bugle is usually 30 minutes. It's a weekly satirical news podcast, hosted by John Oliver from the Daily Show and the cricket obsessed, but funny despite it, Andy Zaltzman.
posted by IanMorr at 8:30 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: I'll recommend Skeptoid like I do every time someone asks for short podcasts. It's a short (10-15m) topic-oriented series on critical thinking and examination of pop culture claims. It's really good, well researched, and entirely free of fluff and filler. Check it out.
posted by tybstar at 8:37 AM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Jon Ronson author of 'Men Who Stare at Goats' and 'Them: Adventures with Extremists" has had his own radio show on BBC for quite a while. About 30 minutes each, covering a wide range of topics, from UFOs to Glastonbury.

You can find all of them on this page. Further down is a way to import it into Itunes easily. Jon Ronson put the the link on his own twitter account, so he seems to approve the unofficial uploading. It's every episode, I'm still getting through them all.
posted by DOUBLE A SIDE at 8:42 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: There are many song of the day podcasts out there. Some I used to listen to come from publc radio, and come from stations like MPR's The Current, KEXP (Seattle), and KCRW (Santa Monica). There's also a good one-song mashup podcast from, which comes out a few times per week.

Scientific American has a 60 second science podcast. There's a Doctor Who podcast, Two-minute Time Lord, that's notable for being short.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2010

All or any of the Poetry Foundation podcasts. "Off the shelf" was mentioned above, but I prefer "Poem Talk" (a more in-depth discussion of a particular poem) and "Avant-Garde All the Time" (Kenneth Goldsmith delves into the ubuweb sound archive for weird and awesome stuff). Both tend to hover in the 25-30 minute range.
posted by aparrish at 9:24 AM on February 2, 2010

Savage Love Podcast - Averages 30-45 min each and a new one is available every Tuesday... I've done the same as you in regards to listening to a years worth of them and the first ones are as good as the current ones.
posted by MrBCID at 10:46 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Dial a Stranger (exactly what it sounds like. 2 people have little conversations with strangers; 15-20 min)
A History of the World in 100 objects (from the British Museum -- this one's really good; 15 min)
posted by bluefly at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2010

Oops, AHOW was already posted. Well, it's that good.
posted by bluefly at 10:57 AM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: I asked a very similar question not that long ago (with a 20 minute limit) and got lots of great answers.
posted by shelleycat at 12:25 PM on February 2, 2010

I always liked the Writer's Almanac by Garrison Keillor. A bit dry though, but runs about 5 or so minutes.
posted by zabuni at 12:26 PM on February 2, 2010

Australia has a long history of distance learning and excellent radio broadcasts many of which are also available as podcasts:
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: You Look Nice Today, featuring the Adam Lisagor (lonelysandwich, or 'Sandwich'), Scott Simpson, and Merlin Mann. It is sublime but is unfortunately not released as frequently anymore. So pour yourself an Aunt Nancy, put on your HyperColor shirt and Transitions ® Indoor Outdoor Lenses, and get ready discover something you didn't know about yourself.

The Sound of Young America

Onion News Network

The Bugle from The Times Online UK

These are just a few in addition to those already mentioned like Planet Money, This American Life, and the MetaFilter podcast. But really, you should listen to You Look Nice Today.
posted by cgomez at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2010

You might want to try increasing the speed of your podcasts, too. You can do this without impacting the tone (i.e. the podcast won't sound like chipmunks are talking).

iPods and iPhones have a 'faster' speed setting that does this for you; I'm not sure about the droid, but you could look into it.

Also, sometimes I use a Windows audio app called GoldWave to batch-increase the speed of my podcasts by 135%.
posted by Terheyden at 1:28 PM on February 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Podictionary is pretty good. Each is about a 5 minute etymology.
posted by condour75 at 1:32 PM on February 2, 2010

Best answer: Widely Ranging Interests usually come in at just over the 20 minute mark.
posted by tellurian at 2:40 PM on February 2, 2010

Stuff You Should Know was already mentioned, but I would also recommend its creepy younger sibling Stuff They Don't Want You To Know. It's a conspiracy theory/paranormal/urban legend-centric show that generally clocks in around 5 minutes. The deadpan delivery is pretty spot on too.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:58 PM on February 2, 2010

Speechification: a selection of very,very good speech radio, usually but not always hour an hour or less.
posted by amestoy at 3:04 PM on February 2, 2010

3rd vote for The Bugle.
posted by arcticseal at 6:06 PM on February 2, 2010

LSAT Logic in Everyday Life

The Math Factor
posted by chazlarson at 8:56 PM on February 2, 2010

The A.V. Club has two podcasts that you can subscribe to on the right hand side of their front page down a ways. A.V Talk is just some of the reviewers talking about some cultural thing, usually movies, and The Hatecast is celeb gossip stuff.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 11:25 PM on February 6, 2010

A) Thanks to the folks who've recommended my show The Sound of Young America.

B) Lately I've really been enjoying the BBC's The History of the World in 100 Objects. It's a semi-documentary series that looks at world history through the lense of the collection at the British Museum. Very smart voices, fascinating history (and I'm not a history buff).
posted by YoungAmerican at 2:16 PM on March 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Love this thread. Lots of great recommendations when you have a phone actually capable of playing podcasts now :)
posted by isoman2kx at 7:25 AM on December 2, 2010

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