Best Podcasts: Top 5 Programs Most Recommended By Experts

2023 has been a great year for podcasts, with many critically acclaimed shows debuting and gaining popularity. Because most series are based on true events, they have become an ideal platform for content creators to engage with an audience. Whether you’re interested in politics, business, or pop culture, there’s a podcast out there for you. But the fact that everyone and anyone can create a podcast, makes it difficult to find the most ear-worthy ones! So, we set out to find some of the best podcasts of 2023 (so far).

Since the pandemic, podcasts have become increasingly popular. A 2020 study showed that during the coronavirus lockdown, many people adopted new habits to keep themselves busy. The survey, consisting of 2,000 British adults, revealed that 43 percent of people “changed their ways for the better” as a result of all the time spent at home. Among the new hobbies and skills learned during this time were computer skills, particularly creating podcasts. Another poll conducted in 2021 found that over half of the participants missed traveling to work primarily for the podcasts they listened to during their commute.

Podcasts have allowed people more ways to broadcast news, have one-on-one chats, and even become entrepreneurs. In fact, a survey of 2,000 adults studied the increasing shift towards entrepreneurship and found that 59 percent have considered quitting their current job to launch their own business. And thanks to the “techy” skills most of us gained during the pandemic, online content creation is the most popular type of business that people aspire to launch!

From the comedic and therapeutic, to the gruesome and entertaining, the benefits of listening to podcasts are numerous. With so many great options out there, there’s never been a better time to start listening! StudyFinds researched ten expert sources to find the best podcasts of 2023. These five series are not the only great, ear-worthy podcasts out there, but they can certainly keep you entertained! Give them a try, and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Person with head phones (Photo by Henry B on Unsplash)

The List: Best Podcasts of 2023, According to Fans

1. “Love, Janessa”

In the podcast world, true crime is one of the most listened to genres. From the gruesomely haunting stories to the wild, unsolved mysteries, there are tons of crime inspired podcasts to choose from! One of those favorites is the “Love, Janessa” series. 

Esquire writes, “If catfishing mysteries like the viral 2021 true crime pod Sweet Bobby are your jam, then prepare to fall for Love, Janessa. The BBC and CBC-produced series zeroes in on Janessa Brazil – the woman whose likeness has been used to catfish and con countless victims out of thousands of dollars. Throughout the series, host and journalist Hannah Ajala sets out to find this ‘modern day Helen of Troy’ – and the scammers behind her fake online personas.”

“Janessa Brazil is an adult entertainment star who has unwittingly become the face of a global catfishing campaign, but who is she and how are her pictures being used to con victims out of huge amounts of money? Ajala speaks to the victims, as well as the scammers behind similar schemes, and her investigation will take listeners from the UK to Italy, West Africa and the US,” says Stylist.

Like most true crime podcasts, this series is filled with facts, unanswered questions, and detailed events that spurred this investigation in the first place. However, according to critics, “Love, Janessa” stands apart from the others for the show’s sense of humanity and never-ending twists!

“The online romance fraud known as catfishing offers fertile ground for podcasters, said Fiona Sturges in the FT. Tortoise Media’s hit Sweet Bobby documented a decade-long con in which a woman was duped into thinking she was in a serious relationship with a handsome cardiologist. And the new CBC/BBC podcast Love, Janessa is a ‘queasily addictive’ tale that ‘easily equals’ it,” adds The Week. “Its host is Hannah Ajala, a British journalist based in Ghana who sets out to track down Janessa Brazil, a ‘toned, tanned woman… whose photo has become the bait for scores of catfishing scams’. Ajala meets the scammed and the scammers, including Ghanaian swindlers known as ‘sakawa boys’. Through smart storytelling and ‘seriously dogged reporting’, the podcast builds to a ‘remarkable conclusion’ that I won’t spoil. ‘What I can say is that the series rarely goes where you think it will and never loses sight of its humanity. In the realms of true crime, these are rare qualities indeed.’” 

2. “The Coldest Case in Laramie”

Another great (and grim) crime centered podcast is “The Coldest Case in Laramie”. This podcast takes you on a journey through the unsolved murder of a college student in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1985. The story alone is haunting, but the way it is told is sure to keep you on your toes!

Vulture describes this series as “easily the grimmest entry in the studio’s canon thus far. But it’s still an utterly compelling piece of nonfiction crime storytelling. The investigative podcast revolves around an unsolved murder case from host Kim Barker’s childhood that heats up again when a long-suspected ex cop is finally charged for the crime decades later based on seemingly surefire evidence — only for those charges to be inexplicably dropped shortly after. Questions about the unreliability of memory, the subjectivity of truth, and the gravitational pull of closure arise.”

“It’s probably the understatement of the year to say that the Serial team knows how to craft an investigative podcast, but they’ve definitively recaptured their 2014-era mojo with this series, in which New York Times reporter Kim Barker travels back to her hometown of Laramie, Wyoming, to dig into the 1985 murder of a young woman named Shelli Wiley,” adds Vogue. “Barker relates the story of Wiley’s death–which gained new relevance in 2021 when the person arrested for her murder, a former Laramie police officer, had the charges against him dropped–in a way that’s gripping without leaning into sensationalized, exploitative territory.”

The podcast is well-produced, and the storytelling is gripping, making it hard to stop listening once you start. The host interviews witnesses, family members, and law enforcement officials to piece together what happened on the night of the murder. The podcast also explores the impact the murder had on the community and how it still affects them today. “On the surface, The Coldest Case in Laramie is standard fare,” explains The Week. “But here’s the twist: everyone in the town ‘says they know who did it’. And the person they accuse, a former Laramie police officer, was even charged at one point. ‘So why is he still free?’ As Barker delves into the story, this ‘cops-protecting-their-own yarn develops into something sadder and more infuriating’. It’s a ‘gripping but subtle’ program about memory, bias and hope.”

3. “Frozen Head”

We still don’t know if we will ever be able to successfully bring someone back to life after being cryogenically frozen. However, this is still a sought-after truth for some. Centered around the true story of a scientist determined to find the answers, “Frozen Head” discusses the pros, cons, and difficulties of this process.

Forbes writes, “A new limited podcast by Wondery investigates the quest for eternal life by way of cryonics, the low-temperature freezing of human remains. Hosted by New York Times best-selling authors Alaina Urquhart and Ash Kelley, the two women who also host the hit-podcast “Morbid”. “‘Any story that involves a highly secretive organization and missing body parts is bound to get interesting, but the surprises we encountered while working on this show were truly unsettling.’ Urquhart and Kelley told Forbes. ‘Diving into this twisted tale over a series of six episodes was incredibly exciting to us as storytellers, especially because of how far-reaching and existential it ends up getting.'”

Esquire describes the initial storyline behind the series, adding, “Laurence Pilgeram dropped dead at 90 while walking along the pavement outside his flat in Santa Barbara, California, back in 2015. He had a good run. But he wasn’t quite ready to give up his grip on life that easily. Pilgeram was a scientist and an enthusiast for cryonics – that is, the scientific (or pseudoscientific) search for a way of bringing the dead back to life, while keeping their bodily remains frozen until they can be revived. Pilgeram paid $120,000 to be cryogenically preserved, but after his death all hell broke loose: the company froze only his head and cremated the rest of him, much to his son’s dismay. Things only got more bizarre and confused from there. This dive into the world of cryonic freezing promises grenades, gold coins, Hall of Fame baseball legends, fist fights, mysterious packages, family feuds and more.”

“Its focus is on the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, an American non-profit group founded in 1972, which freezes the heads of deceased clients in readiness for a future in which (they hope) it will be possible to defrost them and attach them to a young body,” explains The Week. “The hosts are Alaina Urquhart and Ash Kelley, the ‘wisecracking duo’ behind Morbid. And like that podcast, Frozen Head ‘knows how to tell a story, and delights in the gorier aspects of its subject matter’. Listeners may feel ‘squeamish‘ at times, but the presenters’ ‘jolly, jokey tone’ works well – ‘underlining as it does the madcap optimism, egotism and absurdity of individuals wanting to have their brains frozen in a quest for eternal life’. For a podcast about death, Frozen Head is surprisingly fun.”

4. “Can I Tell You a Secret?”

Another true crime series, “Can I Tell You a Secret” focuses on the true story of a cyber stalker. This investigative series covers his motivations, actions and consequences, all while keeping us wanting more!

“Just when we were gasping for a brand new, hard-hitting investigative series from a national newspaper, we got it, thanks to the Guardian,” says TimeOut. “Can I Tell You a Secret? starts off as a story of online secrets in a small town in England, and spirals into a strange, dark whirlwind that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s a gripping and important look into the seriousness of internet fraud and cyberstalking, which journalist Sirin Kale presents excellently.”

“This gripping podcast from The Guardian is guaranteed to keep you hooked for its entirety. Hosted by journalist Sirin Kale, it follows the case of cyberstalker Matthew Hardy, who wreaked havoc on the lives of countless women over the course of 11 years,” adds Stylist. “In January 2022, he was finally sentenced to nine years in prison for his crimes, after he was convicted of five counts of stalking. But why did Hardy set out on his reign of terror in the first place? And what allowed him to get away with it all for so long?”

Esquire writes, “It starts with a simple question. Can I tell you a secret? At first a few people in the faded market town of Northwich, then a dozen, then hundreds and hundreds of people across the north-west of England and further afield were drawn into the acrimony stirred up by one committed harasser. Friendships were broken, punches thrown, and families turned upside down by one person, who started spreading vicious rumors around a small town via Facebook. And the weirdest thing was, everyone knew it was the reclusive Matthew Hardy who was doing it – but nobody could stop him. Sirin Kale (whose other pod from last year, Unreal, was another massive success) investigates why it was so hard to stop Hardy’s cyberstalking, as well as hearing from some of the many women who Hardy accused of cheating and homewrecking. But there’s more to the stalking than meets the eye. What separates Can I Tell You a Secret? from other true crime pods is its unwillingness to shirk the complex issues at the story’s heart, and unbalance the straightforward moralizing which the first couple of episodes appear to be heading to.”

5. “Normal Gossip”

For a light-hearted podcast sure to entertain, this podcast is a must try! From scandalous affairs to shocking breakups, “Normal Gossip” covers all the juicy details about the lives of our favorite celebrities. What sets this podcast apart from other celebrity gossip podcasts is the hosts’ ability to deliver the news in a way that is both informative and entertaining. They have a knack for making even the most mundane celebrity news stories sound interesting and engaging!

Cosmo writes, “As an avowed lover of gossip, Normal Gossip is my favorite thing to listen to. Host Kelsey McKinney and producer Alex Sujong Laughlin (along with their guest—often a comedian, writer, scientist, or other interesting person) share ‘anonymous morsels of gossip from the real world.’ They’ve covered everything from niche knitting community drama to dog park showdowns to wedding planning drama, all of it utterly joyful to listen to. It’s kind of like listening to your best friend gleefully tell you about the latest happenings with her friends/enemies/coworkers you’ve never met, and it’s perfect. Also, the Normal Gossip team makes it a point to take regular breaks from production/social media specifically to avoid burnout, which is very cool to see in the media industry.”

Lifewire listed Normal Gossip as the best podcast for “listening to other people’s drama.” “This relatively new show, hosted by Kelsey McKinney, breaks down an inevitable fact of human nature: our urge to gossip and swap stories, even about people we’ve never met. McKinney invites a guest on each episode to tell them a piece of second-hand gossip. They also chat before diving into each story about gossip habits, breaking down the ‘why’ behind the urge,” says Lifewire.

“Salacious gossip has never felt so good thanks to the shame-free approach taken on this podcast,” says GQ Magazine. “Host Kelsey McKinney briefly introduces each episode with a guest and their thoughts and reflections on gossip and its role in their life. But then comes the thing we all want: real-life, everyday scandal. McKinney takes us through her real story sent in by a listener and rest assured you’ll never guess the ending each time. Delivered in delicious chunks, listeners are constantly guessing the twists and turns that are coming.”

Whether you’re a die-hard celebrity gossip fan or just someone who enjoys a good laugh, “Normal Gossip” is definitely worth a listen. So, if you want to stay in the know about all the latest celebrity news and gossip, be sure to add this series to your list of must-listen podcasts for 2023.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.