By Andrew Davis published September 25, 2013

Spark Your Content Creation Creativity With These 8 Podcasts

As podcasting continues to grow — both in terms of its popularity and its marketing potential — more and more content marketers are leveraging this audio content technique to build regularly scheduled, long-term relationships with customers and prospects. As a medium, audio represents a powerful and engaging content creation platform. 

backstory-march on washington

The captive podcasting audience

Most podcasts are consumed while commuting. It makes perfect sense that audio would be effective in this scenario: You can’t read emails when you’re driving, you can’t watch YouTube videos, and you can’t read a book, or a short story, or a white paper, or a testimonial behind the wheel. But, you can listen to them. 

Most podcasts could be better

The problem is, most podcasts suck. (Sorry my podcasting friends.) Why? They suck because they’re inconsistent. They don’t follow a format I can fall in love with. They either rely too heavily on a host’s own ability to deliver a compelling program each and every time, or their format depends on guests to create engagement — both of which can produce uneven results, podcast to podcast, and can make it difficult to build audience loyalty over the long term.

Yet, there are some podcast masters out there that have been able to build, sustain, and even increase engagement in their content over time, and they’ve achieved these goals using the same strategies, tactics, and best practices that content marketers have embraced across other media formats. Let’s take a look at some of these success stories — and the lessons they hold for brands that want to explore the benefits of audio content. 

Best-in-breed audio content: NPR

No matter what your politics are, National Public Radio (NPR) producers, writers, and hosts, are among the best in the business when it comes to news content creation —audio or otherwise. They construct riveting stories that are more than just interviews. They combine well-written narration, great music, effective natural sound, and even sound effects to reel audiences into their content. In the process, their content creation efforts have also served to build the NPR brand into a trusted, distinctive and consistent storytelling platform — one that any content marketer would envy.

Even if you aren’t ready to incorporate audio into your content marketing arsenal, there are many lessons you can learn from NPR and other podcasting experts — just by listening to the fruits of their content creation efforts. I’ve compiled a list of eight of my favorite podcasts that I think can help us all better understand how we can combine media and storytelling techniques for smarter content creation.

1. 99% Invisible

Roman Mars, the host of 99% Invisible, was just named one of the most creative people in the world by Fast Company magazine.  He built his reputation as a storyteller with this podcast — and it’s amazing!

Wanna listen?: Think information design is a new idea? Think again. Listen to this amazing story about the information design strategies behind the formatting of telephone numbers.

2. On the Media

Okay, content marketers are not in the media business, per se. So why do I recommend this podcast? Each week, On the Media asks big questions about storytelling from a journalism and media brand perspective — and each week I walk away with a new idea, lesson, or cautionary tale that I can apply to my own brand storytelling.

Wanna listen?: This episode, about the purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos is particularly interesting. There’s depth to the story that wasn’t necessarily conveyed in other media coverage, as well as a thread that weaves together a newspaper strike and a forgotten TV network.

3. Blank on Blank: Famous Names, Lost Interviews

Not many people have heard of this podcast, but it’s a gem of inspiration for any content marketer who is looking to master the craft of creating compelling interview content. Every week, the Blank on Blank team unearths an interview that was nearly lost to the ages, coupled with the back story from the person (or people) who captured the moment. The series will quickly teach you that some of the most interesting stuff happens when you least expect it.

Wanna listen?: Try this harrowing, yet hilarious story that Farrah Fawcett told about how a pair of stiletto heels empowered her to defend herself in a dangerous situation.

4. How Sound: The Backstory to Great Radio Storytelling

This podcast is a treasure-trove of how-to tips from some of the most successful content creators in the world. Everyone from Roman Mars (of 99% Invisible) to Audie Cornish (who conducts 15 NPR interviews a week) share their secrets, tips, ideas, and insight into creating great audio programming. Just to be clear, these tips aren’t just for podcasts — they can be used to create any type of content!

Wanna listen?: Audie Cornish’s discussion on conducting a great interview is phenomenally insightful. I promise you’ll learn a lot of useful tips!

5. Snap Judgment

Hosted by a guy named Glynn Washington, Snap Judgment “drops listeners into the heart of what matters.” Every show has a theme, like “Identity Crisis” or “Chain of Command,” and Glynn delivers a series of wonderfully produced stories that truly elicit emotional responses from the audience — something every content creator wants to achieve!

Wanna listen?: Try this wonderful episode (from over a year ago) called Teacher, Teacher.

6. Back Story with the American History Guys

Back Story is a wonderfully produced current affairs program. Each week, the American History Guys provide perspectives on some key historical events to help us better understand the events happening in our world today.

Wanna listen?: This amazing Back Story episode celebrates the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, and reflects on the long-term impact it has had on issues like race relations, economics, and equal opportunity employment.

7. Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices is a collection of some of NPR’s best public radio stories (many of which never made it to air in certain markets). The stories are riveting. These are the kinds of compelling content stories that create “driveway moments”: when you’re so engaged and invested in a story that you remain in your car after you’ve reached your destination, unable to exit until you’ve heard the end. Just imagine the brand influence you could wield if your content offered this level of quality and value!

Wanna listen?: This episode took a series of sports-related stories and wove them together into an hour-long set of “driveway moments.”

8. The Unconventionals

This podcast is produced by PJA (a marketing agency in Boston) in collaboration with the Columbia Business School. Described in their words, “Mike O’Toole introduces us to the counter-intuitive business stories that are the stuff of ingenuity… and outsized results.” It’s wonderfully produced, and showcases how brands can tell compelling, well-edited stories that are of equal caliber to NPR’s content.

Wanna listen?: Try my favorite episode of the show, “Big Ass Fans.” You’ll see why most marketers should listen, learn, and subscribe to content like this, as well as learn how B2B podcasts can and should be created.

What are your favorite podcasts, and why do they stand out? Share your thoughts in the comments, below.

For more insight from Drew Davis on creating compelling brand content in any format, read “Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships.” You can also listen to an audio-only chapter of the book here.

Need more ideas on how to create killer podcast content? Download our latest collection of amazing brand examples: Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples

Author: Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis’ 20-year career has taken him from local television to "The Today Show". He's worked for The Muppets in New York and marketed for tiny start-ups as well as Fortune 500 brands. In 2001, Andrew Davis co-founded Tippingpoint Labs, where he changed the way publishers think and how brands market their products. For more than a decade, as Tippingpoint’s chief strategy officer, Andrew rallied his team to change the way content creators think, authentic talent is nurtured, and companies market their products. Today, he’s traveling the globe sharing his insight, experience, stories, and optimistic ideals through his wildly fascinating speaking engagements, guest lectures and workshops. His most recent book, "Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships" hit shelves in September, 2012. Andrew is also an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Follow Andrew on Twitter @TPLDrew.

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  • Brody Dorland

    Killer list Andrew…Adding all these to my podcast app right now! Thank you for sharing.

    Historically, my favs have been Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation, Marketing Over Coffee, John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and Jay Baer’s Social Pros. It’s nice to use these industry-focused shows to keep up with our industry, but I also love stepping outside of our trenches to get inspired.

    Thank you again. See you in Boston in a few weeks!

    • tpldrew


      Glad to hear it. Thanks so much. I don’t listen to John, Jay or Mitch’s podcasts on a regular basis. Maybe I should try them again.


      – Andrew

  • David Spark

    Andrew, I would also add my short podcast series, Hacking Media Production which is specifically about how to make content faster and better.

  • Michele Linn

    I love listening to great storytelling via podcasts . . . and, like you, it gives me a lot of unintentional inspiration for content marketing. Some of my favorite “storytelling” podcasts are This American Life, The Moth and StoryCorps (these are typically 3 – 8 minutes, so perfect for a short car ride). I’m going to check others you have mentioned above — thanks for the great list!

    • tpldrew

      I LOVE This American Life, MOTH and Story Corps. I love them! Thanks so much for letting me know. Next time we’re together I can geek out with you about This American Life. 🙂

  • Roger C. Parker

    Dear Andrew:
    Thanks for sharing these fine resources. Definitely “best of breed” examples.

    Thanks, also, for a great presentation at Content Marketing World 2013. At times, I had trouble taking notes because I was laughing so hard!

    • tpldrew


      I’m so glad you enjoyed the presentation and found the post helpful too! Stay in touch!

      – Andrew

  • zephyrmarketing

    Thanks for sharing this list – I’m adding several to my podcast app! Delighted to see discussion of podcasting on the CMI website as a form of content marketing! Forgive a shameless plug of the B2B Inbound Expert Interviews Podcast I started last November. I try and go in-depth with B2B marketers and innovators while adding some engagement elements – like my interview with Ric Dragon on his book Social Marketology. Learned he has a side passion for playing the drums, so I included some drum solos from Neil Peart of Rush and the great jazz drummer, Joe Morello to transition between discussion topics. I had Jay Baer on talking about Youtility, and did a lightening round of questions. Didn’t have a lightning bolt sound effect at the time, but Jay cracked some lightning sounds of his own accord – and I added a real bolt of thunder to spots in post production. Next month I’m interviewing Joe Pulizzi on his new book Epic Content Marketing. What do you all think I should use as a sound effect or song that would resonate with Joe?

    • tpldrew


      So glad you enjoyed the post. Looking forward to trying out your podcast. It sounds like an interesting podcast. As for a song for Joe? Anything from the 80s. 🙂

      – Andrew

  • Para Friv

    hank you for bringing a great presentation and meaning

  • Matthew Quint

    Thanks for the tips. I’m honored to see The UnConventionals on your list which my Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia supports as you note. Mike O’Toole and the PJA team do a wonderful job, indeed!

    My personal favorite podcasts are Freakonomics and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. I also like some of the others mentioned here in the comments. As a NYC-area commuter it is lovely to get wonderful content through headphones.

    • tpldrew


      I’m so glad you guys work with PJA to create such great content!

      Really appreciate it.

      BTW, Wait Wait is one of my favorite shows too!

      Have a great day!

      – Andrew

  • Phillip Crum

    Wow. Solid post, and so well…..formatted! Your background in TV/Radio programming has brought a structured approach to CM, specifically at the content structure level that was much needed. Wouldn’t ya know it’d take a guy from Houston to get it done!

    • tpldrew


      Thanks a ton! So glad you liked the podcast post. Hope your new content brand is coming along nicely!

      – Andrew

  • Rekha Murthy

    I’m with PRX, which produces, nurtures, and/or distributes most of the podcasts on your list: 99% Invisible, Snap Judgment, Blank on Blank, HowSound, BackStory, and Hearing Voices. Of course, my colleagues and I are thrilled to see your post!

    I think you’ll love PRX Remix, our 24/7 stream of amazing short-form stories, curated by Roman Mars. It’s on XM 123, and also on iPhone and Android. Great for a driving commute, as you point out.

    Enjoy – and thanks for the props.

    • tpldrew


      I’m a regular listener (can you tell?)

      Most of these I’ve discovered listening to PRX.

      I’m also a member and have contributed a few pieces over the years – some of those have actually aired on Sirius XM.

      Thanks for the great content!

      – Andrew

      • Rekha Murthy

        “Most of these I’ve discovered listening to PRX.” What a gratifying thing to hear. As is “I’m also a member”. Keep in touch.

  • Spencer Goldade

    Thanks for the help, Andrew! I realize this is an older post but it helps me and a friend a lot.

    I was just interviewed by a friend of mine who is starting a podcast about creativity and productivity, and am thinking about starting my own. I’ve been Googling other creators, critics, and other podcasts like crazy trying to find good content and tips.

    What I find difficult is weeding out the ones that are just really good at marketing but aren’t so great with presentation or content. For instance, a lot of celebrity hosted podcasts keep climbing the charts lately or getting acclaim, but I find them stale and not actually very helpful or informative, or even enjoyable!