These 11 Smart Podcasts Are Perfect For Your Commute

Bite-sized podcasts to chew on on your way to work—or anytime, anywhere.

These 11 Smart Podcasts Are Perfect For Your Commute
[Photo: Henry Be/Unsplash]

Sometimes you want to listen to an informative podcast but don’t have an hour-and-a-half to spend in Chapo Trap House or getting lost in Pod Save America. Sometimes you have exactly 19 minutes to make it from your front door to your office, and you need a podcast that will help you sound smart and in-the-know before you hit the coffee line at the office kitchen. Okay, perhaps you just need a podcast to help you wake up.


We’re here to help. These are 11 of our favorite podcasts that are the perfect size for any commute, or any duration of time, really. (And, according to Podtrac’s numbers, some of these are among America’s favorite podcasts, too.)

Up First: This 10-minute daily news podcast by NPR is hosted by Morning Edition anchors David Greene, Rachel Martin, and Steve Inskeep. Like the radio show it came from, each episode covers news, politics, and the economy, as well as pop culture and the arts, all within a bite-sized, easy-to-digest format.

60-Second Science: While it sounds like a weird informercial pitch, you really can get smarter in just 60 seconds a day, thanks to Scientific American‘s podcast. The minute-long show (okay, sometimes it’s two minutes long) answers science questions, like what we can learn from killer whale culture,  why is there an uptick in ticks, and how can working at home save on energy bills.

The Gist: If you listen to Mike Pesca’s wide-ranging daily Slate podcast on your commute home, you’ll be ready to discuss almost any subject that comes up over the lunch or dinner table, from the rise of MTV to MSG, to punching Nazis, to doping in the world of cycling.

Planet Money: Each episode of NPR’s podcast tends to clock in under 25 minutes, which (hopefully) is just about the same length as your commute. Stories run the gamut from automation to real estate bubbles to advertising to finance and pretty much everything else having to do with money. (Is that, um, everything?) If you’re looking for a place to start, check out “The Giant Pool of Money,” their Peabody award-winning examination of the sub-prime lending crisis, or the pithily named look at the booming art market, “Planet Monet.”


The DailyThis early-bird news show releases new episodes before 6 a.m. every Monday through Friday and usually consists of two interviews—with New York Times writers and correspondents, naturally, as well as a summary of headlines. As the name implies, the show comes out in daily, roughly 20-minute episodes, so it’s easy to jump right in, but for a sense of the best of what host Michael Barbaro and his producers do, check out the episode on Scott Pruitt’s work at the EPA, or what it was like to be the only Democrat in the room when Trump made his infamous “shithole countries” comment.

The PBS Newshour segments: If you don’t have time to listen to the titular full hour of Newshour, the PBS news juggernaut has started cutting down its show into individual segments perfect for listening to during your commute.

Ted Talks Daily: This podcast lets you listen to experts talk about subjects they love, cut down to whatever timeframe works for your schedule, from four minutes on the evolution of HIV to 10 minutes on how space technology can improve life on Earth to 23 minutes on injustice.

BBC Global News: Each episode of this podcast compiles highlights of BBC news from their shows like “Newshour,” “World Update,” “Newsday,” “The Newsroom,” and “Outside Source,” giving listeners access to news from around the globe. The show clocks in at about 30 minutes long and it’s published twice a day, so news junkies can listen on both legs of their commute.

Marketplace: This 25-minute show goes behind the headlines to explore how business and economic news affects our lives. Host Kai Ryssdal and a range of reporters take complex topics like market volatility, net neutrality as a state right, and Amazon’s foray into healthcare, and breaks them down into understandable, relatable stories perfect for discussing around the water cooler. Thanks to Lizzie O’Leary’s weekend edition, the Marketplace fun isn’t just for the Monday to Friday slog, either.


Business Daily: Every weekday, the BBC goes deep on one business story with recent episodes covering everything from blockchain to the cannabis industry in the U.S. to China’s air travel boom. Episodes clock in at under 20 minutes each, so it’s easy to stay in the know about whether you should be spending your money or stashing it under your mattress.

The Memory Palace: Nate Di Meo’s diminutive stories are meticulously researched and wholly immersive. The show’s bite-sized episodes offer an easy access point to history giving a unique angle on events of the past, many of which have repercussions today. The show is in no particular order, so start anywhere. A personal favorite is “Gallery 742,” which stemmed from Di Meo’s residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or with Di Meo’s list of favorite episodes.

About the author

Melissa Locker is a writer and world renowned fish telepathist.