I listen to podcasts while dog-walking (generally 3 times a day), working out, doing chores, on the loo, falling asleep, generally moving around my house.
I also find adverts really annoying. Despite the ability to skip forward, I just much prefer listening to ad-free podcasts. I have given up on a lot of podcasts that would otherwise be great, but the adverts are just to frequent or too annoying.
Here is a selection of quality podcasts that are free of advertising. This is not an exhaustive list but they are all personal recommendations.
Ad-free does not necessarily mean free though! I am happy to pay for quality, ad-free podcasts so a number of these are paid.
I’ve also given a few honourary mentions for podcasts with advertising which isn’t too obstrusive.
These are loosely in order of best (within their categories of paid/free).
Ad-free and zero cost
Some of these might ask for you to support them, but I don’t consider that to be nearly as annoying as third-party adverts.
Nominally an economics podcast, but actually interviews with a wide range of interesting people on any topic.
“In-depth conversations about the world’s most pressing problems and what you can do to solve them.”
80k is the approximate number of hours the average person will work in their lives, and the idea behind this podcast is that you should spend them trying to make the biggest impact possible.
These are really in-depth (and usually really long) episodes on topics generally to do with improving the present or future.
Also worth listening to is their 80k After Hours podcast, which is on similar themes but a bit looser on structure.
“A podcast that explores the collapse of different societies through history.”
Similar to Hardcore History, but on a theme of failed civilisations. Episodes are pretty rare but very long - worth going through the backlog.
Unlike Fall of Civs, this podcast is comprised of many, many shorter episodes, progressing largely-chronologically through the 20th century.
I can’t actually swear this podcast never has advertising as at time of writing there are about 300 episodes, but I am on episode 61 and so far there is none. The host asks for donations via Patreon so hopefully there are none.
Robert Wright interviews a load of different, interesting people. I particularly like his podcast with Mickey Kaus. They also do The Parrot Room together, which is listed under the paid podcasts.
Quite similar to EconTalk but with Tyler Cowen, who has a very distinct interview style which keeps the conversation moving quickly. Tyler is an economist, but like EconTalk the topics are quite broad.
EF is an organisation that brings aspiring company founders together and invests in them. Their podcast is various interviews with people who have gone through the process.
One of my friends has gone through EF, which is how I discovered the podcast.
If you like it, you can also try The Founder’s Mindset podcast which is on the same link.
I am generally not that in to comedy podcasts, but The Bugle has long been a favourite even after John Oliver left.
Despite just saying I don’t like comedy podcasts that much, this is a great one. Rhys Darby et al talk about Cryptozoology. Rarely released but a good backlog to work through.
Giving an alternative view to a lot of coverage of American and worldwide issues. For example, interviews with Russian representatives before and during the war with Ukraine. Interesting to hear viewpoints that I don’t hear elsewhere, though possibly controversial. For example, Aaron had an interview with a Russian representative to the UN just before the Ukrainian invasion, who said a lot of things which turned out to be completely false once the war started. Still, entertaining to hear different viewpoints.
Counterpoint to the one above - a Russian-made and Russia-focused podcast, but banned from Russia. Definitely anti-Putin.
Possibly the most niche one here, scientific podcasts from the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine at the University of Glasgow.
A BBC show which investigates any interesting numbers in the news, to see where they come from and how accurate they are. Ad-free if you are based in the UK or VPN in to it.
A podcast on ideas, people and events. It is an excellent podcast to fall asleep to. The BBC used to produce a lot of good ad-free podcasts (if you are based in the UK or VPN in to it) but unfortunately they’ve moved a bunch to their BBC Sounds app. I am not interested in that.
Interviews about philosophy, the social sciences and effective altruism.
A guy literally just reads Astral Codex Ten articles aloud. This can be very weird when there are a lot of diagrams that he dictates - if you’re into ACT though it’s a different way to consume the articles.
He has a patreon but I’m not into it nearly enough to donate.
Ad-free and paid
These podcasts are generally a few pounds/dollars a month. Some of these have free versions (but ad-supported).
A podcast about hacking and computer security. This is a great, great podcast - the best episodes are fantastic, and even the worst episodes are better than most other podcasts. I intend to do a post just on the best episodes of Darknet Diaries.
My absolute favourite podcast, and sadly I am very close to getting through the backlog.
There is an ad-supported version so you can try it out for free first.
Every week Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus do an episode of The Wright Show for free, then do a longer subsequent episode for The Parrot Room. It’s essentially a continuation of the same conversation. If you like their Wright Show episode then it’s good value for money to keep listening.
TWiT is a podcast network of varying tech-related shows. You can get most of them ad-supported, or you can join the ‘club’ and get ad-free versions of them all, plus some bonus shows. I particularly like the following shows:
This Week in Tech
This Week in Google
Also worth a listen:
Tech News Weekly
This is UK-focused, political podcast previously known as Remainiacs. Looking at the political news from the perspective of anti-Brexit, pro-European people.
Another UK-focused podcast, from the same people as Oh God, What Now?, less to do with Britain’s relationship to the world and more on general politics and culture.
Sam Harris’ podcast, often controversial but generally entertaining podcasts about current events. He is also very into meditation and the science of the brain but I don’t really get on with those episodes.
Honourable Mentions - ads not too intrusive
There are also some excellent podcasts which don’t have much advertising, or it is very unobtrusive.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is an amazing podcast. They consist of Dan Carlin telling a story for hours about a particular historical topic, and topics frequently run to multiple episodes.
Episodes are very rarely released but usually many hours long, and if you haven’t listened then there’s a huge backlog to get through (though most of the old ones are paid).
This almost made it to the ad-free list but he does have the occasional advert at the end of an episode. About as unobtrusive as can be. Some episodes have no adverts.
There’s also the Hardcore History Addendum for extra bits and interviews.
Another podcast from Dan Carlin, and another one with very rare episodes. USA-focused opinions from a libertarian perspective.
Same situation as Hardcore History with adverts, mostly at the end and not at all annoying.
One of my favourite podcasts despite the adverts, Spencer Greenberg has really thoughtful ‘rationalist’ conversations about practical concepts and frameworks that can be applied to your own life. “Ideas that truly matter” according to the blurb.
The adverts are pretty inoffensive and often just advertise things on the Clearer Thinking website. Third-party adverts are at least for relevant products, rather than just having random auto-inserted ads.
Quite similar to Clearer Thinking, Julia Galef interviews people about “the borderlands between reason and nonsense”. Good podcast, adverts aren’t too annoying, though there haven’t been any episodes for a while.
Lex interviews people on a wide variety of topics. Extremely in-depth conversations. I only listen to the ones that sound interesting from the titles, they are very long and I find Lex to be a little irritating - but the great guests often make up for it, and he does ask good questions.
In terms of ads, they take up about 8-10 minutes at the beginning of each episode, but Lex puts in bookmark timestamps so you can easily click to jump to the start of the actual conversation. After that, there are no more adverts.
That’s a pretty long list! Most of my podcast listening involves zero advertising, with some exceptions for particularly good podcasts.
I’m always looking for more to listen to so I’ll update this list when I do.