Kevin Kelley at Cool Tools has put together a great list of the best podcasts that are factual: both scripted and unscripted.
The best factual podcasts
I listen to a few of these, both as podcasts and as radio shows although podcasts allow time shipping so I can listen at my leisure.
This American Life is an NPR radio show that has a podcast form. It’s an amazing show, true stories told by a variety of people including the show’s host, Ira Glass.
If you missed Serial, a spinoff of This American Life, I highly recommend listening to it. It’s one of the most popular podcasts of all time and did more to tip this genre than any other single show. Its scripted and beautifully produced and its host Sarah Koenig digging into a murder that happened in 1999 in Baltimore.
Fresh Air is an example of an unscripted podcast: Terry Gross interviews various people. This is an NPR talk show that has a podcast form as well.
99% Invisible is an example of a scripted podcast: it’s about design in all of its various forms. It started as an NPR radio show but now is just a podcast. It’s one of my favorites.
RadioLab is another NPR show that has a podcast form. Scientific questions discussed. The audio style is very experimental which sometimes feels a bit contrived to me but the content and production is so good it’s not all that important.
On the Media is both an NPR radio show and a podcast that discusses media in all of its forms. Very well produced. Some of the show is interview and unscripted, some is scripted.