According to some calculations, there are as many as 4 million podcasts available in the world today, and analysts predict the industry will soon be worth a whopping $4 billion.
With so many options on the market, it can be difficult to decide which programs to tune into and which to skip.
If you’re looking for a good place to begin, we recommend starting local. You’ll learn more about the place you live while supporting creators who call the Bay Area home.
Here are The Standard’s recommended picks for the very best in Bay Area-themed listening.
Ear Hustle provides listeners with a unique and unfiltered look at life inside a California prison. Produced and narrated by people who are themselves incarcerated—the podcast brings its audience into one of the most closed-off and poorly understood segments of American society. Unlike the sensationalized approach taken by so many prison dramas, Ear Hustle highlights everyday life in San Quentin Prison, with topics ranging from roommates to cooking, and from writing letters to being a parent.
Hosted by Bay Area artist Nigel Poor and the formerly incarcerated Earlonne Woods, the podcast inspired a book that was selected for San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book reading program in 2022. The show was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in audio reporting in 2020—the first time such a category was recognized.
Is there anything more quintessentially San Franciscan than riding Muni? From the bus to the subway, the streetcar to the cable car, a trip on Muni often comes with a serving of history and a potential for unexpected adventures. Muni Diaries is a hilarious and colorful romp through all of this and more. The storytellers range from longtime riders to transit operators to editors of the show. There’s so much here to adore!
Western Neighborhoods Project
If San Francisco history is your thing, then the Western Neighborhoods Project’s podcast is for you. The organization spotlights, you guessed it, the western neighborhoods of San Francisco—the part of the city that in the 1800s was simply referred to as the “Outside Lands.” The nonprofit’s podcast is full of nerdy delights: everything from the origins of Boudin Bakery to the wonders of the Camera Obscura, from the severe beauty of the Farallones to the storied intrigue of the members-only Olympic Club. You could listen for hours—and hours and hours.
Why are street names stamped into the sidewalk in San Francisco? When did San Jose have five Chinatowns? What are the San Francisco origins of Irish coffee? These questions and many, many more are answered with KQED’s delightful Bay Curious, a crowd-sourced podcast that takes on your most quirky questions. For those who already love and know the show well—a companion book inspired by the podcast’s success, Bay Curious: Exploring the Hidden True Stories of the San Francisco Bay Area, hits shelves in May 2023.
Storied: San Francisco
A true labor of love, Storied: San Francisco chronicles the everyday stories of our rapidly transforming city. Spotlighting everything from businesses to bars, cemeteries to museums, the podcast thoroughly documents the magically unique facets of our golden city. A joint project between producer Jeff Hunt and photographer Michelle Kilfeather, the podcast offers up audio as well as visuals.
Light Years is all about the Golden State Warriors—the players, the postgame reports, the machinations of the NBA and much, much more. You’re in good hands with hosts Saam Esfandiari and Andy Liu, two experts on the boys in blue and gold. And with 527 episodes now available, it’s a great binge for those looking to get caught up on the Bay Area’s beloved basketball team.
The Fun Police
Anyone who has lived in San Francisco for a while knows that things here can be … complicated. The bureaucracy, the byzantine rules, the expansive political apparatus. Local policy experts Sharky Laguana, Manny Yekutiel and Ben Bleiman host this podcast, which dives deep into the messy landscape of San Francisco politics, asking the question—will we ever be allowed to have fun again?
East Bay Yesterday
East Bay Yesterday advertises itself as a show about “history that’s not stuck in the past,” and we agree. The podcast documents everything from the push to save the Paramount Theatre—Oakland’s still-operational Art Deco masterpiece designed by Timothy Pflueger—to the city’s “dysfunctional” police department. Hosted by longtime journalist-turned-historian Liam O’Donoghue, it was hailed as the best podcast about the 510 by the East Bay Express in 2017.
I’ll Go If You Go
Now in its third season, this podcast from the Save the Redwoods League takes listeners on an auditory adventure through the iconic redwood and giant sequoia forests of California. Host Emily Harwitz intentionally highlights communities of color in the six-episode season, given these groups have historically been left out of such conservation organizations.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at [email protected]