Commuting in this city is tough; too many people and not enough space. I like to zone out, put the headphones in and lean up against the side of the subway car. But instead of listening to music, I prefer to listen to podcasts. In fact, I’ve concluded that podcasts may be the single greatest thing that the internet has made possible – and an under-appreciated one at that.
The following is a list of some essential free podcasts. If you have any you’d like to share, please feel free. One more thing: podcasts are not only for adults, teens can really get into these in small, smart doses.
Long considered the best radio show of our time, there is simply nothing like it. Each week Ira Glass explores a different topic – like summer camp, Afghanistan, petty tyranny, whatever – from multiple angles. It’s playful, informative, and some of the best storytelling ever laid to track. This is the pinnacle of radio programming – the very top.
Economics is not boring, it’s just a hard conversation to jump into. Enter Planet Money. What Planet Money does is explain economical matters to the average Joe with personality and zest. This is the true spirit of good Journalism – take the complex and explain it in a concise and coherent way (that entertains). The show ties world events into economical realities, and tries to explain the relationship between politics, the economy, and us.
About every second episode of this podcast is Pop Culture Happy Hour. Well worth it. The Pop Culture Happy Hour crew joyfully examine the US pop cultural landscape – from trashy TV to hit music to Hollywood’s best. It’s snide, smart and really funny. When listening, I feel like I’m eavesdropping on possibly the most interesting conversation ever had by human beings.
This one is perfect for teens and young adults. Every week Chuck and Josh explain the ins and outs of a topic conversationally. Curious minds will love this stuff: how nuclear meltdowns work, how blood pattern analysis works, how homelessness ‘works’. Along with SYSK, parent site howstuffworks.com has other podcasts like Stuff Your Mom Never Told You, Stuff You Missed in History Class and Stuff to Blow Your Mind.
CBC, like NPR, has some of the best radio programming available. It’s probably because unlike 95 per cent of radio stations that scrape by on furniture ads, they have some budget for real radio production. Q is a daily talk-show program that gets great interviews and host Jian Ghomeshi knows how to handle a great interview.
Another good one for teens and young adults, the show listens in on host Jonathan Goldstein’s strange circle of buddies as he struggles to play the voice of reason. His friends include Howard, the most amazing manchild best-friend a middle aged person can have. To compliment this, Goldstein’s dry and witty monologues are both insightful and nasal.
Mass Communications scholar Marshall McLuhan said that advertising was the greatest art form of the 20th century. Host Terry O’Reilly most certainly agrees with McLuhan. Moreover, O’Reilly might even be able to convince the rest of us this. It’s hard to imagine that a weekly show could be done just on advertising, but there is a lot to say about the admen and women of the past one hundred years, and there’s even more to say about us – the persuasion-ready consumers.
One person, one story – often humorous and always interesting. The Moth is a group that travels the US, hosting themed ‘story slams’ and other events, where contestants read stories in front of a live audience without notes. The Moth podcast is choice material taken from these events.
Unfortunately, it has been my experience that all of these podcasts require a VPN to download regularly – without one downloads don’t always get through. Using music programs like iTunes, you can subscribe to all of these shows and set them to download onto your MP3 player automatically.