All About Podcasts February 12, 2019 12:26

As a child, I loved listening to stories--books my parents read aloud or recounts of past events from my grandparents. Maybe that's part of why I'm a podcast junkie. There's just something special about hearing a story. If you listen with headphones, it feels like the narrator is speaking directly to you

Like many people, my love of podcasts started with Serial. Since then I've moved on to a variety of shows from across genres. There are so many different options to choose from that I can guarantee, you will find ones you love (probably many). There are podcasts covering news, education, sports, popular culture, business, education, crafts/hobbies, entertainment, fiction, etc. If you can dream it up, there's probably a podcast for it.

Here are just a few reasons to consider incorporating them into your regular routine.

1. Learn something new. I have learned a lot about business and marketing from podcasts, but I've also learned about personal finance, fitness, and the American justice system. Want to learn to speak Amharic? There's a podcast for that. Pressure cooking recipes? They've got those too.

2. They fit into your life. Podcasts are portable, which means you can make the most of your time that otherwise might be spent less productively. As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of multi-tasking; I'm not good at it and apparently, that's the way it is for most people. But not all tasks are equal; some activities such as walking/running or driving are more automatic, therefore, it is possible to do a secondary activity at the same time.  Because you don't watch them, they're great for commuters, on road trips, or while working out. I only listen to them when I am exercising or at the gym. This forces me to work out when I've found a particularly good podcast and I'm dying to hear it.

3. They're free (or at least the vast majority are). Sure there are some ads but, by in large, they aren't intrusive. Who doesn't love free?

4. Podcasts offer more in-depth content. The average news story is, at most, 5 minutes long. A podcast story can spend 10 times as long examining a story from many different perspectives.

Some of my favorites (in zero order):

Revisionist History: Malcolm Gladwell is the author of several best-selling books (including Tipping Point, which I love). In this podcast, he examines past events, people, ideas, etc to see if our perception is correct. It's fascinating and thoroughly addictive.

Last Seen: An in-depth examination of the world's largest unsolved art heist. In 1990, thieves dressed as police officers walked into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, duped the security guards, locked them up in the basement, and walked out with 13 artworks now valued at $500 million. 

Caliphate: Hosted by The New York Time's foreign correspondent and terrorism expert Rukmini Callimach, Caliphate offers a fascinating and startlingly up-close exploration of ISIS, illuminating how the Islamic State operates, targets, and radicalizes new recruits. Listeners should know that this podcast contains graphic and disturbing descriptions.

Drilled: This nine-part podcast series tells the fascinating story about how the oil industry managed to shift the narrative of man-made climate change from an undisputed fact, to a politically charged issue open to debate. It's an interesting and informative short series but plagued to an extent by some technical weaknesses that can make it hard to follow (occasionally poor sound quality, referring back to people, documents and events without reminding the listener of the context). It also loses some impartiality by dubbing in unnecessarily ominous music throughout. Despite the shortcomings, it's enlightening, disturbing and relevant.

Serial (Season 3): The program that brought podcasts to the masses back in 2014 with a study of the murder of a Maryland teen and the potentially innocent man who was convicted of the crime. The third season examines the criminal justice system in Cleveland. It's different from the first two seasons in that instead of following one story week by week, it presents a new story each week but all under the umbrella of the criminal justice system. It paints a picture of a judicial system that is incredibly complex, heartbreaking and in desperate need of reform.

NPR's Life Kit: Launched in December 2018, this podcast from NPR continues to add new subjects and episodes with "tools to help you to get it together". Thus far they've covered exercise, nutrition, saving, and investing; episodes on parenting are in the works.

There are a lot more in my queue for future listening including :

The Budget Minded Traveler, hosted by Jackie Nourse, is an epic travel podcast. Overall, the show is just that: practical and real. That makes it a must listen for itchy travelers waiting to strike out on the open road. You can choose from in-depth interviews with travel experts, experiential tales, and travel tips and guides. In late 2018, the podcast transitioned into a new series called JUMP...with Traveling Jackie

This is Love: This is Love is a podcast made by the producers of the award-winning podcast Criminal - Phoebe Judge, Lauren Spohrer and Nadia Wilson. The show investigates life’s most persistent mystery: love. The six-episode series explores “stories of sacrifice, obsession, and the ways in which we bet everything on each other.”

A Very Fatal Murder A satirical true crime podcast produced by The Onion. The podcast is hosted by fictional New York City reporter David Pascall, who travels to the small town Bluff Springs, Nebraska to investigate the murder of prom queen Hayley Price.

Not a specific podcast, Quick and Dirty Tips offers a whole slew of podcasts on topics ranging from psychology, parenting, grammar, productivity, fitness, money, science, cooking and more. There are too many here to list them all!

Buried Truths In 1948, three black farmers decided they'd had enough. They were going to vote in rural South Georgia, where white supremacists held power by suppressing the black vote. Pulitzer-Prize winning author, journalist and Emory University professor Hank Klibanoff explores the mysteries and injustices of history through civil rights cases that few have seen. How far would white supremacists go — on the streets, in the courtrooms, in the legislatures — to preserve their racial dominance? And, most importantly, why? 

College Info Geek (aka--Adulting 101 or Things I Wish My Kids Would Listen to But Probably Won't"). Learn how to be a more effective student, even while you’re doing your laundry. The College Info Geek Podcast features in-depth, actionable advice for boosting your productivity, earning better grades, paying off your student loans, and more.

We Came to Win: I'm a huge soccer fan so I'm looking forward to this short series of stories behind the greatest moments of the World Cup. Also, Men in Blazers for current soccer news.

Because I love traveling so much, another one! Our Americana is the meeting of two great podcast genres: Travel and storytelling. The podcast travels to small-town America (and sometimes Canada) to tell the story of an oft-forgotten locale. Each episode is intimate, enlightening, and intriguing. You’ll be enticed to visit corners America that you may have never even heard of before and that is the ultimate test of a great travel show. 

Oops, I lied. There are more travel podcasts in my queue. Travel with Rick Steves is the gold-standard of travel advice in podcast form. The vagabond’s easygoing demeanor and diverse knowledge of travel will get you excited about hitting the road. Known mostly for his guidebooks on Europe, Steves’ podcast covers the entire world via interviews with experts and locals. For a younger perspective, his son Andy also has a podcast, Andy Steves Travel podcast.

None of these quite your thing? Check out the Podbay website which lists the current top 100 ranking podcasts. From this page, you can select the "browse" tab at the top and get the top 100 podcasts in many different subject areas.

If you haven't listened to podcasts, I urge you to give them a try. Are you already a lover of podcasts? Leave a comment with some of your favorites!