Top 12 podcasts (March 2016)
A year ago, I listed my favourite podcasts. In that time, I’ve found others and re-assessed my favourites. My main criteria is this: when I see it my feed, do I want to play it before everything else?
#1 – Radio Lab: I used to view it like This American Life. But it’s quite different. I like that informal-sounding banter as the producer walks Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich through the story. It’s edited to make it feel like all the interviews are cued up and played live for Jad and Robert on the fly.
#2 – Reply All: The guys at Radio Lab put me on to this one. It has a similar storytelling style as Radio Lab (someone reports, others comment) but the stories all have a loose Internet connection. PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman have an even more conversation tone than the super conversational tone on Radio Lab. Love this podcast.
#3 – This American Life: This is one of the most popular podcasts. It’s also on public radio, so you may have heard it. It is a series of stories organized by a theme. These are extremely well-crafted but the conversational tone makes it feel unlike anything you normally hear on the TV news magazine shows or the evening news. But be warned: Ira Glass’ manner of speaking will slowly creep into your own if you are not careful.
#4 – The Memory Palace: I love listening to these historical stories that Nate DiMeo puts together with the perfect music and delivery. People have compared it to Paul Harvey old radio program The Rest of the Story. But this one is much better, in the way that The Sopranos was better than, say, Dallas.
#4 – Serial: Season 2 of Serial is less addictive than Season 1. But it is a well told story. I’m excited when it appears on my podcast feed.
#5 – Freakonomics Radio: Unlike the first three on the list, Stephen Dubner does the reporting, narrating himself. Although it lacks some of the emotional appear of the first three, you feel smarter after listening that with almost any other podcast.
#6 – Invisibilia: This one has been on for a while. Keeping it on this list because it was good in that way Radio Lab and This American Life is good. Stay tuned.
#7 – The Moth Podcast: Real stories by regular people (although a lot tend to be writers). Some are funny. Some are sad. Many are amazing. I don’t always immediately rush to listen because some of the episodes/stories are hit and miss. But when they hit, it’s a 9th inning game-winning grand slam to win the World Series.
#8 – The TED Radio Hour: If you like TED talks, you will like this. It combines clips from the talks with interviews with the speakers. Guy Raz went to the Ira Glass School of Announcing, so you’ll note similarities in his style.
#9 – Planet Money: This was one of the first podcasts I started listening to and it led me to many others, for which I am grateful. It’s also a relatively short podcast that hammers home one or two basic ideas. So you really do understand by the end.
#10 – Pop Culture Happy Hour: Four people talking about your favourite TV, movies and occasionally music and less occasionally books. It’s a smart way to hear about good movies and shows that your friends aren’t posting on their Facebook wall. They can put me things that I’m happy I know about.
#11: 99% Invisible: This podcast tells stories about design in society, like the phone booth in the middle of the Mojave dessert that some dude heard about, called relentlessly until someone eventually picked up. Or the real-life woman who was the model for much of the bronze statues around New York.
#12 – The Gist: Mike Pesca is one of the best interviewers you’ve not heard of. His style is so informal and he’s funny and smart. He knows sports and politics. Because it’s a daily podcast, I tend to listen less frequently that if it was a weekly one.