August 7th, 2010 browsing by day


Podcast Obsession

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

For the past few years I have become a devoted listener to podcasts. Podcasts are audio files that are best compared to radio shows. Most shows have new episodes weekly and some post new episodes daily. Some are actual radio shows that want their content to be more portable (for example, NPR’s Marketplace, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me or This American Life) and others are podcast-only, like The Moth or Grammar Girl. Many churches have their sermons available as podcasts. Podcasts are interesting and absolutely free! It is a great way to fill up your iPod on a budget.

If you listen to some episodes of a podcast and enjoy them, you have the option of subscribing to that podcast. I subscribe to podcasts using the iTunes store, the easiest software if you have an iPod (and pretty darn easy, even if you don’t). The iTunes store (reached through iTunes software, not on your web browser) has a podcast section that is easy to search through. They list the most downloaded podcasts of the day as well as the most downloaded episodes of the day. They also list “Up and Coming” podcasts and editors picks. It is also very easy to search for any topic that interests you. You can choose to select some episodes of a particular podcast just to try it out (I do this frequently). If you like what you hear, or you find a podcast of a favorite radio show that you know you like already, you can subscribe to the podcast. This will add the show to the Podcast section of your iTunes library and you will see when any new episodes of the show appear. You can set your iTunes software to either download all new episodes as they become available or just alert you so you can choose whether to download it or not. Apple has a helpful video tutorial here. One thing they don’t go into but is worth mentioning is to make sure to delete the episodes (not the podcast itself – that is done by unsubscribing) when you are done listening to them. A prompt will come up and you do want to send the episodes to the recycle bin when you delete them. Otherwise they will live hidden on your hard drive and take up loads of space!

People like me who are obsessed with podcasts are always discussing which shows they are subscribing to. I have never made my complete list public before so I figured I might as well do it here on the blog.

In order of favorite:

WNYC’s Radiolab

I love Radiolab. Radiolab is a show hosted by Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich that looks at the deep questions in science and philosophy with such fabulous guests and stories I can hardly stand it. The hosts are amazing. The editing is tight. I have to give a shout out to my podcast listening cousin Salwa for introducing this one to me. Everyone I have introduced it to becomes obsessed with it. If this was the only podcast you listened to, it would be enough. The great thing with this show is that, unlike other popular podcasts, they have every one of their shows back to 2007 available on iTunes. The regular show is the one broadcast on NPR and the “Shorts” are on the podcast only (although I sometimes hear them on All Things Considered). To hear a short introduction, check out the Bus Stop short, one of my favorites. As far as the full hour ones, I have so many favorites I just can’t pick. Try Parasites, Morality, Mortality, Memory and Forgetting, Musical Language. They do introduce some musicians in a few of the “Short” shows that I am not crazy about, but the majority are interesting stories that will have you pondering all day.

This American Life

Everyone who listens to NPR knows and loves This American Life. This radio show is the most popular podcasts on iTunes. Because of its popularity it only makes one show available at a time, so you have to be watching each week for a new show to appear in your podcast library.

Slate Magazine Daily Podcast

Slate Magazine is one of my favorite online news sites and they started a podcast years ago. The main shows in this podcast are the Gabfests. They are basically Slate editors and columnists sitting around talking about the current topics of the week. The first (and my favorite) is the Political Gabfest, released every Friday. The hosts are smart and the topics interesting. It definitely has a left wing bent if that is your thing. The other gabfests include the Cultural Gabfest, the XX (Double X) gabfest on women’s issues and the Hang Up and Listen Gabfest on sports.

NPR: StoryCorps Podcast

Storycorps is a non-profit that takes an airstream around the country and records people interviewing their loved ones. The best are played on NPR Morning Edition and put out as podcasts. This is the tearjerker podcast. They manage to find a story each week that is so sentimental, so touching that it restores your faith in humanity.

The Moth Podcast

The Moth is a non-profit storytelling organization that hosts storytelling shows in New York and all over the country. The rule is: true stories told live without notes. People tell fascinating stories from their lives and the best ones are featured here on this podcast.

Krulwich on Science

Robert Krulwich is not only the host of Radiolab, he is also a popular science coorespondent on NPR. All his segments for Morning Edition and All Things Considered show up on this Podcast.

Talk of the Nation

Talk of the Nation is a daily 2 hour call in show on NPR that releases each of its segments as a separate podcast episode.This allows listeners to pick and choose the segments that interest them. The topics are so diverse and interesting, it is often the first podcast I go to when I fire up the iPod. I am not usually a fan of call in shows but this one handles crazy callers so well. Plus, it is my husbands’ favorite!

PRI’s The World: The World in Words

PRI’s The World is an hour long show on public radio that is a co-production between BBC and WGBH in Boston. It is an interesting show that I just don’t have time to keep up on. For people like me they separate out the segments of the show and put them in topic specific podcasts as well as having podcasts that expand on stories in the show (or play stories that didn’t make it in). The World in Words is a podcast like this, it is produced by The World and hosted by one of its reporters but it focuses strictly on Language stories. Even though I am not a successful language learner I find the topics of linguistics fascinating. This podcast definitely feeds this fascination. Some stories were on The World and others never made it on the show. He also does a Top Five Language Stories show every month. All 122 episodes are available.

NPR: Economy Podcast

I am a bit of an economy nerd and this show highlights segments on Morning Edition and All Things Considered that report on this topic. If you go to the NPR section of iTunes you will find lots of podcasts that focus on different general topics.

NPR: Most E-Mailed Stories Podcast

This show highlights the most emailed radio stories on from the day before. Thousands of listeners can’t be wrong.

Marketplace Money

This show is a weekly NPR personal finance show for regular folks. American Public Media also has a podcast of  their daily show Marketplace which focuses on the national economy.

The Diane Rehm Show: Friday News Roundup Podcast

When I first heard Diane Rehm late one night on my local NPR station I thought “How on earth did this woman get her own radio show?” Her voice was so halting and slow it was painful to listen to. Years later my husband talked about listening to her show while driving home from work and how much he enjoyed it. He especially loved the Friday News Roundup. When I found out that there was a podcast of the show I decided to check it out. After a few weeks I was converted. I read more about Rehm and learned that she developed spasmodic dysphonia 25 years into her career as a successful radio show host. She had to learn to talk again and it was still a struggle for her to get words out. What fans of her show know is that this makes her a much better listener and ringleader of the pundits she has on.  No one interrupts her, everyone nicely takes turns. Most of the time she uses the tactic of making a statement then “calling on” one of the panelists like a professor in a classroom. It is wonderful. This video shows how she runs things. Her guests are pragmatic and I learn a lot on topics I wouldn’t have looked in to (especially during the international hour). I confess that once the callers come in I sometimes flip to a new podcast. Some are real wack jobs and blow hards and she isn’t quite fast enough to cut them off. The first half hour is where the episodes really shine.

The New York Times Ethicist

This short podcast is an audio version of the popular New York Times advice column. The letters are read by interesting guest readers each week and I like the advice that he doles out.

NPR: Planet Money Podcast

This is an NPR show but was their first podcast-only show. It started at around the time of the economic collapse in 2008 and its purpose was to explain the economy in layman’s terms. They do such a good job that I totally understand all the weird Wall Street stuff that made the economy topple down like it did. Also make sure to check out the joint shows that they did with The American Life; “The Giant Pool of Money,” “Another Frightening Show about the Economy,” “Bad Bank” and “The Watchmen


Risk’s motto is “True Stories, Boldly Told”. These are live stories told without notes like on The Moth podcast but they are ones that the tellers never thought they would be recounting in front of a large audience. I am always shocked that people will tell these stories out loud in public. Hilarious, but not a podcast to listen to with grandma.

Stuff Mom Never Told You

This podcast is from the website “How Stuff Works” which has articles explaining just about anything. This podcast explains topics pertaining to women. The hosts have such a great rapport and great podcast voices which really sold the show for me. I am a trivia nut and this show teaches me a lot about things I knew nothing about.

Stuff You Should Know

This is the flagship podcast of the “How Stuff Works” website. These hosts also have great podcast voices and great rapport. All the shows are available on iTunes going back for years so it is best to pick and choose whatever topics strike your fancy.

Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Everyone wants to to use perfect grammar and this podcast discusses all the common mistakes that are made in American English. What really sells grammar girl for me is that she has the best voice on any podcast that I listen to. She sounds so polished – I wish I could sound like this!

Freakonomics Radio

Anyone who likes the book Freakonomics will like this podcast. The two economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner discuss totally random topics and while I don’t agree with all their conclusions, they are brutally honest in what they think. They bring up a lot of opinions that most people wouldn’t put out there. Very thought provoking!

NPR: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Podcast

This is a very popular weekly quiz show on NPR that I would move my schedule around to catch on my local station. Now I can listen to it anytime.

Scientific American 60-Second Science

This show is exactly what the title says – a science news show that covers the story in under a minute. An easy way to keep up on the new discoveries in science.

Rick Steves’ Europe Video

I keep this one on my iPod just so I can watch a video clip of my favorite European sites from time to time. He keeps all the shows up so there are tons of cities to “visit”.

Timothy Keller Podcast

Timothy Keller is a popular pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He preaches on tough topics but speaks to the mainline Christians of the world like me. Sermon podcasts are all over iTunes but this is probably my favorite.

Sherlock Holmes Adventures Podcast

I love Sherlock Holmes and this classic radio show features most of the mysteries from the Sherlock Holmes books. 130 episodes available on iTunes.  There are many shows like The Whistler, The Inner Sanctum other radio shows from the 1930′s through the 1950′s.

The Shadow Podcast

Old Radio Shows are a passion of mine since my parents stuck a cassette of The Shadow radio show in my stocking one Christmas (I think I was 13).  I collected the shows for years but when I discovered iTunes I found thousands of episodes of old radio shows. My favorites are the mysteries and and scary shows. I like to listen to these as I go to sleep, as I have done for the last 20 years.

A History of the World in 100 Objects

This is the highbrow podcast on my iPod. It is a podcast from the British Museum where the curators go through 100 items in the museum from spear points of Olovai Gorge in Tanzania to the Easter Island statues. Not the most engaging podcast in the world but it is the equivalent to have James Joyce or Kierkegaard on your bookshelf. It makes you and your iPod look smarter.

The Dave Ramsey Show

The Dave Ramsey Show is a synicated call in show praising and teaching debt free living. He takes calls and gives out advice through the shows. It is a three hour show but only podcasts one hour of it. It is also one that is available one show at a time. The callers all have the same issues but it is an interesting look into the lives of Americans and their bad money decisions.

Tony Campolo Podcast

Tony Campolo is a very popular left-of-center evangelical pastor but this is definitely not a sermon podcast. He gives his opinions about current events and the church and has a lot of interesting insights. This show is actually a radio show broadcast in the UK called “Across the Pond”

NPR’s On the Media

This is another NPR show, one of the first to release their show as a podcast. This show critiques the American media and definitely has a left wing bent to it.

Al Jazeera Listening Post

This is a video podcast of a popular show on Al Jazeera English. It also critiques the media but has a much more global emphasis. Video podcasts are good for those commuting on public transport but since I walk to work and usually listen to my iPod while doing other activities I don’t keep to many in my library. This is one I hope to watch on an upcoming plane trip.

1 Year Daily Audio Bible

This is a recent addition to my podcast library. I admit I have a lot of trouble keeping up with it – the entire bible in 365 days! It is a lot of listening. The reader has a great voice, though and he does a good job making the Old Testament stories interesting.

BBC World Service Documentaries

This is another podcast that has all its episodes available from the beginning and the list is gigantic! I have picked a few and they are great but I may delve into them when I have more time, like if I break both legs or end up on bedrest with triplets.

Mars Hill Church: Mark Driscoll Audio

Mars Hill is a mega-church here in my neighborhood and has a very dynamic pastor who gives great sermons. He is definitely in the conservative evangelical camp but I listen to his sermons once in a while for something different.

NPR: Hearing Voices Podcast

This is a show along the line of the BBC documentaries podcast above but is an American version. Hour-long documentaries on a wide variety of topics. Some look interesting and some do not so I listen accordingly.

Podcasts I am Dabbling With and Still Deciding On

Ted Talks (Audio and Video)

I have this on my iPod and have yet to listen to any episodes! Ted Talks are apparently invitation only conferences that share big ideas that can change the world. Friends are obsessed with them and they are even featured on the blog “Stuff White People Like” . It sounds high brow but very interesting. I bet it will be like that netflix movie that sits around for months then when I finally watch it, it turns out to my awesome.

This Week in Africa BBC

I tried a daily podcast of African news from BBC but it was way too much to keep up with. I have added this one recently hoping that I can keep up with a weekly one.

World Football

Julius knows everything about football so this is my attempt to keep up with him!

Hadithi Hadithi…

This is a podcast of children’s stories in Kiswahili. The audio quality is terrible but the stories are told in a simple way that helps me with my never ending quest to master this language.

VOA: News 0300 Kiswahili

Voice of America’s morning news broadcast in Kiswahili. A recent find!

VOA: News 1630

Voice of America’s Kiswahili afternoon news

Phew, quite a list! Happy Podcasting, Everyone!