The New Listener’s Guide to Podcasts

20160111_072700 (800x375)There was a time when I figured podcasts were only for the hipster “creative” types or the rabidly politically-minded. I initially dismissed them as a new media trend, but through friends’ prodding and the drive of my own curiosity, I’ve grown to love them. Nowadays, they’re sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane at my day (read: desk) job. This is a brief guide for those intrepid, but uninitiated listeners just setting foot into this world.

 What is a podcast?

This all may be old news for some, but podcasts have been around for a while, over a decade now. According to the Pew Research Center, as of last year, one-third of Americans have listened to at least one episode of a podcast and more than half of the US population over the age of 12 are aware of podcasts and podcasting. The Oxford English Dictionary officially added the word “podcast” in 2005, defining it as “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.” Think of it as radio on-demand (in my opinion, podcasting one of the few things keeping radio alive in the Internet age).

Where to begin:

Start with your interests. There are millions, if not billions, of podcasts available on everything – science, news, art, sports, music, beer, you name it. iTunes has an extensive library of shows, but I prefer to use Stitcher to keep track of my favorites. Keep in mind that not all podcasts are available on these bigger sites, especially the newer, independent ones, and you may have to go directly to a show’s homepage. You can then download the latest episodes and listen on your chosen device or stream them directly off the Internet. Subscribing isn’t typically necessary, but if you find a show you like, it’s the easiest way to get notifications of new episodes. As an added bonus, the vast majority of podcasts are free.

My top picks (a.k.a. the 4 shows I binge on the most):

RadioLab

Hosted by Jad Abumrad & Robert Krulwich

 Topics: science, culture, technology, politics…anything and everything really…

Growing up in the WNYC listening area outside New York City, RadioLab was (and still is) my favorite show on the radio. Ever. And probably responsible for single-handedly getting me interested in science in the first place. When I moved across the Delaware to go to college, I was bummed to leave Jad and Robert behind – until I found out that they had a podcast. It’s one of the most well-executed shows I know of, the standard to which I hold all other podcasts, and the one I always recommend for new listeners and modern radio skeptics.

 After the Jump

Hosted by Grace Bonney

 Topics: design, entrepreneurship/business

I stumbled on After the Jump totally entirely by accident – frankly, I don’t even remember how I got to it in the first place – but it quickly became one of my favorites and was the final swift kick in the rear I needed to start this blog. I’m no designer, but I found that every episode was full of inspirational bits of business savvy and entrepreneurial wisdom. Unfortunately, the show is currently on a hiatus, but the previous episodes are still a great listen for anyone who’s contemplating a career change. If you want to follow Grace’s current projects, check out Design*Sponge.

The Enormocast

Hosted by Chris Kalous

 Topics: climbing

The premise is pretty simple: stoked climber dude talking to other stoked climbers about everything that is climbing. Always a go-to for long climbing road trips. Rock on, brah!

Death, Sex & Money 

Hosted by Anna Sale

Topics: (see show name)

The tagline says it all: “…the show from WNYC about the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.” Death, Sex & Money dives right into all the things that every propriety book warns you against bringing up in conversation. Sometimes uncomfortable, but always thought-provoking, this is another one of my workday staples.

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