Podcasts are the hidden gems of the digital world. While everyone is streaming music, Netflix and chillin’ and e-reading, podcasts provide an amazing array of free on-demand audio content. I regularly download or stream podcasts on my commute to work or listen for hours on flights around the world. I subscribe to around 80 podcasts ranging from the cerebral to the silly. Here are 9 with specific episodes to give you a taste:
- Sinica. This podcast covers everything China related. It regularly demystifies China in a balanced and involved manner. The episode to start with would be “Calming the waters of the South China Sea and beyond”. It goes through the military capabilities of China (for example China now has anti-ship ballistic missiles, which the US does not) and how the US needs to consider a co-operative spiral with China.
- 99% Invisible. One of my favourites. Slickly produced podcasts on the unnoticed architecture and design in the world. Episode to listen to: “Ten Thousand Years” – an amazing episode that describes a real challenge that was put to a range of experts on how to leave a warning on a nuclear waste site that could be understood 10,000 years in the future. A period where our current languages may have died.
- The Tim Ferris Show. Known for his “4-hour workweek” book, here Tim interviews entrepreneurs, sportspeople and leaders in their field on their daily routines. He’s a great interviewer and you’ll always pick something you can add to your life. Episode to listen to: “How Seth Godin Manages his Life – Rules, Principles and Obsessions” – Godin is a marketing guru and very wise. His tips are great.
- Radio Lab. Great show on diverse topics including on science, media and philosophy. Oh, and they are easy on the ear. Episode to listen to: “I don’t have to answer that”.- fascinating episode that pin-points when the private lives of American politicians became public fodder. It was 1987 and it was Gary Hart a potential Democrat presidential nominee that began a new era of press intrusion.
- In Our Time.Another favourite and admittedly quite cerebral. The upside is that your IQ will go up 10 points after listening to any episode (or at least it will feel that way). Melvyn Bragg picks a topic and gets a bunch of academics to discuss it. Recent topics included the invention of photography, sovereignty and the Bronze Age collapse. Episode to listen to: “Thomas Paine’s Common Sense” – here they discuss Paine’s massively influential pamphlet that helped trigger American independence from Britain.
- The Good Life Project .A great resource for hearing how people bring meaning to their work and make a difference. Episode to listen to: “Anders Ericsson: Dismantling the 10,000 hour rule” – this is an interview of the chap that did the research behind the 10,000 hour rule for becoming an expert that was popularised by Malcom Gladwell. Apparently, Gladwell got the wrong end of the stick and here Ericsson describes the real secret of becoming world-class.
- Thinking Allowed. A podcast on sociology and society. Great range of topics on how society is changing. Episode to listen to: “Meritocracy; Desert Island Doctors”- academics talk on the rise of meritocracy and the establishment.
- Design Matters With Debbie Millman. I like getting inspiration from the design world and here Debbie interviews people from that world. Episode to listen to: “Interview with Maria Konnikova” – Maria is a psychology writer and talks about being victims to con artists amongst other things.
- History Extra. A British podcast that has short episodes on a vast array of history topics. Recent ones have included the 1920s, the Cold War and the Jacobites. Episode to listen to: “ A global view of history” – the historian Michael Scott talks about how the histories of China, Greece, India and Rome need to be brought together to give a proper perspective of the ancient world.
- I Love Marketing.It does what it says on the tin – they interview and give advice on to market well. Not all the episodes are good, but there are some nuggets worth keeping an eye on. Episode to listen to: “Judy Robinett Interview on how you can connect with powerful, influential people” – great interview that gives tips on how to network well.
- The Productive Life.This is has everything you need to raise your productivity with a particular slant towards David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” framework and the Evernotes ecosystem. It’s not updated as much now, but the archive is great. Episode to listen to: “Craig Jarrow, the Time Management Ninja, teaches us how to be swift and fierce in defending our time” – Jarrow is great on how to manage cursed emails.
As for fun and silly podcasts I have a whole bunch of them, but I’ll mention three: the stand-up comedian Bill Burr’s “Monday Morning Podcast” (he just riffs on random stuff), “ScreenJunkies Movie Fights” (film nerds fight it out on topics like which is the best bit of the Wonder Woman trailer) and “Risk!” (people tell embarrassing stories about themselves).