Whether driving in your car, walking your dog, or riding the Metro, podcasts are a great way to use what might otherwise be wasted time to be educated and entertained.
Commercial radio — with it’s “traffic and weather together on the 9s” and endless commercial breaks — rarely provides enough time for thoughtful discussion. One of the reasons I like podcasts is that it allows for long-form conversation.
Of course, you can’t listen to every podcast; I can only keep up with about five. Here are my favorites. As you’ll see, it’s a diverse group (a blatant attempt to become a fairly well-rounded person):
1. Adam Carolla – Comedy – We all need a good laugh, but being funny is one of the hardest things to pull off. So what’s so great about this irreverent podcast to make it “the #1 Daily Downloaded Podcast in the World”? As I recently told FishbowlDC,
I take the DC Metro to work every day, and I usually listen to Adam Carolla’s podcast. The morning commute can be a sterile and depressing milieu (it’s cold and you’re mostly underground,) and yet, I frequently laugh out loud to the podcast. This does not sit well with the sleep-deprived commuters, who — headed to their cubicles and spreadsheets — clearly think I’m insane for laughing hysterically in this dystopian environment. They scowl.
2. The Tony Kornheiser Show – Sports – This is actually a radio show that airs on ESPN 980 in Washington, DC — but more and more people are tuning in to the podcast. (Note: If you like Tony Kornheiser on “Pardon the Interruption,” you’ll love this podcast. If you don’t like him, you won’t like the show.) While the focus is clearly sports, there is also plenty of entertainment and politics to go around (a few months ago, I even talked about Mr. Tony’s show on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”)
3. Fresh Air – Society & Culture – Terry Gross is one of the best interviewers in the business. If you want to learn a little bit of something about culture, books, TV, movies, war, art, religion, politics — you name it! — NPR’s Fresh Air is a great listen.
4. EconTalk - Economics – Russ Roberts is a professor of economics at the George Mason University. He’s also a terrific interviewer with a knack for making the complex simple. The show features
one-on-one discussions with an eclectic mix of authors, professors, Nobel Laureates, entrepreneurs, leaders of charities and businesses, and people on the street. The emphases are on using topical books and the news to illustrate economic principles. Exploring how economics emerges in practice is a primary theme.
Even if the thought of economics makes your eyes glaze over, you should give this one a try. Roberts finds a way to make complex economic principles relatable and entertaining.
5. Coffee & Markets – Politics, culture, and the marketplace – If you’re looking for an informative political podcast from a center-right perspective, this is a great one. Recent guests have included Michael Barone, foreign policy expert Elliott Abrams, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — you get the picture.
Note: Though I do have some minimal connection to a few of the aforementioned podcasts, I specifically omitted shows I am directly tied to from the ranking. For example, the Matt Lewis & The News podcast is produced by the FTR Radio family (check them out.) Additionally, I’m a co-host of The DMZ Show, which is part of the Bloggingheads.TV podcast.