You might not have noticed, but a movement has quietly been growing for the past few years.
I’m not talking about basketball in Foggy Bottom or superhero movies. I’m talking about podcasts. In light of the popular show “Serial”, an investigation into a 15-year-old murder case that’s averaged 3.1 million listeners every week this winter, podcasts are the latest medium on everyone’s radar.
But podcasts have been around much longer than just the few months since “Serial” (which, full disclosure, I haven’t listened to yet) was released. Since the early 2000s, hundreds of podcasts have entertained audiences on the commute home or while they shop for groceries.
These are a few of my favorites.
“Planet Money” by NPR
I’m minoring in economics, which means I pretend to know a little about the mechanics of the economy. If you want to pretend, too, you should listen to “Planet Money.”
The podcast sheds light on the seemingly intangible world of economics by relating it to everyday life. From discussions about the drastic drop in the price of HDMI cables to the astronomical cost of textbooks, “Planet Money” explains how economics creeps into just about everything we do.
My personal favorite episode is No. 561, which looked at the 1964 World Fair’s predictions for the future and how they stack up to reality.
“Reply All” by Gimlet Media
This podcast’s hosts, PJ and Alex, talk everything Internet culture. They explain why domain names can be so pricey – one of the domains they use for the show is www.replyall.limo because www.replyall.com was too expensive – and explore an app that’s like Instagram, except instead of posting a #BrunchSelfie, doctors post photos from on the job.
“Reply All” was created by Gimlet Media, a company that hopes to capitalize on the increasing popularity of podcasts. As a bonus, you can check out its other podcast, “StartUp”, in which Gimlet’s founders stumble through the challenges of creating – you guessed it – a startup company.
“This American Life” by WBEZ
You can’t talk about good podcasts without mentioning the gold standard of podcasts, “This American Life.” You’ve probably heard of the show’s host, Ira Glass, who leads a talented team of journalists and storytellers that put together hour-long shows with several acts focusing on a broader theme.
Every week of “This American Life” offers fantastic coverage of wide-reaching topics. One week the team will discuss struggling schools, and the next, it’ll talk about a blind man who “sees” by echolocation. In nicer weather, I block out an hour of my time to sit in Lafayette Square just to listen to the show.
If you haven’t heard this podcast before, stop what you’re doing, pick one at random and start listening. You’ll thank me later. (See further instructions for listening to podcasts below.)
“Rooster Teeth Podcast” by Rooster Teeth
This last podcast is a serious departure from the other three, which teach you something new about the world and make you a tad smarter. The “Rooster Teeth Podcast,” on the other hand, not so much.
The hosts, all employees of the Austin-based Internet entertainment company of the same name, spend their time on the show drinking beers and telling stories. They are juvenile at times (OK, all the time) and can be crude, but they also may be the funniest people on the planet.
From yelling about television shows to having wildly inaccurate conversations about science, the crew keeps me coming back every week for an hour of laughs.
Now that I’ve convinced you podcasts should be your next major time investment, you’ll probably want to learn how to tune in to them. Fortunately for you, there are several ways you can listen in.
All of the above stream online, and there are apps that allow you take them on the go. If you have an Apple device, the company’s free Podcasts app is my personal choice. A popular option for Android users is Stitcher, which is also free.