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The Return of the Podcast

written by Jeff Green

Podcasts are a thing again. At more than a decade old, the downloadable radio programs are enjoying a bit of a renaissance on smartphones that can grab an audio file at any time, filling commutes, workouts and workdays.

One in six people in the U.S. listened to at least one podcast in the last month. Those who did loved them so much that it took over their ear, and was their largest listening audio source according to 2015 numbers from Edison Research. That's ahead of radio, streaming music or even someone's personal music collection. Simply put, those who like them, like them a lot.

Podcasts can range from highly produced radio program to ramblings on the completely obscure produced on a shoestring. Anyone can make one, and with most cars including Internet connectivity in the coming years, they'll soon be easier to access than radio.

But where do you start? Name your interest, there’s a podcast for you. Love history? Download Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. Hip hop fan? The Combat Jack Show. Want to listen to famous people talk with famous people? Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin.

You can download podcasts in the Apple iTunes Store, or in podcatcher apps such as Stitcher or Pocket Casts.

To get you started, here are a few you should be listening to.

Serial

If any podcast is going to be responsible for a second gilded age of audio programming, this might be it. If, by chance, you haven’t heard of the podcast that reinvestigates a 1999 Baltimore murder, do yourself a favour and download it. Like the TV series The Wire, it will captivate you, and it’s just as good to listen to it even six months after it was released.

 

 

StartUp / Reply All

Okay, this is two different podcasts, but trust us, the entrepreneur out there will want to listen to StartUp, and if you like National Public Radio storytelling, you'll love Reply All, a podcast "about the internet."

StartUp follows Alex Blumberg as he leaves his job in NPR to start a podcasting company, essentially live reporting on his start up as a first time entrepreneur. Reply All is one of the first shows of that company, and heads into parts of the Internet you probably haven't explored.

99% Invisible

While this podcast says it is about design and architecture, it's more about how you interact with design (and don't realize it). It will give you a fresh take on your surroundings, and things you never noticed.

 

 

 

WTF with Marc Maron

As far as comedy podcasts go, this one dives into the craft more than anyone else. Maron interviews comics and the hour-long conversations melt commutes and will have you in stitches. Listen to his two-part episode featuring Louis C.K. where they try and reconcile how their own friendship fell apart. If you love comedy, also download Bill Burr's Monday Morning Podcast.

Read me the news

Aside from storytelling, podcasts are an amazing way to get the daily news. The BBC posts a world report daily. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal post business podcasts on investing and stocks. The CBC publishes podcasts on Canadian politics, as well as local and national news, updated throughout the day. There is no reason to wait to the top or the hour anymore, and no reason to sit through radio or TV ads for someone to read you the news.

This American Life

One of the most popular syndicated radio shows from NPR is now accessible on-demand, through podcasts. Each show has a theme, with multiple based told based on that theme. Google “A Very Special Sedaris Christmas” for a classic This American Life story.

 

Stuff You Should Know

From sea monsters to lion tamers to accidental inventions, the Stuff You Should Know podcast takes a subject and the researches the hell out of it. From the staff from HowStuffWorks, this is a podcast will take a seemingly random thing, and have your attention for an hour without you even knowing it.

 

 

Other notables: Freakonomics Radio (just like the book), Invisibilia (From the This American Life folks), The Moth (performance storytelling), Longform (features on in-depth journalism)