Auditory Infotainment

Podcasts. What do we think? I am not the biggest fan of the form. I find most that aren’t heavily edited to be a slog:  slow, with too little content for the runtime, and hosted by people whom I don’t find engaging.

But, I found one that’s well aligned with my extracurricular interests, and have been enjoying it on walks. Some episodes are awesome, others so-so.

The host sometimes brings her husband on as a guest. Those are the worst episodes, yet, cruelly, also the longest. She sounds really uncomfortable and giggles (nervously? flirtatiously?) far more than with other guests. Also, for this type of podcast you have to love the topic, and he just…doesn’t? Anyway, she’s great when she talks with other women, and those episodes have been smooth and strangely soothing.

Blogosphere, do you have podcast recommendations?  Please share your faves. 


  1. I’m not a big fan of auditory input—I have yet to sit through a full podcast. One of the local news podcasts provides transcripts, which I find infinitely preferable to listening. (For that matter, I read transcripts of NPR and BBC stories, rather than listening to them.) A podcast would have to be really, really good to pull me in. Let me know if there are any that good!

  2. gasstationwithoutpumps: I am exactly the same. If there’s a transcript for audio or video, I will always read because it’s so much faster. But I’m trying find something, in addition to music, to occupy my brain while I exercise.

  3. I too would much prefer to read than listen. I can’t do podcasts while exercising (has to be music) but have enjoyed them while painting and drawing. I tend to do art-related podcasts and have found a few good ones. I particularly like the art history ones, since I know so little about it. I just started listening to AcaDames and Secret Feminist Agenda, both of which are academic podcasts and find them quite entertaining.

  4. I loved the first season of serial, loved Shittown and the Psychiatrist Next Door – and am now listening to The Root of Evil. But I am much more of a visual person and also prefer to read or watch.

  5. I enjoy them while driving. So I’m now way behind on everything since I haven’t left my house in a month.
    By the Book: two women in NYC (including a Minnesotan with the full accent) try to live by self help books for two weeks.
    Dear Hank and John: the Green brothers give dubious advice
    Try Pod: I actually watch this one on YouTube on Thursdays when the kids are at piano while making dinner… but they haven’t been leaving the house either. It’s the Try Guys plus Miles Bonsignore.
    Young house love has a podcast: a truly frivolous podcast about things which I care nothing a husband and wife talking about home design—when I needed something completely meaningless to listen to.

  6. You definitely need to find someone you like to listen for a podcast talking about something you want to hear more about. Luckily, there are so many out there you should be able to find someone you enjoy. I listen to podcasts when I can’t read (walking the dog, doing outdoor chores, driving, etc.). I like short story podcasts (any in the Escape Artists family which does scifi, fantasy, horror, and YA) or podcasts that teach me something. You can go for the straight science podcasts (I listen to CBC’s Quirks and Quarks for a sampling of the science news) or for the quirky and random (99% Invisible looks at design and architecture elements that are largely ignored but hugely important. Bonus, Roman Mars has the best voice ever. Twenty Thousand Hertz is all about the stories behind sounds.)

  7. I never really got into podcasts. I think this is probably because I don’t spend a lot of time in the car, and have been walking to work for the past 14 years (or going in so early that I really just need silence). I prefer to talk to my parents on the phone, engage in deep thought about my projects, or listen to music during my walks than to listen to podcasts. It’s also hard for me to find podcasts that I consistently like, so that is another problem as well.

  8. The only time I listen to podcast is during post-kid-bedtime drudgery, like packing lunches for the next day and cleaning up the kitchen. I’m slowly working my way through Harry Potter and the Sacred Text, which I’ve enjoyed quite a lot.

  9. Seeing all of the things that you wonderful people listen to and learn about reminds me that I am the most boring person ever and prefer to just sit in silence rereading the same NYT headline fifty times a day and occasionally looking out the window.

  10. Oh! And how could I forget the first podcast I ever listened to– perfect for boring data cleaning and also completely meaningless and unimportant… Here to Make Friends, the Huffington Post Feminist Bachelor podcast for all things Bachelor related.

  11. I love podcasts. There are a bunch I listed to, and they are the perfect cure to insomnia — interesting enough to distract me from middle-of-the-night anxiety, but boring enough to lull me right to sleep. The accent of the speakers is key. Apparently, I am very intolerant of certain regional accents (and I have a strong one myself).

  12. Personally, I also would rather read – but I find others are much more auditory or visually inclined. Interesting, isn’t it? I’ve had podcasts recommended to me by others and hated them – I think it’s very personal what style/topic you like and also which life stage you are at. I try to listen broadly. I won’t share the whole list, but my latest guilty pleasure is Titanic scene by scene. Which is exactly what it is. Two fans discussing the movie Titanic scene by scene.

    Mostly, I use podcasts to fall to sleep to – which is great, it helped me discover that I actually fall asleep a lot fast than I thought: usually within 5-10 minutes, which means one episode of an hour long podcasts ties me over for a full week!

    There are very few that I follow regularly, the ones I come back to are Scriptnotes (by John August and Craig Mazin, have been following that one since day 1) and Creating Disney Magic. And then there’s everything science and career and management related to arts in between.

    Oh and Scriptnotes also does transcripts!

  13. I bike to work through the forest and that is my main time for media consumption. So here are three items from my playlist that I would also recommend to other people:
    WNYC’s “Radiolab” (often science or history, in rarer cases about people, excellent storytelling with weird angles, oh yeah their angles!, out-of-this-world sound design)
    NPR’s Invisibilia (psychology, weird stuff about humans, great quality)
    “The Soundtrack show” (analyses famous/classic movie scores and relates them to the story, a lot of historical tidbits and trivia are scattered throughout)

  14. I love podcasts for workout and driving but you definitely need to find a host that you “click” with. I’ll give a +1 for the first season of Serial. I also enjoyed Embedded and have made “Today Explained” one of my prime sources of news. This American Life is always super high quality and some episodes of “Reply All” are fantastic (like “The missing hit”).

  15. I can’t stand small talk or inside jokes unless it involves good friends, so I think that’s why I don’t really like podcasts.

    For about eight years I fairly consistently listened to some BBC Radio 4 podcasts and podcasts from other national broadcasters in languages I want to keep up. These are really just radio programs in podcast form, so sort of radio on demand. That means the usual high production values of the station and predictable content.

    When I had a long public transport commute I switched to audiobooks for a few years (because motion sickness), but I find that a bit hit and miss. If I feel the book is important/interesting enough I always want to reread it “properly”. But audiobooks definitely gave me a way of getting through many more recent books and making me feel more productive than podcasts did (I teach English).

  16. Podcasts–In Our Time with Melvin Bragg (from the BBC; there’s one for history & one for culture); History Extra; Bowery Boys, which is all things about history in New York City. I want to like Backstory, but it relates to current events, which I want no part of when I’m trying to relax. History–hmm, I sense a theme here. Also: You Must Remember This (old movies) and Office Ladies (if you like The Office, it’s always upbeat and an escape). I listen to a lot of audiobooks, too, mostly history or biography, though they can’t relate to any field that I work in.

  17. Not a podcast fan because I don’t find them engaging but I now love audiobooks because I found out about Libby – free app that uses my library card. I still like to read physical books but I enjoy audiobooks on my commutes, hikes, washing dishes, doing chores, etc.

  18. seriously: The hapiness lab. it’s fantastic, soothing, compelling, joyful. If offers great content and examples, and presentation of the science of the brain; while and after I listened to this I am feeling reborn, with faith in myself and in the whole world.

    then, of course: modern love, the podcast: how can you get bored of great actor voices reading some of the most wonderful NYT essays about life, that is, all kinds of love that one could possibly imagine.

    what I started with, and did not want to stop (like stayed in the drive way to listen to the radio, unit l realized that I could find them on iTunes or apple podcasts on my own time): hidden brain, freakonomics radio, the moth radio our, the ted radio hour, radio lab, this American life, etc.

    And these are all so well done! I walk or drive on these for miles or hours…

    but now you made me curious as to what you have been listened to, so you own’t say which one was it?

  19. I really enjoyed Michael Lewis’ Against the Rules Podcast. He’s a terrific story teller. The podcast is 8-10 episodes.

    I also really like the Ezra Klein show. If you don’t follow politics, it might not be up your alley. That said, among the most memorable and enjoyable episodes have been non-political topics. I particularly recommend the episodes with N.K. Jemisin, Michael Lewis, and one last week with Madeline Miller (who writes novels based on Greek mythology).

    I have a pretty high bar for podcasts because I find, like most commenters, that it’s much more efficient to intake information by reading. I got into both the podcasts above while on sabbatical last year when I had a driving commute 2-3 days a week (in contrast to my usual walking commute).

    One more podcast that I enjoyed selectively (definitely haven’t listen to every episode) while doing the driving commute was Data Stories by Enrico Bertini and Moritz Stefaner. They’re data scientists who do a lot of interviews with people who deal with data visualization, etc. Among the ones I most enjoyed were episode 131 about data visualization and handling passenger load on the German railway system and episodes 127 and 126 with Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic and Nathan Yau, respectively. I’ve read data viz books by both Knaflic and Yau, which motivated me to listen to those episodes.

    I’ve spent most of my (excessive) time on the internet over the last 2 months rage reading the news. It was great to visit your blog and see a bunch of posts since early March. Really sorry to hear that work, even on sabbatical, and quarantine life has been such a struggle lately. And conversely that aspects of quarantine life (fewer meetings & BS) have been an improvement.

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