I do not have a long commute to work. It’s only roughly 20 minutes, as such I have become very focused on getting the most out of that time. Rather than subscribing to dozens of podcasts and picking episodes with interesting titles, I’ve settled on a line-up of five shows which I find to have high quality on almost all of their episodes.
serialpodcast.org — New episodes every Thursday
Serial is the podcast everyone is talking about. It’s produced by the same people behind This American Life and, according to Wall Street Journal, “[i]t’s quickly become the most popular podcast in the world, according to Apple, and the fastest to reach 5 million downloads and streams in iTunes history. “Serial” is the top podcast in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia, and in the top 10 in Germany, South Africa and India.”
This first season focuses on the story of Adnan Syed, who was convicted of murder 15 years ago. But was he guilty? That’s the question Sarah Koenig, the host and producer, is endeavoring to get to the bottom of. We’re now (as of this post) 8 episodes in and I still haven’t firmly formed my own opinion.
Serial tends to run 30 minutes per episode and it moves quick, often I’ll sit in the car if my commute finishes before the episode is over.
freakonomics.com — New episodes every Thursday
There was a time where this was my favorite podcast and I never missed an episode. Recently I’ve been let down by their episodes. Most notably was their Halloween episode about the economics of vampires. Info-tainment is a careful balance between actual knowledge and soft entertainment wrapping around it, and I feel they’ve slipped more towards the entertaining.
That said, they are still a core podcast for me. In the coming month or two though, if nothing changes, they may fall off my podcast roster.
dancarlin.com/hardcore-history-series/ — A new episode roughly every 3 months
Hardcore History has been around for years but it only came to my attention a few months ago, specifically it was his series he did that talked about Genghis Khan called, punnily-enough, “The Wrath of Khans.” He did five episodes amounting to more than eight hours of content that discuss Genghis Khan and his life as the emperor over much of Asia.
Hardcore History is different than most podcasts. The first difference is that Dan Carlin puts out 4 – 5 episodes per year. They are less podcast and more audiobook. Which is something he takes to heart. The last few episodes are still available for free but at a certain point they stop being freely available and are instead up for sale. Note, we aren’t talking weeks, we’re talking years.
This American Life
thisamericanlife.org/podcast — New episodes every Friday
Notably the only radio broadcast podcast in my line-up, This American Life is quality radio and podcasting. Good storytelling every week from around the country. There really isn’t much to say other than I find their story telling and show quality to be top notch which brings me back week after week.
99percentinvisible.org — New episodes every Tuesday
In their words, “99% Invisible is a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world.” It’s proven reliably fascinating and fun to listen to. This is the newest addition to my podcast line-up.
Design is something I’ve always enjoyed, whether industrial design, or the aesthetics of something. This podcast looks at these things, provides history behind it, and talks about it. They did an episode about the Ouija board (Ouija boards are made by Hasbro, the parent-company of my employer Wizards of the Coast) which I found fascinating. Hearing the history behind “talking boards” and the design of them was a really interesting show.
And there you have it. The five podcasts I listen to every week. I should note that while I do listen to some Magic: The Gathering podcasts, there isn’t one I listen to every episode of.