Podcasts: The Forgotten Medium

We live in a media-centric world.  Everywhere we go, we encounter TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers.  We spend our time listening to music, watching movies, and reading articles on the web.  However, there is another medium, which has been around for awhile, that doesn’t get the attention that I think it deserves.  The medium?  Podcasts.

Podcasts are great in a lot of ways.  Since they are purely audio, you can listen to podcasts while doing other things, such as housework or cooking (contrary to popular belief, it is borderline impossible to watch TV and do something else productive at the same time).  Another great thing about podcasts is that new content is nearly limitless.  Whereas your favorite band probably only releases a CD every three years or so, your favorite podcast often releases new content every week.  Podcasts are also great because you can learn something.  Music is great (don’t get me wrong, I enjoy music and listen to a lot of it), but most of the time its value is purely in entertainment.  Podcasts can be entertaining and educational.  Finally, I like podcasts because – as I’ve stated before – I tend to get really tired of my music, so it’s nice to have other audio content that’s always new.  Now that I’ve talked about podcasts in general, I’d like to highlight my two favorite shows.

The first is Stuff You Should Know, a podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.  This is a great show if you just like learning things.  They post two shows a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), and cover everything from “How the Space Race Worked” to “Why is Venice So Wet?” to “Archaeology in a Nutshell” (just to name off the three most recent episodes).  The podcast has a very conversational, colloquial style: just two guys, Josh and Chuck, talking.  The show’s content is fascinating by itself, but the Josh and Chuck style really puts it over the top.

The second show I really enjoy is TechHive’s* Clockwise podcast.  This is a tech podcast that is under 30 minutes or you pizza is free – or so they’ve said.  There are two hosts, Dan and Jason, and each week they have two guests, who are almost always members of the PCWorld/Macworld/TechHive staff.  It’s also neat that many guests end up being on the show more than once, so eventually you’ll even recognize the guests.  Each person brings a tech topic, and they go around the table clockwise (aha!) and everyone puts in their two cents.  The conversational tone is still there, but the content is a little less wordy and more condensed, since they are focused on keeping the podcast at a reasonable time limit.  At first I didn’t get this we-don’t-want-to-waste-your-time approach.  I choose to listen to this podcast, and I don’t mind if it’s a little long.  But as time went on, I learned to appreciate their watchful eye on the clock.  Some podcasts (including SYSK) can be 45 minutes to an hour, but I found that 30 minutes is the perfect time frame.  If you’re interested in technology, this show is a fantastic way to get tech news each week (right after this blog, that is).

So now that I’ve shared my favorite podcasts, what are yours?  Feel free to fire off suggestions to me and each other, and maybe I’ll check out what you recommend.  Happy listening!  ••

*Update 11/12/14: Clockwise is no longer a part of TechHive, but it lives on as a part of Relay FM.  I’ve updated the link above.

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