I’ve been a long-time listener of podcasts. I used to listen to tons of NPR Podcasts like “This American Life”, “Car Talk”, and “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”. When I was in high school, I didn’t have a ton of ’listening time’ as I was usually either in front of my computer, or in my car, where I could listen to NPR live.

Now, in college, I have lots of walking ‘commute’ time, and podcasts have reentered my media consumption pattern - in a big way. I regularly listen to 20+ podcasts, which seams kinda nuts. But, it’s really an efficient way of keeping up with the news. Also, I moderate the number of podcasts to the number of hours I have walking throughout the week. I don’t like having podcasts sit in my queue for more than a few days, and I don’t like running out of podcasts, so I’ve reached an equilibrium with the ones I’m subscribed to. (You do the math on what that means as far as how much I walk each week…)

I’ve put together a list of recommended podcasts here wherein I go much deeper in depth about the ones I most regularly listen to. I cut out all the ones that I feel like I couldn’t whole-heartedly recommend, and I still was left with 18 podcasts listed.

So, because I wouldn’t really expect anyone with less ‘commute’ time than I have to actually listen to all of these, here’s the ’essentials’ list, wherein I pick one or two from each of the categories I defined.

‘Essential’ Podcasts:

  • This Week in Tech
  • Reply All
  • The Gist
  • Vox’s The Weeds
  • Radiolab

If you only had time for these 5, you’d still get a really good coverage of interesting ideas in politics and tech, as well as some entertainment. That being said, this is obviously a super subjective list.

I’m pretty bullish on the future of podcasts. The fact that there are really neat, successful niche podcasts for Data Science, Python, Public Policy, etc. (the list goes on and on) seams to show that there is a demand for content like this.

What still mystifies me is how no one has ‘won’ the podcast platform war. Sure, there’s Stitcher, iTunes, Soundcloud, and myriad others, but there’s nothing like what Youtube did for video. I suspect this is because the cost of hosting audio is significantly less than video, and that ‘podcasts’ are from the iPod age, which predates Youtube. Nevertheless, with seemingly more and more Podcast networks cropping up (Gimlet & Panoply, to name a couple), it’ll be interesting to see if a single platform ever coalesces.

Regardless, I’ll be happy to listen to my podcasts as long as I have the commute time to do so.