My Five Favorite Podcasts, February 2015

Yes, Serial got me into podcasts. I loved the show and was totally caught up in it and loved to talk about each new episode with co-workers the second I got into work on Thursdays. And I should mention that those 12 Thursday commutes where I listened to Serial were some of the best commutes I have ever had. I often had to wish they lasted longer so I could finish up the episode.

Like many people, Serial got me inspired to seek out other shows I should be listening to. It certainly wasn’t hard to find a great many options, and also, a great many excellent shows. It’s also fun to ask friends and colleagues what shows they listen to — there’s always something I haven’t heard of before. There are also endless round-ups of the best “podcasts to listen to” on all manner of websites, often times organized around subject area. In short, it’s easy to quickly fill up your player with a monster playlist of excellent podcasts to experience at your listening pleasure.

Of course I have my favorites. So let me add my list to the mix of recommendations found online.

THE TRUTH — this show always surprises me. It’s a fresh take on old-time radio storytelling, featuring some very talented players. The stories are original and creative, the acting is fantastic, the production of the show always impressive. There’s clearly an effort here to push the podcast medium, and storytelling itself, with these shows. The show is collaboratively created, and many of the players come from the improv world, I think. They also workshop each episode, and the overall effort shines through loud and clear. I have now listened to every show, and my only complaint is that I have to wait for new ones now. I actually have many favorite episodes, but the two I find myself recommending the most are “Chaotic Neutral” (Dungeons & Dragons done so perfectly) and “Everybody SCREAM!!!” (Insights into true spin class thoughts).

CRIMINAL — This is a show about crime. But set aside everything that comes to your mind when you think about a crime show — because this show isn’t any of that. Or maybe it’s a collection of all the thoughtful elements to all the crime shows we’ve all seen and perhaps rubbernecked our way into reading or watching. I am always surprised and impressed, and feel more of the people who cover crime should get passed the money shots and the tabloid headlines and start digging a bit deeper into the story behind the story, just like Criminal does. The “He’s Neutral” show is a good one to start with — what a wonderful thing that’s happened in this neighborhood in Oakland. I won’t say anymore. Just give it a listen.

THE DISTANCE — this show comes from the team behind Basecamp, and is produced by Wailin Wong. There’s a website component that’s been around for a bit that posts one story a month. The website and the podcast focus on businesses that are not public, or about to go public, or some hot, new, likely overhyped company that is getting written up in the tech press. These are small companies that have simply gone about their business for many years, and thus have the quality of longevity about them. What does it take to make a business work, long-term? The first show was just posted, and I am hooked. It’s good to hear an approach to business sans all the hype, hacks and money money money. I’m very much looking forward to future shows. If the first show is any indication (a story about a laundromat), I know I’m going to be inspired and learn a thing or two about hard work for the long haul, managing hardship, and fostering lasting relationships with the people your business is serving.

Leah Tau’s STRANGERS — One thing that is so clear is how this show could not exist without its host — she finds interesting people to talk to, and then she goes and talks to them — for many hours — in a genuinely curious, heartfelt way that is also diligent and probing at the same time. And through these conversations Leah develops a narrative that does an amazing job of revealing emotional depths and how those play out in the interpersonal relationships that weave the stories of our lives. Warning — some of these stories are downright tearjerkers, even if you get the uplift at the end. But man, that’s just life, right? We shouldn’t be afraid to listen, we should be seeking these stories out, so as to better explore the reservoirs of our own emotions and understand how those play out as they spill into the lives, hopefully the many lives, that we intersect with.

BUILD AND LAUNCH — this is a raw podcast, and the premise is simple, but the ideas and inspiration will be coming at you fast and furious and then some. Justin Jackson is making an effort to build and launch a product EVERY week, and he’s taking his listeners along for the ride, giving us all the highs and lows along the way. He shares numbers, talks candidly with his competitors, admits when things aren’t going well or he’s just plain dog tired, and most of all, pushes his listeners to join in on the craziness and build and launch their own products. I am getting all kinds great information, insights, and inspiration out of this podcast, the biggest and most important bit is to simply get started right now and just go go go. (And in fact, you will be hearing about something very soon!)

Additional notes:

  • Special shout out to CraftSanity and CraftyPod, two websites that have been around for years and should have gotten me into podcasts well before it was the hot trendy thing. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood of CraftSanity and Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod all those years ago, and I admit, it was fun in a sort of time capsule way to go back and listen to the interviews they did with me.
  • I love that all these podcasters provide great show notes on their websites. Always a helpful summary, as well as creating jumping off points to more interesting stories, resources, people, and shows.
  • That anyone can do a podcast, and that so many of the people who do podcasts share all kinds of podcasting tips and tricks, as well as the equipment they use and recommend.
  • That they’re free and easy to download on the device of my choice — iphone, shuffle, etc. Right now, I’m using iTunes to download shows, but I’m going to try out and make sure to use the other podcast players and platforms (like SoundCloud, Overcast, and Stitcher), because I really don’t feel that iTunes should be the dominant distributor of podcasts. Let’s not let Apple, or any company, get so dominant when it comes to how we discover and download digital content.

ONE MAJOR DRAWBACK: podcasts have severely cut down on my reading time. I know — I’m a book person! This is not good. And yet, I’m getting much more inspired by all the quality and innovation going on with podcasts, so for now, podcasts it will be.

Tell me which shows I should be checking out! I am always on the lookout for a new podcast to listen to! — @jeffyamaguchi