Much like the rest of the world, I became obsessed with Podcasts after binge-listening through the 12 episode perfection of Serial. Even though I caught wind of the show at episode nine and was able to blaze through the previous eight episodes (five of which were dusted in the first day of discovering the show), I felt the cultural resonance, indescribable frustration of not knowing where it was headed, and the unfolding of something unlike anything that I had ever heard before.
This was an important new piece of entertainment breathing new life into an old format in which I was barely familiar. After the final episode drew to a close, I was left wondering, like most people new to Podcasting, what else was out there.
This won’t be your standard “10 Podcasts That Are Better Than Serial” or “15 Podcasts for the Serial Fan” blog post. Rather, this will be a place where I have an opportunity to highlight some of the better episodes I have heard each week. When I’m not writing weekly summaries of what I’ve heard, I’ll be doing more detailed features of specific shows and provide you a list of episodes that are great starting points or must-hear episodes of long-established shows.
Before I continue, I should say that I intend to do a much-needed re-listen to Serial in order to check to see if it still has the impact it had on me when I first heard it. I may also convince Aly to do a series with me where we each write summaries of every episode as she hears it for the first time. Maybe we can do this before the start of Season 2 and get you loyal readers to participate. Yes, let’s! Watch this space!
Recommendations? Yes! Please!
As of this writing, I currently have 50 podcasts in my feed and seem to add new shows each week. While some of the shows remained untouched and are awaiting an invention of a real-life time turner device that will afford me the wealth of time that it will take for me to stay caught up with all of the shows in the feed, I do stay fairly current with at least half of them. Please feel free to send me recommendations or suggestions. I’m always looking for new shows to pick up.
So before we talk about the shows, let’s spend this week talking about my preferred method of listening to them.
Android or Apple? PC or Mac? What should I use to hear my podcasts?
Thanks to an incredibly helpful Lifehacker post from a few weeks back, I discovered the wonder that is Pocket Casts. Pocket Casts is available on Android, iPhone, and Windows app stores and also allows you to sync your feed across multiple devices including your web browser (for use on any computer operating system). I’m an Android user and have used multiple apps and have been looking for something like Pocket Casts. Pocket Casts is the first one that allows me to:
- Sync my feed across multiple devices.
- Export a list of the shows I listen to.
- Automatically download new shows when they are released and does so whenever my phone is connected to WiFi or while it is charging.
- Supports customizable categories and filters that allow me to sort my podcasts based on my personal preferences.
- Removes silence from episodes to speed up the process of listening to them and also allows you to listen to shows at up to 4x the speed (not sure why anyone would want to do this).
- Supports cloud based synching of episodes (YES!).
- Create customized playlists.
- Gain new suggestions based on shows added to my feed and global podcasts trends.
In short, this app rules. The only drawback is the $3.99 cost for the mobile version and the $9 one time fee to use the web-player. However, the app is, hands down, the best out there and its total cost is still cheaper than taking your girlfriend to the movies (sorry, Aly).
Free Alternatives? Don’t Have A Smart Phone?
Rather than provide an exhaustive list of the things you could be using to listen to podcasts, I’ve highlighted a few of my other favorites apps below.
If you couldn’t tell, I like music programs that also support FLAC format for my PC. Maybe I’ll have a post soon about why you should be converting your music collection over to FLAC. Would anyone but me be interested in something like that?
Where to find the time?
The beauty about the podcast is that you can take it wherever you go and fill the silence of the world with portable knowledge at your fingertips. All you need is a pair of headphones, a car stereo, a home stereo, computer speakers, or, well, you get the point. A few of my favorite places to listen to podcast are:
- In the car
- In the shower
- At the gym
- Doing laundry
- Doing the dishes
- Making dinner
- While mowing the yard
- Writing these blog posts
By integrating an episode of a podcast while doing these basic things that barely require much attention, you can learn a few things you hadn’t known before and find more joy in doing things you often dreaded doing in the first place.
Bluetooth Speakers: The holy grail of podcast devices
Recently, my car stereo decided to stop functioning. I worried that this would be the end to music, podcasts, and, eventually, my sanity. Thankfully, we live in an age of Bluetooth speakers that are incredibly portable lifesavers. The relative cost for these things is actually pretty great. You can usually find them for about $15-25 or, if you are an audiophile, for a little less than $150 for top of the line models. I personally have four that I use and swear by each of them.
- JBL Clip (~$50): This is the model I use in my car and does well with anything I throw at it. Music has a great dynamic range and the clip is a nice feature that allows me to attach it to the various things in my vehicle. Plus, it fits perfectly in my cup holder which also acts as a volume boost.
- Jam Classic (~$20): This is the model I keep on my desk, move to my bedside when snooze casting, or bring with me when I do the dishes or laundry. In short, it is insanely portable. It doesn’t have the greatest sound quality but does well with the “mostly talk” format of podcasts. This thing also has an insane battery life of close to 12 hours.
- HDMX Hangtime (~$20): This is the model we keep in the shower. While not totally waterproof, it advertises that it is splash-proof. The clip allows us to hang it via the shower rod or using a waterproof hook on the shower wall.
- JBL Charge 2 (~$150): This thing is a beast. Everything sounds so good on it. Music has incredible depth and unbelievably great bass response. While a bit costly, this thing is easily the best Bluetooth speaker I’ve used. It also is capable of charging your USB powered devices while you use it which is a nice little add-on feature. I use this one in the office at work.
Podcasts: A Final Word
Thanks for reading all of this. While I understand that most of you probably will skim through most of this and pick out what you want, I simply did not feel comfortable simply jumping into podcast reviews and summaries without providing you a way to get started. Keep checking back for more podcast reviews and please feel free to leave us a recommendation in the comments.