2017 has been the year of podcasts for me. I don’t know what took me so long to give them a shot but I am so glad I finally did and I haven’t stopped listening since. India still hasn’t developed a culture of listening to podcasts, even though we are a nation of radio listeners, and I don’t think I personally know even five people who live in India and are avid listeners; I can think of only two infact. While I’ve been trying to get some of my friends to at least try it once, I haven’t been successful. The most common thing I hear is that they can’t concentrate on people talking on audio and lose track of the conversation. Most people are only open to listening to music on audio, and I feel so sorry for what they are missing out on.
Podcasts are such a convenient medium to expand knowledge, to be entertained, to get new ideas and learn about things you may never encounter in the course of your normal life. Its like reading many different types of books in a very short time, and in a very effective way. Its an opportunity to use every free minute of your day to learn something new, to be inspired, to grow.
But I was a late bloomer too, and there are two primary reasons my perception about podcasts was a bit askew. First, because in India, I only ever saw podcast options on tech websites, news websites or entertainment websites, none of which interested me enough to try. And second, because mobile internet in India was still evolving – using data was not cheap and I wasn’t sure it was strong enough to buffer the audio; so again, I never tried. Its only since last year that 4G connections have gotten stronger and data much cheaper.
So earlier this year, as I was exchanging stories with a friend about true crime shows (mostly OJ Simpson: Made in America, which is such a brilliant documentary and a must-watch), he made some recommendations of podcasts with similar themes that I might enjoy too. Till then, I had no idea about the nature of content being produced on podcasts around the world!
And this brought me to my first ever podcast Serial , which tells a true story, over the course of one season – 12 episodes. Oh what a start it was! The research was amazing, the narration was awesome – the whole production was brilliant. I don’t think I would have loved a visual version as much as I loved it on audio. If you’re a podcast sceptic, this is where you should start. It even won the Pea Body Award for journalism in 2014! I was hooked, I was consumed and I never looked back since. I started listening on a Saturday and I think I finished the entire first season (12+ hours of audio) by the end of Sunday. And then I finished the second season, which was another amazing story, before the week was over. Binge listening is a thing!
As I frantically looked for more content, I discovered this whole new universe of some of the most interesting and well produced podcasts. There is rarely a silent moment in my apartment now, whether I’m washing the dishes, cooking, cleaning or getting dressed for work, something is always playing. And you know what, I am super productive and efficient when I work as I listen. I’m even motivated to exercise if I can do it listening to a podcast.
While true crime stories are awesome, there are also some super interesting podcasts that cover otherwise heavy subjects like economics, politics, analytics, human behaviour, self improvement, motivation, history and psychology, and much more, that I’m sure I haven’t even discovered yet. And you know what the best part is? Its completely FREE! You do not have to pay to listen! Imagine getting to listen to all this amazing stuff at zero cost! The only thing you pay for is your internet / data use, which works just like any other streaming service, like Youtube. Just download an app (I use Podcast Addict – I feel like it was made for me :-)), search your podcast by title, hit subscribe and listen to your heart’s content! OR got to the podcast website and stream from there.
The only thing that I wish I would find more of are Indian podcasts, as well produced and as well narrated as the (mostly) American ones. Because while I absolutely love those, the context is completely American (obviously), and not always relevant for an Indian listener – especially when it is historical or legal in nature. I would absolutely love to hear similar stories from India’s rich legal and social history, I’d do anything to be a part of the research!
So before I close, here’s a list of some podcasts and their genres that I’ve heard extensively, loved and highly highly recommend (in no particular order):
- Serial – True crime / investigative journalism
- Freakonomics Radio – Economics / analysis – exploring the hidden side of everyday life
- RadioLab – Curiosity / science / philosophy / history / human experience
- My Dad Wrote a Porno – humour – if you don’t want to start with something serious, then this is the perfect way to start your podcast journey. Its British and its hilarious! Imagine if your dad wrote a dirty book. Most people would try to ignore it – but not Jamie Morton. Instead, he decided to read it to the world in this groundbreaking comedy podcast. With the help of his best mates, James Cooper and Alice Levine, Jamie reads a chapter a week and discovers more about his father than he ever bargained for. It was my favourite podcast to listen on my way home from work, sadly I’ve finished the third book and the next one comes out next year.
- TED Radio Hour – TED talks repurposed for audio
Though I’ve listened to a lot more than this (including several from India), there have been a fair share of hits and misses. Of the Indian ones, I only liked The Intersection podcast recommended to me by RadioLab on twitter. But their episodes, though interesting, are just 15 minutes each and I haven’t seen them update feed since April this year.
Some new ones I’m looking forward to include Invisibilia, CRIMINAL, The WIRED podcast and The Anthill. I think I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg here, so I’d love to hear suggestions on other interesting podcasts that you think I should try!