When I started this blog back in 2004, one of the first things I wrote about was podcasting. Those posts have disappeared in cyberspace, although I still have a copy somewhere on a CD-ROM (reminder to self: find and upload these files to the cloud before the CD-ROM stops working) and I could theoretically get them back on this blog. Podcasting was invented in the summer of 2004 by Dave Winer and Adam Curry. Literally from the first day podcasting started I have been listening to podcasts because I happened to follow both of their blogs at that time.
When I had the idea for Tudou it was initially even based on podcasting: the plan was that people could subscribe to (audio) podcasts through something similar to what is now the standard podcast app on your iPhone (using RSS). The idea evolved from there to include video as well, and soon China’s first online video site was born.
Podcasting didn’t take off as fast as I had expected, but the past 2 years has seen a revival of podcasts. The Serial podcast was certainly a big driver of this, but also the higher general quality of productions played a role. Another important factor is that more people now have connected cars, so it’s easier to listen to podcasts while driving. My favorite podcasts app is not the standard one installed on the iOS devices (with the generic name Podcasts), but a paid app called Downcast. The user interface is much more intuitive than the standard iPhone app and it’s super easy to add new podcasts (either by search or by copy/pasting a URL).
I mainly listen to podcasts in the car while driving to work, but I also started listening to audio programs while running around Stanley Park or while climbing the Grouse Grind. It’s a good way to forget about how tired you are and while doing sports you learn a lot of new things, or at least the topics make you think. Plus I like to be productive and this is a good way to do two things at the same time. Most podcasts that I listen to are focused on learning things. I don’t really listen to ‘fun’ podcasts, I prefer to listen to something that makes me think.
In this blog post I will go over some of my favorite podcasts and why I like them. In random order (except for the last one, which is my #1 choice) my current favorite podcasts are:
This is the podcast produced by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, one of most successful Silicon Valley based VCs. The topics are quite broad and generally not related to VC investing, but include topics such as genomics, virtual reality, bitcoin and the blockchain, and artificial intelligence. But also more fun topics are included, for example after Pokemon Go launched and took off in July this year, A16Z had a podcast about it. Generally the programs are quite high level, so you have to focus to make sure you don’t miss anything. It happens regularly that I need to rewind the program one or two minutes to make sure I understood things correctly. These podcasts always make me think, so you need to be in an environment that doesn’t have too many distractions while listening. Episodes are generally 30-40 minutes.
A few months ago I started to look more into health, diets, quantified self, and life hacking topics. Bulletproof radio fits those topics exactly and since then I have listened to a number of their current and past episodes. Presented by Dave Asprey (who aims to live to 180), the show talks about any topic that can help you to upgrade your body, mind or life. When I started researching the ketogenic diet I found some highly interesting podcasts in this series for example. But Dave also interviews guests about topics as diverse as how to live longer, on gut ecology, smart drugs, GMOs, and something as simple as sleep. Not all episodes are great, so sometimes I skip to the next one after a couple of minutes, but normally the quality is high. Episodes are generally about an hour long.
I start most days with this Canadian news report. I don’t really follow Canadian news (I don’t read local papers or watch the Canadian TV news), so this is the only way I learn about what’s happening in Canada. The program is called World Report, but the majority of topics is Canada related. A good way to learn a bit more about Canadian politics and things that are important for Canadians. Each episode is just 10 minutes, so this is a good program to listen to when you get into your car in the morning.
This is an interesting podcast about what happens when a big earthquake will hit the Pacific Northwest, specifically Victoria and the area around Vancouver. It is sure that a big one (either a 9 at the scale of Richter off the coast of Vancouver Island) or a smaller, but more deadline one (a level 7 earthquake below the mainland) will hit this area one day. It could be this year or it could be in 100 years, nobody knows. A bit scary but I learned a lot from it. Also interesting when you don’t live in this area, because big earthquakes happen in other areas as well and the results are similar. This podcast refers a lot to the Christchurch, New Zealand, earthquake for example. I now know what to do if one hits and what the immediate aftermath of the quake will look like. The series consists of 5 episodes of about 30 minutes each.
This podcast is co-produced by the New York Times and is based upon the regular NYTimes column Modern Love. In the podcasts well known people read one of these older columns and this is then followed by an update from the person who wrote the column on what has happened since then. There are some real gems in here that make me think more deeply about love and romance. Much more entertaining than most of the other podcasts I listen to, so this is a good one for late at night as well. Most episodes run 15-20 minutes each.
What can I say, this is probably the most famous podcast in the world and the reason many people first heard about podcasting. The show is now working on its third season. For me the first season was amazing, covering the murder trial and conviction of Adnan Syet. It was like a reality show about a convicted murderer and the more I listened to it the more I was convinced that Adnan is innocent. Because of the show he will actually get a retrial, 17 years after the crime happened. Fascinating how a podcast can achieve this. It was the first podcast that people talked about in my office, and I literally could not wait until each next episode would be posted online. The second season was good as well, but I disliked the topic of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl deserting the US army and being captured by the Taliban, so I did not finish Season 2. However, the quality is so high and Season 1 was so good that I included it here anyway. I can’t wait for Season 3 to start! Episode length varies quite a bit, most are 30-40 minutes, but some are more than an hour.
And then my my favorite podcast, the Tim Ferris Show. I have to admit that it took me quite a while before I started listening to the podcast, because I assumed Tim Ferris was a con artist. I enjoyed the 4 hour work week and the 4 hour body, but I did not really believe this guy was for real. After listening to just one episode of his podcast I changed my mind completely: Tim is a genius, with amazing ideas and who puts his money where his mouth is. He is different than most other people and that makes these podcasts fun to listen to. Every week Tim interviews a different guest, always a special person, but not necessarily very famous people. The guest can be a super entrepreneur (for example Naval Ravikant), a famous author (for example Paulo Coelho), a former politician and body builder (Arnold Schwarzenegger was on the podcast), or an expert in the ketogenic diet such as Dom D’Agostino. You never know what to expect, but I am hardly every disappointed. The interesting thing is that you learn about things that you normally would never read or even think about, and you hear from the experts in those fields. Tim himself is a good interviewer and is generally very well prepared. The podcasts are quite long however, most are between 1-2 hours but some stretch for more than 3 hours. Perfect for a long, slow run or just an evening at home with a bottle of wine.
There are a lot more podcasts that I listen to, but mostly just a few episodes before switching to something new. I also started to watch video podcasts on YouTube, but I did not include those here. Maybe that’s something for a future blog post. If you have any suggestions for other audio or video podcasts feel free to email me or leave a comment below this post or on Twitter.