I am a huge fan of podcasts. I think if I was made to give up all forms of media except one, the one would be podcasts.
Often people ask what podcasts I listen to. The answer is: ‘A lot!’ To many to reel off easily. So I thought I'd write a list of my favourite podcasts with a bit of a blurb on each to explain why I consider them great and worth a listen.
I listen to a lot more podcasts than are presented here but these are the ones I have either listened to a lot of episodes of and/or I listen to weekly. The other podcasts that are not covered here tend to be ones that I listen to a few episodes here and there and jump in and out of a lot.
On with the list…
My Favourite Podcasts
Movies and TV
I have to start my list here because there is one podcast on this list that is the leader of my bunch.
There is only one podcast here. There only needs to be one. This is where we must say: Hello! To Jason Isaacs.
Kermode and Mayo's Film Review
This is the podcast I have listened to for the longest time of any podcast. Nearly 15 years straight without missing a single episode. This makes me an LTL
A true gem from the BBC. Mark Kermode is an esteemed film reviewer and critic and Simon Mayo is an esteemed broadcaster. Together they present a weekly review show that covers the box office top 10, film reviews of latest releases, an interview with a star, star director or both and is so chock full of in-jokes and memes that requires its own Wiki to keep track of.
There are a few features to this podcast that make it stand out. First and foremost, the chemistry between Mayo and Kermode is fantastic and it really shows.
Kermode's encyclopaedic film knowledge makes his reviews so well thought out and presented they are second to none. He is fair and balanced and there isn't a film or genre he shy's away from. I tend to have the same opinions as he does which helps when I am evaluating watching a film, so his public service in saving me from watching some mediocre films is well appreciated!
Simon Mayo is an excellent foil to Kermode often playing the part of the listener asking pertinent questions of the reviews. However Mayo is really great when doing the interviews of the stars. He is so good at getting the best out of guests and almost all of the guests seem to really enjoy the time. I think it has been mentioned in the show itself by Mark Kermode, but Simon Mayo's interview style makes it feel like the guests are part of the conversation with the listener. It's also true of his style generally in that he always makes it feel like he is talking to you personally. It's a great skill.
There is the occasional strange interview which always generates some great post match analysis. Did you know the stop motion is “A series of still images put together to create the illusion of movement”? It's also great that no matter how big the star, Simon Mayo won't interview them if they don't let him watch the movie first. Unlike some other news outlets. Which just adds to the integrity of the show immensely in my opinion.
The final note here is that both Mayo and Kermode have an amazing memory for bands, musical artists and their music. Music is very much part of the show and I am constantly amazed at the depth of knowledge and recall these guys have.
The Kermode and Mayo Film Review podcast is my comfort food for the mind podcast. As long as I can listen to it weekly everything will generally fell right. In fact, everything will be alright in the end and if it's not alright, it's not the end.
If its not obvious from the above, I listen to this every week without fail and its one of my top 6 podcasts of all time.
Strictly speaking not just TV and Movies but a popular culture podcast that features books, graphic novels and more. However I enjoy The Incomparable mostly for the TV and Movie episodes.
Hosted by Jason Snell and featuring a diverse panel that changes depending on what the episode calls for. The Incomparable breaks down movies and TV scene by scene almost and discusses every detail in, well, detail. Famously analysing Star Wars trailers for longer than the running time of some movies. When a show or feature gets The Incomparable treatment no stone is left unturned. The panels are always well versed in the material and the culture surrounding it. There is always funny and intelligent discussion that makes for an enjoyable listen.
I don't listen to every episode, but I listen to most. Many feature the (ahem) incomparable John Siracusa (see below). Always a treat.
Science and Tech
I used to listen to a lot of tech podcasts, but I have have cut them right back to only a few. Generally because of the overlaps in content (when you listen to four podcasts where the latest episode is a discussion about what the best Apple Watch Strap might be, you know you have a few to many of the same!) but also because they a lot of them are the “one or two dudes talk about tech” format. I needed new voices in my listening so I dropped a whole bunch of tech podcasts to make room for others.
Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP)
The Accidental Tech Podcast is a (mostly) Apple focussed tech podcast hosted by John Siracusa, Casey Liss and Marco Arment. If you are a fan of the Apple ecosystem this is the podcast for you. There is often great insight and commentary on Apple products and services.
All three hosts are developers so there is a lot of good talk about development on the Apple eco-system.
Every Apple product gets the ATP treatment which means for Apple fans you can rely on them to offer a well thought out and reasoned opinion which is both entertaining and informative.
Topics are not constrained to Apple and other tech news and topics are discussed. All the hosts are very well informed and really do a great job of adding context and experiential analysis to the topics of the day.
I do feel sometimes the punditry and opinion slides too far into naked unqualified speculation which can get a bit over the top. That said there is a balancing effect across the views and opinions of all three hosts which usually evens everything out.
Many tech nerds will also know that John Siracusa alone is worth the price of entry.
The podcast is well produced and presented by three guys passionate about what they do and enthusiastic about sharing it. Which is always a recipe for a great show.
It's a podcast I listen to weekly. Without fail. Its one of my top 6 favourite podcasts of all time.
I have been involved in Cyber Security professionally on and off for 20+ years. My current job is in information security. I have followed hacking, cyber crime and the culture and mythos that surrounds it since the early 90's. So it was inevitable that I would seek out a Cyber Security / Hacking focussed podcast. Darknet Diaries is excelent. The host, Jack Rhysider does an excellent job of pulling together interesting stories and brings in interesting guests from all sides. The show is well edited and produced and the topics are always compelling.
For me the episodes that involve state sponsored hacking are the most interesting and those that cover penetration testers antics are the least.
I listen to every episode of this podcast as and when it is available. Episodes don't come out weekend and it doesn't have to be listened to in any particular order so you can prioritise episodes you may find interesting.
I am a huge fan of the Go programming language and I made a bit of an exception seeking out a Go focussed podcast. I don't normally find podcasts that are very specific or about programming that enticing. However Go time has a good revolving panel of diverse experts and interesting guests and it pulls off discussing all things about the Go programming language and related tools and products without slipping into being too simplistic or getting bogged down in details.
In the last year Go Time has been reborn in its current format and episodes are released more regularly. Prior to that it episodes became a bit sporadic and was hosted by a different panel. If you dropped off Go Time, it's worth checking back in.
I don't listen to every episode, but I do listen to the majority.
The Infinite Monkey Cage
From The BBC, The Infinite Monkey Cage is a science based panel show series that runs a couple of times a year. Hosted by Brian Cox and Robin Ince, it features a panel of experts and one comedian. They cover a particular topic each week with insights and knowledge provided by the experts and comedic interludes by the comedians.
They tend to get very intelligent comedians on the show as well which makes the comedy much better than it could be otherwise! The science is always good and the hosts do a great job of keeping the show moving.
Video games are an art, a pastime and vital part of my life. I have played video games since I was probably 5 years old. One of my earliest memories of playing a video game was playing Colossal Adventure on a teletype terminal (an actual teletype. It had no screen it used linefeed paper and printed input and output) with an acoustic coupler that connected at 300 Baud to a mainframe at my fathers work. Then of course during the 8-bit computer hey days of the 80's I played on Commodores, Apples, and Sinclairs. Then through consoles to Mac and PC gaming. But all of this is a topic for another blog post!
All this is to say that my taste in video games media today extends as far as wanting to listen to people with a similar history and and interest as me.
I have paired down my gaming podcasts to only three and two of them are from the same outlet. This might mean I am missing a ton of other good ones, but with 4+hrs of gaming podcasts a week. These are the ones I really enjoy. I think I have enough.
I might add a more development focussed podcast in here at some point if I find one I enjoy.
The Giant Bomb Cast
Giant Bomb is a gaming website that was created by ex Gamespot journalists just over 10 years ago (as of 2020). It differs from the other big games media outlets in that these days it is not news and review focussed but more personality focussed. There are reviews and opinions of course, but the key to the site is the members of the Giant Bomb crew themselves. They play and present games on the site via features and segments like ‘quick looks’ which are made compelling by the personalities of the members of the team.
The Bomb Cast is the longer running podcast presented by the West Coast part of the Giant Bomb team. Brad Schumacher, Jeff Gerstmann, Jason Ostreicher, Ben Pack and Jan Ochoa cover weekly gaming news, latest releases, talk about what they have been playing and go off on long and amusing tangents about all manner of other topics. Its a well produced podcast made with passion by people passionate about video games and the related culture.
Giant Bomb has always been a fair and representative outlet for all aspects of the gaming community. They have had a diverse range of guests at times throughout the years. Their coverage of media events is highly entertaining and the yearly (except for 2020!) E3 coverage is excellent. The game of the year podcasts are a highlight of my Christmas and New Year period every year.
This is not a podcast for your kids! Language and topics often stray way into adult territory.
Released weekly on a Wednesday, I listen to every episode weekly.
The Giant Beast Cast
This is the East Coast crew from Giant Bomb. I questioned if I should be listening to both of these and instead choose something different but I just enjoy both of these so much on their own merits I am sticking to these two.
Hosted by Vincent (Vinny) Caravella, Abby Russell, Alex Navaro and Jeff Bakalar, it has a different vibe than the Bomb Cast but follows a similar format.
The Beast Cast comes out on a Friday and I listen to every episode weekly. Its one of my weekend podcasts!
This Game Changed My Life
Presented by Aoife Wilson and Julia Hardy, this is a video game podcast about the impact video games have had on peoples lives. This podcast is quite new and I am very much enjoying it already.
Both Wilson and Hardy are clearly passionate about video games and in this podcast they seek out other passionate people for whom video games have had a massive positive effect on their lives.
I can really identify with this podcast. As I said above I have played games forever. Video games have had a big and meaningful impact on my life and they are still a huge part of my stress relief regime. Hearing people who have had impactful experiences due to video games is amazing. Some of them are very moving.
So far, I have listened to every episode and enjoyed them very much
News & Current Affairs
Next to tech podcasts, News and Current Affairs podcasts were probably my most listened to ‘genre’. Again, I have cut this right back. By necessity. If you can't keep up with these there is no point listening as they tend to be topical.
The News Cast / Brexit Cast / Corona Virus News Cast
Starting out as the Brexit cast, then turning into the News Cast and playing the role of the Coronavirus news cast. This is another of the many BBC podcasts I listen to.
I started listening to this to get a good concise run down of all things Brexit, which it did admirably. Hosted by Adam Fleming with Laura Kuenssberg, Katya Adler and Chris Mason and a host of guests. The team give brilliant analysis and impartial commentary on the news of the day (as of April/May 2020 all about Corona Virus). The News Cast catches these great BBC journalists in a more casual setting which allows their personalities come through as they present and analyse all the important headlines and the news behind them.
I try to listen to episodes as they are released which is almost daily, however if I miss a day I tend not to double back as they are very topical.
Five Thirty Eight Politics
American political analysis by Claire Malone, Micah Cohen, Galen Druke and Nate Silver. I enjoy this podcast because the hosts tend to be impartial and present the news from the US political arena in a data driven and analytical fashion. The hosts are unbelievably knowledgable about all levels of government and politics in the US and it makes following elections and important goings on in the US enjoyable and easy to follow.
I don't tend to listen to every episode, but I listen to a lot. Especially when there is an electoral event or some other big political news in the US. For US political analysis, especially around elections, I can't recommend Five Thirty Eight more highly.
A podcast about Donald Trump from Slate. Started running up to the 2016 election and only intended to run until Trump was beaten in the presidential race. Hosted by Virginia Heffernan and León Krauze they cover topics surrounding the Trump administration and Trump himself. Episodes range from funny to informative to scary as they dive into the nature of Trump and how he operates.
My only ding against this podcast is that sometimes they lean into any and all anti-Trump sentiment a little too heavily. To the point where I feel it sometimes goes off the boil a bit. I am no fan of Trump and while sometimes hyperbole is not enough, sometimes also we have to know where to stop.
As a side note, I'll say that host Virginia Heffernan, is one of the most articulate and interesting people on any podcast I listen to.
I don't listen to every episode of this podcast, but I dip in often.
I only listen to one strictly comedy podcast and it happens to be a topical satirical one.
BBC Friday Night Comedy
The BBC Friday night comedy podcast generally rotates between series of the News Quiz and the Now Show. Both are excellent.
The News Quiz is one of those classic BBC Radio panel shows that involves five comedians (four panelists and one host) offering comedic musings on the weeks news. I often find the analysis here is better than given on “proper” news shows. The Comedians are so clever, so well versed in the topics of the day and so funny. It's great. Points are given in a random fashion and don't matter in the least. In classic BBC panel show tradition.
In recent years the News Quiz has made sure the panels are balanced between male and female panelists and it is so much better for it. For so long Women comedians didn't have as much of an outlet as their male counterparts and its good to see this change because they are some of the cleverest and funniest of the bunch.
Last year, long time panelist Jeremy Hardy passed away and it was a huge shock. Jeremy was so cutting and so clever. The News Quiz of course gave him a nice farewell. He featured on another BBC classic panel show, I'm Sorry I haven't a clue. Not a podcast, but if you haven't heard it, it's worth seeking out. I promise it will make you laugh… A lot… RIP Jeremy Hardy
The Now show, the new quiz's sister comedy show of the Friday Night Comedy feed is a topical satirical sketch show. Hosts Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt introduce the topics of the week and satirise the heck of them. Guest comedians do stand-up segments and comedy musicians perform satirical songs. Its great and always gets a laugh out of me. Like the News Quiz, sometimes the satirical take is the best take on the news of the day.
Both shows are of course well produced and presented as with all BBC offerings.
I listen to the Friday Night Comedy podcast weekly without fail. Its one of my top 6 favourite podcasts.
This section contains podcasts that are documentary series. Some are ongoing series, some are one off's. These are the reason I stripped back my other listening so I have room to fit podcasts like this in as and when they come up.
I don't think any “best of” Documentary section or list of my favourite podcasts would be complete without including Serial. The elephant in the room when it comes to popular podcasts.
Serial bought podcasts into the mainstream capturing the zeitgeist in 2014 with its true crime series covering the case of Adnan Syed. It's expertly produced, well presented and makes for compelling listening. If you are one of the few who hasn't listened then you are in for a treat.
The Serial team builds seasons with a great deal of research and top quality investigative journalism. They aren't cranking out episodes quickly. Each season takes months or years to complete and this shows in the end product.
Season two was less compelling (for me) than season one. It covers the case of Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl who on the face of it goes AWOL from his unit in Afghanistan. Why did he do it? Is he a villain or hero. As with season one Serial presents the story and lets the listener decide.
Season three is absolutely brilliant. As good as if not better than the first. It is back to the courthouse and criminal justice, however Season three is different. They spend a year in a court house in Cleveland telling stories of the people that pass through and the cases they are involved in. In part it's a human story about people caught up in the justice system, but it's also a peeling back the complexities of the US criminal justice system. It'll make you cry, it'll make you laugh but it won't make you bored. This is investigative journalism at its highest.
Serial has earned it spot at the top of the podcasting tree and it makes its way onto my top 6 list easily.
Thirteen Minutes to the Moon
If you are interested in the Apollo space programme and the history of space flight then this podcast is essential listening. From The BBC World Service, this podcast contains two Seasons. The first, released on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, covers the first moon landing culminating in the 13 minute descent and landing. Pulling from NASA archives, aural histories and new interviews with the participants, the entire series is gripping and extremely well told.
The second season covers the Apollo 13 mission the famous successful failure. Released on the 50th anniversary of the mission. As with the first season the story is expertly told with interviews with the people involved and great use of archive material from NASA.
If I were to pick one (and I am!), 13 Minutes to the Moon is my podcast of the year for 2019. Definitely in my top 6.
Crimetown - Season 1: The Buddy Cianci Story
I discovered Crimetown randomly when searching through the podcast directory on my podcast player looking for things to listen to on a long plane trip. Part of the Gimlet Mediapodcast company (now owned by Spotify). Gimlet produce a number of excellent shows that I dip in and out of and wish I had more time to get into. However I have only really listened to this one and one other that features in the ‘Other’ section below.
Before finding this series, I knew nothing about either Providence Rhode Island or who Buddy Cianci was. This was one of those happy accidents finding a compelling story well told.
Season 1 covers the story of an infamous politician and former mayor of Providence Rhode Island, Buddy Cianci. It's a story about organised crime in the state of Rhode Island and about how Buddy Cianci's mayoral journey intersected with it. Mr Cianci is an interesting figure and so are the characters that surround his story. They are bought together fantastically in this series and its well worth a listen.
I have listened to all of series one and intend to listen to series two as well.
BBC Intrigue is a documentary podcast with two series. The first, hosted by British QC Philippe Sands, called ‘The Ratline’ traces Otto Wächter a Nazi who escaped capture using the [ratline](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratlines_(World_War_II_aftermath) routes of the title. The history of Nazi escapes from Europe at the end of WWII fascinates me and this one doesn't disappoint. The story is interesting and the conclusion is somewhat surprising.
The second series called ‘Tunnel 29’ is a Cold War story about escaping East Berlin. It tells the story of Joachim Rudolph who escaped in 1961 and almost immediately started to tunnel back in to liberate others. A classic Cold War tale of daring and extraordinary measures. Very well told. As with series one, Worth every second of listening time.
Yet another great BBC production.
ESPN 30 for 30
30 for 30 is a series of stories from the world of sport. They tell stories about everything from Poker to UFC. Some seasons are collections of individual stories and others cover a single story. All are brilliant. Even if you aren't super into the particular sport, the stories are so well told they all make great listening. Episodes like Six who sat that tells the story of Women's running who up until the 70's(!!) were not allowed to run in marathons. The story of the pioneering women who fought the inequity is inspiring. The story of the UFC, opened my eyes to the crucial role that martial arts heroes of mine The Gracie Family, specifically Rorion and Royce Gracie, played in its founding and evolution.
Then there is season three which tells the alarming story of Bikram Yoga in five episodes. Season five, before the current season of episodes was all about the Sterling Affair in NBA basketball. Something I new nothing about but really enjoyed listening to.
I listen to 30 for 30 episodes as they come out.
The Missing Crypto Queen
A true crime podcast from The BBC that traces the rise and flight into hiding of Dr Ruja Ignatova, the person behind the supposed cryptocurrency OneCoin. OneCoin however may not be what it seems and after making a fortune marketing it and selling it, Ignatova disappears. Reporter Jamie Barlett and producer Georgia Catt attempt to trace Ignatova's whereabouts and uncover the nature of OneCoin and what it has done to investors.
A fascinating and riveting listen. Another masterclass by The BBC in podcast production and investigative journalism.
The BBC Reith Lectures
Every year, The BBC invites a notable, distinguished and outstanding person to deliver a series of lectures in front of a live audience.
I have listened to the Reith Lectures since before they were ever put in podcast form and I don't think I have ever come across a more thought provoking and interesting audio series.
The Reith Lectures are a yearly listen not to be missed. Regardless of who is giving them, they will be compelling, passionate and interesting.
Two personal highlights, one recent and one from a few years bace are 2019's Lecture series given by Lord Johnathan Sumption, former Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and 2003's lectures given by Neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran
I can dip into and listen to any series from the archive that is available online any time. This series has had a profound effect on me and as such is on my Top 6 podcasts.
Slow Burn is another production from Slate. It is a three season documentary podcast. The first two seasons focussed on a different political scandal.
Season One was about Nixon and Watergate and seasons two was about Clinton, the impeachment and the Lewinsky affair. I was more familiar with the details of Watergate than I was with the nuts and bolts of the Clintons. But both series were really compelling and enlightening. Learning how Monica Lewinsky was really taken advantage of by everyone was quite an eye opener.
The current season, season 3 is completely different and focusses on the live's and deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. Telling the story of the famous east/west feud and beef between former friends and looking into the circumstances surrounding their as yet unsolved murders. It's a great story of hip/hop culture and how due to a number of complex factors, violence and mistrust crept in to divide it.
For any hip/hop fan, especially one with an eye on history, this podcast is a must listen. Understanding the history of hip/hop and the politics that brought to life some of its biggest stars is essential to understanding the art itself.
Dan Carlin's Hardcore History
Dan Carlin presents and incredibly well researched history podcast. Broken into series about a particular historical event, Carlin presents many multi-hour long episodes on a historical event with in depth analysis and commentary. He covers the topics in great depth and adds some great insights to the subject at hand.
I have listened to his WWI series end to end and it is one of the best documentary presentations of the material I have ever seen. The time Dan devotes to a subject really does it a service and you can really understand what was going on and how all the events unfolded.
For history nerds this podcast should be top of the list.
Another one off series from The BBC World Service. ‘The Assassination’ tells the story of the Assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The series covers he life and family dynasty in Pakistani politics. It contains interviews with those suspected of orchestrating the her assassination and discusses the motivations behind it. A fascinating story well told by the experts at this kind of reporting from The BBC.
There are a bunch of podcasts I listen to that either don't fit into the categories above or there is only one in thing in a category that I listen to. I have also added podcasts I listen to periodically or podcasts I dip into and don't regularly listen.
Simon Mayo's Books of the Year
Years ago, when at BBC Radio Five Live, Simon Mayo used to present a books podcast which I enjoyed very much. When he left Five Live they stopped doing the books podcast which was sad.
However there is now this book review podcast, hosted with Matt Williams. The pair get an author into the studio to talk about a recent book.
I like these podcasts because they cover a wide range of books and it focusses on the author as well as the content of the book. Many other book review podcasts I have listened to tend to focus on ‘worthy’ books and don't cover the breadth of genre's and topics that I enjoy. This one is pretty good at that.
Each book podcast is split into two episodes. The first where they talk about the book and then talk to the author. The second where they ask the author a bunch of standard questions like “When did you last visit a public library” and “What is the best book you have read recently”.
Episodes tend to come out sporadically, but I enjoy them when they do.
I am still looking for another book review podcast to add here. Feel like it's a gap in my listening routine.
Twenty Thousand Hertz
Twenty Thousand Hertz is presented by Dallas Taylor a creative director at sound studio Defacto Sound. It is a show dedicated to telling the stories behind the worlds most recognisable sounds. Ranging from the THX deep note to the story behind Baby Shark.
This is one of those niche podcasts that is perfect for the format. It's such an interesting listen presented and produced expertly.
I dip in and out, its the sort of thing I binge on a long trip.
From the Relay.fm podcast network hosted by podcasting titans Merlin Mann and the aforementioned John Siracusa.
Reconcilable Differences is ostensibly just two guys from different backgrounds and parts of the US talking about things that are relevant to their lives and what makes them who they are. The show can wander from topic to topic and is very enlightening and funny in equal measure.
Both Merlin and John are incredibly intelligent and incredibly articulate people and on paper this should be one of my all time favourite podcasts. However it isn't. While I enjoy it from time to time, after listening for a number of weeks (I think it still comes our every 2 weeks) I found I wasn't really listening any more. The topics and conversation were kind of just washing over me.
While a lot of Merlin Mann's tropes and antics are great, many of them started to wear on me and I think that is a factor in why I dropped off.
Another factor might also be that it is steeped in US culture and lifestyle. Some of which I can identify with, but a lot of I (as not an American) can't. That is to say, maybe it's me!
I still listen periodically and I do enjoy it. But for me this one is best listened to in smaller doses.
Robot or Not
Part of ‘The Incomparable’ stable of shows ‘Robot or Not’ is hosted by Jason Snell and features John Siracusa (again!).
In this delightfully short podcast, John Siracusa passes judgement on whether or not a thing is a robot… or not!
Actually the show is about classifying things and now does not just classify robots. Listeners ask John to define something and he proceeds to do so. Such as ‘What qualifies and a sandwich? Is a hotdog a sandwich?’ Or ‘What is Soup? Is coffee soup?’ The resulting pronouncements are amusing, enlightening and delightful. Sometimes things are classified in a very American way, a point that John often makes because that is his frame of reference. This is also quite enlightening and is a feature rather than a bug.
It's easy to listen to every episode of this podcast as they are very short and pithy.
Do by Friday
“A weekly challenge show hosted by Merlin Mann, Alex Cox, and Max Temkin.”
This podcast is extremely funny and extremely clever. I am a big fan of Max Temkin (he of cards against humanity fame) and what he does and he is always on top form on this podcast. The foil of the challenge is great, but it's often very much at the periphery of the show as the team engage in banter about one thing or another. It's three very clever people engaging in humorous discourse and the result can be great!
That said, much like Reconcilable Differences, something about this podcast started to grate on me a little. I think it's the banter that starts to wear thin after a while. Sometimes they are a little too clever for their own good perhaps. As with some other podcasts that have fallen off my radar, some of the verbal ticks really started to wind me. The result being that I stopped listening regularly. I just stopped looking forward to it each week and it had to make way for some other stuff.
Again, I still dip in and out enough to include it on this list, but it's no longer a regular listen. Also I feel the problems I have might be unique to me, so I am loath to discourage anyone from picking this podcast up. Give it a go for sure!
Another Podcast from Gimlet Media. Hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It's a podcast and people, technology and the internet. According to the Guardian news paper it is "‘A podcast about the internet’ that is actually an unfailingly original exploration of modern life and how to survive it.”
Some stories fit in a single episode other span multiple episodes. They are told very well with a lot of love and attention to the detail.
I don't know why I don't listen to this every week, but I tend to listen to episodes periodically. I think this is one podcast I will elevate to a weekly listen because it is very good and very enjoyable.
TL;DR - My All Time Top 6
Why 6? Because I wanted to do 5 but I couldn't whittle it down to only 5.
I classified them on these criteria:
- Longest time I have listened. Because its a solid indicator of ongoing enjoyment. 4 of the six below I have listened to for over 5 years.
- Biggest experiential impact. Three of the 6 below had a big effect on me at the time of listening
- Overall quality of material. All of the 6 are top notch when it comes to material covered and how it is presented.
In no particular order:
- BBC World Service 13 Minutes to the Moon
- The Accidental Tech Podcast
- Kermode and Mayo's Film Review
- BBC Friday Night Comedy
- The BBC Reith Lectures
It absolutely wasn't my intention when I set out to write this list, but I now notice that 4 out of the 6 are BBC podcasts. I feel like I listen to more great non-BBC podcasts. But if I have to choose, this is my list.
My Favourite Podcast… Player
To conclude my list of Podcasts I'd like to write about my favourite Podcast player. I use an Apple iPhone and iOS for my Podcast consumption so I can't comment on players available for other platforms, but there are many great podcast players out there for iOS and I have pretty much tried them all. After bouncing around several good candidates I finally settled on Castro.
I have to admit when I first looked at Castro I thought: ‘This isn't right! It makes no sense! A single queue of episodes? An inbox? It's too strange! It looks too simplistic!’ Actually its genius, that's what it is.
What I have found with Podcast players is that they tend to implement a media player type system where you can create playlists for podcasts and podcast episodes. They manage podcast media similar to how you would manage music. As such I used to heavily use playlists to manage my podcast consumption. Castro doesn't have playlists. At first this was quite jarring. Until you realise, podcasts aren't music or audiobooks.
Podcasts should be consumed quite differently from music or audiobooks so really (in my opinion) they need a player that supports the consumption model rather than builds an analogy to an existing medium. What I was finding with other players was that playlists and queues that require a lot of manual triage are not conducive to consuming a lot of different podcasts. I was finding that I would subscribe to a podcast and forget about it unless I spent a decent amount of time manually triaging episodes into playlists. Even with manual management I would forget or ignore playlists amongst the many other playlists.
Now it's completely possible that ‘I was just doing it wrong’ and with a bit of effort I could have wrangled all of my podcast requirement into the particular players way of doing things and been happy. I agree and I attempted to find a way to make my existing player work ‘properly’. But what I found instead was Castro, which (in my opinion) just does it better and in a way that suits the medium.
It's also completely possible that other players have developed and are much better now. But I have been so happy with Castro I have stuck with it now for several years.
So what does Castro do that is so much better than the others? When you subscribe to a podcast on Castro by default it delivers new episodes to the inbox on the player. From there you can quickly decide what you want to do with that episode. You can queue it to listen to, which puts it in the play queue or you can file it in your library. This simply means it will leave a record of it in your subscription list but remove the episode from your device. You can also browse the podcast directory and queue individual episodes for listening without subscribing, so you can get a taste of a podcast before adding anything to your feed.
The screenshots above show the Castro Currently Playing view, the Library View, the Inbox view and the Play Queue view.
You can customise what you want Castro to do with new episodes automatically. If it is a podcast you always listen to you can have Castro automatically put it in your listen queue. If it is a podcast you sometimes listen to you can leave it in your inbox and decide what you want to do per episode. Or you can have Castro ignore episodes leaving it up to you to queue them from your library when you feel like listening.
Why is this so good? Well… If like me you enjoy regularly listening to some episodes of lots of podcasts and all the episodes of a few podcasts this is the perfect Podcast workflow for you. You can see all incoming episodes and easily decide very quickly what you want to do. Listen soon or file for later. Triage takes a second.
In addition Castro is much better for discovering new podcasts than other players. I often got podcast recommendations that I would subscribe to in my previous player but then forget about. With Castro you can easily dip in and out of episodes of new podcasts without losing them in some weird playlist logic because episodes pop into your inbox and you can quickly decide what to do with them. It provides you with a great method for deciding if this new podcast is something you will listen to regularly or occasionally without losing episodes or being required to make some sort of ‘to listen’ playlist.
The one criticism I have of Castro is that even after several years of using it, the UI sometimes still catches me out. Castro uses what I guess is called a card interface? The interface is sometimes at odds with other iOS interfaces and it requires a bit of a mental gear change to operate sometimes.
The interface is super slick and well designed and all the gestures and controls are fine, its just ‘different’ in places and things are sometimes not mentally where you might expect them. This still catches me out.
In summary, I believe Castro is the podcast player created for podcast consumption and not as a media player for podcasts. It has enabled me to listen to a more diverse range of podcasts and discover some real gems. If you are a podcast lover, I highly recommend Castro.