The Wonderful World Of Podcasts



‘I couldn’t live without Radio 4’ is a sentence you hear a lot in Britain. The channel is a riveting mix of erudite factual series, but it has been challenged by the inexorable rise of the quality podcast.

Downloading a whole online audio series became more popular than ever after ‘Serial’ explored its real-life murder case a year ago, and still rumbles on in the form of a spin-off with the active participation of web-sleuths.

It’s the tip of the iceberg. The choice is staggering. Here are just a few worth checking out or back in with.

Dan Carlin’s hardcore history series proved he has a knack for knotting together strands of history into a exciting narratives, although it sometimes gets a bit in-depth and exhausting.

The book ‘Freakonomics’ by economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner turned into a weekly podcast, with investigations into the hidden side of buying and selling, and is always fun.

’99 percent Invisible’ covers all kinds of odd topics such as the history of Wonder Bread, the social impact of cul-de-sacs or where our phones’ clicking noises come from, and is impossible to stop listening to.

The BBC World Service’s ‘The Enquiry’ takes one news story a week, such as life in North Korea under Kim Jong-un, and examines the issue closely, starting with the absolute basics. If you know nothing about the topic, you’ll learn loads.

‘Page 94’ is the Private Eye podcast, which is like listening to those old floppy 45rpm records that used to come free with the Eye – partly funny and informative, partly tedious.

‘No Such Thing As A Fish’ comes from the same team who collate facts for the BBC’s QI programme, and is packed with trivia. In just one episode you learn that pandas defecate 40 times a day, that the “pedantry” entry on Wikipedia has been edited more than 500 times.

‘Radiolab’, with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, is a podcast that mixes stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries. They’re utterly addictive, and I’ve been listening to it for years.

The biggest problem is how you find the time to catch up with the millions of podcasts that exist out there. I don’t drive or commute to work, so it’s ironing-listening for me!

4 comments on “The Wonderful World Of Podcasts”

  1. Vincent C says:

    Novel, instructive, polymathic and delightful as ever. Thank you.

  2. Vivienne says:

    Never a dull moment from now on! Thanks.

  3. Mim says:

    I’ve really been enjoying Tim Weaver’s one, ‘Missing’.

  4. Nathaniel Goss says:

    I’m sure you know of it’s existence Chris, but other readers of your blog should check out The Secret History of Hollywood.

    The third and final part of Alfred Hitchcocks adventures is a staggering 9 hours of audio pleasure.

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