You can tell how eclectic a person is by looking at their podcast feed. However varied your interests, whatever niche you’re into, there’s almost certainly a podcast that hits your sweet spot. At Engage, we’re all different kinds of nerds, and like any other business, we’re sharpest, strongest, and smartest when we embrace our diversity.
Some of us prefer information-heavy, data-driven shows. Others want to hear a story with a human element, and still others prefer to listen to works of fiction. Having a wide range of personalities helps us to approach problems from different angles and allows us to build creative solutions that are the product of many different minds working together. Here’s what a few of those different minds are listening to right now.
If you want to go beyond just national polls and get deep in polling and demographic data, this is the podcast for you. But it’s also a case study in amazing hub-and-spoke content marketing.
I’ve been following Fivethirtyeight’s election model for about 4-5 months now, and I say election model and not election coverage because their model is literally something you can watch changing as we approach the election in November. It’s the perfect hub around which to create multi-channel spokes of related content (articles, social content, videos, audio), and their Elections podcast is my favorite spoke.
A guilty pleasure for when I’ve overdosed on Elections and decide to listen to mindless sports talk rather than rocking and crying silently over the fate of the country. Fantasy Focus is stupid, as Matthew Berry would no doubt agree. I’m not really in it for the fantasy sports talk, it’s more an exercise in spontaneity, authenticity and generally entertaining banter on a subject I enjoy.
And a quick side note about the awesomeness of fantasy sports. I always saw data as something entirely abstract – divorced from the real world or the things I actually enjoyed like sports. The idea that something so cerebral – like catching a pass or running in a touchdown – can be quantified in a way that’s tangible and consistent enough to be the basis of a $26 billion industry is amazing to me.
Triple J’s Hack
Triple J is the millennial radio station for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (our national broadcaster). As horrendous as that sounds, Triple J is actually pretty good. Hack is a daily call-in show for people to talk about the news of the day – today they were talking about Australia’s gay marriage plebiscite and a ban on greyhound racing. As an expat, it’s good for keeping a pulse on the news back home and the different opinions that surround it.
From the Buckminister Fuller quote: “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable,” 99% Invisible is a podcast all about the hidden design that underpins our everyday lives. If you’ve ever wondered “Do the Chinese really eat fortune cookies?” or “Why is the sound quality so good during live sports events?” then this is the podcast for you. They also answer questions that you would never in your wildest dreams think to ask, such as “Can color-changing cats warn humans 10,000 years in the future about the dangers of nuclear waste contamination?” 99pi has an answer.
a16z is kind of a full-contact sport, as far as podcasts go. Associated with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, a16z brings on some of the most brilliant people in the world to speak on topics ranging from truth & trust in leadership, weighing the value of different types of network effects, diving deep on the implications of automation and IoT on the American workforce and everything else in the worlds of tech/entrepreneurship/professional growth/economics/etc. a16z, I find, leans to the far edges of how dense a podcast can be while still being great to listen to, so expect to spend time pausing and rewinding to fully consider what you’ve just heard.
It helps that I’m obsessed with the outdoors, but that’s not necessary to love the Dirtbag Diaries. The context is outdoor sports, but the content is all about ordinary people doing mind-blowing things. Rock climbers host a haphazard wedding party at the top of a desert tower, a busy mom vows to reintroduce her children’s generation to the great outdoors, a community helps a deceased hiker finally finish the Appalachian Trail, an office worker starts saying ‘yes’ to life and ends up in Antarctica as a superwoman version of her former self.
The Kitchen Sisters cover almost too many topics to mention, and in such an intensely intimate way, that it’s hard to know how to describe the show. Stories range from the subversiveness of Tupperware parties, the personal lives of Nick Drake and Patti Smith, why girls of a certain age love unicorns, field recordings from a fallen soldier in Vietnam, a DIY candy chef’s prison cell kitchen…I’m getting carried away, but just listen to it. The Kitchen Sisters have won just about every award possible for radio journalism and they set the gold standard for audio storytelling (sorry I’m not sorry, Ira Glass).
Lore is a podcast that tells the history behind true-life scary stories. “It exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares.” I listen to this podcast because it encompasses everything I love about storytelling (I’m obsessed with all things horror). Aaron Mahnke presents his research in a well-organized and alluring story. He uses almost a campfire-esque narration, with tone-setting music in the background. Lore is my all-time favorite podcast, and was voted iTunes Best of 2015.
The Black Tapes podcast is another horror podcast I’m obsessed with. This podcast is a fictional serialized docudrama focusing on a journalist’s search for paranormal truth, her subject’s mysterious past, and ghosts that figuratively and literally haunt them both. This podcast is like listening to a horror TV series. It features high-quality sound effects, narration, a smart and well-constructed story with extreme twists/turns, and great voice acting. To be honest, when listening to this podcast, I have a hard time working. The events easily distract me, and I always want to listen to more. Voted iTunes Best of 2015.
The same production company produces both The Black Tapes and Tanis. It’s another serialized docudrama about discovering the fascinating and horrifying mystery of Tanis. To this day, the listeners are trying to discover what Tanis really is, but we’re still sucked into the mystery of it. Like The Black Tapes, this podcast is like listening to a TV series. It’s full of mystery, plot twists, and some horror elements. The plot even draws in real-life events/phenomena that actually occurred. This is another podcast that distracts me while I’m listening to it.
Archive 81 is a horror podcast presented in a style that makes it seem real. The story focuses on tapes sent by a missing Daniel Powell to his friend Marc. His friend presents these tapes to listeners through this podcast. The tapes focus on Dan archiving mysterious tapes for his temporary job. The tapes unveil a mysterious evil lurking in an old apartment building and Dan is forcibly sucked in by this evil. I love this podcast because I never know what each episode will focus on. It’s like listening to a horror found-footage TV series.
I listen to all of these podcasts because of the storytelling and the themes found in each episode. Every podcast listed above inspires me to write better horror films. They inspire me to go beyond the limits of what I’m used to developing and filming. They’re also extremely addicting due to their high production values and the creators’ commitment to each episode. I’m always looking forward to the next episode and the next seasons.
This “podcast about the Internet” is only that on the surface; hosts PJ and Alex manage to portray the whole realm of human experience using the Internet as a framework. I think I truly fell in love with the podcast while listening to Episode 36, in which the hosts decide to just go outside and have an adventure.
Host Starlee Kine charms me in every episode as she doggedly pursues answers to real-life mysteries, ones that can’t be solved by using the Internet. Every episode is filled with humor, heart and the uncompromising truth. Depressingly, Gimlet is no longer producing the show, but I remain hopeful that Mystery Show will come out with a second season soon.