It has been over a decade since technology journalist Ben Hammersley coined the term "podcast" to describe the form of automatically downloaded audio. In recent years, podcasts have enjoyed a surge in popularity with approximately 3.7 million adults listening to podcasts in the UK alone.
Like many others, I re-discovered my love of listening after hearing Serial, a real crime podcast that became a huge part of mainstream culture at the end of 2014, racking up 75 million episode downloads after the first season debuted. Office conversations in the Man Bites Dog ‘doghouse’ soon went from “what did you watch on TV last night?” to fierce debates on whether Adnan Syed was guilty or not and whether we agreed with the lines of investigation being presented by host, Sarah Koenig.
The pre-recorded format of podcasts and ability to download and listen to them any time anywhere, means that people are never far from entertainment, inspiration or ways to pass the time on the commute to work.
If like me, you’re on the eternal quest for learning and inspiration but always struggle to find the time, here are my five podcast recommendations:
Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a couch over an armchair? 99% Invisible is about the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about. What started as a project by KALW public radio and the American Institute of Architects in San Francisco is now hugely popular with over 80 million downloads.
This podcast cleverly packages bright ideas and thinking in a quirky and accessible way. Ever wondered if the restaurant tipping business model is out of date? What the supply chain of the humble pencil is? Or why Uber is an economist’s dream? These are just some of the riddles award-winning journalist, Stephen Dubner and his team, set out to explore through investigation and captivating conversation with nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs.
Over the course of 10 episodes, this podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply Media, goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.
Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. It reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behaviour, the biases that shape our choices, and the triggers that direct the course of our relationships. Ever considered if the way you park your car says something vital about you? Or how hidden biases keep people from finding interesting jobs? This podcast has the answers.
5. HBR IdeaCast
From Harvard Business Review, this weekly podcast is categorised as a management and marketing podcast, but it covers much more. Featuring the leading thinkers in business and management - some famous and others ‘behind the scenes’ - from the CEOs of Amazon and Starbucks to director Francis Ford Coppola and Stanford professor Bob Sutton – HBR IdeaCast covers one general topic of issue per episode.
Most of these podcasts are accompanied by dedicated websites that offer further material for engaged listeners. It’s a never-ending font of interesting facts and inspiring content. All of these podcasts are free to download and, luckily for me, new ones spring up almost every week.
If you need me, leave a message; I’ll be listening to my phone…