Radio is a wonderful medium, immersive but not restrictive. All the evidence suggests multi-tasking is a great way of doing two things poorly but even I can wash the pots and listen attentively at the same time. Radio’s major drawback, that one had to listen to what the broadcaster determined, has been overcome by podcasts.
It’s taken longer than I expected, but after that first rush of enthusiasm for the medium 15 years ago, podcasts are enjoying something of a second wind. For finance, economics and stock geeks like me the pickings are incredibly rich and stimulating. And unlike the internet, they don’t suck up your time. Listen at your leisure to my top four podcasts for 2016 whilst mowing the lawn, in the car, on your bike or while the kids are killing each other over the PlayStation in the other room.
1. Planet Money
When the financial crisis hit in 2008 a journalist at This American Life (see below) thought someone should explain the tumultuous events to ordinary people in language they could understand. The result was The Giant Pool of Money by Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg, the first ‘explainer’ of the crisis and still one of the best. Such was the success that an entire show devoted to all things economic was born. Never dry or dull, recent Planet Money episodes have covered the mind games in gym membership pricing, the story of Vince Kosuga and how he cornered the American market in onions and how to avoid an asteroid. This is economics for everyone, so good you don’t even realise its economics. Subscribe here.
2. Slate Money
Where Planet Money offers highly crafted narratives, Slate Money is all about the unscripted interplay between three wildly different personalities. There’s Felix Salmon, the pompous, interrupting Pom who is one of the world’s best finance journos; Cathy O’Neil, a former fund quant who decided to do something useful with her life; and Jordan Weissman, a young wonk with an interesting take. The best thing about the show is the lack of niceties between the participants. All appear to get a thrill from disagreement and debate. Subscribe to this short and feisty podcast here.
Hosted by Stanford University economist Russ Roberts, this one really is for the wonks. Roberts is interested in ‘how the essential insights of economics can help us understand the world around us and lead better lives’ which is why the subject matter for his weekly show covers everything from the kidney market in Iran to the social order of the underworld. This isn’t just two economists talking shop. Roberts is of a libertarian bent but is never callous or ideological. With a weekly guest he explores the terrain of human experience through an economic lens with intellectual curiosity and verve. If only all of economics were like this. Subscribe here.
When Alex Bloomberg left Planet Money he pulled a neat trick. Sensing that podcasting was to become a thing, Bloomberg started Gimlet Media, an ad-supported media business creating high-quality podcasts. His first production was Startup, a reveal-all show on starting a new business. The first season’s focus was on…Gimlet Media.
StartUp is utterly compulsive listening, with his unbelievably bad elevator pitch to Silicon Valley Big Cheese Chris Sacca a stomach churning highlight, as are the late night, disclose-and-record conversations with his wife. I don’t think I’ve ever read or listened to anything as open and honest on the challenges of starting a business. Bloomberg raised a few million on the back of the show’s success and Gimlet now has five shows, all of which are enthralling. Go Alex. Subscribe here.
I could list many more but will leave you with only two. The first is our very own podcast, hosted by Gaurav Sodhi, which this year we want to make a more regular event. The second is This American Life, led by the inimitable Ira Glass. If you check out the employees at Gimlet, you’ll see how central this program — also behind Serial, the first podcast to reach 5 million downloads on iTunes — was to the medium. This American Life covers a similar territory to the long gone Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America, stories from the American underbelly, told with warmth and panache.
Finally, if you have any recommendations of your own, please leave them in the comments section below.
To get more insights, stock research and BUY recommendations, take a 15 day free trial of Intelligent Investor now.