I have a confession to make. I love podcasts. I have a semi-unhealthy addiction to podcasts. I get most of my twitter follows and book recommendations from podcasts. They’ve become an essential part of my daily information diet. The medium is just so good. There’s no better way to absorb raw, unfiltered information from interesting people with unique perspectives. And despite its nascent beginnings, the selection of great podcasts to listen to has just exploded. There’s way too much good content out there to keep up with!
Below is my curated list of podcasts to try out. This list is obviously biased toward my own fields of interest. If you happen to be an art enthusiast or love pop culture, this list will be next to useless for you. But I’m guessing if you’re reading this blog then we have at least SOME shared interests. Even if it’s not your thing, give one or two a try – you might be surprised.
Without further ado, here are 20 awesome podcasts that you should definitely check out.
Perfect for technology nuts and wannabe-entrepreneurs. The a16z staff hosts prominent authors, investors, CEOs etc. to talk emerging technology and how the business of technology is being disrupted. For instance, a few recent episodes covered VR for storytelling, genomics, and the next evolution of cities.
Conversations With Tyler
Tyler Cowen hosts various guests to discuss a wide range of topics, usually with some angle relating to macro-economics. It’s actually pretty hard to be more specific than that, they’re kind of all over the place.
Ben Thompson (the "Stratechery" guy) and his co-host James Allworth discuss the business and strategy of technology, with the occasional diversion into bigger-picture topics in society and politics. Ben is really, really good at understanding how tech companies operate and where they’re headed. It’s kind of like getting a business school degree, but better (and for free).
Consider it a weekly lesson in psychology, sociology and human behavior, using real-world stories. I mean, everyone likes stories right?
Invest Like The Best
Ostensibly it’s about investing, but a lot of the guests aren’t investors at all so it’s hard to pigeonhole. Consider it more an exercise in learning how to think and cultivate curiosity, while also learning about things like hedge funds, venture capital, value investing etc.
O’Reilly Data Show
For big data nerds. Actually most episodes lately are about AI, because fucking everyone in tech now has to talk about AI at every opportunity. But it’s also about big data. Fairly in-the-weeds discussion, and a lot of emphasis on open-source projects. It’s a great way to stay up-to-date on the big data landscape.
For data science nerds. The crew talks data and machine learning while drinking obscure artisanal beer. Hilarty (and learning) ensues. They’ve also had a lot of good interviews with various data scientists lately (although they’re slacking a bit on the beer).
Radiolab is just awesome. Not sure how else to put it. They do episodes on all sorts of topics (the latest one on CRISPR was really good). Production quality is super high. The topics are also really accessible. If you’re new to podcasting this is a great place to start.
Their tagline is "exploring the borderlands between reason and nonsense". If you’re skeptical of that claim, then you should probably be listening to this podcast!
Kara Swisher grills various silicon valley elites about various tech topics. Okay, it’s not only that. But it’s MOSTLY that.
Malcolm Gladwell did a ten-part series where he goes in-depth on random stories from the past and shows how the popular narrative around those events was either wrong or at least incomplete. The show has been on hiatus for a while but worth spinning through the archive.
Waking Up With Sam Harris
Sam is a really smart dude. He invites lots of other really smart dudes on his show, and they spend a few hours going ludicrously in-depth on various philosophical, scientific, and political subjects. In takes a special type of person to be into this sort of thing, but if you’re that type of person, you won’t find anything else like this anywhere else.
Neil deGrasse Tyson, also known as the millennials’ Carl Sagan, is at his best in these entertaining, free-flowing discussions about various science or science-adjacent topics. All sorts of interesting guests and very wide-ranging interviews. Also, one of the comedians that frequents the show kind of sounds like the guy from Archer, which is pretty cool.
For hardcore machine learning nerds. They do lots of interviews with researchers in various specializations. It’s pretty technical but very useful if you’re an ML practitioner. No new episodes in the last few months but I’m keeping an eye on it.
TED Radio Hour
This is one of my favorites. Very high production quality, super-wide range of interesting topics. Each hour-long show stitches together excerpts from several TED talks that share some common theme. They also add some narration and frequently interview the TED speakers to add some color to the original talks. Awesome series.
The Ezra Klein Show
Ezra is a political journalist but the podcast isn’t focused on politics (although some of his guests are politicians). Just a lot of really good interviews with really smart people. Good podcast hosts are able to frame questions in ways that guide the discussion in interesting directions, and Ezra is especially good at this.
The Knowledge Project
Just recently discovered this one. The stated goal is to focus on "actionable strategies that help you make better decisions, avoid stupidity, and live a better life". A lot of the interviews are geared towards reading and knowledge acquisition.
The Tim Ferriss Show
Pretty much everyone knows who Tim is. In addition to his famous "4-hour" books, he’s one of the guys that really launched podcasting as a medium into the mainstream. His tagline is "deconstructing world-class performers". A lot of the interviews are really good, although some could be edited down a bit.
Value Investing Podcast
I’m not gonna lie, these conversations are dry as hell. But if you’re serious about investing then there’s a LOT of good information to learn here.
Vox’s The Weeds
For policy nerds (yes, that’s a thing). Actually politics more broadly, but they spend a lot of time focused specifically on policy details (health care, taxes, education, and so on). It isn’t called "The Weeds" for nothing. For some reason I find it surprisingly fascinating. Useful if you want to talk circles around baffled family members at the next politically-charged Thanksgiving dinner.
Source: John Wittenauer