Since podcasts appeared sometime in the middle of the past decade, I’ve never been much interested because of a perceived connection between “radio shows” and music only. As a proactive music listener, I took whatever music I wanted (legally, of course) with no need for radio. But it’s naive to think radio is just music.
It’s hard to remember how it happened, but it was probably a discussion with friend and business partner Constant, who listens to one show almost every day before gong to sleep (and who himself was involved in Silence Radio, a website producing pieces of “art radio”, but that’s another story). So I finally gave it a shot and became quite addicted.
Here are only real podcasts, not the radio shows that just aired and have been “podcasted” to let you listen to them one or more time. These are the real guys, the ones with a passion, who talk about stuff they’re obsessed with and who take the time out of their day jobs to bring it to us live! so we can hear what they have to say. These people, the ones with something to say, don’t always have any place on the FM band to say it, and happily take the opportunity offered by the internet to do it.
With a graphic design background, geek credentials and an interest in the Mac, iOS devices and eletronic technology, I’m interested in this really great network built by Dan Benjamin called 5by5. The whole collection of podcasts is mostly about technical stuff, though you’ll also find shows about sports, cinema and arts in there somewhere.
The Pipeline is a simple 40 minute interview that’s more like a “conversations with innovators, designers, geeks, newsmakers, entrepreneurs, and people who create amazing things.” The last episodes date from September 2011 but that’s ok, there are 57 of them, so you’ll have some to catch up on until the next ones come out. Dan has invited people like Jonathan Mann, known as the “song a day guy” who, when he was younger, starred in a rock opera with Thomas Hughes of The Spinto Band (those guys have just released their album, but that’s also another story). Jessica Hische, the famous illustrator was also featured in one episode where she talked about the way she does things and explained why “the work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life”.
You can dig around in the archive for more nice talks, like the one with Marco Arment (Instapaper), Mike Monteiro (graphic designer and broadcaster on his own Mule Radio ), Anil Dash (one of the earliest and most influential bloggers on the Internet), Tina Roth Eisenberg (from Swissmiss) and Merlin Mann (aka The Kung Fu Grippe Productivity and Inbox Zero Guy).
This last one, Merlin, also co-hosts another show with Dan called Back to Work. It might sound like a casual conversation between two friends about the stuff they’ve done that week, but they always bring in their expertise as real “doers” and subtly distribute their advice on how to get things done.
A regular slot by Merlin called “Has the show started yet?” in the middle of the episode sets the tone for the humor in their recorded conversations.
Staying with tech stuff and things related to the Internet, let’s pretend you want to improve your French by listening to some French podcasts; you should check out Place de la Toile. This one is really spot-on in terms of new technology and digital culture. It’s actually a real radio show over on France Culture, the French public radio station, though you can’t pick it up in Belgium.
The best way to listen to these shows is with a little gem of an app called Instacast HD. Using the native ipad Music app is not really conveniant, as you always have to check manually on the iTunes store for new episodes before going back to the music app to listen. Instacast HD does what the native app cannot: first of all you can subscribe to your favourite shows and it automatically downloads new episodes when they become available. It also displays the show notes if you need it, with an in-app web browser to directly navigate the links mentioned in the show. The easy skipping back button, set to 30 seconds on the native app, has been enhanced with a skipping forward button so you can even decide the time shift in the options. You can even sync your shows with iCloud and start a podcast on your iPhone and continue later on your iPad, exactly where you left off.
So if you see me, driving around Brussels with massive headphones on inside my car, well that’s what I’m doing – getting my 2 hour podcast fix. Just don’t tell the police.