I love podcasts to switch off during a rush hour commute in Bangkok. Often trains are packed and you can’t even pull out your phone to look at funny cat pictures. Listening to podcasts makes me feel a bit more productive when I walk home from the subway station in the sweltering heat (or sit in a traffic jam in the back of an air conditioned taxi). This way, aside from burning an extra calorie or two, I also learn why an adopted, black, gay teenager is a huge Trump supporter.
What to Listen: Podcast Recommendations
Podcasts can live up to what I refer to as ‘productive entertainment’: something that you can consume in abundance without feeling like you wasted your time (something I definitely struggle with). Of course, not all Podcasts live up to that aspiration (or even aim to), but there’s a fair selection of ones that fit the bill. Here are my favorite picks.
Part science entertainment, part audio documentary, Radiolab is a show that explores anything from deathwatch beetles and citywide surveillance systems to anti-addiction pills and the concept of evil. Think ‘smart, witty, entertaining coverage of a random science-y topic’. Listening to an episode is a bit like reading one of those science books we loved back when we were kids: An accessible introduction to a fascinating topic that keeps you glued to the book (or headphones) and asking your parents for more.
Standard eCorner was the very first ‘podcast’ I listened to. Its recordings of talks and Q&As are taken from entrepreneurship classes taught at Stanford University. Over the last 10 years, it regularly featured killer speakers, including Elon Musk and Reid Hoffman, sometimes long before they get well-known on a broader scale: On several occasions, I found myself listening to people years before they hit the mainstream media. Mark Zuckerberg? He was on the podcast 12 years ago!
Startup is a podcast about creating a podcast startup (meta, I know). Featuring Chris Sacca and other well-knowns in the startup world, it covers behind-the-scenes topics (e.g. picking a name, setting a valuation for a company, burnout…) with recordings of the actual conversations. But what really intrigues me are the recorded conversations between the host (and founder) of the show and his wife that make up a big part of the first season. Seeing the relationship of a couple and a family behind a business is something you otherwise rarely get to witness. It offers a very human lesson and insight on what it takes to create a company.
This American Life
This American Life is what inspired me to get started with ‘Brewed in Bangkok‘. It showcases the amazing stories that lie hidden amongst the people that surround us. It might not have changed my view of the world, but it gave me an idea of the excitement and suspense that are scattered throughout the people that I pass without notice every day. If you are part of the 95% of the planet’s population that’s not American, it also offers insight into one of the most influential cultures in our times.
A bit heavy on the ads, WTF still offers one of the best interview-based podcast shows. My personal favorite was Sacha Baron Cohen who talked out-of-character about the thoughts and work behind the comedy he does. WTF is definitely more on the entertaining rather than educating side of things, but it does offer a new perspective on a lot of well-known names and what goes on in the minds of the people we see on TV on a daily basis – including Barack Obama.
How to Listen: Podcast Apps
If you’re new to podcasts, there’s a number of ways you can get started. In many cases, you can just download the mp3 files directly from the web page to your computer or on your phone. Some shows nowadays also upload their episodes to YouTube and Soundcloud, allowing you to stream them right in your browser.
A more convenient way are the iPhone (Overcast) and Android (Pocket Casts) apps that make it easy to subscribe to your favorite podcasts. Apps have the advantage of giving you instant access to past episodes and notifying you of new releases.
When to Listen: Podcast Activities
I actually took a break from listening to podcasts for several years. There were two main reasons for that: I prefer reading over any other form of media, and I didn’t find myself in situations where I had the (mental) free time but couldn’t read.
People usually listen to podcasts when their hands are busy and their brains are not: While washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning their apartment, or driving to work. Thanks to the dubious convenient of ‘the Bangkok lifestyle’ I wasn’t doing these things myself anymore. Recently, thanks to my new found love for walking and Bangkokian’s new-found love for filling the Skytrain to its brink, that has changed a bit.
Podcasts turn tedious travel time into fascinating mental exploration time. With some really intense podcasts rivaling popular Netflix shows in terms of suspense, I actually started to actively seek out excuses to plug-in during the day to get my latest audio fix.
What Do You Listen to?
Most of the podcast recommendations come from friends. Popular podcast apps also tend to have a top 100 list, making it easy to discover what other people find interesting. However, I’m always on the look out for more shows. If you have any other podcast recommendations, please let me know in the comments 🙂