My Favourite Podcasts

For the last couple of years I've had about an hour long commute into work. This isn't something I'd particularly recommend, but one of the pleasant side-effects of it has been the opportunity to listen to a lot of podcasts.

For those who don't know, a podcast is a bit like a radio show, but instead of being broadcast at a fixed time over the radio, it's made available indefinitely over the Internet. Most podcasts release episodes on some kind of regular schedule. You can subscribe to your chosen podcasts on your PC or smartphone, which will then download new episodes for you to listen to whenever you choose, or you can just play whatever episodes you like.

There are tons of podcasts out there - some professionally produced, some made by amateurs but often just as good (in a way, podcasting has done for radio what ebooks and print-on-demand did for book publishing). There are no doubt plenty out there that will suit your individual interests, and what appeals to me won't necessarily appeal to you. That said, I'll share a few of my favourites - if any of them sound like your kind of thing, what not give it a go?

  • Welcome To Night Vale - this fortnightly podcast takes the form of a local radio show from a small town where something's not quite right. Actually, 'not quite right' is an understatement - every kind of paranormal activity and conspiracy imaginable is going on. Think Lovecraftian horror meets surrealist humour through the medium of local radio. Over the last couple of years this has become something of a cult hit with world tours of the live shows. I'd recommend you start listening from the beginning, since there's an ongoing narrative.
  • Accidental Tech Podcast - this is a weekly discussion of tech news and issues with three software developer hosts. They primarily focus on Apple, since that's where their main interests lie. It can be quite technical, although even with my most rudimentary programming knowledge I can follow most of what they talk about. If you find technology interesting you may well enjoy it, though what keeps me coming back to it is the great relationship between the the three hosts. You can just pick it up from the latest episode, or browse through the episode notes for one that interests you.
  • The Cracked Podcast - with a new episode most weeks this is the podcast form of the popular humour website. It sees a variety of different Cracked contributors and guests tackling a variety of different topics. Like the website, it's funny but also informative - most articles/episodes are based on surprising facts. Like the website, you'll probably not be interested in every episode but there's almost certainly something on there that you'll enjoy. Like the website, anything with Jason Pargin (aka David Wong) is usually going to be particularly insightful. Also like the website, the humour can occasionally be crude, so you have been warned. My advice: look through the episodes available and pick out one that grabs your interest.
  • The Infinite Monkey Cage - this is actually the podcast form of the Radio 4 science panel show with Brian Cox, Robin Ince and their guests, although with a bit more material cut from radio and more convenient to listen to. It presents topics from a wide range of scientific disciplines in an earnest but humorous way. Look out for the episodes that interest you, but once you start you'll probably end up listening to them all anyway. Bonus tip: if you listen to the radio, your favourite shows quite possibly have a podcast of their own.
  • Isometric - this is a weekly look at video games. I was once quite into gaming although these days I rarely get the opportunity or motivation for it. Despite that I do still take an interest, and Isometric is a good way of keeping up to date. While gaming culture can sometimes be pretty toxic this show takes a more welcoming and more feminist perspective, thanks to the four great hosts. Good place to find game recommendations. Listen to a few episodes and eventually you'll pick up all the in-jokes.

I've only ever stumbled upon podcasts fairly randomly, so there are no doubt many others that I'd enjoy if I ever came across them. If you've got any recommendations of your own, please do let me know below.