I have been late in the game: I started to listen to podcasts only since summer 2014.

Since then, I (re)discovered and reinvented my relationship with the radiophonic medium and found a new way to learn and wander at the same time.

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tl;dr

I think podcasts and radio programmes can be an additional source of enlightenment to books. They are easy to fit in our every day life. Hopefully this selection of my favourite podcasts will nudge your curiosity.

podcast = audio + delivery

First of all, the very base definition of a podcast could be the following: an audio content downloadable from the web and you can subscribe to; to get notified of new episodes.

Think of an audio article, as if your favourite New Yorker or the Guardian long reads could be transposed to an audio format programme.

Publishers

Podcasts can be edited by web based publishers (e.g.: On Being or JavaScript Jabber), brick and mortar organisations (e.g.: the London School of Economics, the Guardian or Harvard University) and eventually by radio broadcasters (e.g.: the BBC, npr or France Inter).

A radio receiver requires to scrub frequencies to listen to broadcasted programmes with no intrinsic way to catch up, unless a programme is aired again.

Podcasts enable you to listen to on demand content and eventually you end up subscribing to your favourite programmes updates with an ability to listen online or offline.

Luckily for us, most of the radio programmes are also edited as podcasts so we can listen to them months or years later.

Why, when and how to listen to podcasts?

I used to rely on books and essays to expand my views of the world. I really got onto podcasts when I found the ones which taught me things. I mostly listen to them while walking and commuting. Sometimes when I lie on my bed, speakers out.

I mainly use mobile applications:

I heard good things about:

Then I found out it is mostly about a balance of time: how many subscriptions, how frequent, how long — it is a very personal matter. I started removing the subscriptions I listened the less to clear the queue and prevent any podcast obesity. I tried some (like 99% invisible, this American Life and Serial) but unsubscribed because I did not get into them or found them too verbose/lengthy.

My selection of english programmes

I had to start working at the BBC to force myself to turn on the radio to understand its landscape. I browsed BBC radio programmes, then npr to get an american counterpart. And finally got on original web programmes.

On Being

A regular dose of great guests speaking about the inner mind, how we deal with our emotions and our weaknesses as well as our strengths. I discovered danah boyd‘s research thanks to it.

Invisiblia

An editorialised approach of the invisible forces which drive us. I learned quite a lot around areas I was interested in: emotions, creativity, fulfilment, finding a balance etc.

60 seconds science

For when I am on a row to get some quick scientific nuggets.

Hidden Brain

I discovered it in September 2016. I loved their exploration of how the brain can be at work where I did not expect it to do so.

The why factor

Similar topics as Hidden Brain but with a British accent on top of it, and a bit punchier. I like the pace of the programme, with interleaved interviews, scientific facts and some twists of humour.

Inside science

Still scientific but less brain orientated: I like learning about everyday life scientific situations in a clear and straight-to-the-point way.

Short cuts

I never know what I will get out of these episodes… and that’s why I like this programme.

Fresh Air

A very good show which showcases work from authors, philosophers and scientists. I discovered Oliver Sacks thanks to it – sadly not too long before his death.

I also do not hesitate to skip episodes due to their length and frequency.

Data Stories

A broad exploration of the world of data with guests ranging from scientists and programmers to conference reports and artists. I like the mix of shared experience and scientific theories. The duo of presenters makes it easy to digest and the episodes pages contain additional visual graphics and information.

Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything

This one is a bit crazier, very chatty and I like how Benjamen deep dives into society frictions, fears and problems. Plus he knows how to phrase issues and to mock them gently.

My selection of french programmes

Interestingly enough, I (re)discovered French radio programmes after discovering the british and north american landscapes. It is only in 2015, at 32 years old, I realised how rich, solid and insightful the French radio offer was.

Club Jazzafip

I built all my jazz knowledge and discovered great artists — classic and contemporary ones — with this radio programme before moving to the UK. You don’t have to understand french to appreciate the music and the soothing voice of the presenters.

La marche de l’Histoire

I love to learn about historical facts in the light of contemporary situations. Or even to rediscover History through a different angle than the school books point of view.

Sur les épaules de Darwin

The voice of the presenter is incredibly soothing. I love his sensitive, touching and well documented take about life.

Terre à terre

An October 2016 discovery about the relationship between agriculture, nature and society. One I strongly recommend to people looking to add more meaningfulness in their life.

Conclusion

I like podcasts for the continuity they offer in term of topic exploration. Their content would scratch the surface, expose me to knowledge I was not aware of or deep dive in a very specific fragment of a discipline – you might have guessed my favourites: psychology, history and sciences. It became my main tool of knowledge discovery.

I switch back to book essays when I want to deep dive in a topic or to go beyond what I discovered in a podcast.

Listening to podcasts is format which fits very well with commute, transportations and situations where I want to relax my eyes and keep my hands free. I dedicate a tiny iPod touch to fit my offline content on the go.

Feel free to share your favourite podcasts and why you loved them in the comments below 😊.