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Picking a Podcast: The Guide

Picking a Podcast: The Guide

I told Tom about two years ago that I thought podcasts were lame. I KNOW. And then he introduced me to Serial and I didn’t take my headphones out for 3 days until the end of the series, then found myself in a digital wormhole about Adnan Syed theories.

Since then I have dabbled in and out of the podcast world – but it wasn’t until the later half of last year that I really became hooked. And I’ve realised there’s a ton of reasons why podcasts are awesome (I can practically see some of you eye-rolling at me because I’m so late to the podcast party but bear with me). The main reason for me is that I can multi-task – I can learn something or be entertained, all while folding laundry or cleaning the bathroom (yes let’s have another eye-roll for my domestic life). I also think podcasts provide a great alternative to music, particularly on longer commutes or drives. Ones that are educational in some way also provide an easily accessible way to digest information.

First thing's first - get an app

This will of course help with the mutlitasking side of things and being on the go. I recommend Podcast Addict for all non-apple users. I have no regrets joining the Apple craze, but I do kinda miss the ease of use and sheer amount of podcasts available on this app. It seems a bit unfriendly at first but trust me, it’s great. If you’re on the iPhone, there’s the apple podcast app but I’ve been using the Acast app – I’ve been switching between the two to test them both out and so far the acast is winning – it’s a bit more user friendly and clear to see what you’ve downloaded, what you’re in the middle of listening to, and podcasts you’ve subscribed to. I also like black (the colour scheme of an app matters to me k…).

So where to begin? I’ve popped below a bunch of my favourites and why – I hope you’ve got a cup of tea because this post is hefty. Are there any there that you’ve tried? Let me know in the comments! I’d also love any new recommendations!

For the one who loves music

Song Exploder – This is SUCH a cool podcast if you love music or you know someone who does and isn’t on board with the podcast thing yet. They’re bite-sized episodes featuring an artist or band talking you through the creative process of one of their songs – usually one that is not as well known or popular. And it’s not just an interview; the song is broken down into parts so you can really hear a certain tune/beat/lyric and why they included it or how it came to be. Go with the Lorde or Chet Faker episodes if you aren’t sure where to start (two of my faves).

For pure laugh-out-loud and absurdity

Disclaimer: NOT recommended for under 18 or the faint-hearted

My Dad Wrote a Porno – God this show is good. There are LOTS of funny moments and LOTS of What The Actual F**k moments. Basic premise is the show host – Jamie – reading aloud an “erotic novel”. His Dad is the author. Yep. Two of his friends join him for moral support (but mostly extra lols) and basically by the end of the first season I wanted to be best pals with all of them. It is cringey, hilarious and weird all at the same time (so naturally I love it *insert me pulling creep smile here*). This is the one that had Tom and I laughing on our Apollo Bay adventure and often had me guffawing on the train while strangers looked on bemusedly.

For the one who wants some in-depth ethical goodness

 My Aunty recently introduced me to Low Tox Life (thanks Megan!) – an Aussie podcast centred on how to live in a way that is better for the planet and better for you. This was clearly up my alley and shares some similarities with my own intentions for this space. There are episodes with guest speakers talking about lowering your pesticide intake, ethical fashion and how to sleep better (um, yes please!), through to the meat industry and meditation. A personal favourite is the one with the interview from the “Who Gives a Crap” toilet paper founder, Simon Griffiths.

A gentle reminder though – while this podcast shares some similar values to my own around eating well and living thoughtfully – I think it’s really important not to feel overwhelmed by all the stuff that gets talked about, because it’s a LOT of stuff. When first listening to it I was thinking “Damn I’m never going to be able to afford or remember to do all of this stuff and these people sound perfect” etc. etc. But as I’m going to be bleating on about quite a bit here, take from stuff like these episodes what you think you can personally integrate into your own life and achieve in your own way. It is also important to be mindful of taking what someone says as “truth” – just because a “health coach” (???) says something is good for you, doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Being a critical consumer comes into play here – do your research! Check sources! I use the show notes a lot for this podcast so I can learn more about the guest speaker and their credentials before I jump into spending money/doing something just because the speaker sounded knowledgeable.

For the one who loves crime

I can’t write about crime podcasts without mentioning Serial – an absolute must if you love anything remotely detective-y or crime-based. The host, Sarah Koenig, is super engaging, not to mention the case is fascinating.

Side note: if you are a scaredy cat like me it is still really good just don’t listen to it at night/walking alone in a forest. Learn from my mistakes.

Here a few others to check out as well:

Crimetown – A really interesting look into crime in Providence, Rhode Island – each episode is a little bit different and focuses on one aspect of a much larger story – so by the end you get a really detailed and deep understanding. Excellent characters. Tom rated this the same if not better than Serial – a big call but I agree!

Limetown – A fictional podcast about the disappearance of over 300 people from a secluded town outside of Tennessee. While I thought the ending was a bit too dramatic, I got really hooked into the story and often forgot it wasn’t actually real. 

Criminal – Each episode delves into a story that is linked to the very broad and complex theme of crime – so some episodes look at people who have done something wrong, some look at victims of crime, and a lot of them are somewhere in the middle. One of my absolute favourite episodes is “Officer Talon” - excellent for if you’ve ever wondered about the relationship between a police officer and police dog, and what goes on behind the scenes.

For awesome interviews and girl boss vibes

Hosted by Emma Gannon, previous social media editor of Glamour magazine – Ctrl Alt Delete covers some really thought-provoking interviews with people such as Lena Dunham on the impact of the internet in careers, the ebb and flow of social media, feminism… a lot actually! Great if you want some inspiration on career-type stuff or, like me, you just enjoy hearing a different perspective on someone doing some cool things with their life.

Another favourite of mine is “At Home With”. Created by two of my favourite bloggers, each episode is an interview-cross-stickybeak into the homes of prominent females doing cool things in the UK. Easy listening and perfect if you’re like me and a little obsessed with seeing and hearing about the inside of people’s homes as well as their journey (you can see pictures on the Acast app which is fab).

For the one who is curious/loves random factoids

No Such Thing As A Fish – brought to you by the researchers of the show QI – need I say more? Each episode is a fact presented by each of the four hosts that can be anything from the speed of snow to caffeinated mushrooms. Really great if you need a break from a heavier podcast or feel as though you could improve your general knowledge (anyone joining me in the nod here!?)

For the one who loves other’s stories

If you too are a people person, check out 5x15 and The Moth. 5x15 are short (no more than 15 minutes) episodes of someone sharing a story – sometimes it’s their own, sometimes it’s on a topic they’re passionate about… and it’s script free. The episodes are broken up but they come from the live shows and they’re great for the times you want something short and sweet. Similarly, The Moth episodes are recorded from their live shows – and are true stories as told by the person. Usually each moth episode has a theme, like “change” or “pride”, and they are reaaaaally diverse. You might get one episode that begins with a really sad story and then one that’s full of excitement. These are a little longer but can always be paused in between speakers if you can’t do it in one go.

For a different take on current affairs

I have to admit I borrowed this suggestion from Tom because he thought some of you lot might like a different perspective on current happenings on the world that isn’t to do with why Kylie called her baby Stormi or pictures of Hugh Bonneville being adorable at the Downton Exhibition in New York (note to self: don’t ever let your partner look at you googling unless you want endless teasing). The Economist is a really digestible podcast featuring interviews with journalists and experts on all sorts of topics including world politics, new science and technologies and business. If you’re feeling a bit out of the loop (*looks away shiftily*), this is a great one to dip into.

Another journalistic style podcast is RadioLab, which often focuses on one particular issue – such as the national election in America, heroism or why rhinoceros are endangered – and goes truly in-depth, sometimes over a few episodes, explores the topic from lots of different angles. Compared to The Moth, this is a more journalistic approach to a topic but nonetheless really engaging and insightful into something that you may not have thought much about or considered the impact of. I recently enjoyed “Match Made in Marrow” and “Driverless Dilemma”.

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