The hubbub over podcasting in the past week or two got me thinking about the shows I enjoy the most. Most of them are from smaller producers, probably not the type of people who get invited to meetings with "leading podcast professionals." I started making a list of my favorite shows. Many of them are technology- or Apple-related, which shouldn't be too surprising. Here are the top 10 as of right now:
It's a cliche, but This American Life is the show that got me into podcasting. My favorites are the more investigative episodes, but nearly all of the segments are compelling. There's something reassuring about host Ira Glass' voice, and many of the episodes stand up to repeated watching. (Which is a good thing, because they occasionally recycle segments or episodes.) It's a great general-audience show for car trips.
I think it's fair to say that John Gruber is the single biggest name in Apple punditry. He's been a consistent, smart, and thoughtful commentator for over a decade, and his podcast The Talk Show has survived through a number of iterations. As enjoyable as the tech commentary is Gruber's discussion of pop culture, particularly his long series on the James Bond movies with Dan Benjamin. That said, you have to be willing to tolerate Gruber's unfortunate taste in baseball teams. Go Red Sox!
Dan Savage's relationship and sex advice podcast is one of the first I remember discovering. His advice and commenary are compassionate, sane, and often hilarious. The show usually begins with a "rant," often on political topics, which is a bonus if you're a big leftie like me. This probably isn't a show to listen to in the car with your parents or kids.
On Under the Radar, hosts Marco Arment and (Underscore) David Smith discuss independent iOS development for 30 minutes. Marco and David are both developers I admire a lot, and since we do very similar work, I really enjoy hearing their approaches and perspective. The per-episode time limit is partly a carry-over from David's previous show Developing Perspective. It can help episodes from getting overly rambling and taking over too much of the listener's time, but it's a great show and I sometimes with it were longer!
My feelings about Serial are very dependent on whether we're talking about Season 1 or Season 2. Like most people, I was totally captivated by the first season, and I'm pleased that the producers have continued reporting on new developments in the case. Season 2, on the other hand, was largely a slog. There were elements that I enjoyed, but for some reason I didn't find the subject matter all that compelling. Still, I'm looking forward to a third season.
This show started off as an interesting accompaniment to a Kickstarter campaign for Obi, a pet toy then in development by Studio Neat. Unfortunately the Kickstarter campaign didn't succeed, but the show has continued with Myke Hurley and Studio Neat co-founders Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost. It's interesting to hear Dan and Tom talk about a business largely focused on making phyiscal products, since that's pretty different from what I do. At the same time, the way they run their business makes a lot of sense to me, and I admire their practical and non-buzzword-y style.
Upgrade has quickly become one of my favorite shows, despite having a fair amount of topical overlap with others in this list. Jason Snell and Myke Hurley discuss the latest news in technology, particulary (but not always) as it relates to Apple. I've been reading Jason's work since I got interested in the Mac in the 90s, and his experience and attitude make all the difference on Upgrade. He's been following Apple and technology in general for long enough to put things in perspective, and can be critical without over-reacting or becoming shrill. Jason and Myke have a great rapport as well.
I've been interested in space for as long as I can remember, and this show with Jason Snell and Stephen Hackett scratches that itch for me. The hosts discuss both space exploration and space science, and are occasionally joined by knowledgeable guests. It's informative while remaining accessible. Liftoff comes out every two weeks (or "fortnightly") and is one of the first shows I listen to when it comes out.
I'm a little surprised how much I enjoy this show, given my general antipathy toward typical startup culture. Nonetheless, Startup is very well produced and tells interesting stories. In part, this show strikes a chord with me by following the people behind a business, telling stories about what it's like to be involved in some pretty unique situations. The most recent season is more one-off stories than a continued narrative arc, and I'm curious to see if that changes how I feel about the show.
When it comes to Apple-oriented tech podcasts, I think ATP is unquestionably the king. I have no idea if the numbers back that up, but pretty much every Apple nerd I've talked to listens to it. Each week, Marco Arment, Casey Liss, and John Siracusa go on a meandering discussion of news in the tech world, particularly as it relates to Apple. All three are knowledgeable on the subject, but the best part of the show is hearing each host's distinct personality and how they relate to each other. Each show is long and I wouldn't want it any other way.