Podcast recommendations

I don’t really care about what podcasts people find interesting. That is somewhat interesting as I ask people about their favourite movies, books, restaurants, travel destinations, 90s sit-com, academic papers, paintings, Twitter users, etc. all the time. There is just something about podcasts that I do not care about. If anything, I enjoy talking more to people about the podcasts they dislike.

For that reason, I am not going to make specific podcast recommendations in this post. That is, recommend specific shows you can find on Spotify or Apple Podcasts or where you listen to podcasts. Instead, here are my ten high-level podcast recommendations. These are not rules, only recommendations. Feel free to disagree.

  1. Do not give unsolicited podcast recommendations. If people enjoy listening to podcasts, chances are they do not have an empty playlist. On the contrary, most people into podcasts have a long list of episodes and shows they need to catch up on. Why add another one to the list? When you recommend a podcast, do you really want to recommend a podcast? Or are you more interested in talking about your favourite topic? Most often when people recommend a podcast, all I hear is “I am really into X“. And the more niche the topic of podcast X is, the more likely it is that I am already familiar with X (if I truly care about the topic). A podcast is, if it is a good recommendation, a huge investment in terms of time. Worst case scenario, it is a huge investment in terms of time and a huge waste of time. For that reason, think twice before you recommend podcasts out of the blue.
  2. Do not change the speed. Nothing says bad time management skills than having to listen to a podcast on double speed. It is not a life hack to change the speed of whatever content you are consuming, podcasts included. 1x speed is ideal and do not change it to 1¼x or 2x. Instead, if you find content that is not worth your time, skip it or unsubscribe altogether.
  3. Don’t subscribe to more than ten podcasts. If the number seems arbitrary, it is because it is. It is not important whether you subscribe to eight or 12 podcasts, but try to limit the number. At the margins, you are better off unsubscribing from a podcast than subscribing to one. Luckily, there is more to life than podcasts, such as music and audiobooks (just to name a few). And we should not forget the intrinsic value of silence. I have gotten to the point where I am happier seeing an empty feed (i.e., no more podcasts to listen to) than having a lot of (good) episodes to listen to. For example, I am happy when I find out that a new episode in my feed is an encore episode and I can skip it without missing out on anything. Consider, if you had to give up on a podcast you currently subscribe to, which one it should be and why you are not unsubscribing. If you don’t have a good answer, unsubscribe. If you regret it, you can always come back.
  4. Avoid so-called Wikipedia Podcasts. There are a lot of bad podcasts out there. By ‘bad podcasts’ I do not only mean podcasts not worth your time, but podcasts that are actively making the podcast/knowledge ecosystem worse off. For that reason, make sure that you listen to podcasts that are not simply making money off other people’s work. In other words, do your research before you subscribe to a podcast.
  5. Keep quiet about your favourite podcast. My original idea was to only recommend podcasts you no longer listen to, but I acknowledge that would be a little too controversial. You will be a more interesting person if you don’t listen to the same podcasts as your friends. Accordingly, I believe you will be a much more interesting person if you alone consume the podcasts you enjoy instead of recommending the podcasts themselves. For example, if you listen to a good podcast about movies, watch the movies and recommend the movies instead of the podcast.
  6. Read the episode feedback. When listening to an episode of a podcast, you might not get the same out of it as others. For that reason, if available, do check out what other people think about an episode. One way to do that is to check the Twitter responses from fans of the podcast (often as replies to the tweet announcing the episode). Another way is to find the YouTube upload of the podcast (if the podcast is also added to YouTube) and read the top rated comments. Even better if the podcast has its own website with a comment/discussion section for each episode. This usually only takes a few minutes to check out and is, on average, worth the time.
  7. Don’t skip unfamiliar guests. In podcasts with guests, do not skip guests or people you do not know. You subscribe to a podcast made by a person or a team, and you should have confidence in their ability to curate the content. Great podcasts are able to introduce you to new ideas and people, and not only interview the usual suspects.
  8. Watch at least one episode. A lot of podcasts are available today as video. You don’t need to watch all episodes, but you should watch at least one episode, just to get a feel of what the setting is like, to put faces on the voices and get a sense of the visual style of the podcast.
  9. Maximize variation. Do not only listen to podcasts about politics, or podcasts about culture. If you are bilingual, listen to podcasts in different languages. And feel free to explore individual episodes without subscribing to shows. All else equal, I believe you get more out of listening to 10 episodes from 10 different podcasts than 10 episodes from the same podcast.
  10. Don’t start a podcast. I have been on a podcast before and it was a great experience, but never in my life would I recommend starting a podcast. It is a lot of work and, in 99 out of 100 cases, it is not worth it. Just don’t do it.

Some of you might have clicked on this post for the sake and hope of getting specific podcasts recommendations. I doubt it though.