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Why Podcasts Are the Best Entertainment Bargain on the Internet – and 30 Great Ones to Enjoy
Whenever I’m sitting at my desk working, I’m almost always listening to a podcast. Whenever I’m in the car, I’m almost always listening to a podcast. Whenever I’m falling asleep when I happen to be alone (like when I occasionally travel), I’m listening to a podcast.
Podcasts are easily my main source of entertainment and information. They make me laugh, they make me think, they even occasionally make me cry. A string of carefully selected podcasts is a lot like having your own radio station, programmed exactly the way you want it and, if you have a smartphone, accessible pretty much anywhere you happen to be – in your car, on the bus, at home, in bed, anywhere.
Let’s start off with the basics.
What’s a Podcast?
A podcast is simply an audio recording that you can download from the internet. Typically, these audio recordings are of people discussing some topic or another in a manner akin to a talk radio station. Usually, podcasts are released in series, with a new episode coming out every week or two. Podcasts are absolutely free. Many podcasters do it for the love of doing it, or support the podcast a little with an ad or two.
There are podcasts out there on virtually any topic you can imagine and there are usually dozens of podcasts on that topic. Current events. Board games. Music. Fantasy football. Knitting. Prayer. If you can think of a topic, there’s probably someone out there recording and releasing a podcast on that topic.
Most podcasts are done by amateurs or by small-scale entrepreneurs, not by big media companies. While you might occasionally hear an ad or two on podcasts, they’re rarely ad-laden and they’re usually done by people who are just purely passionate about the topic.
How Can I Listen?
There are many programs out there that allow you to listen to podcasts at your convenience. They let you “subscribe” to those podcasts, so that new episodes are automatically downloaded, they help you to discover new podcasts, and they also let you search for podcasts by name so that you can easily find one and subscribe to it to see if you like it.
On the desktop, I have yet to find a better free program than iTunes. iTunes simply does a great job of helping you find podcasts, automatically downloads new episodes, and makes listening easy to boot. It’s just my default recommendation for a desktop podcast organizer and player.
If you have an Android device, I recommend Stitcher as the absolute best free option for podcast subscribing and listening. It’s solidly designed, makes it easy to add and find new podcasts, and plays them perfectly.
For iOS, the default Podcast app works perfectly well, but I’ve fallen in love with another app: Overcast. It does several little things that I love, namely how it balances out the volume between podcasts so that you don’t move from a quiet podcast to a loud one. My only minor quibble is that I can’t sync my played podcasts with my desktop program, so I actually have a few “road” podcasts that are different than my “home” ones so I don’t have to worry about it.
So, let’s hear about some good podcasts!
18 Great Personal Finance, Growth, and Productivity Podcasts
Most of the podcasts I listen to are related to personal finance, personal growth, or productivity topics. Here are eighteen that I highly recommend because I’m a long-time subscriber to all of them.
Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips is a short podcast that focuses on practical financial strategies. This one gets right to the point, so I actually find it’s pretty good for binge listening as you can listen to a bunch of episodes in just an hour or two. The delivery is light in tone, but sticks to the facts; there’s not a lot of “character” here, but that’s a good thing for what they’re bringing to the plate. (subscribe in iTunes)
The 5 AM Miracle is a podcast focused on various aspects of productivity. Unsurprisingly, one major aspect of this is morning routines: what do people do right when they get up in the morning? The host has a great radio voice; the episodes often alternate between interviews and surprisingly good monologue episodes. In most podcasts, I tend to prefer the banter between people, but Jeff Sanders (the host) does a really good job with his solo shows. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Productive Woman is a personal productivity podcast that does have a mild focus on women’s issues and how they intersect with productivity, but I actually find that almost everything discussed on the podcast is applicable to me as an involved spouse and father. This one has actually spawned some great discussions with my wife when we’ve both listened while on the road together. (subscribe in iTunes)
Listen, Money Matters is an “uncensored” personal finance podcast where two guys talk frankly and humorously about financial matters. While the tone is definitely light and funny, they do get down to some great financial advice along with the entertainment. (subscribe in iTunes)
Cortex is a show where two creative professionals (Myke Hurley and CGP Grey) discuss the tools and strategies they use to enhance creativity and productivity. The focus is really on the particular issues that creative workers – particularly those who are self-employed or entrepreneurial – face when needing to be productive. (subscribe in iTunes)
This Is Your Life with Michael Hyatt is a podcast focused on intentional leadership. The idea of “intentional leadership” actually covers a lot of ground, including things like work-life balance, good communication with coworkers, accountability, character, and many other such things. The show manages to maintain a very practical feel when talking about these things, which is something I really like. (subscribe in iTunes)
Radical Personal Finance is probably the best all around personal finance podcast that isn’t a rebroadcast of a syndicated radio show. The host, Joshua Sheats, manages to achieve that tricky balance of talking about personal finance in a way that’s useful without being preachy and brings lots of facts without falling into a boring litany of details. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Tim Ferriss Show covers lifestyle experimentation in a lot of different dimensions. This means that the podcast goes in a ton of different directions, hitting everything from workout routines to trying different foods to life extension practices to speed learning. It’s all covered here in a fast-paced and entertaining show. (subscribe in iTunes)
Your Money Matters is a podcast produced by the Wall Street Journal that focuses on tying personal finance issues to larger global affairs. The show really succeeds when they go deep into potential law changes and how they’ll affect your finances. The hosts are factual but manage to avoid ever making it boring. (subscribe in iTunes)
Entrepreneur on Fire is a great podcast focused on entrepreneurship. The host, John Lee Dumas, usually interviews an entrepreneur about how they launched their business, what tools they use, what mindset they have, and so on. The show comes out daily (!) and features all kinds of guests, ideas, and angles. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Dave Ramsey Show is a rebroadcast of much of Dave’s syndicated talk radio show where he discusses personal finance issues with his “tough coach” attitude that’s threaded with Christian inspiration. Ramsey’s simply good at bringing the advice, taking a tough tone and a matter-of-fact tone where it’s warranted while always being entertaining. (subscribe in iTunes)
You Are Not So Smart is a wonderful podcast dedicated to cognitive biases both good and bad (but mostly bad). The show really explores the various ways that our mind fools itself and the passion for this topic brought by the host, David McRaney, is infectious. (subscribe in iTunes)
Achieve Your Goals with Hal Elrod is a wonderful personal development podcast with a heavy focus on personal goal-setting. Most episodes feature an interview with someone who offers thoughtful insight on goal setting or steps for achieving common goals, and Elrod’s tone and quick pace make the whole package enjoyable. (subscribe in iTunes)
Couple Money Podcast is a wonderful personal finance podcast that focuses on many of the issues that couples have to deal with when it comes to finances. This is a great one to listen to at the same time as your significant other as not only will you be entertained, you’ll often be left with some food for thought and for deep conversation. (subscribe in iTunes)
Planet Money is a podcast produced by NPR that looks at finance from a bunch of different angles with a bunch of different contributors. Many episodes have a personal finance angle, while some will look at broader economic issues. Regardless of the exact angle, it’s always insightful and thought provoking. (subscribe in iTunes)
Beyond the To-Do List is a personal productivity podcast that succeeds because it brings so many different perspectives to the table. Every single episode is centered around an in-depth interview with someone who has a different angle on personal productivity that stands out from the many other perspectives presented on the show. The sheer variety keeps me listening. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Clark Howard Show, much like Dave Ramsey’s show, is a rebroadcast of a nationally syndicated radio program. Howard tends to focus on a mix of financial and consumer issues, often bringing up current issues like product recalls and how to buy certain items. (subscribe in iTunes)
Marketplace is a rebroadcast of a show that often appears on NPR stations that offers a great weekday mix of financial news and current events. The light touch of the show and the occasional links to personal finance make this my “high finance” show of choice. (subscribe in iTunes)
12 Great Additional Podcasts on Other Topics
I listen to a lot of different podcasts on a rotating basis. What I often do is listen to dozens of episodes of a podcast – perhaps the last year’s worth of archives – and then move on to another one. The best ones see me coming back time and time again.
What gets me to come back? Passion is probably the biggest thing. Passion means that the person is obviously passionate about the subject, no matter how esoteric or strange. I love passion, and passion can often engage me in a topic that I might not otherwise enjoy all that much. Some podcasts are hosted by people with great radio voices, but their heart isn’t in it; I’d far rather listen to an amateurish recording by someone who is really passionate.
These twelve podcasts are ones that I come back to time and time again. Although the subjects are … all over the place … it’s the passion of the people on those podcasts that keeps me coming back.
Serial, in my eyes, is the best demonstration of how great a podcast can be. The show is released in seasons, and each season (so far) has focused on a single story. The first season investigated a strange murder case in Baltimore, and the second season looked more closely at the story of Private Bowe Bergdahl who was a POW in Afghanistan under unusual circumstances. The host of the podcast, Sarah Koenig, is absolutely amazing in terms of her tone and approach to both seasons. Listen to all of this, from the beginning. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Moth is a series of live recordings of people telling stories about their lives. The windows into different lives provided by these stories is what makes the show so addictive. Some stories are merely okay, but then you’ll hear one that drives you to peals of laughter or brings a flood of tears to your eyes. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Pen Addict is a podcast about pens and paper, seriously. It’s basically a stationery, notebook, and pens podcast. It’s the sheer passion and enthusiasm brought to the table by the hosts, particularly Brad Dowdy, that make this one such an enjoyable listen (and has pulled me more into appreciating pens and paper than I would have ever expected). (subscribe in iTunes)
The Dice Tower is a podcast about board games “and the people who play them,” as goes the show’s slogan. While the hosts definitely dig into the nuance of modern board games, it’s the accessibility and enthusiasm of the show that really keeps me coming back for more. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Sword and Laser is a podcast about science fiction and fantasy books. The episodes release weekly and there’s an ongoing “book club” where the hosts read a novel each month and then discuss it throughout the month (saving the spoilers for the last episode of the month). Many episodes include interviews with fantasy and science fiction authors. (subscribe in iTunes)
D&D Is for Nerds is basically a recording of some very inventive and skilled improvisational roleplayers playing a tabletop role playing game. They get deeply into their characters and keep the action moving and lively, making it an unpredictable and sometimes humorous ongoing fantasy story. (subscribe in iTunes)
Science Fiction Film Podcast is pretty much exactly what you would expect. It’s a group of science fiction film buffs reviewing films in detail – mostly sci-fi films but sometimes treading into films in other categories. Their insights and attitude keep me coming back for more (and keep me going to the library to rent more DVDs). (subscribe in iTunes)
The Fantasy Footballers is an incredibly well done podcast on fantasy football, mixing analysis, humor, and conversation in an almost perfect blend. I am far from an avid fantasty football player, but this podcast is so enjoyable to listen to and so well executed that I can’t help but enjoy every listen. (subscribe in iTunes)
This American Life is a long-running public radio program that can best be described as a journalistic variety show. Each episode has a theme and there are several segments on the theme, most of which can be described as some form of journalism. In most episodes, you’ll laugh, you’ll learn something, and something will tug hard on your heartstrings. (subscribe in iTunes)
Lore investigates the reality behind folklore. The host, Aaron Mahnke, has a deep love for folklore and for figuring out what it’s really based on, and often it’s based on something utterly fascinating. Each episode is incredibly fun to listen to, coming across as a mix of a campfire story and investigative journalism. (subscribe in iTunes)
The Partially Examined Life is a wonderful podcast about philosophy and how it can be used to reflect on one’s life and, ideally, improve it. This podcast will leave you thinking about the world and about yourself, each and every time, and that’s why it’s such an essential listen for me. (subscribe in iTunes)
99% Invisible is a podcast about design, but more than that, it’s about the “invisible” things in life – things that we rely on or take for granted but are actually the result of a lot of careful thought and analysis. For me, this show is almost meditative at times in how it takes things that scarcely merit a second thought most of the time and show how thoughtful that thing actually is, like the arrangement of windows on the front of a house, for example. Every episode is surprising and enjoyable. (subscribe in iTunes)
Now get out there and listen to some podcasts!