My 10 Essential Podcasts

Podcasting is “on the grow”. As someone who grew up loving radio, and worked in radio myself for several years…I was always a pretty heavy consumer of the medium. However, the growth of the internet, the explosion of portable technology, the ubiquity of the MP3 audio format and the death of terrestrial radio are reaching a nexus. I tuned out radio a year or two ago, and almost never listen anymore. I listen to a lot of podcasts (currently, I subscribe to 26 of them). Some are daily, some weekly, some sporadically.

Let me say up front that *my* essentials won’t likely be *your* essentials. Everyone’s tastes differ, and because podcasts tend to be focused on particular niches…interests may appear larger or smaller in your personal mirror. My main goal is to turn more people on to some of the podcasts that I enjoy so much on a regular basis.

In no particular order, here are 10 podcasts that I find essential at the moment:

1. The 48 Days Podcast: Dan Miller is a Franklin, Tennessee-based author, speaker and businessman. I first heard of him through “Debt-Free” Dave Ramsey, and have been listening every week for several years now. Dan has written some best-selling books, including 48 Days To The Work You Love and No More (Dreaded) Mondays. Dan was raised in Holmes County, Ohio (the same county where my Dad was born). He grew up in a hyper-conservative family…the son of a poor farmer/pastor, who has labored to reshape his view of the world into something more positive and successful. He’s a big proponent of turning one’s passion into opportunities for income. I find his podcast consistently challenging and encouraging, and have recommended it to many of my friends…especially those struggling through vocational challenges.

2. Big Pop Fun: Tom Wilson is an actor, comedian and…voiceover artist (like me, but on a much grander scale!). You’ll remember him as the bully Biff Tannen from the Back to the Future movies. On the podcast, he talks about show business and being creative. Some of the episodes are just him chatting to his listeners (including some fascinating “behind-the-showbiz-scenes” stories). On others, he interviews various creatives and celebrities…such as Mark Hammill, Stephen Hillenburg (creator of Spongebob Squarepants), Tim Siedell (@badbanana on Twitter) and Steve Oedekerk (writer/producer – Ace Ventura, Bruce and Evan Almighty, Kung Pow). I love his dry sense of humor and his tendency to grab his guitar and break into song. Want a two-minute taste of his humor? Watch The Question Song

3. The Dennis Miller Show: This is one of a few that originate from terrestrial radio. I’ve been listening to this show since the year it started. Dennis Miller is one of my favorite comedic minds ever. His show is a mix of comedy, interviews and politics. It blows me away that he is able to keep it fresh 3 hours a day, 5 days a week. I pay $50 a year to get the podcast version, since it’s no longer carried on local stations in my radio market. However, it is on over 300 radio stations nationwide.

4. This American Life: Also originating from terrestrial radio (NPR), the best show on radio, in my opinion. Ira Glass hosts this weekly podcast consisting of real-life stories. Humans are endlessly fascinating, and there’s no better resource for human stories than this show. It’s hard to describe what it is, or how good it is. You should check it out once or twice and see if it’s your cup of tea. Millions of us have been hooked for many, many years.

5. Fresh Air: Another NPR program…this show features interviews with luminaries from the worlds of entertainment, literature, music, and politics. Terry Gross is the best interviewer I’ve ever heard. Every show is a delight (even the fill-in host, Dave Davies, is superb!) and the highest compliment I can pay Terry is that she brings out the humanity in everyone…even those whom I am predisposed to dislike.

6. The Smart Passive Income Podcast: Pat Flynn is a young entrepeneur who was displaced from his career in architecture by the economic downturn a few years back. With a new wife and a baby on the way, he had to get creative about how to provide for his family. He more or less stumbled into a whole new way of life, creating an online business that pays him tens of thousands of dollars a month. Patient and methodical, he not only researches new facets of online business…he also lays them out in a way that many folks have found easy to learn and apply for themselves. He also publishes his income statement each month, to keep himself transparent to those who follow him. Pat is the real deal.

7. The Moth: More human stories. I believe this also originated on radio, although I never ran across it there. It’s somewhat like listening to standup comedy…although it’s only occasionally funny. It’s more focused around life experiences and life lessons. Sometimes the stories are told by celebrities, but more often they are just slices of life from ordinary people. Sometimes crass, often affecting and touching. The episodes are usually short…in the 15-20 minute range.

8. This Week In Tech (TWiT): Leo Laporte is the creator of the TWiT network, which is one of my favorite haunts. I’ll often call it up on my iPad or my Roku box while I’m working. They have a bunch of great shows, including excellent ones I watch frequently such as This Week in Google, iPad Today, All About Android, Triangulation (an hour-long conversation will brilliant minds), TWiT Photo and MacBreak Weekly. But the This Week in Tech show is the anchor of the network…a 2-hour live broadcast on Sundays at 6pm ET. I often listen to it live on my phone. It’s a roundtable discussion with the host and 3-4 guests (one or two sometimes connected remotely via Skype) covering the latest in tech news and possible implications/repercussions. As with all TWiT shows, it can be viewed as a TV show (a video podcast) or listened to as audio podcasts.

9. Left, Right and Center: Also from Public Radio (KCRW, to be more precise), this half-hour show covers the affairs of the week from the progressive, conservative and moderate viewpoints. It’s generally low-key and well-reasoned…and often provides surprising moments of consensus. It deserves to be an hour long, and I wish they could move back toward permanent panelists once again, but a couple of the key members were lost in the last year due to illness and commerce. It’s a dose of sanity in our current highly-polarized political environment. Definitely a highlight of the week for me.

10. Inside Musicast: Full-length interviews with great musicians…both big-names (Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross) and the incredibly-talented producers and players behind the scenes (Michael Omartian, Lee Sklar, Steve Lukather). Great stories about how music is made, the inspiration behind the songs and stories of life in the studio and on the road.

Here are some other podcasts to which I currently subscribe. You might be interested in checking some of them out as well:

I use and recommend the Pocket Casts app for iOS and Android. It’s got a great search engine built into the app…so finding, subscribing to and managing your podcasts is super-easy.

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