Podcasts, for all their potential, are really not all that popular. That probably has something to do with the fact that there’s far too many of them, for the simple reason that anybody can make and post a Podcast. The fact that audio quality can differ immensely from one ’cast to the next hasn’t helped their case all that much.
Separating wheat from chaff can be a long and frustrating experience.
If you’re not familiar with the term, a Podcast is a kind of do-it-yourself radio program that is shared as an audio file rather than broadcast live. When a Podcast is good it can be educational and entertaining, and easily better than the most commercial radio. But when a Podcast is bad — and most of them are — they just feel like a waste of time and space.
Still, there are a lot of good reasons to download iTunes or another Podcast player and start subscribing to shows. Last week MetaFilter created a forum for “most intellectually stimulating podcasts” and came up with this list:
CBC Radio: Quirks and Quarks — www.cbc.ca/quirks/ — This CBC radio program, hosted by Bob McDonald, is another good reason to be proud to be Canadian. It’s funny, relevant, irreverent and regularly does the impossible by making science interesting and accessible.
The Naked Scientists — www.thenakedscientists.com — The naked thing is just to get people’s attention, kind of like the Naked Chef — nobody actually has their clothes off, and if even if they did you wouldn’t be able to tell by listening to the Podcast. This British BBC radio show features a group of outgoing scientists from Cambridge University and has become a huge hit in that country. Like Quirks and Quarks, the goal is to make science fun and interesting for the masses.
The Writer’s Almanac — http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/podcast/ — Garrison Keillor is one of the most respected humour writers of today, combining a perfect blend of folksy wit with a razor-sharp sense of humour.
Intelligence Squared — www.intelligencesquared.com — Modern media tries to achieve balance by getting loudmouths from both sides of an issue into the studio and letting them battle it out, and it fails every time. Intelligence Squared takes the debate format to a higher plane, hosting debates on real issues that feature two or three intellectuals on either side and a mediator that keeps the proceedings on track.