Our Mysterious Obsession with Podcasts

image via Gimlet Media

image via Gimlet Media

My commute recently doubled in length and I’ve found myself dangerously close to banging my head against the steering wheel every umpteenth time I hear T. Swift’s “Bad Blood” on the radio.* To avoid head trauma I’ve traded in my top 40 radio station for a safer option: Podcasts.

By now, even if you don’t listen to them, you have probably heard about the rise in podcast popularity and the endless listening options right at your fingertips. Maybe you’ve even experienced severe FoMO if you are part of the population that has yet to jump on the “podwagon.”

Confession: FoMO was one of the main reasons why I tuned into Serial last year. I needed to know why everyone was talking about it and wanted to add to the ‘guilty or innocent?’ debate (even though I’m still extremely torn). But I digress…

Which brings me to my most recent listening-binge: Mystery Show. If you’ve listened to Starlee Kine’s series, you can answer the following questions.

How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal?

What happened to that NYC video store that was renting out movies one day and disappeared the next?

Why was Britney Spears reading a virtually unknown book in 2008 after her very public breakdown?

Why is someone driving around LA with an “ILUV911” vanity plate?

Who is Hans Jordi and how did his belt buckle (adorned with a tiny golden toaster) end up in a gutter?

Now if you find yourself reading these questions and asking yourself, “who cares?” you’re not alone. I was skeptical at first. I figured the answers to these questions will not get me far in life, much less help me at trivia night. But when faced with two hours in the car I thought I’d give it a shot…

Confession (#2 if we’re keeping track): I listened to all five Mystery episodes in less than a day. Mysteries, by nature, spark your interest but it takes real storytelling technique to keep listeners engaged. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but what I will share is that I flew through the existing episodes so quickly not so I could hear Starlee crack each case, but because I couldn’t get enough of the way she told each story.

The only real criteria she has for taking on a new mystery is that it’s something that can’t be solved online. Why? Well for one, that show would be really boring. But it also forces her to go out, meet new people, have conversations and share those stories from others she meets when she’s trying to get to the bottom of a case.Many of the best parts of the show don’t even relate to the resolution—they’re the digressions. (There was a segment during the Britney episode where Starlee calls someone in customer service at Ticketmaster. I’ve never been so enchanted by a call center conversation. This probably sounds ludicrous, but you’ll know what I mean when you hear it.)

Starlee will be back with more episodes, which I’m hoping happens sooner rather than later because I CAN’T TAKE THE SUSPENSE. Maybe in season 2 she’ll crack the real case behind the Perry/Swift feud so I can sleep much more soundly at night…

Once you’re done with Mystery you can satisfy your podcast craving with other favorites from HBers.

All Songs Considered

“When I was in high school, I was obsessed with discovering new music. When I wasn’t studying, I was going to concerts and downloading albums just to see what was out there. Well today I don’t have the time to do all of that research, but I do have this podcast. The crew behind All Songs Considered is a group of energetic music enthusiasts who expose listeners to a gamut of genres as new tunes and artists emerge throughout the year. The podcast also features artist interviews and short concerts.” – Catherine

The Energy Gang

“The Energy Gang is produced by Greentech Media and offers a deep-dive into current energy and environmental topics including opportunities, challenges, technologies, politics and market forces. If you’re involved in the energy space you should be listening to it and if you’re just interested in learning more this is the place to start.” – Julia

Freakonomics

“While we all have opinions about what works and doesn’t, it’s great to hear economists analyze the data on issues ranging from gun control to health food, the flu vaccine to whether who we elect as president really makes any difference.” – Nicolas

Inside the New York Times Book Review

“Each week, the NYT puts out a podcast on the books it reviews in that week’s Book Review section. However, calling this a podcast about books doesn’t seem to do it justice. It’s actually a series of interviews with authors and reviewers on a handful of different topics. I listen religiously because this podcast is a great way to not only gain in-depth knowledge about a topic in a brief period of time, but also to consider how authors effectively communicate about those topics to make people care/read/listen.” – Catherine

StartUp

“If you’re interested in starting a company, you need to listen to StartUp. In the first season, host Alex Blumberg, former producer for This American Life and co-founder of Planet Money, shares the real, unfiltered, brutally-honest highs and lows of starting a company. Listeners are privy to the behind-the-scenes conversations with family members, investors, potential business partners and more, that provide the most realistic depiction of what startup life is really like.” – Julia

“You should start with the first season, which documents the startup of StartUp. From harsh investor meetings to arguments on how to split equity and brainstorming about how to attract more listeners, both the StartUp seasons are full of great stories for anyone who ever wanted to start or run a business.” – Nicolas

Stuff You Should Know

“Stuff You Should Know is run by Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, two funny guys who research a topic and banter about it. The subject matter is always interesting and they always find ways to weave jokes into the discussion.” – Katherine

TED Radio Hour

“You like TED talks, who doesn’t? But, who has time to listen to full talks or sort through the myriad of topics. TED Radio hour gives you 4 or 5 talks per week on a given topic with both key bits ‘from the TED stage’ as well as one-on-one interviews with the speakers providing a greater level of depth and insight. I recommend ‘Growing Up’ and ‘Getting Organized’ to start.” – Jonathan

The Week Ahead

“Every Thursday, The Economist comes out with it’s The Week Ahead podcast. I listen to this one because unlike other news-oriented podcasts, it’s not reactionary. Its hosts preempt the major global events that will be occurring in the next week and tell you what you need to know (what to expect, who’s involved, what the consequences might be, etc). This makes me feel better informed about the news as it’s happening. AND, it’s always nice to hear from a news source that’s not based in the US.” – Catherine

*For the record, I have no bad blood with Taylor, but I can only hear “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes” so many times before 9 AM every day.

 

Mower

About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

Comments

  1. I love this list of podcasts. My favorite podcast of all time is no longer very active, but it’s “You Look Nice Today” hosted by Merlin Mann, a very quirky and funny guy.

    I’m still addicted to “Welcome to Night Vale” as well. Also quirky.

    For PR/marketing pros out there, I’d add “For Immediate Release,” “Marketing Over Coffee” and the “Beancast” to the list too.

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