So Many Podcasts, so Little Time

Today, I  did something I’ve been needing to do for a while — I  finally cleaned out my podcast subscriptions to get them down to a more reasonable level. For the most part, I only listen to podcasts when I’m commuting, about 45 minutes to an hour per day, which makes the seven or eight hours a week that automatically appear in my iTunes more than I need. I’ve tried playing them at work, but when I am really focused, I don’t seem to hear a thing,  so trying to follow a story is fairly pointless. And thus, the unplayed count creeps up. It doesn’t take up enough space on either my laptop or my iPhone to really matter, but for some reason having them pile up like virtual clutter and gets on my nerves. I did a podcast culling a year or so ago, and it did make things seem more manageable, but obviously, I’ve picked up more since then, so it’s time for a few to go again.

So, here’s what ended up on the chopping block:

The Splendid Table – I love food and like to cook, so this should be a great podcast for me, but I’ve never enjoyed it as much as I want to like it. There’s an element of food snobbery to it that I think is intended to be charming, but that I find grating.

President Obama’s Weekly Radio Address – It’s the 21st century version of FDR’s fireside chat, but I end up hearing most of its themes on the news, so it’s kind of redundant to download the speech.

A Way with Words – Even though Wendy was once on an episode, this one has to go. I like the premise — talking about the origins of words and colloquial expressions — but it’s just so meandering and the hosts kind of snipe at each other like they don’t really get along.

NPR 7am Newscast – I started downloading this during a phase where I was trying not to wake up to the radio, but never got rid of it when NPR worked its way back into my morning routine.

Here’s what stayed:

Americana: Inside the USA – This is from the BBC and looks at US politics and culture from a British perspective. The guests are always interesting, and even when the host isn’t quite on the mark about American culture, it’s fun to listen to.

The Writer’s Almanac – I’ve never been a huge fan of his “Prairie Home Companion,” but this offering from Garrison Keillor is my regular companion on the walk to Metro every morning. I love the daily trivia about literature, and while I’ve never been much of a poetry person, I’ve grown to like hearing a poem delivered in a Minnesota accent in the morning.

New York Times Book Review – Book reviews with a side of arrogance… It’s pompous as all hell, and yet I love it.

Capitals Report – The weekly podcast from the Washington Capitals media team. It wanders and is overly talky, but there’s always a few interesting tidbits.

Cast On – This is a long-running knitting podcast (currently on hiatus) that I’ve listened to almost as long as I’ve been a knitter. Great storytelling, better music, and overall very enjoyable. I’m looking forward to its expected return this spring.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing – I wavered as to whether or not to keep this one. I like it, but I’ve been listening to it long enough that the tips are starting to repeat, so it may meet its demise soon.

A History of the World in 100 Objects – This is my new favorite podcast. It’s from the BBC and features the director of the British Museum talking about items from the museum’s collections, and what they say about the time they were created. It’s going in chronological order, starting with ancient Egyptian mummies. The first 30 objects have been done, and the series is scheduled to resume in May with another set. I can hardly wait!

The Labyrinth Library – This is a books podcast done by a friend of mine from college. The topics often veer much farther into sci-fi and fantasy than my taste in reading, but Chris has a  good critical sensibility that makes the reviews interesting, even for books I probably will never read.

NPR Books – Yeah, another books podcast. What can I say, it’s apparently my favorite genre. This is made up of clips from “Morning Edition,” “All Things Considered,” and other NPR programs.

The Official LOST Podcast – I’m not sure this sheds any light on the show at all, but I listen anyway. Just in case.

Today in the Past – Described as a “the first page-a-day calendar without physical pages,” this offering from John Hodgman (of “The Daily Show” and “I’m a PC” fame) is a quick snippet of absurdity that almost always makes me laugh.

This American Life – Maybe the quintessential NPR program, with long-form storytelling, comedic sketches, and weird-but-true stories. I like this on the radio, but love it as a podcast because I get to listen when I want, not when WAMU tells me to.

Clearly, I kept way more than I tossed, but I’m still feeling a bit more under control. Of course, I can’t help but ask: is there anything out there that I should be listening to?

4 thoughts on “So Many Podcasts, so Little Time

  1. Chris March 12, 2010 / 1:55 am

    Thanks for the plug! I need to do some culling as well…. I have to choose between podcasts and books. The two that I always listen to on schedule, though, are The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe and NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.

  2. wendalicious March 12, 2010 / 9:37 am

    I too am having the same dilemma – way too many podcasts in my collection. My current favorites:

    This American Life (probably the best thing on radio today)
    Car Talk and Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me! (I am often still sleeping when the two of these are actually on)
    The Lost Podcast (but, I WAS hoping for more insight than this offers)
    Back Story with the American History Guys. Sarah, I think you would really enjoy this one. It only comes out once a month, and it showcases modern ideas and objects, and how they evolved through the three centuries of our country’s existence. The three guys (18th Century Guy, 19th Century Guy, 20th Century Guy) are knowledgeable and funny, plus they have a great rapport with each other. Definitely check it out.
    KCRW’s Good Food. This one’s better than the Splendid Table, because it’s more for us food commoners. It’s an LA-based show, so sometimes they refer to many things you may have no access to, but Evan Kleiman gets great interviews (Alton Brown, Michael Pollan) and she is fun to listen to.
    -PRI’s To the Best of Our Knowledge
    Stuff You Should Know

    I still enjoy A Way with Words, but I understand your frustration with the hosts. I think I told you that they were kind of rude to me when I got on the line with them. Somehow they managed to edit out their snippiness when my call finally made it to air.

    Podcasts on their way out:
    -Speaking of Faith (too pretentious)
    -NPR’s Your Health
    -NPR’s Technology Podcast

  3. Rudi March 12, 2010 / 6:49 pm

    My podcast menu:


    The Current Song Of The Day from Minnesota Public Radio. A full-length song of recent vintage, every weekday. I keep tabs on new music via this and…

    NPR’s All Songs Considered Podcast, which isn’t a weekly listen, but it’s a nice time filler and I like the tastes of the host, Bob Boilen.

    Another NPR podcast that is an essential is Car Talk, which is wonderful because it tends to “age” well: there’s very little topical info during the show, so it’s easy to mix and match (save for the weekly puzzlers).

    NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me, while it doesn’t age as well, is nice to listen to on my own schedule.

    I also like KCRW’s Good Food for the same reasons Wendy points out, as well as the NPR: Food Podcast.

    I’m a regular listener to the irregularly-published The FredCast Cycling Podcast and The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast, both of which are produced by a friend of mine in Utah and feature some great cycling-related info. (He also helped set up a new cycling podcast, The VeloReviews Podcast, but that’s still a mixed bag, overly long, and still establishing its groove.)

    Count me in as a Today In The Past fan, too, Sarah!

    The only way for me to get my fill of Bill Maher’s great show is via his Real Time podcast – so I subscribe when the show is in production.

    And Travel with Rick Steves always has a bit of good travel info, and I stay subscribed to keep some fresh eps at the ready.

    On The Fence or Deleted:

    This American Life is so hit-or-miss with me. I often like the majority of the stories, but Ira Glass’ nasal voice and cadence can rub me the wrong way if I’m not in a mood to hear them.

    The Everyday Cyclist Podcast started well for me, but the guy who produces it also uses the ‘cast as a sales tool for his video and online training programs, so I’ve unsubscribed from the RSS feed.

    There are others, too, but I can’t recall them, having deleted them from my feeds.

  4. Joanne March 12, 2010 / 9:46 pm

    I don’t listen to any podcasts. I tried ChinesePod for a little while, but it didn’t hold me. I guess I’m a Luddite…

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