Podcasts 101: Transportable Story-Time for the University Student

Like most people I know, I have a very intimate love for my earbuds. The transitory times between class or on the bus would not be the same without my own personal soundtrack accompanying me along the way. However, I have very limited space on my phone and I’ve been known to get weary of the same song/album playing over and over again.

Then something magical happened, I actually looked through the default apps on my iPhone and found Podcasts. Since then my life has been transformed! Those 10 minutes spent in transit between the class is no longer a battle of restraint as I try to stop myself from singing out loud, now I mostly just giggle to myself because something funny happened.

The technical term for a Podcast is a digital medium that consists of an episodic series of audio, digital radio, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed on-line to a computer or mobile device. Yet, there is an immense creativity to Podcasts, they encompass a huge range of topics. You can gain new skills, learn about history, keep up with new music, listen to your favourite comedians, follow people’s adventures, and so much more. Podcasts give you the opportunity to engage with compelling stories and connect you to the world and groups of people in a very profound way. Not a lot of media platforms are capable of that.


So if you love good storytelling, indulge the glowing purple person app on your phone, check out some of my favourite Podcasts (I preemptively apologize for my love for all things NPR and Economics, I promise that there is more variety than my narrow niche):


  1. Planet Money: This was the first podcast I had ever listened to, and is part of the reason why I fell in love with Economics in my first year. Planet Money attempts to make sense of the rapidly changing global economy and they do so with pizazz. One of my favourite pieces they’ve done is when they followed their very own Planet Money t-shirt in all of its stages, and when they deconstructed the American Financial Crisis.
  2. Invisibilia: One of NPR’s newer Podcasts, Invisibilia looks to chronicle the invisible forces that control human behaviour – ideas, beleifs, assumptions, and emotions. My favourite episode is “How to Be Batman”, which looks at how expectations shape our abilities through the lens of Daniel Kitsch a blind man that has the ability to echolocate.
  3. Serial: Warning, this Podcast will leave you obsessed. Serial attempts to unfold one story – a true story – unraveling the case of a murder over twelve 30 minute episodes.
  4. Cited: Formerly known as the Terry Project on CiTR, Cited makes sense of the news by combining original storytelling with groundbreaking academic research. It’s a weekly radio documentary program about big ideas, and it’s the only podcast with a bibliography!
  5. This American Life: This podcast is #1 on the Top Charts and for good reason. It’s hard to describe how amazing this podcast is, the only way to grasp it is to listen to it. I attribute it to Ira Glass’ beautiful voice, but I think it’s likely the range of themes each episode is centered on. Literally everything from babysitters to the changing landscape of gang life in Chicago.


Again, there’s a plethora of podcasts that I’ve missed, but half of the fun of podcasts is finding one on your own and falling in love with them. So armed with your earbuds and a full battery, go explore the audio world.

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