2016 in Review: Podcasts

I’m a huge fan of podcasts but am fairly selective with what I add to my regular listening rotation because if I subscribe to something it means I listen to every episode (and have either been listening to it since day one or I worked my way through the entire back catalog). Most of these podcasts I’ve been listening to for years.

Looking at my list of podcasts I’m struck by how I listen to most of them because of the personalities of the hosts and not the topic of the show. You’ll see a lot of the same names in the descriptions below.

I also noticed that I really don’t enjoy interview podcasts. I know some of the most popular podcasts in the world follow this format (and some of my friends create podcasts in this style) but I just haven’t been able to get into that genre. Given the importance of personality to my podcast listening experience it’s not too surprising that I seem to prefer shows where the hosts are always the same people and therefore build up a rich history of subtext, inside jokes, and running bits that rewards the long time listener.

  • Above Avalon: This is the only podcast I listen to where it’s just one person talking the whole time. Neil Cybart consistently provides Apple analysis that’s refreshingly different from most of the other Apple pundits I follow.

  • Accidental Tech Podcast: Marco Arment, John Siracusa, and Casey Liss talking about Apple and other technology. I’ve been listening to Marco and John for years (back during the Hypercritical and Build and Analyze days) and have been listening to ATP since it was just a joke section during Neutral. A great example of three hosts with chemistry who all bring something different and valuable to the table.

  • Back to Work: Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin talk about work, productivity, and anything else that comes across their radar on a weekly basis. This has been a staple of my podcast lineup for years.

  • Canvas: Federico Viticci and Fraser Speirs combine for the most delightfully accented podcast I listen to regularly. This is all about using iOS and as I’ve explored using iOS more on a day-to-day basis I’ve learned a ton from this podcast. I’ll probably be going back and listening to specific episodes again as I dive deeper into the iOS-centric lifestyle.

  • Connected: Myke Hurley, Federico Viticci, and Stephen Hackett combine for a weekly technology news show that always seems to find its way back into my lineup even if it does get occasionally lost during my regular podcast purges.

  • Cortex: Myke Hurley and CGP Grey host my favorite productivity podcast. Grey is a complete weirdo (in a good way) and Myke does a great job at bringing out the quirkiness. I get more ideas for my own productivity workflows from this podcast than anywhere else.

  • Do By Friday: Merlin Mann, Max Temkin, and Alex Cox host a weekly “challenge show” that is ostensibly centered on a weekly challenge. The challenge is mostly a McGuffin for a humorous conversation among three very funny people.

  • Exponent: This is one of the few podcasts I listen to that actually makes me feel better at my day job after listening to it (along with Above Avalon). Ben Thompson and James Allworth always have great conversations that range widely in topic. If you’re interested in technology this is definitely worth listening to.

  • The Flop House: Working through the entire back catalog of The Flop House was one of my crowning achievements in 2016. I’ve seen almost none of the movies they talk about and that never prevents me from enjoying every episode.

  • Hello Internet: Brady Haran and CGP Grey are professional YouTubers who started this podcast to talk about YouTube and have since created a podcast universe unto themselves. Brady and Grey are polar magnetic opposites which makes for great listening.

  • Living Zen Podcast: I think I caught this podcast at a weird time. The first episode I listened to was this incredibly personal and difficult sounding talk about how the center might not be able to continue because of a lack of funds. I don’t know what this means for the longevity of this podcast but so far it has been one of the more accessible zen podcasts I’ve found.

  • Ordinary Mind Zendo: This is the podcast of the zendo I joined in October. Good, short, talks.

  • Presidents Are People Too!: Elliott Kalan from The Flop House and historian Alexis Coe dive deep into the life of one former president in each episode. I became a huge fan of Elliott during my The Flop House obsession and resolved to listen to anything he was part of. A couple weeks ago my wishes were granted with this podcast. If you’re an Audible customer, you can listen to the episodes earlier than iTunes customers by checking out Channels.

  • Reconcilable Differences: Merlin Mann and John Siracusa have finally come together for the podcast we’ve been waiting forever for. John and Merlin have awesome chemistry.

  • Road Work: I was going to try to write something about this podcast by Dan Benjamin and John Roderick but I think the description from the webpage will suffice: “America’s top two podcast personalities are finally coming together in one podcasting event that will change the way you think about podcasting forever! Like a rock skipping over the placid waters of an alpine lake, Dan and John are all too well aware that this burst of kinetic energy will ultimately deposit them, like all human effort, at rest in the icy depths where no light can penetrate. Until then, they mean to thrill to the chase! To soak up the remaining light and banish thoughts of tomorrow! EXCELSIOR!”

  • Roderick on the Line: Merlin Mann and John Roderick. The pinnacle of the “two guys talking” genre.

  • Unattended Consequences: A new addition that introduced me to Patrick Rothfuss (as a podcast personality and amazing author). Pat and Max Temkin make a great duo.

  • Under the Radar: I’m not an iOS developer but for some reason I really enjoy this podcast. Hosted by “Underscore” David Smith and Marco Arment.

Looking to the Future

I might try to find some more educational or business related podcasts to add to the rotation. The vast majority of what I currently listen to is pure entertainment and I can’t help but feel if I added some more Exponent-esque shows to the mix I might expose myself to more ideas that might prove useful in my work.

I need to be careful with what I add, though, because podcast listening time often cannibalizes audiobook listening time and I’d rather spend more time on audiobooks in 2017. I kind of feel like I’m mostly at capacity right now so it will probably take unsubscribing from something or really just being blown away by something new to add it to the rotation.

What are your favorite podcasts from 2016? What should I give a trial run?