Best Podcasts of 2007

Posted in reviews at 11:29 pm by danvk

(So begins a series of “Favorite X of 2007″ posts. Feel free to add your own faves or otherwise pillory me in the comments.)

Sometime after purchasing an iPod and gaining a two-hour daily commute, I discovered the wonderful world of podcasting. Podcasts are essentially perfect for bus rides. You can listen to them while waiting for my shuttle to come. It takes no effort to pack and unpack my iPod when I get on/off the bus (compare to a book or laptop). Raining? Lights not working on the bus? Laptop low on batteries? No problem.

The podcasting universe as I know it is split between existing shows (from NPR, etc) using a new distribution method and new shows made exclusively as podcasts. The beauty of podcasts is that they allow intrepid amateurs to exploit the long tail of people’s interests. The very best are surprisingly well-produced shows on a particular topic by someone who cares deeply about it. My favorite podcasts of 2007 are split between these two kinds.

this_american_life_logo.gifThis American Life
(WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, updated weekly)
Who doesn’t like this show? Ira Glass and friends find interesting stories from all around the country and bring them to you each week. Almost any episode is interesting but some of my favorites include “Act V”, “Habeas Schmabeas” and “My Reputation”.
Subscribe: iTMS or RSS

byzantine_emperors.jpgTwelve Byzantine Emperors
(Lars Brownworth, sporadically)
Lars is a retired high school history teacher who happens to have a passion for the Byzantine empire and an excellent delivery. Lars finds a way to make each episode entertaining, and you’ll wind up learning a lot about a pretty obscure period that bridges the ancient and modern worlds. Sound too obscure? Think again, this is one of iTunes’ top fifty podcasts.
Subscribe: iTMS or RSS

on_the_media.jpgOn the Media
(WNYC — New York Public Radio, Friday evenings)
This is meta-news: reporters reporting on what reporters reported the previous week. And that can often be more interesting and informative than the story itself. In three months of listening to this show, there’s only been one episode I didn’t enjoy. New OTM episodes pop up on iTunes around 6 or 7 Friday evening and, I’ll admit, I’ve stuck around work until then just so I could listen to the new episode on the shuttle.
Subscribe: iTMS or RSS

(Richard Miller, sporadically)
One part of “the long tail of people’s interests” is local flavor. Sparkletack is the San Francisco History podcast. Richard is a graphic designer who loves his home town, and his podcast has turned him into an amateur historian. Early episodes are short and hit a wide range of topics, then sometime early this year they started to become more professional: longer, more in depth, and better researched. Some of Richard’s mannerisms can be a bit much, but his episodes are generally excellent and give me perspective on my new home. About halfway through one episode, I realized that all the events were taking place at a park just a few blocks from my house! I doubt that many cities have a local history podcast, but if yours does, give it a shot.
Subscribe: iTMS or RSS

meet_the_press.jpgMeet the Press
(NBC, Sunday mornings)
I’ve always liked Meet the Press, but I could never listen to it in the past, either because I was asleep or in Church on Sunday morning. Podcasting solves that problem. I usually enjoy the analysis more than the interviews with newsmakers.
Subscribe: iTMS or RSS

What are your favorites? I’m always looking for new podcasts, and would love to hear suggestions.


  1. Richard Miller (Sparkletack) said,

    January 1, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Hey, thanks for the recognition, as well as the critical ear!

    I find “This American Life” to be one of the finest radio programs of the modern era … nice to be hoisted into such good company, and believe me, I very much appreciate it.

    (The next Sparkletack episode also concerns your neighborhood, so stay tuned …)

  2. danvk.org » Favorite TV shows of 2007 (Plus a Bonus) said,

    February 27, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    [...] also my favorite podcasts of [...]

  3. danvk.org » PBS FRONTLINE said,

    February 27, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    [...] Iraq. I was inspired to watch this by an interview with the director on On The Media, one of my favorite podcasts. Haditha is an especially thorny issue, even by FRONTLINE standards. The Marines say one thing. The [...]