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7 Superior Podcasts for Super Listeners Eyeing the Big Picture

7 Superior Podcasts for Super Listeners Eyeing the Big Picture

Podcasting as a medium has ebbed and flowed for the last several years. It hasn’t exploded like some have said, but it’s certainly captured a respectable share of the market.  Some 17% of Americans listen to podcasts monthly according to Statista.

There are several other important points about podcast listeners.  They are affluent, educated and maintain “listening habits dramatically different than the average American,” according to Edison Research.  In other words, these people listen to lots of podcasts.

In a 5-minute webinar titled Why Podcasting Might be Bigger than you Think (video embedded nearby), the research firm says podcast listeners consume upwards of 5.5 hours of podcasts a day.  That may sound like an impossible amount of time, until you realize listeners take “audio where it may not have been previously consumed.”


This time is new found time, where for example a daily commute was once time wasted, it’s transformed with mobile audio into a learning opportunity.  An hour each way, an hour at the gym, and thirty minutes on a break starts adding up to loyal podcast listeners with hearing appetites.

I take a ton of audio with me everywhere and listen fairly regularly to a wide variety of podcasts – all on in-between time.  Here is a handful of superior podcasts that I find broadly educational and consume habitually using iTunes on a regular basis:

1. This Morning with Gordon Deal

(~30-minute daily program)

Started in 2005 as “The Wall Street Journal this Morning,” and nearly shuttered amid a reorganization in 2014, the show got a second life with an acquisition by Compass Media Networks.

The show covers all the news highlights you’d expect of any morning news program – those important national stories of which any good PR pro ought to be aware.

One of the more interesting aspects of the program’s transition for me has been the advertising model.  This program does for podcasts, what native ads have done for online print.  It’s not uncommon to hear the host, Gordon Deal unabashedly endorse the razor company sponsoring the show.

The concept is Mr. Deal has a relationship with listeners and wouldn’t steer them wrong. On the other hand, I’m quite surprised he hasn’t come under heavier scrutiny from media critics.

True to its conservative newspaper roots, the program tends to lean right in its coverage in my opinion. It is however, a high-quality newscast delivered in audio over a mobile phone.   Here’s the link for the program on iTunes.

2. Marketplace

(~30-minute daily program)

This daily show sums up the business news of the day and has broadcast for many years over the radio airwaves. The program, hosted by Kai Ryssdal, covers big picture economics – inflation, the Fed rate, the influence of AsiaPac on the world economy – and strives to break down what the news means for US business.

The show covers PR specifically, from a business communications perspective, quite often, though PR is usually a dirty word. I’m especially fond of the first segment on the program every Friday breaking down the news for the week and ought to start counting the number of times “PR” is mentioned.

The program is produced by the American Public Media (APM), and like many public radio shows, I find the coverage tends to lean left.  In combination with This Morning with Gordon Deal, this means as a listener it gives me the balance to land somewhere in the center.  The Marketplace website offers several podcasts so be sure to look for the podcast titled APM: Marketplace.

3. PBS NewsHour: Shields and Brooks

(~15-minute weekly program)

Remember when political commentary favored talking over shouting? On this program, they still have a normal conversation on sensitive topics, with drastically different views, without devolving into a spitting match.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields (leans left) and New York Times columnist David Brooks (leans right), discuss political news of the week every Friday. Where political coverage today centers on froth, zingers and volume, these two gentlemen offer candid, thoughtful and rational perspective from their respective political corners.

Whatever direction you lean politically — even if it’s “don’t care” — some level of political awareness is as essential as small talk about baseball in PR.  In just 15 minutes a week, this podcast delivers substantive debate on headlines you glanced over earlier but didn’t have time to read.  Here’s the link to the program on iTunes.

4. TED Radio Hour

(~60 minutes weekly program)

NPR produces this podcast and generally takes a sample of those 15-minute TED talks that center on a similar concept – leadership, creativity or overcoming adversity – and wrap them into an hour long podcast exploring the subject in depth.

Moderator Guy Raz will weave some of the most compelling bits from those talks, along with follow-on interviews with the presenters, into a narrative designed for listening.  For me, it doubles as a break from news and the long-form format is something I’d liken to the meditative concentration I find from reading a book.  For the PR pro, it’s brimming with big ideas that’s like jet fuel for the written mind.

The program often lays background music and keeps the chatter at a quick pace, which along with the hour-long broadcast, makes it a good workout companion.  Here’s a link to the program on iTunes.

5. Freakonomics Radio

(~40-minute weekly program)

When economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner published the best-selling book Freakonomics, they did something useful for a complex area of study: They made economics interesting through stories.  Both the economics and stories ought to be of interest enough to marketers.

This podcast, as with their subsequent books, including Think Like a Freak, which you can pick up at the airport and whiz through in a single coast-to-coast flight, is the continuation of that storytelling.

This past weekend I enjoyed a fascinating interview with the former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, who gave the Fed a C- and A- respectively for pre- and post-recession action. That recession is one marketers should be keen to explore because as with the Great Depression, it will shape buying habits and product preferences for generations — generational marketing.

Freakonomics dispels dogmatism with math, or conversely, demonstrates what we often take for conventional wisdom, is actually irrational.  Here’s the link to the program on iTunes.

6. The Marketing Companion

(~30-minute monthly program)

My professional life is linked to marketing and while there are a multitude of marketing podcasts, this is one I come back to again and again. In fact, I think I’ve listened to at least part of every single podcast this outfit has created.

The show is co-presented by blogger and consultant Mark W. Schaefer and market researcher Tom Webster.  Mr. Schaefer also pens the popular {Grow} blog.  Mr. Webster, who maintains a personal blog at Brand Savant, also leads strategy for Edison Research.  If you listened to the 5-minute webinar on podcasts mentioned above – he’s radio-voiced narrator.

The two tackle emerging marketing trends, from very different world-views, with the podcast itself as a moderating medium.  Mr. Schaefer, I find, tends to tackle marketing from a pragmatic and corporate consulting perspective, while Mr. Webster looks at issues from a macro-trend and data-driven perspective.

Every show leaves me with either a new idea or at the very least, thinking a bit differently about a topic I thought I had already examined.  Occasionally it inspires me to explore an idea more closely, like this: In Content Marketing, Marketers Might be Losing Their Way.

I’ve subscribed and listened to dozens of marketing podcasts – there’s just two I feel compelled to share here and this is one of them.  Here’s the link to the program on iTunes.

7. PNR: This Old Marketing

(~60-minute weekly program)

Content marketing may be all the rage in marketing circles today, but it isn’t new. That seems to be the point of this podcast title, which often explores fascinating examples of content marketing before our time.

The letters PNR stands for Pulizzi and Rose, for Messrs. Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, who both deserve credit for popularizing, if not coining, the term “content marketing.”

In more recent shows, Mr. Rose begins with a monologue that’s something of a montage mixing current events, popular culture and marketing.  It always parlays in to well-researched analysis about content marketing.

Remember when ESPN closed Grantland?  Mr. Pulizzi asks, why wouldn’t Nike make an offer for the site?  They’d come off as heroes and acquire the rights to an owned media site with a community already aligned with the company’s business.  It is thoughtful provocations like that which attract me to the show and demonstrates why I’m convinced that content marketing is PR.

This is a show on which I binge.  The last time I traveled, I took these two on a road trip from Atlanta to Indianapolis, and counting a round trip, I think I took in a half-dozen shows.  It’s the second of two marketing podcasts I strongly recommend.  Here’s the link to the program on iTunes.

* * *

What’s a podcast that covers news or marketing that you’d rate as superior?  Please feel free to share in the comments.

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Photo credit: Flickr, Patrick Breitenbach, My Podcast Set I (CC BY 2.0)

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