One way I keep up with what happens in the rest of the world, widen my knowledge, and get fodder for thought in general is to listen to podcasts.
Podcasts are like recorded radio shows, which you download (or stream) via Internet. The easiest way to do this is to use an “app” (how I hate that word) on the mobile phone. I use Overcast. Specific, single podcast shows appear periodically, some, like news, even several a day, others daily or weekly. So the usual modus operandi is to subscribe to podcasts in your app, and it will download the single shows automatically, as they are published. It’s like an RSS feed for audio content.
Hence each morning, and even during the day, I have an updated set of shows to listen to whenever I feel like it. They’re just there on my phone awaiting to be consumed. If I don’t feel like listening to a specific show, or topic, I can either defer or delete the show with the flick of my finger. No need to be completionist.
I also subscribe to new podcasts, and unsubscribe from existing ones, all the time. To discover, Apple’s iTunes has a large section on podcasts, as do news organisations such as NPR, Rolling Stone, or New York Times, but I usually find them through cross references in news articles or podcasts I listen to already. Podcast apps such as Overcast also have a search function, and you can subscribe directly from the search results.
There are also video podcasts, but I am not into them. They work the same way, you just need a podcast player that supports video. However, I want to be able to walk around, do the laundry, work out, whatever, when listening to podcasts, and videos are not suited for that use case.
There are literally thousands of podcasts available. Here are a few of the podcasts I regularly listen to. I am subscribed to many more, but these are the ones I really enjoy and can recommend.
Note: the podcasts are in English, unless noted, but there are many shows in other languages as well.
General political new channels reporting on events and developments all over the world.
I’d also put The Bugle here: the current state of things through the eyes of a comedian and his co-hosts. Requires a liking for British humour, though.
Technology and Photography
- Accidental Tech Podcast: three guys discussing the current news in technology (in the widest sense) and their related personal experiences, sometimes including deeper dives into specific topics, such as file systems (really)
- Rocket: similar to ATP, but with three gals (and guests at times)
- This Week in Photo: a regular host with some guests, discussing current news in the field, usually including an interview with an accomplished photographer
- The Digital Story Photography Podcast: another show about photography
Two podcasts about life and personalities in general. Both very different, but usually interesting, if you’re ready to put yourself into the shows of the hosts. As these are pretty personal, liking or disliking these shows obviously depends very much on if you can go along with the hosts’ personalities. Which I do. Your mileage may vary.
Know-how, Culture, Philosophy, Science
- Waking Up with Sam Harris: very interesting, at times controversial, views, insights and usually interviews with thought-provoking guests on topics such as consciousness and mind, free will, religion, meditation, or morality. These topics are centre to my interests, so this series of shows nicely complements, and inspires, my reading.
- WTF with Marc Maron: a series of interviews with politicians, musicians, actors, directors, and comedians. The list of past interviewees include Barak Obama, Neil Young, Roger Waters, Keith Richard, Larry Clark, and Werner Herzog, just to name a few
- Science Talk: the Scientific American's podcast on all sorts of science topics
- Fresh Air: interviews and reports about contemporary arts
- Hidden Brain: reports on science and stories of patterns that drive our behaviour
- Planet Money: background stories on the economy
- 99% Invisible: nuggets of know-how that is, well, mostly invisible to most of us
- The Incomparable: discussions on media of all sorts, from books, TV shows to movies and comics
- Input: reporting on all kind of topics from daily life, mostly in Switzerland (Swiss German)