Simply Podtastic: My 2011 Essential Podcast Diet

I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts, borderline on being a bit of a junkie. I listen mainly when I’m unwinding from the day, doing yard work, commuting and doing housework. If I’m not blaring something from my Rdio collection, I’ve got a podcast doing the blaring instead.

The problem with a heavy podcasting diet: I can’t possibly digest ’em all.

A recent check of my Instacast app revealed that I had 15-17 podcasts that I keep tabs on, which is a far cry from the 38 that I used to keep tabs on in iTunes.1 That seems pretty lean by most standards, but it really isn’t. That’s because a lot of these podcasts run about an hour per episode, meaning I’m listening to about 16 hours of content a week — pretty much every week. That’s a lot of material. 38 podcasts? Forget about it. When breaking down my essential podcast diet, I have taken the following into account…

Episode length

Anything longer than 40 minutes is rarely listened to in one sitting. It’s hard to keep up with a weekly podcast when it takes 2-3 sittings to get through an episode. In fact, the following podcasts have been removed from my diet because of this, including:

  • MacBreak Weekly
  • This American Life
  • Radiolab
  • This Week in Google
  • The Nerdist
  • WTF with Marc Maron

Why have these been cut? Well, it’s not because they’re not good, informative or entertaining. It’s because they are:

  • Dependent on staying current (MacBreak Weekly, This Week in Google)
  • Have less interest to me than others that can inspire a similar reaction (laughter, introspection, etc.) and their length works against them as a result
  • A combination of the above

Quality of recording

If the content is great and my interest doesn’t wane, then the quality of the recording can be overlooked. But if it can’t do so on a regular basis, then the podcast is turfed from Instacast. There’s been few of these, but it’s usually been the ones produced by folks who view their podcasts as a side project. It shows.

Conversational tone

I am not a fan of “radio-type” podcasts. These are the ones that come across as a show that sounds like it is hosted by a drive-time DJ. The podcasts I like have a more “organic” and “holistic” feel to them, and a show like No Agenda just makes me shudder in how it is presented. I’ve tried to get past it, but can’t.2

When putting together my essential podcast diet, I’ve got some that I listen to weekly and some that I don’t…but they all get listened to eventually over time. My diet consists of the following podcast categories:

Breakfast: The most important part of a good, nutritious podcasting diet. Lunch: Longer podcasts that can be listened to during my work day that recharge and offer a healthy dose of opinion and insight. Snacks: Short podcasts that I listen to for quick hits of info and entertainment. Dinner: The big podcasts that can last over several courses, offering a wide variety of topics and tastes. Dessert: Not always listened to, but are so rich and sweet when they are digested.


Enough: The Minimal Mac Podcast I never miss an episode of this podcast, which often appears twice a week. Hosts Patrick Rhone and Myke Hurley discuss the tools and tips that can make up “what they believe in”, which is the idea of realizing what their level of “enough” is. Guests pop by from time to time, and many of them are tasked by Rhone to discuss what apps they would absolutely need to install on a fresh new MacBook Air. This further illustrates what would be “enough” for them and puts the listener in a position to take a serious look at whatever apps are selected by the guests — because they clearly must be good if they are that important to make the cut. Each episode usually clocks in at no more than 30 minutes, which is enough time to get the message of each episode across. The hosts feed off each other really well, and the show has a “feel-good” chemistry about it. If you’re trying to pare down your lifestyle in both a digital and analog sense (and more so if you’re a Mac user that’s making the attempt), Enough is a great way to start your day. Highly recommended.

Shawn Today Available as part of the patronage package that Shawn Blanc offers at his site, this podcast could also work as a midday snack. I listen to it off the top of the day when there’s no Enough episodes in the Instacast queue because it’s a really quick hit that sets me on my way. Blanc’s daily podcast is super-short, which is perfect for this type of content, especially considering the frequency of episodic delivery. Since I’m a full time writer (that is working towards a similar arrangement that Blanc has developed), it offers a jolt of inspiration, motivation and information that makes a great springboard for the day.

Search Engine Jesse Brown is freaking smart…and a great interviewer. Oh, and he’s a fellow Canadian. Every episode of Search Engine delivers a deeper level of insight and knowledge to my ears every single week. Even if you’re not a Canuck, Brown touches on topics that also resonate beyond our borders. It’s well worth a listen, whether for you it’s a foreign or domestic listen.


Get-it-Done Guy’s Quick and Dirty Tricks I’m a productivity nerd, and Stever Robbins offers a quick dose of well-informed and entertainingly-delivered advice in this regular podcast. Each episode runs less than 10 minutes, meaning you get what you need in a relatively short amount of time that can help you save even more time down the road. Robbins is very aware of his audience, and keeps it light and focused — very challenging considering that this topic is one that can be dry and uninteresting to many.

Lifebeat Nathan Hangen (with musical interludes by Mokhov) puts together this podcast that is a fantastic way to reinvigorate the spirit during the day. Nuggets of tips, tricks and simple advice are broken up by the aforementioned musical interludes that allow the listener to really be mindful about what Hangen is speaking on during the episode. Lifebeat episodes are also fairly short, letting you take a break to rejuvenate and come back with a vengeance in less than 30 minutes time to tackle the reminder of the day.

LoveHateThings/Best Episode Ever Anthony Marco hosts both of these podcasts, the latter of which runs on a seasonal basis (aligning itself with what used to be the television schedule that used to exist back in the day). Opinion pieces, nostalgia and the occasional guest are all parts of the formats of these podcasts, and Marco has become a podcast veteran in Canada. Sure, he’s my friend — but his podcasts would be part of my diet regardless because he’s made them so accessible to so many people. Everyone loves some things, everyone hates some things — and Marco will let you know what his love-hates are without holding back.


Creatiplicity One of the newest additions to my podcasting diet, Creatiplicity features Chris Bowler and the previously mentioned Shawn Blanc as hosts of this weekly podcast that discusses “the intersection of simplicity and the creative process”. This podcast is an example of one that feels really wholesome to me — and it tends to speak to me directly. Guests are a regular staple on the show, and Bowler and Blanc have a great back-and-forth style that really works. It’s only a few months old, but it’s part of my regular diet. Give it a whirl and may become part of yours.

The Pipeline Dan Benjamin’s 5by5 network produces a slew of tremendous podcasts, and this is the first of three of them that are part of my regular listening regimen. The Pipeline is basically a show that consists of an interview between Benjamin and a guest. It has been around for some time, and isn’t produced every week, but Benjamin has chatted with some pretty amazing people on the show. It’s got a great feel to it, and Benjamin’s style is incredibly appealing.

Judge John Hodgman The hilarious John Hodgman presides as judge, jury and executioner over disputes between two parties that range from compromising on a common name for a room in a couple’s house (is it an office or is it a den?) to whether it was kosher to take a doggie bag left behind by other patrons in a restaurant home for your own consumption. Funny, funny stuff. All under an hour and a refreshing podcast that is unlike any other out there. Part of the MaximumFun network, with MaxFun head honcho Jesse Thorn acting as Hodgman’s bailiff.


Back to Work I was very excited when Merlin Mann jumped back into podcasting, co-hosting this show with 5by5’s Dan Benjamin. Running anywhere between 60 and 90 minutes, it’s a longer show, but it’s so worth the listen. Mann offers his thoughts on a variety of topics, and Benjamin has a way of keeping things moving along at a crisp pace, while maintaining an informative and entertaining outcome. Not a show that many can consume in one sitting (it take me two in most cases), but I can’t recommend it more highly. Back to Work is a staple in my essential podcasting diet.

The Bro Show Myke Hurley makes another appearance on this list with The Bro Show. Hurley and co-host Terry Lucy talk tech and pop culture, all with a humorous bent. There’s no shortage of guests appearances, and the end result each episode is a polished piece of podcasted pleased pleasure.

The B&B Podcast Ben Brooks of The Brooks Review sits down each week with the very busy Shawn Blanc (making his third appearance on this list) and they talk about a lot of stuff — mostly tech. The two of them blend together well (almost too well…they’ve mentioned that some listeners have had a tough time knowing who’s who by their voices), and with a healthy combination of prophecy, predictions and good old-fashioned punditry, each episode is one of the ways I keep up to speed with a lot of what I’m into.


Mac Power Users This show recently joined the 5by5 stable, and it essentially replaced MacBreak Weekly as my Mac podcast of choice. Hosted by David Sparks and Katie Floyd, MPU is jam-packed with information that an advanced Mac user would love to have in their arsenal, a well as practical workflow discussions with folks such as director David Wain, Andy Inahtko and the aforementioned Merlin Mann. An OmniFocus screencast series augments the experience for those keen on learning more about the world of productivity and GTD, and Sparks has also shared how he put together his Mac at Work book during a past episode. MPU has all of the ingredients of a great podcast; it’s no wonder that they recently got the nod by 5by5.

FourCast Yes, I’ve made an appearance on this podcast (which has both an audio and video version), but it’s the premise that makes it another recent addition to my podcast diet. Having met co-host Tom Merritt at PAB 2011 in June3, I’d not given the podcast much thought until looking at the body of Merritt’s podcasting work. Each week two guests join Merrit and Scott Johnson to suggest what might happen in the short term, long term and really long term future. Thought-provoking and entertaining, FourCast is an hour or so of conversation that is a must-have addition to any podcasting queue.

Stop Podcasting Yourself Vancouver-based comics Graham Clark and Dave Shumka talk to each other and one other person each week on this Maximum Fun podcast family member. With regular segments such as “Overheards”, where random remarks that were overheard by the hosts and guest in public places are discussed and “Graham’s Dad Movie Reviews”, where Clark’s Dad does just that — with son trying to guess what father had to say — are clever enhancements to what is a already a very funny podcast. If you’re going to listen to one comedy podcast each week, make it SPY.

You Look Nice Today A rare treat these days, when YLNT is putting up the podcasts, it is the perfect way to end a day of listening to podcasts. Merlin Mann, Adam Lisagor and Scott Simpson chat about a lot of stuff, and it is incredibly entertaining stuff. Touted as a “journey of emotional hygiene”, I’m anxiously awaiting for a fresh episode to make its way onto my Instacast queue. The day one does, I’ll be having dessert for breakfast.

Well, I’m full. My podcast diet leaves me stuffed — and satisfied — every single week. By trimming down from the 38 I was monitoring, I’ve kept the bloat off of my podcast app and my mind. And that’s music to my ears.

1 Now I keep little to nothing on iTunes, because Instacast is da bomb. 2 I just can’t! 3 More on that over here.