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February 19 2014

August 06 2013

10 Sharp iTunes U Courses for Back-to-School Season

As the summer ends and the back-to-school sales start haunting your shopping centers, ease into the academic season with some free educational podcasts

The iTunes U app gives you access to courses from universities and learning centers around the world, ranging from Stanford to Yale to MoMA to the New York Public Library. According to its website, iTunes U is the largest database of educational material on the web.

If every display of school supplies you see makes you nostalgic for your grade school or college years, iTunes U may fill your thirst for the classroom Read more...

More about Podcasts, Features, Education, Back To School, and Online Education

March 22 2013

Apple Fixes Its Busted Podcasts App (But I Still Won't Switch)

Yesterday, Apple made up for one of its biggest mobile missteps yet. No, I'm not talking about Maps (it's still working on that). The company pushed out an update to its native Podcasts app for iOS, overhauling the interface and tacking on impressive new features. It's still not the best way to manage podcasts on iOS, but it's a big step up. 

When Apple broke Podcasts out from its native Music (formerly "iPod") app last year, the end product landed in the App Store with a resounding thud. The app, which BuzzFeed called "the worst app it's ever made," garnered Apple some incredibly negative user reviews. Topping off a lackluster user experience and buggy performance was a dose of the unnecessarily skeuomorphic design even Apple devotees love to deride and that Jony Ive is expected to axe

With version 1.2, Podcasts loses the cheesy reel-to-reel tape graphic, gets a fresh design and borrows features from of the best audio consumption apps out there. For example, the new "Stations" feature feels reminiscent of Stitcher Radio's smart stations, although with less algorithmic intelligence behind it. 

The Alternatives Are Still Better

It's a very solid and badly needed update. Personally, I don't find it compelling enough to change my existing mobile audio consumption regimen, which includes Stitcher, Instacast and NPR's excellent mobile apps. Instacast in particular is a great app for for managing and listening to podcasts. PodCruncher, PocketCasts and Downcast are all very popular as well. 

Stitcher Radio has much the same content as the apps mentioned above, but it's way better at content discovery. Its "smart radio" approach offers more of a "lean back" experience, which is ideal for this of us who want to listen to podcasts in the car without careening off the road to our untimely and tragic demise. 

Apple would be wise to mimic the best of these apps even more than it already has. I've long said that whoever figures out a way to implement an Instapaper "listen later" button would pretty much win the Internet audio game in my book. 

Remember when podcasts were supposed to be the future of media consumption? Things didn't quite pan out the way they felt poised to in 2005, but it's an important part of audio content and the future of what we once called radio. How popular are they? Both This American Life and WTF With Marc Maron, two of the most popular podcasts, each see hundreds of thousands of downloads per episode. That's a pretty good showing, but it doesn't begin to compare to terrestrial radio or Internet services with radio-like qualities such as Pandora and SoundCloud. 

Podcasts might not be a radio-killer, but they certainly complement their analog predecessor in a very significant way. Apple didn't invent podcasting, but its technology helped fuel the medium's early innovations and it plays an important role in the history of podcasting.  It makes sense for Apple to own this space. They don't. But with Podcasts 1.2, they're certainly getting there. 

Tags: Podcasts

August 08 2012

5 Things I Love About Podcasting

My post about podcasting earlier this week attracted a lot of insightful comments. There were also a few insulting comments, but overall the feedback showcased what makes podcasts worth consuming: passionate voices. Not coincidentally, passion is also what makes blogs a vital part of the media world. So the point of my article wasn't to disparage podcasting. As I made clear, I subscribe to and regularly listen to podcasts. The point was that podcasting hasn't changed mainstream media as much as blogging. But after reading through all of those comments, I've come to realize that maybe it doesn't need to. With that in mind, here are at least five reasons why podcasting rocks. Just trying to help get the word out...

1. An Ever Increasing Range of Podcasts To Choose From

The best podcasts, like the best blogs, are niche ones about specific topics. And thankfully, there is no shortage of quality content in the podcasting world. For example if you're into cooking, iTunes has a good list of cooking podcasts for you to choose from.

What's even more encouraging is the rise of independent podcast networks, like Dan Benjamin's 5b5. 5by5 is a tech focused network, featuring tech luminaries like John Gruber, Merlin Mann and Jeffrey Zeldman. It even has an iPhone app, allowing you to listen to shows live and get notifications. 70 Decibels is another tech podcast network worth checking out (thanks Jon Mitchell for the suggestions).

2. Podcasts In Your Car

Finding time to listen to podcasts can be challenging. Sometimes the only chance you get to attentively listen to something is on your commute - which is of course the traditional domain of radio. But car connectivity is rapidly advancing and as a result podcasts are becoming more accessible inside the car.

Noah Shanok, the CEO of popular online radio and in-car app Stitcher, commented that podcasting "is still missing easy, in-car connectivity." However, he noted that this is improving, thanks to mobile integration with large auto manufacturers like Ford, General Motors and BMW.

3. Podcasters Are Influential, Too

Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl, took exception to my comment that few podcasters are known outside of their respective niches:

"Not recognizable outside my niche? Last week alone I was quoted in Wired and the Wall Street Journal (in an A1 story). In the last month I was on MPR, WYPR, WOSU, CBC, and a couple of smaller stations. My first book was a New York Times bestseller. I may be better known in language and education circles than other circles, but I believe I'm known outside the niche. Whaddaya want? People to ask me about nuclear policy? ;-)"

OK, point taken :) I didn't mean that as an insult, by the way. I consider myself a niche blogger and I'm not widely known outside of the technology sphere. But I agree with Mignon's point: that being influential in your niche often leads to respect and success.

4. Podcasts Can Nicely Augment Other Media

Daniel J. Lewis made an interesting comment on my previous post. He noted that traditional media is "pushing consumers to seek content and entertainment in new media, like blogs and podcasts." In other words, podcasts can complement mainstream media. Daniel mentioned his own Once Upon a Time podcast, based on ABC's drama show. He says the TV show has "created an audience of thousands for my content."

5. Create Your Own Schedule!

One of the best things about podcasts is that you can listen to them whenever you like. Unlike radio, you don't have to tune in at a specific time of the day. You can also listen to old podcast shows, anytime. I tend to listen to my favorite podcasts on walks, when preparing dinner or when cleaning up.

Dave Raven is a long-time podcaster, with a blues show called Raven & Blues. He has some interesting thoughts on the subject of scheduling:

"I've been podcasting the Raven & Blues for almost 8 years and in that time have gone from a few hundred to around 20,000 downloads a week. The growth curve was great for the first 5 years and then leveled out around 2009. It does seem from the feedback that I get, the main problem has been that many people have never fully understood what podcasting could do in refining their radio and audio listening. I listen to virtually no live radio after my morning fix of news and weather, and I know that many of my subscribers have my show earmarked for a certain day and time, just like a radio schedule - but of their own making.

The odd thing is what I call the long tail - each week, around 2-3,000 downloads are for old shows, sometimes going back to 2005. How or why they found that particular show, I never know, but many go on to become subscribers (and download over 400 hours of back programmes). I gave presentations to UK radio groups back in 2006, 2007 on how podcasting would change the face of radio. I've been proved wrong - So far!"

I don't know about you being wrong, Dave. In fact, what you do is precisely why I love podcasting: it's passionate, niche content and I can listen to it whenever I like. While blogs have undoubtedly changed news reporting for the better, podcasting is quite different to radio and it deserves to be appreciated on its own merits. I still hope more of you become stars though!

Top pic: The TWIT Network Mothership Table; by the one and only Trey Ratcliff from Stuck In Customs.

Tags: Podcasts

August 06 2012

Radio Killed The Podcasting Star

Podcasters are to radio what bloggers are to newspapers: independent voices taking attention away from mainstream media. At least that was the theory, when professional podcasts and blogs were getting started in the 2000s. But unlike blogs, podcasts by indie voices have not gone on to seriously challenge the mainstream media incumbents. Where is the Ariana Huffington of podcasting? Can you name a political podcaster who's had the same impact as Josh Marshall and his Talking Points Memo blog? Sadly, there are no podcasting stars - and it's all radio's fault.

Five years ago on ReadWriteWeb, Alex Iskold wrote an article that asked: Will Podcasting Survive? Here in 2012, podcasting is clearly still alive and well. But it's mainly thanks to established radio and TV networks like NPR and ESPN.

Podcasts are audio or video shows that you can subscribe to, typically via iTunes. I'm a subscriber to several music podcasts from NPR and KEXP. NPR Music's flagship podcast show, All Songs Considered, releases on average one show per week. It's about 30-45 minutes long and I nearly always make time to listen to it - usually while I'm cooking, cleaning up or walking. But that's a key issue right there: because podcasts demand all (or most) of your brain's attention, they have struggled to make an impact in our multi-tasking culture. Budding podcast stars simply couldn't get enough of our attention.

This isn't to say that there aren't successful podcasters out there. In the tech world, Leo Laporte is the closest we have to a podcasting star. After starting with This Week in Tech in 2005, he went on to create a podcast network called the TWiT Netcast Network. It now has over twenty-five shows.

However, with the utmost respect to Laporte, neither he nor any other podcaster has changed the radio landscape like Ariana Huffington or Matt Drudge did to newspapers with their blogs. The Huffington Post was acquired by AOL for over $300 million and is now competing with mainstream media heavyweights like the New York Times and Washington Post. OK, HuffPo was and is an exceptional business. But even its sister AOL site, the tech blog TechCrunch, sold for over $20 million and changed the tech journalism landscape with its insider reporting and subjectivity.

I can't think of a single podcast that has had that kind of impact on the radio industry. Indeed, Leo Laporte himself is having the most success not on iTunes, but on radio. According to his website, he "hosts a national radio technology talk show every Saturday and Sunday from 2-5p Eastern on over 150 stations on the Premiere Radio Networks."

A glance over the current Top Podcasts list on iTunes confirms my suspicion. It's dominated by public radio networks (like NPR and WNYC), along with semi-celebrities who already had a following via TV or radio (like Chris Hardwick and Adam Carolla).

Far from changing the radio landscape, podcasting has been commandeered by the radio industry.

Bonus video:

Tags: Podcasts

March 16 2011

Comedy Frankensteins the Podcast

cdr.jpgSocial media's like punk rock, it knocks down walls for all, and that's good. But it frees up as much, or more, rubbish as it does material of quality. Nevertheless, some people, usually those with a love-hate relationship with radio, were very enthusiastic lo these many years ago, about the platform that podcasting provided. That enthusiasm has waned in recent times. (Though not for everyone.) Lately, comedy seems to be revitalizing it.

Comedy podcasts run the length of the field, from one-man ruminations to frantic bit-factories to interview shows. Some are free, some cost, and many offer a combination of the two options. Below the fold, I offer a far-from-inclusive introduction to different types of comedy podcasts and have tried to include a few that are acknowledged to be influential.


Ricky_Gervais_Show_Season_1_Cover.JPGThe Ricky Gervais Show. Gervais was an innovator, putting comedy podcasting on the map in 2005, under the auspices of the Guardian. Over the next two years, Gervais released about three dozen podcasts, which went to iTunes for a fee. It is said to be the most downloaded podcast ever. As to the content, I've always found Gervais's comedy to be pub rock posing as punk and the genius mostly in the marketing. I'm clearly in the minority.

What the Fuck? Comedian Marc Maron's podcast has gained huge momentum over the last year and for good reason as far as I'm concerned. Wide in scope, Maron combines introductory monologues of mind-bending self-absorption with interviews, on-site reporting (Creation Museum, anyone?) and live shows.

wtf.jpgSometimes the interviews are super funny. Tom Lennon of The State and Reno 911 and Bob Saget of Full House, America's Funniest Home Videos and How I Met Your Mother almost bent space-time they were so funny. Sometimes, like his interview with the late Mike DeStefano, they're touching and at other times, like Judd Apatow and Robin Williams, they're extremely interesting, winkling out details you'd never heard elsewhere.

Two interviews were profoundly squirm-worthy: Gallagher (who walked out) and Carlos Mencia (who required two interview for Maron to dislodge him from his talking points.) Few journalists could match Maron's interviewing technique, neither for quality nor for the risks they take.

cdrr.pngComedy Death Ray Radio. CDR Radio grew out of Comedy Death Ray, a weekly Los Angeles-based comedy show that began in 2002 and has been credited in part for creating what is now known as "alternative comedy." One of CDR's co-creators, Mr. Show writer Scott Aukerman, is the host.

The strong position the show has given the podcast in the world of comedy and comedy fans has given it a lot of reach. Wise guest choices (Paul Tompkins, Andy Richter, Nick Kroll, Reggie Watts, Sarah Silverman, Russell Brand and Tig Notaro) have kept its momentum up.

Walking the Room. Comedians Greg Behrendt (best known for "He's Just Not That Into You" and "telling jokes in front of people") and Dave Anthony (he's this one guy) co-host a slop-bucket of a podcast, sloshing with unspeakable filth, studded with neologisms and streaked with tittering.

wtroom.jpgRecent episodes include "Old Yeller Hamster and Fish Cliffhanger," "Blood Toilet and the Little Big Dollhouse Explanation" and the vacuum-inducing "Blood Face Nap Man and Cracky the Bike Thief." Sometimes the show's very funny, sometimes a bit insidery, but always a performance and (so far) free as the wind.

Other comedy podcasts of note

helium comedy.jpgIf you'd like to read much, much more about comedy podcasts, more by far than I hate myself enough to match, check out Splitside's "A Seriously Comprehensive Guide to Comedy Podcasts."

Finally, if you want to tell me that podcasts have never been more popular and will be the vehicle of our salvation, or that Gervais is a genius, or just recommend comedy podcasts not mentioned above, have at 'er. And speaking of 'er, where are my comedy podcast ladies at? They seem a little thin on the ground.


Tags: Podcasts

February 28 2011

3 Podcast Success Stories from Creative Small Businesses

This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

There is a chance that your business is interesting to a general audience, that you have connections with a nationally syndicated radio show, and that the show asks you to be a regular guest. However, in the more likely case that you are working within a niche industry, a podcast is a more realistic option and not necessarily an inferior one.

If done right, a podcast can reach the right people in your industry, establish your company as a thought leader, connect you with your customers and reach people on their own schedules.

These three company podcasts have successfully leveraged the platform to meet their business goals.

1. Ready, Set, Knit: Be Authentic and Informative

Kathy and Steve Elkins own WEBS, the largest independent retailer of knitting, crocheting and weaving supplies in the United States. Although they have a 16,000-square-foot retail store, most of their sales happen online.

So when a local radio station asked them to do a weekly show and podcast about knitting, they saw it as a great opportunity to connect with their geographically dispersed customers on a personal level.

“It’s like inviting people into the shop and having a cup of tea, and it’s the same conversation I would have as if I were sitting there knitting with them,” Kathy explains. “It’s not hard pushy sales, it’s informative.”

WEBS has produced 208 podcasts and attracted about 13,000 listeners per week.

And now the results are evident in the company’s sales: When Kathy and her husband discuss a particular yarn or pattern on the show, she can see the traffic to that order page on the company’s website spike. People write e-mails asking how their kids’ hockey games, which they occasionally discuss on air, turn out, and she’s been recognized by her voice at trade shows.

What made it successful? Kathy cites promoting the podcast on the company’s other social media channels, keeping content interesting, sticking to a schedule and not using the podcast as a commercial.

“Be true to who you are,” she says. “You don’t have to be super polished, you don’t have to have the booming radio voice — you have to be authentic.”

2. More Hip Than Hippie: Think Global, Even If You’re Local

Like WEBS, Greenfeet.com faces a problem in connecting to its online customers. The founder and president of the eco-friendly e-retailer, Valerie Reddemann, has found a podcast to be a good way to interact with customers worldwide. It has been especially efficient at creating brand evangelists.

“They become extremely enthusiastic,” Reddemann says. “They really connect with the company, and they understand that we’re more than just a company…These are people who I find…that mention our names to family and friends, that talk about us on their blogs, that tweet about us.”

The podcast opens with a rock song and goes on to discuss new eco-friendly products as well as hot issues in environmentalism. The hosts also make an effort to include the audience as much as possible. They’ll often reference listener communication, read e-mails, or interview listeners on the podcast.

These listeners, like Greenfeet.com’s customers, are spread throughout the world. Over more than five years of running the podcast, about 1.2 million people have downloaded. Most of those live in the United States, but China, Singapore, the UK, Canada, Australia, and Iran also make up significant portions.

It’s inspiring to be in touch with these people, Reddemann says. And she tries to respond to every e-mail she gets regarding the podcasts.

“The whole idea is that you want to give your audience what they’re looking for,” she says. “But if you don’t ask them, how do you know?”

3. Beyond the Book: Establish Expertise & Grow Your Audience

Copyright licensing firm Copyright Clearance Center uses its weekly podcast, Beyond the Book to establish its expertise in the publishing industry.

“It’s just awareness of our role in this business,” says Chris Kenneally, Director of Business Development for the company as well as the producer and host of the podcast. “I don’t always talk about copyright, but everything that goes in publishing finally comes down to copyright — who owns what and what can they do to maximize their return on it.”

The podcast actually started as a quarterly conference series by the same name. But the amount of people available in a specific time at a specific place to attend the conferences were limited. With the podcast, they could reach many more people for a lower cost.

Only 60 people downloaded the podcast during its first month in October 2006. But today about 17,000 people download it each month.

Tips for Creating a Successful Podcast

After seeing the potential for podcasts to play an important role in marketing plans in 2005, Rob Simon launched Burst Marketing, a firm that specializes in producing podcasts for small businesses. Simon currently produces about a dozen podcasts, including Beyond the Book.

These are his tips for making yours successful.

More Business Resources From Mashable:

- HOW TO: Change Your Business Model From Paid to Freemium
- HOW TO: Use QR Codes for Event Marketing
- 8 Tips For Creating a Successful eBay Storefront
- 3 Facebook Commerce Success Stories
- 21 Free iPhone Apps for Staying Financially Fit in 2011

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, webphotographeer

More About: MARKETING, podcasts, small business, success stories

For more Business & Marketing coverage:

November 23 2010

7 Essential Podcasts You Should Add to Your Playlist

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

podcast globe image

There are more podcasts out there than any person could ever listen to. Just as media organizations and celebrities have shuffled over to social networks, blogs and podcasts have also grown in popularity and mainstream acceptance.

Now, however, there are a zillion of them, and it’s difficult to know which ones are a worthwhile source of quality content. We’ve gathered a list of seven podcasts to get you started across a range of different genres. Need new music? Social commentary? Some poetry? Ever wanted to know how something works? These seven podcasts can help you get something new in your digital library, no matter what you’re into.

Check out our finds and let us know in the comments what podcasts you use to discover awesome content.

1. Stuff You Should Know

sysk image

Stuff You Should Know, or SYSK, is a podcast from the people over at HowStuffWorks.com. True to its name, it’s a great source for learning all sorts of stuff you may not know, but probably should.

The normally 30-minute shows cover everything from how sleep walking works, to pirates, food cravings, Christmas, and corporate personhood. It’s an eclectic mix delivered with just enough levity by hosts Josh Clark and Charles Bryant.

2. Build & Analyze

build analyze image

For the more tech-minded, Build & Analyze is a great choice from podcast giant 5by5. Dan Benjamin and Marco Arment host the show, and the podcast definitely skews more to mobile Apple products like the iPad, iPhone, iOS and mobile web development.

With the amount of buzz (and the insane lines) at every Apple release, the introductions of Apple’s mobile devices are certainly becoming cultural moments for the tech crowd. Although this podcast is just one-show-old, it can help give context to what everyone’s getting so excited about while providing some sharp insights on what’s going on under the hood. Anyone looking to branch out should check out 5by5’s other podcasts, including Briefly Awesome, featuring Mashable’s very own Christina Warren.

3. IndieFeed


When someone says “discover new content through podcasts,” he or she usually means a new band or some hidden musical gems. While Bob Dylan’s podcast might be perfect for discovering deep cuts, there are also a slew of shows dedicated to the indie music crowd.

IndieFeed boasts the “Best new tracks, free, from humans who love music.” The IndieFeed DJs regularly throw together stellar soundtracks highlighting new musical talent. Unlike other podcasts, IndieFeed is not hipster-centric, and showcases a range of styles and band stories that draw you in via different podcast channels. Anyone interested in indie music north of the border should check out the CBC’s Radio 3 podcast for some (admittedly more hipster-centric) Canadian bands.

4. The Sound of Young America

young america

The Sound of Young America is housed at MaximumFun.org, a site that claims to be “Your home on the Internet for things that are awesome.” Fair enough.

The Sound of Young America is a public radio show featuring interviews with celebrities and entertainment stars, as hosted by Jesse Thorn. Quite unlike the Actor’s Studio, The Sound of Young America skews to a younger set and seems to, accordingly, have much more fun and humor to share.

5. Lunch Poems

lunch poems

Poetry can be a little hit or miss, and frankly, it’s usually “miss” if you’re new to the genre. Lunch Poems, a podcast run out of UC Berkeley and directed by professor Robert Hass, makes the leap a little easier with noontime poetry readings from both established and rising stars of the poetry world.

It’s tough to decide when poetry is “good,” and even harder to make sense of the many names that are out there. Lunch Poems is a great way to get some lunch-time sophistication straight from the horse’s mouth.

6. TEDTalks

TED image

TED is an unsurprising but absolutely wonderful addition to this list. The TEDTalks podcast regularly brings in a mix of top celebrities, entrepreneurs and more obscure leaders of social thought to give short lectures. It is, essentially, a G20 summit but for thought leaders across every imaginable genre.

Malcolm Gladwell talking about pasta sauce? The LXD talking about dance? Bill Gates? Irrational thought in the medical world? Every talk is quick enough to burn through on the subway, and nearly all of them provide a new way of looking at things.

7. Invisible Walls

invisible walls image

If you like video games, don’t mind some swear words, and want a comical insider look at how the gaming industry functions, Invisible Walls might just be your thing. Run from GameTrailers.com, helmed by Shane Satterfield and featuring most of the major editors and commentators, Invisible Walls looks at major game releases, news pieces and game conferences with some really nice insights and more than a touch of humor.

Although the podcasts run a little long (usually 30 to 60 minutes), they have the feel of chatting about games with a group of your sometimes-too-honest friends.

Other Great Finds

If that still wasn’t enough to keep you busy for weeks, you can check out these other great picks for discovering new content. At this point, these podcasts have been featured so many times they are more of a “hall of fame” than a proper “honorable mention.” Still, it’s hard to argue with great hosts, great topics, and a laugh or two along the way.

  • Planet Money: This podcast runs twice a week and features “high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks — all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy.”
  • StoryCorps: This weekly podcast showcases the stories of everyday Americans recorded in StoryCorps booths across the country.
  • This American Life: A free, weekly podcast, This American Life is one of the most popular podcasts in the United States and is based on the weekly public radio show hosted by Ira Glass.
  • Slate’s “Cultural Gabfests”: A weekly debate over culture with Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner.
  • WNYC’s Radiolab: Hosted by Jad Abumrad, Radiolab is a bi-weekly podcast where “a patchwork of people, sounds, stories and experiences [center] around One Big Idea.”
  • The New Yorker’s “Fiction Podcast”: A monthly reading and conversation with The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman.

What Are You Listening To?

Did any of the above podcasts make you smile, or better yet, teach you something new? Are there podcasts that you listen to and want to show some love? Let us know in the comments below.

Series Supported by Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10

The Digital Entertainment Series is supported by the Sony Ericsson Xperia™ X10, the seriously entertaining smartphone that knows how to have fun. Check it out here.

More Tech Resources from Mashable:

- 15 Essential Back to School Podcasts
- 5 Marvelous Mobile Apps for Music Discovery
- Mobile Music: Top 4 Streaming Services Compared
- 5 Great Ways to Find Music That Suits Your Mood
- 5 Free Ways to Identify that Song Stuck in Your Head

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Norebbo

More About: build & analyze, Digital Entertainment Series, gametrailers, indiefeed, invisible walls, List, Lists, lunch poems, podcast, podcasts, stuff you should know, tech, TED, TED Talks, the sound of young america

For more Tech coverage:

September 02 2010

15 Essential Back to School Podcasts

Podcast Books

Alexander Hotz is a freelance multimedia journalist and public radio junkie based in New York City. Currently he teaches digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Follow Alex on Twitter at @hotzington.

With another long hot American summer coming to a close, many students are scrambling to get back into “learning mode” before school starts. One of the simplest ways to ease that transition is with podcasts. Whether your passion is American History or Algebra, there’s probably an educational podcast out there for you.

While these programs probably won’t mirror your lesson plan, they will explore topics covered in class. Below is a sampling of some of the exceptional podcasts that both teach and entertain. Best of all – they’re free. Read on for your “2010 Downloading Curriculum.”


radiolab image

Radiolab investigates some of world’s most intriguing scientific questions in a unique conversational format. Recent episodes have examined the importance of words in human development and time. First time listeners will probably notice that the show also just sounds different.

Before becoming a radio producer, Jab Abumrad, one of Radiolab’s creators, was as an experimental musician. Abumrad’s passion for ProTools is apparent in the show’s textured soundscape, which is layered with a variety of sound effects and quick edits. Perhaps the show’s only downside is its frequency. There are only a handful of episodes every season because one Radiolab episode requires months to produce.

Outlet: WNYC, New York City’s Public Radio Station
Time: An Hour
Frequency: 5-6 every season

Additional Listening: The Naked Scientists Podcast


dan carlin image

In Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Carlin, a veteran journalist turned podcaster, dissects the textbook version of events. In shows that often run over an hour, the host passionately retells some of history’s best stories.

Hardcore History has become one of the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes, and Carlin’s widespread appeal can also be attributed to his insight. One podcast asked, “Could widespread child abuse in earlier eras explain some of history’s brutality?” Another show was based off the question, “Does the toughness of peoples play any role in history?” Don’t let the name fool you; all material is appropriate for younger listeners.

Outlet: Dan Carlin
Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours
Frequency: 5-6 every year

Additional Listening: Stuff You Missed in History Class


planet money image

Planet Money is NPR’s podcast on global economics and business. Initially created by veteran public radio reporters Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson to explain the recent financial crisis, the show quickly became one of the most popular and praised podcasts available.

Planet Money’s success lies in how it tackles complex subjects with great storytelling. A financial instrument like a Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) may sound impossibly boring, but Planet Money routinely makes these types of things the heart of a thrilling narrative. The team continues to explore the financial collapse, but they’ve expanded their scope to include all aspects of the global economy.

Outlet: NPR
Time: 15-30 minutes
Frequency: Twice a week

Additional Listening: Freakanomics Radio

Disclosure: The author interned at NPR.


cliff notes image

For those of us who couldn’t make it through Wuthering Heights, Cliff Notes Cramcast would have been a lifesaver. This free podcast reviews some of the stuff you need to know for the big test and does it in three to four minutes. Of course, these podcasts can’t cover every detail. To do that, you would — you know — need to read the book.

Outlet: Cliff Notes
Time: 15-30 minutes
Frequency: Twice a week

Additional Listening: Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips

Foreign Language

radio lingua image

The Internet is full of podcasts that cater to students learning foreign languages. For those interested in the major European languages, Radio Lingua is a good bet. Another reliable hub is Open University, which in addition to the European languages also has a set of Mandarin podcasts. These outlets are mainly for beginners or students who need a quick review. Both are rated highly on iTunes by users.

Outlets: Radio Lingua and Open University
Time: 15-30 minutes
Frequency: Lesson plan

Additional Listening: Other reliable podcasts include Discover Spanish and Learn French.


math dude image

For those of us who struggle to calculate a 15% tip, The Math Dude’s podcast is a must-listen. Every week, affable nerd Jason Marshall explains basic concepts like how to calculate the area of an object or how to add faster. When Marshall isn’t podcasting, he researches “infrared light emitted by starburst galaxies and quasars” at Caltech, which just means his left-brain knows what’s up.

Outlet: Quick and Dirty Tips
Time: About 7 minutes
Frequency: Weekly

Additional Listening: Mathgrad.

Current Events

the bugle image

Every Sunday, comedians Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver recap the week’s events in The Bugle, a satirical podcast that is easily one of the funniest listens on the Internet. Think an audio version of The Daily Show, where Oliver is also a regular. The Bugle’s focus tends to be on the biggest international news, but the duo’s separate locations – Zaltzman in London and Oliver in New York City – ensure a focus on the English-speaking world’s antics. Although the pair has a leftward slant, there are no sacred cows. The Bugle even takes aim at itself in its tagline: “An audio newspaper for a visual world.”

Outlet: The Times (UK)
Time: 30 minutes
Frequency: Weekly

Additional Listening: NPR News, BBC World Service

More Educational Resources from Mashable:

- 10 iPhone Apps to Get You Back to School
- Why Online Education Needs to Get Social
- 5 Innovative Tech Camps for Kids and Teens
- 5 Organizations Helping Women Get Ahead in Tech
- 5 Fun Ways to Help Your Kids Learn Math Online

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, mattjeacock

Reviews: Internet, iStockphoto, iTunes

More About: back to school, cliff notes cramcast, current events, dan carlin, economics, education, english, foreign language, history, itunes, math, planet money, podcast, podcasts, radio lingua, radiolab, Science, the bugle, the math dude

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February 05 2010

Friday Podcast Parade! Location-Based Technologies

Welcome to the weekend, friends - and what a week it's been. Facebook announced a huge open-source code dump; Social Media Week kicked off in six cities around the world; and the tech world was constantly humming with news and opinions about the iPad.

Frankly, we're exhausted.

One topic that's been top-of-mind at RWW, though, week in and week out, has been location-aware apps and technologies. We're so excited about these kinds of technology that our next premium report is going to center around a lot of geo-based tech! More on that later. For now, fill up your iPod with these three podcasts on location-aware tech, and have a relaxing, informative weekend.


To kick things off, here's a blast from the past: A long-lost episode of RWW Live, a yearlong podcast series we ran in 2008/2009, this March 2009 talk focuses on location aware/sensitive mobile applications. Foursquare's Dennis Crowley joined Tom Coates of Yahoo!, Mark Josephson of Outside.in and our own Sean Ammirati and Marshall Kirkpatrick to talk about "how the Web is evolving to include more location aware applications and what barriers are still in the way - both social & technical barriers."

Download here or listen here. Running time: 52:50

All Points Blog is quickly becoming one of our favorite resources for location-based tech information. In this podcast, we are asked, "If consumers think of geodata as a commodity, what does that say for its future? What are the key data relationships? And what, if anything, will differentiate one offering from another?" The All Points editors ponder these questions with the full knowledge that most consumers know and care little about who makes, manages and updates basemaps.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 15:22

Finally, VerySpatial presents a 2009 retrospective and a look forward into the location-based tech that may come in 2010. Editors Jesse, Sue and Frank present an admirable year-in-review show that covers the most noteworthy computing, web and mobile trends that continue to shape the tech we currently use.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 28:00

Many thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick for finding these gems, and a huge hat-tip to Huffduffer creator Jeremy Keith for making such a nifty tool for all us podcast lovers.

To subscribe to the Podcast Parade, check out our Huffduffer page and feed, or just use this link to subscribe through iTunes. Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy!


Tags: Podcasts

January 22 2010

Friday Podcast Parade! The Wonderful World of Augmented Reality

Once again, the weekend is upon us - time to unplug, unwind and relax!

But lest your brains turn to jelly during your time offline and away from work, load up your iPod with our weekly selection of podcasts sure to entertain and inform. The topic of this week's parade is augmented reality (AR), the technology used to add a layer of data and visualizations over the real world in which we live. Download these discussions of a hot new area of tech, and give them a listen at your leisure!


This week, we owe a huge hat-tip to our own Marshall Kirkpatrick, who is passionate and informed about the state of AR and has curated these podcasts at his Huffduffer page. We also owe a huge hat-tip to Huffduffer creator Jeremy Keith for making such a nifty tool for all us podcast lovers.

First up, here's Daniel Klotz and Ryan Mast, two Lancaster, PA-based technologists, discuss the social web and how our online activities increasingly "augment" our lives in the physical world. What does the future hold for us as users of technology and as human beings? How do we remain civilized in a heavily augmented reality? This is a great podcast to start thinking about how AR works and what it does in general terms.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 32:43

Next, we have critical commentary from BusinessWeek's tech editor Peter Coy and Steve Wildstrom, who feels that mobile AR isn't real enough yet. Wildstrom makes the point that mobile devices don't have accurate enough data to make AR work - not yet, at least. While he praises some apps, such as a subway finder, but still finds that most of the AR applications he's tested haven't been particularly helpful. Of course, Wildstrom does have a few ideas on how to improve the state of mobile AR - listen on for an idea of how developers and manufacturers should be raising the bar.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 8:36

Here's an interesting conversation between the editors of All Points, a location technology blog. They discuss how AR works and how it relates to geospatial technology. And they get to the point of many end users' concerns by questioning whether AR is simply a set of cool but essentially useless gimmicks or whether there are, in fact, real-world applications for these tools and - more importantly - money to be made in the AR market.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 23:03

Finally, check out mobile developers Roger Brinkley and Terrence Barr talk to Kenneth Andersson and Erik Hellman of Sony Ericsson about how to build non-visual AR apps, focusing on API access.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 22:44

To subscribe to the Podcast Parade, check out our Huffduffer page and feed, or just use this link to subscribe through iTunes. Thanks for listening, and we hope you enjoy!


Tags: Podcasts

January 15 2010

Friday Podcast Parade! Google & China, Told By Folks Who Know

Welcome to the weekend, readers!

Your primary focus at this very moment might be your Friday night drinkups, but we've got a new feature to help you maintain your mental clarity and conversational arsenal throughout the weekend - all while keeping you at a safe distance from your computer and allowing you to roam freely through the real world.

We're happy to present the Friday Podcast Parade! Load up your iPod with this curation of experts on audio, and give these chats a listen while walking your dogs, working out or running errands. You'll be smarter for it, we promise!


This week's topic was, next to the Haitian earthquake, the biggest story in tech news since Google made its controversial announcement on Tuesday afternoon.

Put briefly, the search giant has threatened to pull out of China entirely, shuttering its Google.cn portal and closing its offices due to a string of attacks carried out on Gmail accounts from what are presumed to be agents of the Chinese government - not to mention China's longstanding censorship of search keywords and websites, which Google stated has long made the company uncomfortable.

First up, we have commentary from NPR's All Things Considered. Although NPR's reporter Laura Sydell said the attacks couldn't be pinned directly on the Chinese government just yet, she did get to speak directly to Google's SVP David Drummond, who makes an appearance in this podcast. Sydell also spoke to Gregory Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology and Jonathan Zittrain of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, who discuss the involvement of authoritarian governments in online activities.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 3:42

In our second offering, Adam Segal, Ira A. Lipman Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and National Security Studies for the Council for Foreign Relations, is interviewed about the situation and makes several interesting points.

As we're all likely aware, this move on Google's part comes at a tense moment in the U.S.-China relationship. "The Google decision also feeds into a broader sense of China as spoiler... I would suspect the next six months is going to be very bumpy."

Segal also sees the move as an indicator that the "world-wide" web is breaking apart. With various tools widely used in some parts of the world and abandoned in others (e.g., Orkut in Brazil or Friendster in Southeast Asia), can we really argue with him? But Segal sees further fragmentation of the Internet into almost entirely separate entities, one based in the Western world and one in the East.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 9:27

Finally, from The World, we have this double-whammy tech podcast, the first half of which is a discussion of affairs in Haiti and the second half of which focuses on the topic of this week's parade. If you skip to the 10:33 mark, you'll hear Clark Boyd recapping the news and an in-depth report from veteran East Asia correspondent Mary Kay Magistad, who has covered news in this region for almost six years. She states that surfing the web right now in Beijing is like being in a different world now that Google has unblocked search terms and content, leaving China's censors scrambling to keep up. The rest of her report is a fascinating mosaic of interviews and insight - a must-listen for those who would be informed and sound intelligent on the Google-China debacle.

Download here or listen here. Running time: 19:06

To subscribe to the Podcast Parade, check out our Huffduffer page and feed, or just use this link to subscribe through iTunes. You can also check out other podcasts on this topic from our friends at CNET's Buzz Out Loud and The Next Web, who told us their audio commentary will be published shortly on their blog.

We hope you'll enjoy this new weekly feature! Please let us know what you think of our Podcast Parade in the comments, and if you have a recommendation for future installments, send us an email.


Tags: Podcasts

January 08 2010

How to Find Great Podcasts: Video Tour of HuffDuffer

Is your podcast listening experience less than fabulous? If it is, you should check out HuffDuffer, a social discovery and organization service for podcast files.

The service was expertly built by UK designer Jeremy Keith and you'll know you're in for a remarkable experience when you go through the sign-up process. HuffDuffer will make you smarter and it's fun to use. Check out our 5 minute video tour of this remarkable service below.


Come be my friend and let's share great podcasts at http://huffduffer.com/marshallkirkpatrick.

Don't Miss: The Favorite Podcasts of the ReadWriteWeb Community.


Tags: Podcasts
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