Monday, April 6, 2015

Podcasts open up an entire world of possibilities

Chris Christensen, your new
favorite podcaster
Podcaster extraordinaire Chris Christensen recently shared a study regarding the listening habits of Americans. It shows that the average person aged 13+ spends a little over four hours a day listening to some type of audio. Of that, less than two percent are podcasts. As a podcast enthusiast, I am working to improve that number.

For the uninitiated (and we were all there at one time or another), podcasts are simply a type of audio you can listen to online or download for later. They might be your church’s weekly messages, a presentation by NPR, or content recorded to go straight to podcast without being heard somewhere else first.

Podcasts can be retrieved from websites or the iTunes store. There may be podcasts that cost money, but I only go for the free ones, so that’s the only kind with which I’m familiar. And why are they called podcasts? I’m just guessing here, but it’s probably because they were originally listened to on iPods. (Feel free to correct me, if that’s not true.)

For me, the great value of podcasts is they literally open up the entire world to you…and on your schedule. Whether you are looking for information about the world around you, intellectual floss, spiritual nourishment, or simply “the odd laugh along the way,” (more about that later) podcasts are a no-charge way to listen to the very best of audio broadcasts from around the world.

This list of suggestions to get you started is broken up into three categories: The Physical World, Intellectual Considerations, and Spiritual Food.
The Physical World
Because inquiring minds want to know, the show 99% Invisible is a public radio podcast dedicated to why things are the way they are. It’s a show spawned by really smart people who were driving down the street asking themselves, “I wonder why…?” Topics vary from the sprightly carpet at the airport in Portland, Oregon, to the development of those air-powered floppy guys you see at used car lots.

Quick quiz: How are the island of Trinidad, the Olympics, and used car lots irrevocably tied together by fabric “air men?” Listen and learn, my friend. Listen and learn.

The shows are incredibly funny, stockpile you with hours of interesting conversation for cocktail parties and church socials, and will leave you absolutely unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit. And why is the show called 99% Invisible? That will be the first thing you’re smarter about when you go to
When I recently asked visitors to my author’s site on FB to list their favorite podcasts, an overwhelming number of votes came in for This American Life, another NPR offering. I first became aware of TAL through SiriusXM. However, when my Sirius subscription expired and I was otherwise financially obligated, it was nice to know there was another way to access the show. And here’s the beauty of podcats: it doesn’t matter when a show airs or even if it airs in your local market. With podcasts, the world is your audio oyster, and served up on your timetable, not the broadcaster’s.

My favorite episode of TAL is the one in which they spent an hour explaining, point by point, how an earlier show was completely wrong. In the age of Brian Williams, it’s good to have an outlet that isn't afraid to admit when they screw up.

I mentioned Chris Christensen earlier. His Amateur Traveler podcast takes you all over the world, from Fort Worth to Portland to Xi’an to Quito to –ready for this? – North Korea.
How much desire do I have to travel to North Korea? Zero. How interesting was it to hear from someone who did? Totally. If you’re planning a trip or wanting ideas for your next vacation, you have to make this a regular part of your listening pleasure. (

Intellectual Floss
We know from Harvey  Deutschendorf that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are “lifelong learners, constantly growing, evolving, open to new ideas, and always willing to learn from others. Being critical thinkers, they are open to changing their minds if someone presents an idea that is a better fit. While they are open to ideas from others, and continuously gathering new information, they ultimately trust themselves and their own judgment to make the best decision for themselves.”  (

Hence, if you wonder what the rest of the world is thinking, what better way to find out than to find out? Three options include the daily news podcast from the People’s Republic of China (, the documentary archive from the BBC (, and from Jerusalem, the podcasts of The Israel News (

The Beijing Hour podcast promises to give you a new perspective on the world and “the odd laugh along the way.” I’ve listened and listened, but not a single odd laugh.

Okay, I came close once when they did a news story on a city official from southern China who was sentenced to three years “rehabilitation” for “repeated, excessive use of irony” in dealing with citizens. Yikes!
There are entire American cities that would go to the slammer if that was a crime in the good ole’ US of A.

Another podcast I’m quite amused by is Indiacast ( It presents all things India, including their current success at the world Cricket championships. I've listened to the episode on cricket at least a half dozen times. What do I now know about cricket I didn't know before? Not a blasted thing.

But it does give me a real-time appreciation of what I've been putting my wife through for years by making her watch Sports Center and listen to ESPN Radio. Gibberish. Pure gibberish.

Spiritual Food
Many people take great care of their bodies, but their spirits are suffering serious malnutrition. Either they’re loading up on empty calories or simply starving themselves to death. Regardless of what church you attend, or even if you currently attend a church, there is a bountiful treasure of nutritious snacks available via podcasts.

Andy Stanley, son of famous preacher Charles Stanley, keeps the followers of Jesus on their toes with books like, “Can We Do That?” His podcast ( is just as refreshing and, dare I say it, irreverent.

Have you seen the t-shirts that say, “No Perfect People Allowed,” and wondered what that was all about? Wonder no more. (

And finally, have you ever wondered what was going on at the church down the street? Now you can walk right in (via podcasts) and find out. Study after study shows people – even extroverts – are reluctant to visit a new church.

Now you can literally be a fly on the wall and see what’s being taught without having to fill out a pesky visitor’s card or make small talk with strangers. Here are some to get you started from across the US.
Philadelphia, PA:

To find which churches have podcasts in your city, simply Google or go to the iTunes store and do a podcast search. 

By the way, you can set your iPad or other device to record all programs from a given source, only the particular episodes which you choose, or only the most recent episodes. I choose the last option for newscasts like "The Beijing Hour." If I get behind in my listening, chances are I'm not going to go back and listen to two-week old news. Hence, I set it to only keep the most recent two episodes and erase any older episodes, whether they have been listened to or not.

Enjoy, friends, enjoy. There are a lot of great podcasts out there. And if you find one you really like, please pass it on to me at Bear Mills Author on FB.

No comments:

Post a Comment