The Best Podcast of 2017
Forty percent of Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast at least once, according to podcast research from this year. Last year I joined this group by buying a tiny mp3 player.
I thought it would encourage me to work out more often. Actually, I didn't end up going to the gym more often, but it did change my life for the better, and I want to explain how, as well as talk about how it seems to be a good fit with what we do in Toastmasters.
What is a podcast?
Podcasts are simply a collection of audio files that a group or individual records and makes available online, usually for free. You can download these files individually to play back on your computer, smartphone, or mp3 player any time, or you can subscribe to a podcast with an app such as iTunes or Google Play to automatically download new episodes. Nowadays you see many young people plugged into their headphones; they could be listening to music but they could also be listening to a podcast.
- Christianity: 23,200
- Music: 13,100
- Comedy: 7,300
- TV and Film: 6,400
- News and Politics: 6,300 active podcasts
There are an estimated 115,000 podcasts and the number is growing. If you like radio programs, you will probably love podcasts. It's been called "Netflix for the ears" because you can control which programs are interesting to you, and you can listen to them when it's convenient for you. I like to listen to them on my way to and from the office, and I also find it helps pass the time doing chores around the house.
I want to tell you about a few podcasts that I enjoy. I will explain why I enjoy them, and then I will talk about why I think Toastmasters and podcasts go well together.
One Bad Mother: Empathy and Encouragement
First up is a podcast called One Bad Mother. Based out of California, these two moms started podcasting in 2013. They talk about the challenges and joys of parenting young children. Their show consists of the two of them chatting in a studio along with a weekly guest, augmented with audio effects, sometimes singing, music clips, and a lot of laughing.
What I like about this show is that even though I am not a mom, I have friends who are moms, and it helps me understand what my friends are going through. They talk about things like giving birth, potty training, discipline, stickers, glitter, schedule challenges, or watching your child have a meltdown at Target. Things like that make me empathize with them, which is what the best radio and podcast shows can do for you.
The other thing that I love about One Bad Mother is that the two hosts, Biz and Theresa, revealed that they are the kind of people who do a lot for others, but additionally they like to get lots of encouragement, recognition, and affirmation, which they don't always get in their lives. Thus, they make a point of giving each other -- and their guests, and their call-in participants, and their audience -- lots of affirmations. They start every episode by asking each other, "How are you?" and they play a clip where Biz says, "I saw what you did. I'm PAYING ATTENTION. You, Mom, are a GENIUS".
Just like we do in a Toastmasters meeting, these women understand the need to be seen and acknowledged, and to have positive feedback. These women also say (every week!) "You're doing a great job. You're doing a REALLY GOOD JOB!" Even though they're saying these things to a general audience, and of course they don't know me personally, it makes me feel so good to hear it. I just like hearing it! Because I know how much I do, and how much I care about others, and it's genuinely helpful to just hear the words, "You're doing a great job." Call me shallow, but oh well.
Five Thirty Eight's Politics Podcast and Pod Save America: Political and Cultural Analyses
After the 2016 presidential election, I had a lot of questions about politics and culture and the changes that were happening with the new administration. I wanted answers from professional analysts. In my circles, although people do discuss politics, I just didn't have the opportunity to talk about it as much as I felt I wanted to. I had a hunger to hear people talk about the things I was hearing in the news about the White House and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate.
I found what I needed in Five Thirty Eight Politics, which came out in 2016, and the Pod Save America podcast which began in January 2017. Five Thirty Eight consisted of a group of political analysts, statisticians, pollsters, and journalists with a history of covering national politics. Pod Save America is also recorded in a studio, with former Obama White House speechwriters and public relations staffers analyzing the news from a very progressive, liberal political perspective, which I share. Their discussions are also often very funny, because with the things that are happening, you have to laugh.
These two podcasts make me feel informed and connected. I like to hear their news analyses, which is more in-depth than what you get with the major network news or through the local newspapers. This is how I process the news nowadays.
Two Dope Queens: Young, Diverse Voices
The last podcast I want to talk about is Two Dope Queens, a comedy podcast. Instead of being recorded in a studio, these are two black women in their 20s and 30s who host a live comedy show in New York. They started in 2015 and they showcase younger, diverse voices: people who are black, latina, gay. Their guests do their short stand up comedy acts. Many of them are great! Many of them are funny! and many of them I never heard of before. You hear the live audience, and the two hosts pump up the audience, and they clap, and they yell, and you feel like you're part of a big, exciting cultural happening.
How Podcasting and Toastmasters Go Together
Let's talk about why Toastmasters goes well with podcasting. First, listening to podcasts is an excellent way to hone your listening skills. Although these are professional speakers, they do have their ums and ahs, and their occasional grammatical lapses. Listening to podcasters gives you examples of "how to say it", as well as exposure to some tremendous vocal variety, emotion, pacing, and storytelling abilities.
They say that if you want to be a good writer, you should read. The same goes for being a good speaker. Listening to podcasts will help you improve your listening and speaking skills. It may even inspire you to come up with your own ideas for a podcast series.
To sum up, I encourage you to go out and pick some podcasts to listen to. Among the 115,000+ offerings out there, there should be some that you like. By listening to podcasts, you can learn how to make your own podcast. The requirements for creating podcasts are pretty low -- you just need a way to record your voice and take advantage of the free podcasting hosts out there. It's very much like making a webpage.
Show off your skills, broaden your platform beyond what you get in a Toastmasters meeting. The best podcast of 2017 may be your own!