June 8th, 2012
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These days, I'm doing a lot of ghost-blogging and speechwriting for clients. Which is good, because I do love writing, and when I'm doing the speeches I pretend I'm Aaron Sorkin writing for West Wing. What's less good is that I'm often writing well outside my core competencies - it's surprising how few of my clients need a piece on diet Coke or 80s new wave bands - so it's not unusual for me to be staring at my screen wondering if I should have taken a job in accounting.
But I have discovered a secret weapon: Podcasts.
In the past few weeks, information I've gleaned from podcasts has not only provided excellent fodder for speeches and blogs on subjects I would otherwise have known little about, it's also made me look incredibly polymathic. A client says "I wish we could find a good case study about the effects of kale chips on workplace productivity..." and there I am with "Well, Dr Tooloolamay of Higgledy University just conducted a study on that, with some interesting results - let me find the data for you." I look like a genius.
And it's all from podcasts.
I first started listening to podcasts at night because I suffer from insomnia and tinnitus and found that a quiet voice in my ears helped me focus and sleep. Now I listen to podcasts all the time: When I'm walking the dog, cleaning the house, taking the subway. I'm listening to a podcast right now, in fact. It's sort of like listening to the radio, except you can choose what you listen to, and there aren't any commercials.
My preference is for BBC podcasts, because I think their news coverage is more global and their comedians are funnier. And you often find out about interesting music and tv shows before they make it over here. But there are lots of great podcasts. Here are my current favourites:
BBC World Update
This is an excellent news roundup that covers everything from Syria to Greece in 30 minutes a day. Will definitely make you look like you're au courant about current events.
Dr Karl's podcasts
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki is a hard-core science geek who discusses everything from whether microwaves can interfere with your cellphone reception to the technology behind commercial space shuttles - and he does it in language normal people can understand. He has lots of podcasts, and all of them will teach you new things.
Why buy the Economist when you can listen to almost all the articles read to you in nice voices? I don't always agree with their perspectives on economic events, but at least they make me think.
These podcasts always give me something interesting to think about, and they have fantastic in-depth discussions about studies you might never otherwise have heard of. Excellent blog fodder here.
More or Less: Behind the Stats
I almost failed stats in university, so I like the fact that this podcast walks you through the way the media (and others) manipulates statistics - and helps you understand the real truth behind them.
Stephen Fry podcasts
Unfortunately, Stephen Fry isn't doing his podcasts regularly any more, but his pieces on language and fame are still well worth listening to.
I admit I'm not one of those people who's reading Mashable every day, so I like to save up the Tech Weekly podcasts and listen to them all in a row to feel up-to-date on technology trends. There may be better tech-related podcasts out there, but this one at least has good production values.
(I've given you links to the relevant pages here, but if you use iTunes, you can find all of these there.)
Have fun getting smarter!
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