Listening to podcasts is one of the pleasures of my life. They entertain me. They teach me things I didn’t know. They make me forget about my long daily commute to work – a 45-minute car journey across Hamburg (I honestly don’t know how I would have survived so many traffic jams without some decent podcasts). Sometimes I also enjoy podcasts in the evening, when my eyes feel tired from staring at computer screens all day long. In short, podcasts are a wonderful invention worth writing about.
The ultimate podcast player
I used to get my daily dose of podcasts using an iPod and iTunes. I’ve never liked iTunes; it’s way too clumsy. I also didn’t like the fact that I had to plug in a USB cable every time I wanted to sync new podcasts to my iPod.
When I got an iPhone, I started to look for alternatives, hoping that there must be a better way to listen to podcasts. If I recall correctly, it was a tweet by Patrick McKenzie that got me interested in one particular podcast player – an iOS app called Overcast.
Overcast was single-handedly developed by Marco Arment. It took him 15 months of full-time work – over a year of concentrated effort – before launching the app in July 2014. Now Overcast is paying his bills.
It didn’t take long before Overcast became my favorite podcast player. Besides being just beautiful and simple to use, the app provides three great features that make a big difference for me:
Smart Speed. This feature shortens silences in shows, saving me lots of time without actually noticing the difference in conversations. This works exceptionally well; the other day I realized that I finished a 40-minute show in about 30 minutes. As a result, my podcast consumption has gone way up.
Voice Boost. It does what you would expect and effectively normalizes volume so that all people are loud enough. This in turn allows me to enjoy podcasts even in noisy places like the car.
Discovery. Finding and adding new podcasts is straightforward. Overcast comes with a recommendation system, but I usually just type in the name of a podcast I heard about – Overcast almost always finds it – and then pick one episode. If it turns out to be good, subscription is just a click away.
That being said, I highly recommend Overcast. It has changed the way I listen to podcasts.
My favorite podcasts
What would the best podcast player be without some terrific podcasts? Of course, the correct answer is: nothing. Here’s a list of what I’m listening to these days.
Beats, Rye & Types – An entertaining podcast about music, food, and programming. I love listening to Michael Bernstein and Aaron Quint, especially when they’re talking about Computology and Hip-Hop. A rather interesting mix. Also noteworthy: the only show in the list without a sponsor.
Home Work – A weekly podcast for people who work from home. I’m currently able to telecommute once a week (which is great, by the way). But even if you’re not in the position to work from home, this podcast offers many useful tips on productivity, work spaces, tools, and more.
The Writer Files – An in-depth look at the “habits, habitats, and brains of a wide spectrum of renowned writers to learn their secrets of productivity and creativity”. I care a lot about writing. It’s no surprise that I’m interested in the work habits of people who write for a living.
The Binpress Podcast – A series of interviews with creators and founders on how they built a business around their digital products. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of monetizing (open source) software and creating a sustainable alternative to working for someone else.
The Changelog – A podcast dedicated to “the intersection of software development and open source” covering a wide variety of topics. I tend to skip most of the episodes on web development, but I listen carefully to anything about Go, Rust, CoreOS, etc. Bonus: The Changelog Weekly newsletter is excellent too.
Invisible Office Hours – Hosted by the smart and funny Jason Zook and Paul Jarvis, this podcast includes topics like side projects, launching products, and writing books. I’ve read all books by Jason and Paul. I also enjoy their weekly newsletters. As I’m writing this, I’m already excited about the third season of their show.