The Golden Era of Podcasting?

You've probably heard by now of Serial, the wildly popular podcast from the creators of This American Life.  Serial has quickly built an audience of 2.2 million weekly listeners, far surpassing This American Life as the most popular podcast ever [Note: TAL has more listeners overall including terrestrial radio]. Its popularity has caused a lot of people to say that podcasts may finally be ready to break through in popular culture. 

Whether Serial's runaway success is an exception to the rule or not, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about podcasting right now.  More talented people are getting involved.  Podcast companies are starting to raise VC money.  New podcast technology is being created.  But the most important thing is, there is more and more great content.  It's gotten so I'm always looking for a new reason to walk somewhere, just so I can have the time to listen.

Here are the shows I'm listening to currently:
  • StartUp -- Alex Blumberg, producer of This American Life, left to build a podcast company called Gimlet Media.  This is his firsthand account of starting his own business, including direct recordings of conversations he's had with VC's and others.  It's an amazing inside look at the startup world.  I hear it's Serial for geeks.
  • Reply All -- The second show to come out of Gimlet Media, Reply All is an awesome show that explores a new unusual story each week about something peculiar in Internet culture.  The stories are short and sweet, sometimes only 15 minutes, but they're always captivating.
  • The Vergecast -- A weekly talk show where the editors of The Verge discuss the week in tech news.  The Vergecast used to be my favorite podcast before it took an extended hiatus and The Verge founder Josh Topolsky left for Bloomerg.  Now it's back and better than ever.  The new cast is really funny.
  • A16Z -- A frequent interview podcast featuring the team at powerhouse VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.  Part of what makes A16Z so great is the guests that join on a weekly basis, such as VC's Marc Andreessen and Peter Thiel, analyst Benedict Evans, or entrepreneurs like Marc Benioff.
  • Product Hunt -- A weekly discussion lead by Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover about the many interesting new products and companies making their way to the homepage of Product Hunt, in itself a wildly popular new site for tech and startup enthusiasts.  
  • Clockwise -- A weekly roundtable variety tech talk lead by Jason Snell, the former lead editor of Macworld.  Four participants propose one topic apiece, which gets discussed for 5 minutes each.  Snell has other interesting sounding podcasts as well.
  • Foundation -- A sporadic interview series from charismatic serial entrepreneur and VC Kevin Rose.  It doesn't happen very often, but Rose gets lengthy interviews with elite founders like Jack Dorsey, Tony Hsieh, and Elon Musk.
  • How to Start a Startup -- A recording of the entrepreneurialism business class startup accelerator Y Combinator teaches at Standford.  It's pretty cool to be able to audit an entire class like this for free, even if you don't get the visuals that go along with it.
A podcast I haven't started yet but plan on listening to [update: there were others listed here that have now progressed to my "always" list above]:
  • Exponent -- A weekly show about technology and society lead by James Allworth of Harvard Business Review and Ben Thompson.
And in case I have some extra time to kill, I listen to few ESPN podcasts, Bill Simmons and Mike & Mike, for good measure.`

Last, what powers all this new listening.  I'm using Overcast, the incredibly user friendly new iPhone podcast listening application from Marco Arment of Instapaper and Tumblr fame.  I've paid to unlock all of the premium features like cellular download and smart speed, but also to support developers investing time in podcasting, and independent app development in general.

One more thing. You'll notice Serial isn't actually on my list. That's because while it is incredibly popular, I've never actually been interested enough to try listening to it. What podcasts are you listening to?

Blog post photo borrowed from iMore.