Podmasters is a weekly column where staff writers Andrea Alfano and Laura Rosenfeld highlight the podcasts you need in your life. Every week, they tackle a new genre, recommending everything from well-known series to little-listened-to-gems that will make you laugh, cry and learn. This week, Andrea Alfano spotlights five tech podcasts to help you navigate life in this evermore digital world.
If you've ever perused the pile of tech podcasts available on iTunes and other podcast hosts, you know that it's not easy to find one that offers more than just some dudes pontificating about the latest products for two hours. These are podcast recommendations for those looking for the stories of the tech world, not just commentary on products.
The tech world is, of course, quickly becoming everyone's world and navigating it means digging deeper than mere product specs. There are some great podcasts out there telling stories about the people living in the digital age and the people who are shaping it. The five podcasts below made the cut because they do more than deliver tech news – they explore technology's role in our lives. Whether you describe yourself as tech savvy or technologically challenged, these shows will make you think about tech in ways you never have before.
1. Note To Self
If you've ever felt overwhelmed by the technology in your life, Note To Self host Manoush Zomorodi totally gets you. The show is full of useful tips for managing your interactions with technology so that you don't feel like you're too wrapped up in it to experience the real world. As part of the show's "Bored And Brilliant Bootcamp," for example, Zomorodi dared listeners to delete the app they use most from their phone, amongst other challenges.
But this is by no means a straight-up self-help podcast, though it does often crossover into this territory Note To Self brings its listeners amazing stories of that highlight how technology has influenced our society – for good and for bad. If you're a Radiolab fan, you may remember hearing Zomorodi on the show discussing a mysterious device called a stingray that the government can use to access personal data. The Note To Self episode that goes into more depth on that story is below, and on the show's website you can find many more fascinating stories, like this story of a digital marketing exec specializing in distracting tech who was diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood.
2. Reply All
This is very much "a show about the Internet." While podcasts such as BuzzFeed's Internet Explorer focus on specific pieces of Internet content, Reply All looks at the Internet's transformative role in society. Hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman tell stories similar in style to those you might hear on This American Life – in fact, their stories have appeared on This American Life in the past – that demonstrate the power of the Internet. In the episode below, a 17-year-old Australian kid runs a fake office online to mock office culture, and sparks a bizarre Internet war when he ends up attracting a bunch of real-life office workers.
3. IoT Podcast
Ah, The Internet of Things. It's one of those new-agey buzzwords that everyone loves to throw around, so much so that people started to simply refer to it as IoT. But what does it really mean? On the IoT podcast, host Stacey Higginbotham gives listeners much more than a bunch of lofty hypotheticals about how connecting the physical objects in our world could change humanity. She takes listeners to halfway around the world to learn about how a new company is closing deals in China to make IoT a reality and into her home to demo making a meal in a connected kitchen.
Of the many, many dudes-discussing-tech podcasts that are out there, this is the one that makes my list. It's here because out of the tech commentary-style podcasts I've listened to, these guys and their guests do the best job of making that commentary relevant to someone whose life doesn't revolve around tech. They deliver all of the big news in tech, but pepper in quirky as well. Plus, you can choose to watch the video recording if you want to see exactly what they're talking about.
A tech podcast for the die-hard public radio fan. Host Nora Young sleuths out strange new technologies that you probably won't hear about on tech news shows like The Vergecast or This Week In Tech and packages stories about them in a classic public radio style. Smart elevators, vibrating bikes, and rap machines are just a few of the intriguing innovations that listeners can learn about on Spark.