Despite having existed for well over a decade in various guises, one could be forgiven for thinking that podcasting began when the comedy juggernaught The Ricky Gervais Show hit the virtual shelves. Though one could download mp3s via an RSS link long before iTunes added their podcast capabilities, the idea didn’t really take off until 2005, when the giggly dwarf’s show had the entire English-speaking world captivated by stories about monkeys and “hairy Chinese kids”, fresh from the mouth of the man dubbed the “global village idiot”.
During the rise of the podcast, it almost seemed too good to be true, that one could download quality content from your favourite broadcasters. For free. Legally. Now, however, if I enjoy a radio show, yet discover that there is no podcast available, I feel a (misplaced) sense of entitlement, genuinely upset that I can’t just listen to it again for free whenever I want. Such is the way we adapt to new technology I suppose.
Of course, there is an extent to which podcasting is about (to use horrible industry words that reduce artists and their publics) content providers being forced to give away some of their product to consumers just to stay in the public eye. Despite this rather cynical angle, most top podcasts do not suffer from advertisements, and despite some being sponsored by newspapers or broadcasters, the actual podcasts tend not to reflect this. Most popular radio stations tend to podcast their shows, the BBC being particularly prolific; it should also be known that our very own Surge Radio makes all of its shows available.
It goes without saying that due to the free nature of podcasts, many a podcast is rendered wholly unlistenable either through sound quality or complete lack of talent or ideas. Thankfully, I have sifted through the sludgy internet mulch, leaving us with this list of aural delights:
Top Of The Pods (Click pictures to hear podcasts)
A warm-hearted mixture of childlike innocence and hideous profanity, hosted by stand-up comedians Ray Peacock and Ed Gamble. Never fails to be funny
Always well-researched and full of righteous indignation, the Independent columnist pulls off a kind of weary optimism despite usually delivering bad news
A curiosity cure; Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann answer the questions of their listeners. For a further (and far loftier) endorsement of their talent, see their Sony Award
Stand-ups Andy Zaltzman and Jon Oliver heroically battle the handicap of being co-hosted by one man in London and another in New York. What results is subtle fusion of biting political satire and ludicrously forced puns
Robin Ince attempts to talk science with smiley physicist Brian Cox. It is clever enough to be intellectually stimulating, but not clever enough to be terrifying
The cumbersomely titled podcast hosted by stand-ups Robin Ince and Josie Long. An incredible guest list which has included Stewart Lee and Alan Moore makes this worth listening to
Highlights of the duo’s BBC 6 Music show, which appears rather sadly to be dormant at the minute, but there remains an archive of good-natured and mischievous Saturday morning fun