Living in Los Angeles, you tend to spend a lot of time in your car. It's not really a walking city, so ideally, you find the most comfortable and dependable vehicle you can, strap in and do your best to make your drive as painless as possible. My daily drive from downtown to Burbank is a bit over five miles, which can take me from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic.
The cruise to work offers me an opportunity to catch up with friends in the Midwest and on the East Coast, and also get a bit of business done. Radio, like many of us, was my go-to distraction on the road for many years. But three things took radio out of contention as a car companion: 1) being outside the desired age demo of 25-54, 2) a lack of interest in current top charting artists like The Weekend, Taylor Swift or Ariane Grande, and most importantly 3) the versatility of the cell phone.
Smart phones have long been established as devices that provide personal entertainment wherever you go. Creating music playlists, and listening to audiobooks are two of the most popular ways to make a long drive if not pleasurable, then at least tolerable. Listening to what you want when you want without DJ or commercial interruption, in a crystal clear aural presentation is a boon for me and many others. But what really gives mobile listening the edge with me is the advent of podcasts.
As defined by Wikipedia, A podcast is a digital medium that consists of an episodic series of audio, video, digital radio, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed on-line to a computer or mobile device. I'm a podcast fiend, because there are literally thousands of different shows on thousands of subjects. It's a great format that you can tailor specifically to your taste. There's no cost to get set up, except the time it takes to configure your mobile device with your car. Most podcasts are free, some have a nominal fee to access an often vast archive.
I've noticed when I mention a great podcast that I've listened to, or have sent a link via email to friends, I often get a blank look in return. The other response is "I don't know about this podcast thing". It's really easy, it's not just for kids. One of the simplest ways to get in the game is to do it through iTunes. Go to the iTunes store, find the search window (upper right hand corner), type in 'podcasts' or a specific genre' like 'sports podcasts' and see what comes up. Read a synopsis, subscribe (once again, it's free), download an episode and you're good to go. Outside of iTunes, Stitcher.com is the most popular app for setting up your podcast collection. They also provide a list of the top 100 podcasts which provides a snapshot of the range of available topics.
Here's a short list of some of my favorite podcasts to help you get started:
1. WTF- this is the show that introduced me to the world of podcasts. Created and hosted by acerbic comedian Marc Maron, WTF (short for you know what) is a twice weekly conversation where Maron shows his gift for pulling out deeply personal and revelatory insights from a wide variety of guests, all recorded in his home garage. More than 500 episodes exist, of special note are his conversations with Robin Williams, Chris Rock and Louis CK.
2. Fresh Air- Hosted by Terry Gross, this NPR staple is arguably the foundation for interview programs on the radio. Gross has hosted the show since 1975 and still keeps it fresh and is clearly engaged with her guests. Her archive of interviews run in the thousands.
3. The Watch- Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan, alumni of the late, lamented Grantland Network, have rebounded at Grantland founder Bill Simmons new podcast network. The two old friends offer hilarious but insightful takes on pop culture ranging from Drake to The Leftovers to Star Wars.
4. Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin- in addition to being a great actor, Baldwin is a gifted interviewer, with an endless curiosity about people. Intimate conversations with actors, musicians, politicians, scientists, you name it. Baldwin keeps you engaged. Check out chats with Dwight Gooden, Michael Douglas and Jerry Seinfeld.
5. Fareed Zakaria- GPS - an audio version of the CNN reporter's weekly international news program, featuring one on one conversations with world leaders and policy makers, as well as roundtable discussions of events impacting the planet.
6. Happy, Sad, Confused- Hosted by MTV's Josh Horowitz, each episode goes deep with the hottest actors and filmmakers working in television and film today.
7. The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell- Hosted by the noted film critic, each half hour is an in depth exploration with pop culture's most innovative and creative talents.
8. iFanboy- a weekly discussion about comic books with a knowledgeable and opinionated panel of comic book nerds.