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The web has become a minefield of clickbait, outrage, and soulless filler. Podcasts seem to be the exception.

Once upon a time, “content” referred to the substance of art. Today, it refers to the commodified words and images that keep the internet’s search engine algorithms churning. “Content” is the digital equivalent of fast food mystery meat. It’s designed to maximize ad revenue and marketing metrics. Content needs clickers, not readers.

If the slow food movement was a reaction to fast food, then the rise of podcasting could be a response to content. Scripted or unscripted, 30-minute or five-hour episodes, the podcast doesn’t rush your meal. It encourages you to focus on one conversation without an LCD lightshow of ads and headlines summoning your attention.

Seven days a week, I listen to podcasts. Whenever I cook, drive, or fold laundry, I podcast. That has been my habit for three years. These are the podcasts I recommend to people I respect and love:

Improve: The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Four Body, The 4-Hour Chef, and the new Tools of Titans, became my first podcast crush. Each episode deconstructs the habits, tools, and tactics of a world-class performer. I listen with a notepad handy and frequently consult the episode notes for book recommendations. For useful tips on health, wealth, and wisdom – and longwinded questions – Tim has no rivals. I credit him for my ongoing experiment with cold exposure training (coming to The Oarsman soon).

Who should listen?

Entrepreneurs, athletes, health freaks, Type-A folks.

Where should I start?

Scan the list of episodes for a name that catches your eye. Or, try one of my favorites: Cal Fussman, Raval Navikant, and Jamie Foxx

Philosophize: The Art of Manliness (AoM) Podcast

The Art of Manliness Podcast spun out of the exceptional AoM web magazine. Brett McKay, executive editor and podcast host, asks perceptive questions that earn genuine respect from his guests. AoM is an opportunity to contemplate relationships, culture, values, history, social change, skills, and of course, manliness. In AoM, I find refreshing answers to two of my favorite questions: What does it mean to be alive, and how can I be a better man? 

Who should listen?

Men who value deep discussions and contemplation.

Where should I start?

Learn: Hardcore History

I discovered Hardcore History on a 10-day car-packing trip through southern Utah and northern Arizona. Thanks to host Dan Carlin, driving almost became as much fun as hiking and mountain biking. I studied history as an undergrad and never had a lecturer with Dan’s storytelling abilities. The man does extensive research and has a knack for connecting past events to current issues. He’s a bit obsessed with warfare, which, to me, is a plus. After all, the podcast is Hardcore History, not postmodern history.

Who should listen?

History buffs with long commutes.

Where should I start?

Start with Blueprint for Armageddon, a five-part series on World War I. My personal favorite, Wrath of the Khans, is now behind a paywall ($9.99).

I listen to other podcasts, but these are in a league of their own. If you’re sick of junky media, get hooked on one of these. You won’t regret it.

• • •

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