Pandora’s Box of New Ideas

December 2, 2019

For the past 24 years, our custom has been to drive to Foscoe, NC to spend Thanksgiving with family. In the early years we would surf radio stations along the way. We learned all kinds of interesting things as a result. For example, WNCW, the public radio station of Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC plays Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant” every year for Thanksgiving. The song was a commercial hit in the late 1960’s despite being almost 20 minutes long. That’s a fact we may have never known if we had access to Satellite Radio, but at the time, that technology was still several years in the future.  

In more recent years we have become avid listeners of podcasts. Apparently, we are not alone. According to one survey, 51% of Americans over the age of twelve have listened to a podcast, with 32% having listened in the last month, and 22% having listened in the last week. The popularity of podcasts has increased significantly in the past few years, especially among those in the younger cohorts. Those between the ages of 18 and 44 years old make up two thirds of the podcasting audience.

We find podcasts are perfect for a long drive. The trip always seems shorter and we often have more stimulating conversations after we have listened to a good podcast. I’ll mention a few that have recently sparked particularly engaging conversations. The first, Buried Truths, is from Emory professor and journalist Hank Klibanoff. The second, White Lies, is from a couple of Alabama journalists, Chip Brantley and Andrew Beck Grace. Both delve into unsolved murders from the Civil Rights era. These podcasts are ideal for anyone steeped in what Jason Isbell calls “the duality of the South.” I found them to be very compelling stories and well worth the time.

There are quite a few podcasts that touch on relevant topics in economics and finance. On the more theoretical side is Stanford professor Russ Roberts’ EconTalk. Russ interviews various authors and thinkers and discusses their work from an economic perspective. He has an archive of all his interviews going back to March of 2006, which is a great place to search if there’s an author or book you’re interested in but have limited time to commit.

On the lighter side, I like Jim Grant’s Current Yield podcast. Jim has been around for more than four decades and brings a unique combination of historical context and a clever sense of humor to liven up often arcane topics. I’ve found good material on Barry Ritholtz’ Masters in Business podcast, which is also more broadly focused, and perhaps more accessible to a general audience. These are just a few suggestions. There are many others worth looking into.  

No matter what your area of interest, there’s sure to be a podcast that addresses your topic. A recent count confirmed there are more than 750,000 podcasts available on Apple. If you are new to podcasts or haven’t yet found time to get started, I would encourage you to explore this growing area of digital media. You might find it opens a Pandora’s box of stimulating new ideas.

Mike Masters