Op-Ed: These are the best business, technology, and media podcasts

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Like 21% of Americans, I’ve listened to a podcast in the last month.

For me, these have helped transform a meaningless commute time into idea generating time.

As someone most interested in investing in public tech and media companies, I tend to gravitate to podcasts that delve into these areas. That usually means I scan the top 200 lists of the “Business” and “Tech” categories on Apple podcasts.

What baffles me is how the vast majority of podcasts on those lists don’t interest me in the slightest.

The top 200 Business podcasts are filled with topics like personal finance, marketing secrets, get-rich-quick plans, self-help/motivation, general business news, real estate flipping, etc.

None of that stuff interests me. I’ve listened to no more than two episodes of exactly four of the top 200 business podcasts on Apple.

They are:

  • Master of Scale with Reid Hoffman: This new podcast where LinkedIn’s founder gets tech CEO titans to come on interests me. However, it’s really geared to an audience of people who are, or will become, founders of tech companies — and that interests me less.
  • Masters in Business with Barry Ritholz: I just started this one but Barry really goes deep usually with an investor.
  • The James Altucher Show: I love James. His pods are inspiring but I would not call them business. This is definitely self-help and motivational stuff.
  • Odd Lots: A good one from Joe Weisenthal and Tracy Alloway, but (like most podcasts) it really depends on the guest. They go down the rabbit hole of many wonky finance and economic topics. Sometimes that might be great. Sometime it might be down a hole that’s just too specialized for me.

That’s it. I’m sure there must be other good ones but I can’t recommend them from the Apple “business” list. It seems like a big missed opportunity.

I’m an NBA fan so I listen to lots of great basketball podcasts (e.g., Woj, Simmons, Zach Lowe, Kevin Arnovitz, Bobby Marks, Tim Bontemps). One thing I’ve noticed is that, if there’s a sudden trade where Chris Paul (for example) goes from the Clippers to the Rockets, I can count on there being three “emergency pods” in my queue within 12 hours. Why is there no such thing as “emergency pods” in business? Around a company’s earnings? Around some big sell-off? Bitcoin breaking $3,000? I would tune in to someone with a longer and consistently interesting take on topics like that.

The podcast which I’ve probably learned the most about “business” in the last year is Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History which is currently in its second season. It goes into really quirky ideas that usually have business relevance. And he crams loads of interesting statistics into them.

I wish there were more bios of great business people, interviews with them, and explainers on new cutting-edge trends. More deep dives around company earnings and announcements would also be very helpful to me as an investor.

Let’s move to tech. There are six in the top 200 of which I have listened to more than 2 episodes.

  • a16z. High quality and frequent tech content. Good interviews. Any new “business” podcast should just copy their approach. Sometimes goes off into areas like tech’s lobbying of the government — where I just am not interested — but excellent overall.
  • Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. Consistently good discussions with tech leaders from someone who doesn’t take any puffy PR answers.
  • Exponent with Ben Thompson. I think Ben has fantastic tech insights about bigger strategic ideas affecting the biggest tech companies. I listen for his thoughts alone so I selfishly wish this podcast was only him talking.
  • The Talk Show with John Gruber. If you care about Apple, you should listen. But don’t expect stock talk. This gets into the weeds of the product road map and sometimes a little strategy. Usually it has one or two great ideas per episode, but unfortunately it typically clocks in at or over 3 hours. That’s just too long (and I listen to all pods at 2x speed!). I will often pass on hitting play because I feel overwhelmed at taking on that type of commitment. I just don’t have that much time.
  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka. Peter’s learned from his boss Kara how to politely but doggedly ask tough and challenging questions. He also gets great guests consistently
  • Recode Replay. If you don’t go to the Recode conferences, all the best interviews from them are here.

That’s it. I can’t get into pods about JavaScript, DevOps, Linux, Ringtones, etc. That’s all in the top 200 of Apple’s Tech podcasts today.

Here are the other tech, business, and media podcasts I listen to regularly which aren’t in those top 200 lists:

  • The Jay Farhad Show. With CNBC’s Jay Yarow and the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo. Usually has a tech focus and good guests. Bonus: No ads.
  • Leigh Drogan’s Estimize Round Table. Much more stock focused and topical, tied to corporate earnings. Has good info on interesting long and short ideas.
  • The World’s Fastest Growing Media Podcast by Robert Seidman. Relatively new but great deep dive into linear sports TV ratings by @SportsTVRatings. Also no ads.
  • The SI Sports Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch. I like Rich’s pods the most when they are roundtable discussions about sports media or an interview with Jim Miller. I don’t like these when it’s an interview with some sports media person talking about their “process.” Those are more geared to journalism students on how to crack into the business.
  • Kim Masters from the Hollywood Reporter has a great one on media called “The Business”
  • Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton has a new media/tech-focused one. He’s interviewed Disney’s Bob Iger and Twitter’s former CEO Dick Costolo in the first few episodes.
  • The Wall Street Journal had a pretty good media one called Media Mix but they seem to have shut it down for the summer which I don’t understand. Usually they had good guests. Sometimes it would just be three reporters talking about some topical media article they wrote or edited.
  • Horace Dediu is another talented tech strategist like Ben Thompson. He used to have a good podcast called The Critical Path. I think he’s doing a new one called Asymcar.
  • Sports Business Journal has a daily 3 minute one on the news of the day in sports media. The reason I subscribe though is for a weekly one they have on the same podcast stream called First Look which is a longer (20 – 30 minutes) discussion. If I was them, I’d put their reporter John Ourand on there every day and let him go.
  • A new one that just has one episode but which I loved was ESPN’s 30 For 30 which is more sports but the biographical stories certainly sometimes cross over into business and sports media.

It seems like many podcasters seem to think they need to put out a pod every week at the same time (who made this a rule?). I wish they’d only put one out when they have a good topic or a good guest. If you put three good ones out in a week, so what?

It’s very hard to do a single person podcast. That’s why most are two people yakking at each other. I wish people would be more disciplined when they do their pods and not just shoot the breeze for 10 minutes before getting into the topic. Listeners’ time is precious.

If I get one good idea out of a podcast, that’s a huge win for me. I wish more hosts would think about that when they plan out their pods.

If you know of other good tech, media or business podcasts, reach out and let me know. That’s part of the problem in this whole new space: discoverability!

Hopefully the quality and quantity of business, tech, and media pods will increase a lot in the coming years.

Commentary by Eric Jackson. To follow his monthly Tech Media Email, go here. And to hear his podcasts on these topics, go here. You can follow Eric on Twitter
@ericjackson
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