Podcasts & newsletters I recommend (Updated: Jan 2022)
I’ve often been asked for recommendations, possibly because I’m a “curator” of sorts: I author a newsletter on digital miscellany (Things of Internet), used to author a news-based one (The Third Slip), run a music reco Telegram group, and started three podcasts (Simblified, The Origin of Things, Getting Meta). I’ve been involved in a bunch of other content creation exercises.
I’m happy to share my recommendations*, but have two disclaimers:
- This is what I consume and hardly a “best-of”, and it might not work for everyone — I encourage everyone to find their own media mix.
- This is an evolving list.
It’s hard to classify some of these, but I’ll provide a rough [genre] as well.
🇮🇳 Indicates Indian.
[Topical] Freakonomics: A damn good show that asks some big questions, and features stellar guests. Remains a favourite for good reason.
🇮🇳[Interview/Public policy] The Seen & The Unseen: Amit Varma’s frequently-tipping-two-hours show on public policy and politics. It has several fabulous guests on. I’d say this is the best Indian podcast I’ve come across.
[Interview] The Tim Ferris Show: The gold standard in interviewing. He gleans out habits and ideas (not life history, opinion etc) — so you learn something from people even if you’ve never heard of them or are interested in their field. I’m currently working on a show slightly inspired by this.
[Humour] The Bugle: This is my favourite comedy podcast of all time. In its heyday, it was co-hosted by the brilliant Andy Zaltzman and John Oliver (yes, that one). The latter left the show a while back but filling his shoes are a rotating cast of some hilarious folks. Highly highly recommended. That being said, do go back and gorge on the golden era archives.
🇮🇳[Travel] Postcards from Nowhere: My friend Utsav does a short-format podcast on how to travel better, often bringing in deep life lessons from a small encounter. Beautiful show.
[Tech] Pivot: Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher ripping apart everything in tech and business with a lot of humour and experience-gained wisdom.
[Tech/Business] The Prof G Show: Like the above, but more focused on one topic per week. If you’re a fan of Scott’s work in Pivot, you’ll love this. Weirdly uplifting in parts, as well.
[Tech] Another Podcast: Unimaginatively titled but brilliant analyses by Ben Evans and Toni Cowen-Brown. Highly recommended for fans of Prof G.
🇮🇳[Humour] Our Last Week: Anuvab Pal & Kunal Roy Kapur have a hilarious chat show which is much more insightful than it looks. This is available only on Spotify.
[Music] Ongoing History of New Music: Alan Cross’ lovely show, a must for all followers of rock music, especially post 1990. He picks up some superb themes to work with.
🇮🇳[Music] Maed In India: Mae Thomas interviews Indian indie musicians who often play stripped-down versions of their songs in the studio.
🇮🇳[Music] Horns Up: Peter and Animesh do an Indian metal podcast. Good fun, even if some of the music is a tad too heavy for me. They’ve interviewed some pretty big names.
[Storytelling] The Way I Heard It: Mike Rowe tells us the back-story of a famous person, often dramatized, revealing the name only at the end. Older episodes are 5–7 minutes long. Was the inspiration for my own show, The Origin of Things.
[Trivia] No Such Thing As a Fish: 4 geeks, 1 fact each, lots of fun. British accent. What more do you need?
[Inspiration] TED Radio Hour: Instead of a bunch of TED talks together, it’s slices of many, umbrella-ed under a common theme. Love the format.
[Business] Masters of Scale: Reid Hoffmann’s show on startups and lessons from the Valley.
[Business] How I Built This: Interviews with the founders of some famous companies.
[Business] Planet Money: One of the world’s most popular business/econ podcasts, and for good reason — it’s super fun, they do lots of strange things like launching their own rocket, and very conversational.
[Tech] Reply All: This is a tough show to categorize. Storytelling meets tech is the only way I can describe it.
[Storytelling] Radiolab: Another great show, and very hard to categorize. Deeply researched stories, varying from human interest to tech.
🇮🇳[Science] Imagined Tomorrow: What will it take for some scenarios in India to come true? A fascinating show a friend, Shreya, started, which has received well-deserved critical acclaim.
[Music] Prog-Watch: For fans of progressive rock & metal. Loads of amazing new music every week.
Lapsed shows: Stephen Fry’s 7 Deadly Sins, 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy, Heavy Metal Historian (excellent for rock nerds), How To Citizen (Meghnad’s show on civics).
Despite the volume above, there are tons of shows there that even I have to discover. Chances are you’ll find something from a hobby or profession or subculture (sports, tech, LGBT, stocks, news, etc). I myself am not a big fan of fiction-podcasts (hence, no Serial here). There’s so much great content out there — hopefully the above will give you a starting point. In India, IVM has a terrific roster.
Plug: The Origin of Things: 5–7 minute origin stories of how brands came into being, where I reveal the name of the brand (and often, category) only at the very end. I’ve been told it’s good.
Simblified is the first show I started, and it’s fun conversations about things that happen around us, with 3 of my best friends. Getting Meta is a show on productivity, mental models and stuff where I speak to some very smart folks.
Newsletters, News & Publications
Most of the below are free, will mention which are paid.
🇮🇳 indicates Indian.
[Multiple] Medium: This remains my top recommendation for anyone interested in reading. Depending on what you like, you’ll get a curated feed / newsletter of some great indie writing + articles from top publications. I cannot recommend this enough. I’ve found great points of view, inspiration, quotes for research and more here. ($50 a year, more than worth it).
[Tech] Rest of World: I cannot recommend this enough. Much of the tech news / opinion we read of is from the West. Rest of World focuses on everything else and brings fascinating stories from Africa, Latin America, Asia and others. Free at the time of writing, though I would gladly pay for this.
🇮🇳[News/Tech] The Ken: I’m a fan of The Ken which does one deeply-researched piece of reportage from the Indian tech/startup space. Their associated newsletters (especially Nutgraf) are terrific as well, making the subscription amazing value. Kudos to them for starting a model like this, even if some disagree with their reporting. (₹3245 per year). You can even subscribe to the newsletters by themselves and I highly highly recommend them. There’s lots of Ken hate on Twitter — meaning the publication has managed to piss off enough people in the ecosystem, meaning it’s good.
🇮🇳[Business News] The Signal: Byte-sized, modern, fun daily Indian business news. It almost feels like Morning Brew. (₹599 per year, free at the time of writing)
[Global news] New York Times: I ❤ NYT. Great writing, excellent global coverage, and all sorts of digital formats and stuff. Plus, at ₹196 a month, that’s one of the most affordable quality international subscriptions you can have (I do subscribe to WaPo as well. Today’s WorldView is an excellent Ishaan Tharoor-authored newsletter from them). I must read more of The Atlantic — whatever I’ve found there has been wonderful.
[Global news] Quartz: Summarizes everything quite nicely without being US-centric. Daily news is free. The paid membership is $99 a year and can be worth it. Quality content in the deep-dives though.
[News/Tech] Axios: I’m a big fan of how they bullet-point the news. There are multiple newsletters you can opt for. Tends to be US-centric, but the tech newsletter by itself is fantastic. Free.
🇮🇳[Indian News]: Scroll.in, The Wire, The Hindu: Given my political leanings, this should not be a surprise. I find the quality of writing and reportage excellent (if, sadly, depressing). Scroll is ₹999 a year, The Wire works off support, The Hindu is ₹1200 a year — though the newsletters are free.
[Tech] WIRED: Absolutely the best writing on tech and its impact on culture and society out there. Highly recommended. ($10 for 1st year, $30 after). The few compilation books they have are great, too.
[Tech] Fast Company: I love FC, really good and wide-ranging articles. Mostly free, though a very affordable paid version also exists.
[Tech/Business] Stratechery: Ben Thompson’s highly-acclaimed newsletter which has some wonderful analysis and writing. One free edition a week, $120 for the full version. Also recommended is Casey Newton’s Platformer.
🇮🇳[Design, branding& innovation] The Hard Copy: I write for this wonderful publication that seeks to chronicle India’s design, innovation and branding space. We’re proud of the content we’ve done, and will be doing a lot more.
[Tech] Not Boring: One company / tech concept, deep-dived, with not-boring explanations, drawings and graphs. It takes a long time to get through, but highly rewarding and educational. Free, and very recommended.
🇮🇳[Business News] ETPrime: While obviously inspired by The Ken, I think ETPrime does a good job and asks some nice questions in their headlines. Bought it on a whim, and while I admit I don’t read every single topic (some are too vertical-focused and I don’t care about stock analysis), there’s enough good reportage in there. With its “larger industry” focus, I find it a good addition to The Ken, which tends to focus mostly on startups. The comments here are terrible though and could use with some moderation. (₹2499 for 1 year, ₹3599 for 2 years, they often run promos, free trial period exists)
[Inspiration] 3–2–1 by James Clear: Nice, concise habits and tips. I really like this. Sent every Thursday.
[Humour / Tech] Bad Unicorn: One bad startup idea every week. The writers even create a site for each. It’s hilarious.
[Business / economics] The Economist: Well, of course. Expensive, but outstanding writing that is insightful, plus some subscriber-only events.
🇮🇳[Tech / Business / Internet] Curated Commons: A friend, Subbu, sends a wonderful list of reads on a weekly basis, which should provide at least half an hour of quality reading. He has kept this free, and there is a wealth of content here. Go for it!
[Marketing] Digiday: Regular updates and campaigns from the world of internet marketing. Many articles are behind an expensive paywall though, $349 might be unaffordable for most individual Indians. If you’re working in advertising, it might be worth pestering your office to subscribe for you. Even just the free newsletter headlines are worth subscribing to, I think. Often, they link out to (free) sponsored reports by partners, which are actually pretty good.
🇮🇳[Startups & Tech] Inc42: If you’re interested in the Indian tech / startup space, you’ll like this. Also some lovely guides and resources, and access to many online events and stuff. Their weekly newsletters do detailed deep-dives into relevant topics. This is expensive at ₹5000 a year but the writing and analysis is excellent.
[Business & stats] Exponential View: Azeem Azhar puts out a weekly chart-based newsletter that’s a delight for data junkies trying to understand the world a little better.
[Global news] Foreign Affairs: As the name suggests — geopolitics and stuff. Usually long articles and while it’s mostly looked at with an American lens, it covers enough to make sense to any geography. $40 for a year.
[Longform] Aeon: I suppose I’ll end with this — the gold-standard in long-form internet articles. Sort of like Medium’s big brother. Haven’t explored properly but yet to come across something I won’t like.
Also: CTQ Compounds’ Daily Reader program: One article a day, with a supportive Telegram community that forces you to spend 10–15 minutes a day on a wonderful long-read curated by their team. At ₹12k for 6 months, it might be expensive for some, but I find it worth it in terms of value I get out of it. So if you’d like to build a reading habit and are happy to pay for curation, I recommend these guys.
- Things of Internet: I started this newsletter in June 2020, where I share one cool digital thing every week (something a brand did, a cool campaign, a new feature… Something). I charge ₹300 a year for it, which I think is decent value :)
- Sign up for updates: I actually do a whole bunch of things (or, well, try to) that range from marketing to music. My Linktree usually has everything I’m up to, and if you’re interested, sign up there and I’ll mail you what I’m upto once a month.
If the above looks like a lot, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t exactly get around to reading everything!
All the above doesn’t really leave me with much time for books, TV shows or movies, so I don’t have that many solid recommendations to make there. At least not on an “ongoing, updated” basis.
I don’t really read magazines cover-to-cover anymore, even the ones I have subscriptions to — my starting point tends to be newsletters. Strangely, despite all my music fandom, I’m quite bad at keeping up to date with music. I do subscribe to newsletters from Loudwire and Alan Cross, they’re not “new music”-heavy. Granted, you get a lot of that from streaming platform playlists, but here’s where I must confess I don’t use Spotify and it’s ilk that often, still being a bit of a FLACtard. This is something I hope to rectify in this year.
And there we go. I’ve probably left out a few things here and there but hopefully there’s enough here for you to discover :)