Written by: Conor Clark
When a co-worker recently inquired about the financial media sources that I would recommend to JPP’s clients, my mind immediately turned to podcasts. For the uninitiated, a podcast, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.” Essentially, podcasts are AM radio for the 21st century. This form of media was born when Apple’s iTunes created a distribution channel for producers of free periodic content to reach listeners. As their name might suggest, podcasts were originally heard on the Apple iPod, but the emergence of competitors to iTunes has made them accessible on virtually any smartphone, tablet, or computer. Unencumbered by programming schedules, podcasts vary significantly in length (sometimes even amongst different episodes of the same show), from just a few minutes up to several hours or more. Perhaps the most powerful aspect of this medium, though, is its low barriers to entry.
Unlike most forms of traditional media, which can require large initial capital investments, any individual with a mic and a computer can record and publish a reasonably professional podcast. Consequently, just as blogs have become much more diverse and specialized than newspapers ever were, there are podcasts to satisfy all interests and to give a voice to all perspectives. Given my line of work, the podcasts that I’ve found the most compelling are those focused on finance. With podcasts released by media giants, major banks and asset managers, and even some very capable amateurs, there is a shortage neither of content nor viewpoints. Over the next few months, I hope to help readers sift through the limitless podcast options by reviewing my personal favorites as part of a series for the JPP blog. So, without further ado, please enjoy my first recommendation.
Producer: NPR, Chicago Public Media
Episode Frequency: Twice Weekly
Episode Length: 15-30 minutes
Launched back in 2008 in an effort by public radio to help Americans grasp the overwhelming complexity of the financial crisis, Planet Money is a podcast that attempts to explain the global economy in layman’s terms. Recently, the podcast has covered topical subjects like Brexit and the Puerto Rican debt crisis and asked a panel of economists to assess the validity of this year’s presidential candidates’ proposals. In addition to the timely, current-event-focused episodes, Planet Money uses its brand of easily digestible economic analysis to explore many less urgent but still consequential topics like organ donation and patent law. My favorite parts of this podcast, though, are the historical episodes. The hosts will investigate an economic event from the past, like the founding of the Fed or the passing of the Jones Act, and discuss its lasting impacts today. As one might expect from an NPR program, the show has definite lefty bent, but this does not prevent them from fairly presenting all sides of an issue. A great way to get a feel for Planet Money would be to check out their recent five-episode series on the oil industry, in which the hosts follow a barrel of crude oil from extraction, through the refining process, and all the way to the end user.