The top 10 podcasts for researchers

The top 10 podcasts for researchersPodcasts are great.

They give me in-depth exposure to topics I wouldn’t ordinarily come into contact with, and help me to empathise with people I’d not otherwise meet. They push me out of my comfort zone.

On the commute they help me decompress a little before I get home. Audio is a medium which invites you in. In comparison TV is, well, a bit shouty.

I was prompted by a new starter to compile my top 10 podcasts for researchers. I’ve put them into 5 categories: behavioural science, business & advertising; interviews and analysis; inspiration; MR & media.

Behavioural science

Freakonomics. OK, it’s meant to be about economics, but in reality this is a hugely varied programme which starts with some data and a counter-intuitive question. The way they frame a problem and isolate the true drivers of behaviour is great food for thought for a researcher. It is not willfully contrarian but their findings are often counter intuitive. My favourites covered the gender pay gap and how medicine has developed from eminence to evidence. Indeed the latter on has some wicked experimental designs including sham procedures to isolate placebo effects.

O Behave. Ogilvy Change interview experts and authors around behaviour change. The audio quality is often poor (invest in some mics guys) but the content is pretty good. Episode 9 (Matt Watkinson talking about his new book) and 11 (Rory Sutherland Interviewing himself instead of Author Richard Shotton) were memorable.

Business & advertising

Ogilvy On. It’s new, and is wide in scope. The last one I listened to was on the future of work – covering social capital, automation (“4th industrial revolution”) how we’ll spend our time if a Universal Basic Income is introduced. Polymath brainstretcher Yuval Noah Hariri is interviewed in episode 11.

The Bottom Line. More than once I’ve been scratching my head on a brief, and Evan Davis has come to the rescue with an intelligent overview in his programme archive. The breadth is admirable: negotiation, the future of the car, casual dining restaurants, the business models of department stores, pricing even.

Interviews & analysis

Farnam Street’s Podcast: The Knowledge Project. Founded by Shane Parish, Farnam St’s goal is “master the best of what other people have already figured out.” In other words Shane will read a book, reflect, contextualise and summarise. I enjoy the blog, the podcast is more mixed. The production quality left a lot to be desired at the start. That said, the calibre of interviewees is great – try his interview with self-made billionaire Ray Dalio covering his shall we say idiosyncratic working style; or most recently tips on negotiation with Chris Voss, former FBI kidnapping negotiator entertained and informed.

Talking Politics. Right, this one is tangential, but indulge me. Anyone on a mission to explore, analyse, understand and explain the world can all learn from it. Boil it down and you have intellectual figureheads tasked with explaining the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times we are living in. I feel their pain. Models and past experience seem to count for less than an understanding of the lived experience of the non-metropolitan majority. The nuance of the arguments David Runciman and his contributors convey is masterful. I also love the way they contextualise contemporary political dilemmas, drawing historical parallels and international equivalencies. But if you’re not interested in the subject matter you’ll probably be left cold.


Future proofing. Leo Johnson and Timandra Harkness examine possible futures, holding up a mirror to the here-and-now. Cities, wealth, intimacy – their scope is broad. It’s reflective and story-led, paradoxically this makes it relaxing and thought-provoking.

A point of view.  It’s a cultural primer, a weekly reflection on a topical issue. John Grey’s astonishing the revolution of capitalism is a great place to start: “For increasing numbers of people, he says, a middle class existence is no longer even an aspiration.”

MR & media

Newsworks – the industry body who promote newspaper advertsing – have done a recent series on renowned media thinker / provocateur / irritant Marshal McLuhan. It is enjoyably ‘out there’.

Perspectives. Tech vendor VoxPopMe have curated this series with some heavyweight contributors from across MR. My first stop was Siamack Salari from EthOS on the risks and rewards of adopting tech in research.





About Simon Shaw

I'm a Director at an insight consultancy. I'm interested in marketing, market research & consumer psychology. The views expressed are not necessarily those of my employer.
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