10,000th podcast recommendation question
January 23, 2019 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I discovered, to my great distress, that How Stuff Works is no longer making mp3's of their podcasts available. I've lived off these podcasts for years now, since my commute and work office don't have easy internet access. I'm looking for similar podcasts. Requirements within.

I like the informal, learning cool stuff aspect of all of How Stuff Works podcasts - random trivia is my favorite thing. I generally don't like overproduced, stylistic podcasts with expert guests; I didn't care for 99% Invisible or RadioLab, despite finding their topics very interesting. Two people chatting usually works best, but one engaging host is good too, like Kevin Stroud's History of English, which is a favorite of mine.

Some podcasts that I like:
Spirits Podcast - Mythology
Futility Closet - General Knowledge/History
No Such Thing as a Fish
Stuff You Should Know/Stuff You Missed in History Class/Part Time Genius, etc. (no longer available to me during the day).

I love history, science, and general trivia/knowledge. I do not like true crime at all, and would prefer to steer clear of any politics stuff, as this is my escapism. Most importantly, I need something that will allow me to download to my cheap mp3 player; preferably something with a relatively large back catalogue.
posted by backwards compatible to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Lexicon Valley. Currently it features a single host (the outstanding John McWhorter) but older episodes had two hosts. I have only listened to episodes from about the past year or so but there seems to be over 600 episodes recorded.
posted by exogenous at 8:08 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

I really like The Omnibus Project. Ken Jennings and John Roderick talking about some random topic every week. They're very jokey, in case that's not your thing, but they're both very smart and well-read and they're very fun together.

It's at least a year old so the back catalog should be big enough by now.
posted by bondcliff at 8:08 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]

It looks like the Stuff You Missed in History Class RSS feed is still up -- you should be able to download directly from the RSS feed in Internet Explorer or Firefox. I'm at work so I can't really test this but that is what I did when I downloaded their back-catalog a while back. This is likely to be the case for their other podcasts unless they made a really recent change.

To remain on topic I would like to recommend the Anthropocene Project -- single host, infrequent releases, but has the conversational feel you like. Backstory is a great American history podcast but might be too produced for you. I have also recently heard a ton of recommendations for Ologies -- I don't like this one because I don't really like conversational educational podcasts, but it seems like it would be right up your alley! This isn't really educational, but Judge John Hodgman has a huge backlog and the disputes he arbitrates are usually pretty light-hearted and fun. You might also enjoy the Mysteries Abound podcast -- it reminds me of Futility Closet a bit, more on the supernatural side of things.

If you like interview-style stuff, Queery with Cameron Esposito is a podcast where she has a conversation with GBLT+ folks from all walks of life talking about what they do and how they feel about gender/sexuality/etc -- it can veer political depending on the guest.

Sawbones is a show about medical history -- two hosts, conversational, fun. I'm not much of a MacElroy person because they are too unstructured for me, but Sydnee keeps the podcast more or less on track while still being fun. So if you don't like My Brother My Brother and Me, this is still worth a shot imo.
posted by possibilityleft at 8:28 AM on January 23 [3 favorites]

I feel like you may get into Every Little Thing. The MP3 download link on Gimlet is a little hard to find: It's hidden in the sharing menu on the episode pages.
posted by General Malaise at 8:39 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

I would check out the History of Rome podcast, it clocks in at 176, which then transforms into Revolutions which is currently over 180 episodes. Revolutions covers a whole bunch of uprisings, having started with the English, then the American, he does the French and Haitian as well, it's really interesting stuff.

Also check out The British History Podcast, which clocks in at 301 and growing.

I would say both start the History of Rome and the British History Podcast start off a little rougher as the presenter gets their feet under them, but have since moved into engaging, but not at all slick, styles.

Lastly check out Patrick Wyman, he's a recent PHD so you get a very interesting take on more modern scholarship. He did the Fall of Rome, but is now doing Tides of History which is really quite enjoyable, if with less of a back catalogue.

Lastly I know you asked for large episode counts, but if you're interested in American history at all I can't recommend enough Inward Empire. I've found it shockingly good, from topics to Buffalo Bill to the Great Strike, it's likely right up your alley.
posted by Carillon at 8:45 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]

You might enjoy The Allusionist, which is a fun podcast about language.
posted by darchildre at 9:20 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Seconding Omnibus (another HSW joint, unfortunately, but see below) and Sawbones. I'm also starting to get into Creature Feature, which is a comedy/zoology podcast (trust me).

For the HSW podcasts, it looks like you can still access the raw feeds: Omnibus and SYSK. Search for "mp3" on those pages to get the URLs of the files.
posted by dondiego87 at 9:51 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

...unfortunately it looks like the HSW Megaphone feeds (including Stuff You Missed In History Class) are only current through March 2018.

If you're comfortable on the command line, here's what I did on my Mac to get all the MP3 URLs:
posted by dondiego87 at 10:01 AM on January 23

Your podcast tastes are similar to mine. Some suggestions:

The History Chicks, two women chatting about interesting/unusual women across time and space. Similar to SYMIHC but I like these hosts better (sorry Tracy and Holly!)

The World in Words, about language and culture. Hasn't updated in a while, but the back catalog is a couple years at least.

More or Less, BBC podcast investigating the "news behind the numbers" i.e. debunking stats about things like train ridership and the most efficient way to get to Mordor.

You Must Remember This, single host talking about Golden Age Hollywood history.

I don't know if Hidden Brain is too produced for what you're looking for (it's very much host-interviewing-people in the vein of Fresh Air) but it's one of my favorites as well.
posted by basalganglia at 10:32 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

PodQuiz is a weekly 20 question quiz given by a mellow low key British guy. It has 700+ episodes in its back catalog. Each episode is about ~15 minutes.
posted by mmascolino at 11:18 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]

Echoing the people above who mention downloading mp3s from the RSS feeds - scroll down to "Or subscribe to our podcasts" on the How Stuff Works RSS Feeds page. I clicked on a few of those links and they seem current.
posted by adventitious at 11:26 AM on January 23

> How Stuff Works is no longer making mp3's of their podcasts available

Er, what? That doesn't make sense; mp3 is the standard. I think you mean they aren't offering easy direct download links, maybe. That makes sense.

I did as adventitious did, and I see that their feeds are still serving up mp3s.

If you're on Windows (or OSX or Linux, it appears), you can do as I do to archive a couple of podcasts, which is to run Juice. It's really not current software, and is not great at customizing or labelling podcasts, but it does the job, and I haven't found better for Windows because RSS aggregation for audio, on desktop platforms, is basically obsolete now (and also I haven't really looked too hard). If you want to find better, what you're looking for is an RSS Reader, aka RSS Aggregator.

This app will be doing the same thing that your phone (etc.) would be doing, and HSW doesn't mind because they get to collect their download stats in the same place, and let the RSS feed do all the load-balancing, or whatever other reason they offer feeds but not direct downloads.

Seconding The Allusionist, by the way, or the much lighter "Answer Me This," co-hosted by the Allusionist host, Helen Zaltzman.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:15 PM on January 23

Yep, confirming that I was dumb. The code snippet I posted eliminated MP3 URLs that were posted after late March 2018 because they changed their formatting. All the most recent episodes are there.
posted by dondiego87 at 1:45 AM on January 24

If you want a large back catalog of downloadable podcasts consisting of people talking about a variety of topics, then you can't do much better than In Our Time.
posted by Johnny Assay at 4:31 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]

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