This Week in Podcasts

Driving home from a weekend with the family? Boy, have I got just what you need to spice up a few hours of monotonous turns and straightaways: the following list contains all the best podcasts I have had the privilege of listening to within the past week. Whether you’re out on the open road or simply looking for the diamonds in the rough, look no further than this week’s installment of my ongoing series, This Week in Podcasts.

The Menu Bar Episode 044: Delight Is In The Spreadsheet. After a few weeks on hiatus and a brief return in the first episode of The Mini Bar last week, Andrew and Zac came back and recorded a full-on show with the very special guest Shawn Blanc on Dropbox and its future especially with Condoleezza Rice on its board, learning about and building sustainable businesses, and writing on the internet. My only complaint is that they did not record longer: I could have listened to these three talk for at least another hour, and probably more.

Systematic Episode #92: Ryan Irelan - Fascinating Details. On this week’s episode of Systematic, Brett Terpstra has Ryan Irelan on to talk about Happy Cog, collaboration, and all the cool projects Ryan spends his time on before Brett derailed the conversation into a forty-five minute tangent on music and Bruce Springsteen. The latter half of the show wasn’t quite my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the first half.

Asymcar 12: Cycle Times. Rome, by which Horace and Jim mean the car industry, is burning: as fewer Americans drive annually and it becomes increasingly common for teenagers to eschew a license and car in favor of other methods of transportation, or none at all, the current model upon which this massive industry is built has begun to crumble. When will the inevitable disruption occur, though, and where will it come from? Unsurprisingly, Horace and Jim have some interesting thoughts on that.

Back to Work Episode #167: Second Banana. In the one hundred and sixty-seventh episode of Dan and Merlin’s Back to Work program, they talked about the state of the comic book industry and its future prospects in light of Amazon’s recent acquisition of comiXology. I never got in to comics, so I generally take little pleasure in hearing Dan and Merlin discuss this topic outside of any I derive from simply listening to them on-air, but this week proved an exception to this tentative rule: I found their insights into a space almost always superseded by the products of this medium itself very interesting. In a similar vein, Horace Dediu and Moisés discussed comiXology’s acquisition by Amazon and the medium writ large in episode #115 of The Critical Path, The Canvas of Pixels. If, after this episode of Back to Work, you would like some additional commentary, look no further than this episode.

Stratechery.fm Episode 001 — Welcome To Stratechery.fm. In the inaugural episode of Ben Thompson and Jon Nathanson’s new podcast, the pair discuss more topics than I would have thought possible in such a short ninety-five minutes. To kick the show off, they first talked about journalism and newspapers in an auditory continuation of Ben’s fantastic three-part series on the subject, then moved on to Ben’s decision to take Stratechery fill-time: his reasoning, the lengthy thought process that preluded it, and his strategy going forward. This led to a very interesting conversation on monetization models for personal sites that I plan on returning to when it comes time for me to make a similar jump. Tying these two subjects together, their next point of discussion dealt with the democratization of publishing and how that shift has occurred in tandem with an increased opportunity for individuals to step up and fund content they find spectacular. As any dialog zeroing in on the tricky exchange of cash for content in the consumer realm almost invariably does, this entailed delving in to the current media landscape in which the television, cable and internet service provider, and film industries are competing with entrants like Netflix and HBO for the finite resource that is time and attention. And finally, on the topic of competition between upstarts and incumbents, Ben and Jon wrapped the episode up with a fascinating look at Dropbox, the company’s play to become the computer much as Google is attempting to become the internet, and Dropbox’s future plans to rely on software differentiation — much like Apple’s approach as hardware becomes commoditized — as the price of online storage and the services enabling that access approaches zero.

If my nearly three hundred word diatribe extolling the virtues of this episode was not enough to get my point across, let me state it explicitly once more before moving on: Ben and Jon recorded one of the most interesting podcasts I have had the privilege of listening to in recent memory, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. If even one of the aforementioned topics interests you in the least, clear your calendar, sit down, and lose yourself in their words. And if, for some reason, you cannot carve enough time out for the entire episode, the show description contains timestamps — and links — for each section and associated topic. Brilliant — the show notes and the entire episode both.

The Voicemail Episode 94. As usual, James Whatley and Stefan Constantinescu recorded a humorous and insightful episode on the recent happenings in the mobile phone industry. This week, however, it was actually the question and answer section that I found noteworthy. In particular, their thoughts in response to “When will Xiaomi come to the United States?" were especially interesting. For anyone speculating as to the future of mobile, and those who don’t even know what — or who, for that matter — Xiaomi is in particular, you would do very well to tune in to the last fifteen minutes or so. And while you’re at it, listen to the other twenty-two as well.

CMD+SPACE Episode #92: A New Lingua Franca, with Horace Dediu. In this the latest installment of Myke Hurley’s popular interview show, Horace Dediu of Asymco talks with Myke about his background, what makes for a great analyst and presenter, and where he falls on that nuanced continuum. This segued nicely into an examination of the smartphone industry’s early days, and wrapped up with a brief aside focusing on Horace’s latest projects Air Show and Significant Digits before closing with the genesis of the name “Asymco”. As has become par for the course for Horace, his presence and Myke’s interviewing prowess made for an excellent show.

Ruby on Rails Podcast Episode #146: Horace Dediu of Asymco - Open Source Software. For all of Horace Dediu’s fans out there, this has been a spectacular week: in addition to guesting on CMD+SPACE, he also made an appearance with Sean Devine to talk about the open-source movement and explain how the principles upon which it was founded have touched everything from the scientific method to modern-day capitalism. Later, the pair discussed the capitalist’s dilemma and the innovator’s dilemma, and how the two might just be one and the same applied to different market segments. Fascinating.

a16z Podcast: The Future of Television. Interesting, albeit short, talk between Benedict Evans and Zal Bilimoria theorizing as to the future of the television industry. These consistently short episodes are both a blessing and a curse: while I can count on Benedict and his co-host to get right to the point, I often find myself wishing they spent a bit more time explaining their nuanced opinions, and doubly so when they disagree. Nevertheless, an interesting discussion.

The Weekly Briefly: Kids and Touch Screens. Great discussion between Shawn Blanc and Stephen Hacket on the challenges of raising a kid today where not only is technology embraced by the vast majority of society, but an addition to it is as well. Even if you don’t have a kid, tune in: their thoughts on striking that difficult balance between realizing all the wonderful advantages technological advances afford us and going too far in that direction by shutting the rest of the world out are probably just as applicable to your own life as they would be a child’s.