[I’ve been suggesting to my English students that they write reviews of podcasts. They get my feedback and corrections, I get a free blog post. It’s win-win-win. Here’s the first, from Oliver, about the Planet Money podcast.)
Planet Money is a podcast that focuses on economic topics. The good thing is that the makers of that podcast don’t come along as Financial Times journalists. They address the issue without pontificating. You can say that even an 8 year old could follow their explanations. But that is the real achievement of the podcast, showing the listeners that the economy is not necessarily that opaque or impenetrable as an outsider might sometimes think. In fact, the episodes make you realise that a good chunk of the economy is driven by human deficiency (which you might have guessed during the financial crisis) but the podcast manages to deliver the examples in a really fun and entertaining way.
They don’t only address issues about Wall Street or the high finance, but they pick economic topics from everyday life as well. You will learn why the price tag will be gone soon, if you can patent a steak, and why the Dow Jones is in fact the one index you shouldn’t pay attention to. They explain why the most hated airline is one of the most prosperous and why the guy who wanted to solve the parking lot problem in cities has become the ultimate persona non grata. They even manage to explain the economics behind the Jewish matzo bread in an intriguing way.
So is this podcast a kind of economic guide for dummies? Sure, but that means that the makers know the art of stripping down a topic to its basic core. And it has to be said that the episodes also include the voices of the protagonists (e.g. the man who wanted to patent a steak), who often take the opportunity to speak very openly and sometimes also in a self-ironic way about their undertakings and endeavours. The occasionally outlined historical references help the listener to perceive the topic in a broader range.
In summary, Planet Money provides a fresh, entertaining, but still instructive approach to economic topics. Each episode takes approximately 15 to 25 minutes. And since they have produced countless episodes to date, there should be a topic for everybody. What’s left to say is that the musical intermissions during the episodes are very decent as well.