Econ Teachers, you NEED to be Listening to Planet Money

I’m an avid podcast listener. So much so that I took up running a couple of years ago in part to increase the amount of time I have each week to listen guilt free (my wife appreciates that the extra time away from family has helped me shed some pounds too). I’m not alone in my listening. The Verge produced a nice video (embedded below) about the rise of the podcast era. Many media consumers believe we’re approaching a new podcast renaissance. If you missed the first great podcasting wave, don’t worry, it wasn’t too long ago, and it was mostly a bunch of talk-radio format audio.

The current wave of podcasting is lyrical, narrative-driven, and addicting in a way that scratches the same itch that binge watching a series on Netflix does. The shows come to you, live comfortably on your devices ready to listen when you are, and often go deeply into a niche subject that other forms of media don’t have the luxury to do; radio, television, and even popular YouTubers are all trying to reach wide audience of millions. Podcasters are comfortable with audiences of thousands, or even hundreds; that means they focus carefully on the content and presenting it in a way that’s engaging.

Enter Planet Money, one of National Public Radio’s popular podcasts, regularly ranks among top podcasts on iTunes, and has capitalized on narrative-driven storytelling to break complicated economic topics and theories down into easy to understand concepts through metaphor and real world example. I’ve written about Planet Money before, but in the interest in making it easy to understand just how effective Planet Money is at spinning a yarn, while still educating listeners on economic stories of global importance, below are a few selected episodes that I’ve kept on my phone after listening so I can share with others should the situation arise. Seriously, they’re that good, and I have no compunction with breaking out my phone for a quick listen to share with groups as situations arise.

If you’re even tacitly interested in helping students be more engaged with typically dull economic, political, and global issues, you should consider either subscribing to Planet Money, or encouraging your students to do so!


Four of my favorite recent Planet Money Podcasts:

Planet Money Episode #573 – Why Textbook Prices Keep Climbing

A fascinatingly simple explanation of supply and demand and why textbooks continue to rise in price (seemingly exponentially). An exploration of niche market players dedicated to capitalizing on used textbooks, and gaming the system to “buy low” and “sell high” based on yearly price cycles will make you and your students both envious and upset.

Planet Money Episode #381 – Why It’s Illegal to Braid Hair Without a License

Think the only powerful political lobbies are energy companies and big business? Think again! Even trade groups representing beauticians and barbers play the lobbying game, effectively freezing out many entrepreneurs from starting their own business. This is a great episode revolving around a refugee’s story in Utah trying to make a living, but meeting political red tape from a powerful health and beauty lobby.

Planet Money Episode #578 – Is The NCAA An Illegal Cartel

How would you define an industry in which every “business” is controlled by a single governing board, including television broadcast rights, endorsement deals, and ensuring that players aren’t paid? The NCAA might fit that definition in many individual’s eyes. This episode explores both sides of the issue.

Planet Money Episode #436 – If Economists Controlled the Border

Reforming the immigration system in the United States is a hot button issue. Cultural, racial, and economic realities all add to the headache of trying to enact reform that will have positive impact on the U.S. while still appeasing a diverse set of interest groups. What if the border issues were left to economists, and handled strictly as a financial decision? Three different ideas are explored, including opening up the borders for everyone!


How to Listen to Planet Money

Subscribe via iTunes (automagically syncs your subscription across desktop iTunes and your iOS devices)

Subscribe via Stitcher (free app that can be installed on iOS or Android devices)

Follow their Blog (bonus points for allowing all podcasts to be downloaded directly as audio files from their website)