Two short, binge-worthy podcasts

Two weeks ago I started listening to podcasts somewhere between 1.1x speed and 1.4x speed. Depending on the host, the music, and the style of the show, listening on enhanced playback makes surprisingly little difference compared to "normal"-paced playback. It takes you a while to get used to some mostly infrequent, semi-chipmunk voices -- then you're used to it.

One thing that isn't the same? The amount of time it takes to get through your podcast queue, obviously. Playing a 60-minute episode at only 1.1x speed saves you more than five minutes and will almost certainly not bother you while listening. If you're listening to something with slow talkers, and you're playing closer to 1.4x speed, you can fit two 30-minute episodes into your 45-minute, door-to-door commute. Playing John and Merlin at 1.3x speed on Reconcilable Differences saves you 30 minutes in a two-hour episode. This leaves a lot more room for activities. I recommend Overcast, per usual, as a podcast player.

Since I more or less cleared through my queue for the first time in a while, I finally got around to downloading the two branded podcasts that Gimlet Creative has put together. One is called Open For Business, which is for eBay, and the other is called DTR, branded by Tinder. I haven't paid any attention to these shows despite the fact that I listen to almost every Gimlet podcast without fail -- despite my own knowledge that I greatly enjoy Gimlet's style and trust their output.

What business does a branded podcast have being any good? That's the real question I found myself coming back to. It seems so straightforward to assume that these would be lame. But here's a shocker: A company full of creative and talented people who are good at making podcasts was able to make good branded podcasts. The branding didn't matter at all throughout the course of these shows. While eBay and Tinder were crucial players in the stories these podcasts told, the central focus of the shows were much broader and far-reaching: Open For Business was essentially a Business For Beginners textbook, sharing valuable lessons for self-employed folks or start-up founders, while DTR explored the massive world of online dating. I especially found DTR to be interesting, and this is probably a topic I want to read more about (Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance was captivating for me as well), even though I don't date online and never really have in the past. The psychology behind it is super intriguing and a good reminder of why I started school out as a psych major; the trends are interesting to read about too.

Both shows clearly state a thesis and get right to the business of exploring the topic at hand. Unsurprisingly, eBay is a good vessel for learning more about entrepreneurship and start-up companies; also unsurprisingly, Gimlet's team doesn't hammer home the eBay stuff so hard that you feel overwhelmed. I left the show feeling I learned a surprising amount from it, and I found multiple lessons from the episodes were applicable either to my own small business or to my IRL job. More than once I tapped a note on my phone to refer to again later. TDR, meanwhile, was a straightforward but well-done romp through the world of online dating and even saw the host taking over the Tinder profile of a couple strangers to see if she could improve their fortunes.

Each of these titles made six episodes for their respective first season, and Open For Business has already confirmed they'll be returning for a second season at some point. Since the episodes are about 25ish minutes long, that means you'll save 107 minutes per show if you listen on 1.4x speed ;)