2/21/2021 update: Peter B. Collins (see) has posted an excellent post-retirement installment (#2997 - Friday, February 19th, 2021) --which summarizes "how we got to here" --and to Trump --via talk radio --on the occasion of Rush Limbaugh's passing.
Hey technicians and program managers. The clarity of today's MP3 PODcasts makes sub-par phones/connections, echo chamber-ish on-location interviews, and the low quality of old audio clips (which Peter B played for us) --really stand out. While AM radio might be hopeless, the future of PODcasting (and video media) is worth getting a discerning grip on the basics of audio through-put. Try using a sound dead room and a microphone close to the side of the mouth.
12/27/2020 update: At https://www.december.com/net/audio/welcome.html
December presents: "This web page helps you explore audio on the Internet",
improving on much of my page (below). Nice work, John, and thanks.
* Today's smart phones, i-Phone/pads/things often have FM tuners, or the capability. You might have to "jail break" or download an application to access this feature. Of course, there are also streaming versions of most current broadcasts that you can get via WiFi. However, the emphasis on this page will be on the downloading of MP3 PODcast files (music or "talk radio" programs, perhaps via an automatic "Ap" if you're using a smart phone) --the content of which can then be woven into your life --as time and interruptions permit.
Simple through sophisticated MP3 players were cheap and plentiful just a few years ago. They're still available, some with excellent touch screen displays, but they now cost between $30 and $140 in the brick-n-mortar stores I shop at. The most recent MP3 player we owned (a Phillips brand "GoGear") had an FM tuner as well, but no way to record what's heard. Affordable MP3 players are still available on-line through Amazon.com (last I checked).
* Downloading PODcast MP3s makes infinitely more sense than tuning or streaming the same programs "live" --if the downloads are freely available.
* It's my understanding that including an AM tuner in a compact device is not only difficult, due to the need of a bulky "loop stick antenna", but that the loop stick's directional pickup, plus an AM radio's inherent vulnerability to internal/external noise and hum, are simply unacceptable in a mobile device. (Car radios use a large, external, non-directional antenna, perhaps built into the windshield.)
* My experience (here in small town coastal Oregon) has been that "talk radio" is seldom to be found on the FM band, including from our available NPR stations, except during limited morning and evening news hours (and except for stuff like NPR's "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me"). We have to suffer along with boomy, garbled and commercial interrupted voices on the AM band. I find women's voices particularly difficult to understand due to the limited audio spectrum of AM radio, which must fit within a clipped five kilocycle bandwidth (which is hard on sibilants). Late at night it seems that every talk radio station in the USA rebroadcasts George Noori's "Coast to Coast" --with tedious home spun accounts of encounters with such as "Big Foot".
There's no "save link as", but it's real easy. Left click on "Download", you get a choice of standard or high fidelity, then it goes to your default download folder/directory. Below the first Global News offering is a plethora of news segment downloads from over the past 30 days. The voice clarity is excellent, even via the lower fidelity choice. Unfortunately, much of the news is spoken via interviewed foriegn witnesses and journalists. I can understand their accents well enough with good headphones, but not by using a single earbud --as I bang around the house, the shop, or drive around town. (For several reasons here I usually need to keep "one ear peeled", especially while driving, but I do go "full headgear" when mowing the grass.)
* KPFK's PODcast archive service at:
--presents current and past PODcasts for some of the
sources I've commented on below, which can be easily downloaded. (It's
the only way --for me-- to get at and link to Thom Hartmann
PODcasts ^. Hartmann's web page has
a download prompt, but I couldn't make it work. Perhaps one has to "sign
* Plying the waters for free PODcasts seems difficult. The unwary traveler is beset by snares which attempt to funnel your search and access through commercial popping middle-man operations which offer to organize and list what's available by categories, artists/hosts and genres. They tend to hide direct links and offers of simple downloads (direct or indirect) --in favor of subscribing to and using their automated downloads. (Automated downloads are probably more compatible with today's hand-held mobile device lifestyles --than the methods I use.) Just be aware that you can often Google up the source, bookmark it, and manually download archived PODcasts.
* The 12/08/2020 KPFK Hartmann PODcast had about 34 minutes of content plus 26 minutes of fund raising --whereas the show as broadcast (over KBBR here) ran 3 hours, each hour with about 33 minutes of content. However, KPFK's download of Brad Friedman's and Desi Doyen's "Bradcast" ran the full hour of their PODcast with no fundraising.
* Another factor to consider: sometimes there's an
arrangement with the source, such that the PODcast distributing middle-man
sends the content provider payments, depending upon how many listeners
the show brings in. You as a listener are thereby helping to support the
source show simply by "clicking" on and listening to it.
Thom Hartmann: The easiest way (in my experience) to access a chunk of Hartmann's PODcast has been via the KPFK link. That gives me an hour long PODcast with maybe 34 minutes of content from the first hour of Hartmann's weekday PODcasts. Unlike the weak, "progressive" AM radio station access I have here (KBBR --which runs "USA-Radio" Fox type news breaks), the PODcast is crisp, clear and doesn't fade/buzz out as I walk around doing my chores.
* Hartmann sample: "The corona virus is now in the United States --- Which means lots of people need to get tested --. Here's the problem. The average deductible for Obamacare insurance programs is $4000^, which means if a person has these symptoms and takes a half a day off work to go get tested, they could end up with a bill of several thousand dollars. --- Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar, the guy who made his fortune doubling the price of insulin --- just said that he couldn't guarantee that a corona virus vaccine would be affordable to the average person." Listen here for that and more.
^Yes: there was a person who got billed about $3000 for his corona virus and follow-on screenings.
* Hartmann and others urge us to stick with regular Medicare plus commercial supplemental insurance (for that 20% hole/deductable) --but guess what: at 70+ years of age, that was costing my wife and I $400+ per month! --until we switched to a Medicare Advantage plan --at: $48/month ($24 each) --which guarantees no more than $3900/year ($325/month) out-of-pocket --if one of us gets sick. Of course, if both of us get sick, we'd be homeless and on welfare/Medicaid, no matter what coverage we might have had.
* Hartmann can distance himself from the obvious, such as the nature of the events of 9/11. Be my guess that his not crossing that particular "red line" is about not getting himself banned from his many mainstream and military media outlets --which excuse I can accept (in his case).
* You can rely on Hartmann finding a replacement host when he's on vacation or if he has obligations elsewhere on a given day.
* Like Brad Friedman and most PODcast hosts I've listened
to, Hartmann repeatedly hammers on points and old themes of his, which
become quite familiar, but that works for me during my typically casual
Peter B. Collins --at:
--has been an excellent, progressive, independent minded talk show option. I found him the easiest listening of everyone on this list --but one did have to listen. Peter B's commentary is information dense, though complete enough to bring an otherwise casual news follower up to speed. Peter hosts guests on occasion and he respects the value of your time. He didn't waste our time and attention with ding-dong call-ins^. All of Peter B's content is now free to download and we're encouraged to bootleg it all out to others. Be sure to catch his:
--and also his 18th year update.
Peter B has now retired, but his web site remains complete,
plus he's adding post-retirement "final" installments.
* Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman at:
Thom Hartmann has compared Ms. Goodman to Walter Cronkite. With the exception of not coming to grips with the events of 9/11/2001, she's certainly been a solid, reliable witness to our troubles. I first found her wo-manning her PODcasting post, whilst the Bradcast and Peter B. Collins shows had fallen silent over the holidays. (I'd grown mighty hungry for some real news and commentary.) Democracy Now is widely available as regular broadcasts, YouTube, and through PODcast services --but the easiest way to access the Democracy Now PODcast is via KPFK's downloading utility.
Ms. Goodman's shows feature extended interviews (sometimes mercilessly long and monotone/academic). Her voice comes across crisp and clear, but often here guest/interviewees are in an echo-ish room and hard to follow. Production values suffer when Ms. Goodman coughs into the mike or her show runs flat out of time and her guest gets cut off mid-sentence.
Democracy Now is exceptional in that a Postal mailing address is provided for those of us who (perhaps without secure/private Internet access) prefer to donate by sending a check.
207 W. 25th Street - 11th Floor
New York, NY 10001
* Bradblog.com --at:
The Bradcast by Brad Friedman and Desi Doyen, has long been my first stick-it-in-your-ear choice. At the end of each installment's web page synopsis is a "download MP3" link (right click, "save link as"). Content is good, we get the whole of current and past shows for free (donations are requested and deserved), we have email and PO Box access for feedback or donations, and Brad finds a replacement host when he's away. They hammer points and familiar themes like black box voting and the virtues of hand marked paper ballots (which is fine by me).
** This entry and (6/26/2021) page update is due to
my wanting to ask: what's the hold-up!? Brad and Desi
should have been awarded a Pulitzer Prize for journalism long ago! They're
not only totally relevant to current events, Brad is involved in court
proceedings to head off legislative assaults on normal elections reportage.
* The Majority Report with Sam Seder --at:
--is animatedly conversational and sometimes hard to
follow (when they talk over each other). Right click the play arrow on
their episodes for a downloadable MP3. Much of their PODcast is behind
a pay wall.
* Ring of Fire --again with Sam Seder (and sometimes Mike Papantonio?) --offers a free 1 hour chapter of their 3 hour show at:
Right click the go arrow, then "save as" where you
want the MP3 to go. The free hour has real substance (and who has more
than a free hour of time?). If you've been missing a lot of alternative
(to the mainstream/corporate media) news and commentary over the years,
their freely available Thanksgiving PODcast at "The
Best of Ring of Fire" is very worth your while. (You might want to
archive it.) So is the May 29 (2020) free hour.
* The Humanist Report --at:
( I don't see an MP3 download link on the HR home page,
so right click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your
choice of drive.) Production values could be better and the host rather
"leans into" the microphone. (We do need a popular spiritual humanist movement.)
* The Young Turks --at:
( I don't see a direct MP3 download link on TYT's home page, so simply right click on the play arrow at their Player.fm page and save to your choice of drive.) Lively, humorously sarcastic, but some of the segments are behind a membership pay wall.
* Again: I like to think PODcasters would do a lot better
putting the whole show on line and asking us to show our appreciation with
modest donations (as does the Bradcast). Earlier, I suggested that PODcasts
could run commercials (which everyone who's in the market will listen to
at least once, then simply fast forward as repeats come up). That's probably
a no-go since commercials are strongly time/date sensitive plus products
get withdrawn, recalled and rebranded.
* You'd think that listening to a socialist talking about economics would require propping your eyelids open with toothpicks. Uh-uh: this guy can talk! Try on Prof. Richard D. Wolff's "Economic Update" for size, fit and a few laughs. (I've been having trouble with the direct link/downloads at:
--so simply use KPFK's downloading utility.
Again: my page here is oriented toward clean and simple
downloads of MP3s. If you can afford a home or office ISP connection ($55/month
here), then those of you with plenty of time to stream at or away from
home will have no problem watching Wolff's videos. I, however, have to
snag the spoken word via fast public WiFi around town.
* You'll want to follow and archive many of the interviews offered at "To the Best Of Our Knowledge" at:
* That tremendous website: the Internet Archive, includes a vast collection of audio files. Start perusing them here:
--as sorted by date, or reselect them in title order.
* It would be nice if you're able to send at least a token donation to the above sources, should you enjoy and want to help support their offerings. Some have USPS mailing addresses for sending a small check or money order. (One must never do donations or make purchases via public WiFi --right?)
* Amazon.com and your public library might have audio CD versions of books written (and well read) by the author: Simon Winchester. Title suggestions:
~ The Professor and the Madman
~ A Crack in the Edge of the World
~ The Map That Changed the World
David Chandler maintains an extensive list of alternative news and commentary sources with direct links.
^ * I'd much rather listen to the
opinions of a show's host and her/his prepared, qualified guests --than
to (often) clueless, tongue-tied, "I just wanna say--" call-ins. The
Clark Howard show (via a weak, AM band radio broadcast
here) sometimes shows us how to handle call-ins. Howard's screener will
take the call off-air, write down the good, coherent, relevant ones, then
read them on-air to Clark Howard. So much better!
* Talk show guests are often brought to the discussion via telephone, Skype, Zoom or some other remote connection, and the sound quality falls short. Often the guest sounds like s/he's in a bathroom, an echo chamber, or talking into a metal trash can. The higher pitch of a woman's voice is more difficult since her sibilants are less distinct. I suppose there isn't much to do about it: maybe advise the guest to not go into a hard surfaced room. A walk-in closet full of clothes or a linen closet should work well if isolation is needed.
* It's my perception --as a years-long talk/news listener --that most of the available, over the Internet shows are "streaming" and often live --meaning that unless you sign up (and often pay) to get the PODcasts, you have to listen and be "on line" at the scheduled time via the showcast's web site.
A "PODcast", however, refers to "program on demand", meaning you can select and access an archived program (if only the current/last one). Preferably, you can download any of a number of past programs as well, such that you can play and listen to them at your convenience (say: whilst commuting or mowing the lawn) --without having to be "on line" (WiFi) or using up a smart phone's data budget.
Again: many people use smart phone applications which automatically download, store and organize their favorite PODcasts, perhaps even allowing 15 second jump-aheads for bypassing unwanted segments.
** Since I've never succumbed to smart phones (I just have a hello-goodbye flip Tracfone which, averages $10/month), here's a link to more informed, modern times information:
Up-date: A good e-friend mailed me a soon-to-expire
(due to the end of 3G service) "Galaxy" Android smart phone --so I might
have a better idea what these mobile devices are all about. Despite his
2 pages of instructions, I still needed counseling to get to square #1
--in my attempts to download an astronomical sky program (planets, Moon,
stars stuff). Today I spent another half hour with it on WiFi, trying to
establish my observing location --arghhhh!-- how frustrating. I can't imagine
doing something creative with it (like these web pages, or carrying on
a good email conversation with links and image attachments). Gimme a mouse,
a keyboard and a decent size monitor screen.
* We have precious resources in today's audio media: in the opportunities they afford us to stay on top of current events, commentary/editorials, political and other cultural developments, literature (old and new) as "audio books", music and poetry. When I'm doing such scut work as manually surfacing an optical component, cutting the grass (while wearing -38dB muffs plus ear plugs) and scraping paint --I can absorb a wide array of wisdom, opinion and information --mostly as downloaded MP3 PODcasts, via my cheap little MP3 player.
* Keep an eye on library book sales as they bail out of audio cassettes. You'll find plenty of fiction and you might find a still current, college level, literature or other course for a dollar or two --one which might cost hundred$ to buy new on CDs. (And: you can get a deluxe cassette player at the Goodwill store for just a few dollars more.)
** The main problem is finding enough appropriate time for listening to it all. If I'm doing anything which requires alertness and/or thought, there's no point in listening to a spoken word PODcast. A secondary problem lies in getting at a particular audio program or piece of music that you're interested in, perhaps due to download pay walls. Day-to-day, live, radio news broadcasts and live talk shows might require you to endure mind numbing, insultingly stupid, repetitive commercials --should you decline pay walls around their commercial-free PODcast versions --the sharing of which is in turn restricted by claims of copyright. (There are exceptions.)
* The available personal tools of change are mainly the pressure of our collective patronage in the marketplace, and becoming more aware of what alternative choices are already available to the listener/consumer. These tools might make little difference to the world of media, but they can make an effective and immediate difference for the aware individual. ("With it" young readers of this page are more aware of smart-phone, notebook/i-pad/i-tunes and Spotify type options than I am and can run circles around barriers to and burdens upon cultural content.)
Waiting in the wings is "DRM" and competing versions
of digital radio --with the capability of delivering clear, FM quality
signals using far less power --except that: interested parties won't invest
in the transmitters to do it being without an audience --and the potential
audience (us) won't go out and buy digital radio receivers unless there's
something to listen to --especially when we've got plenty stuff to access
using our computers and smart phones.
XM Satellite Radio: * I do appreciate that it avoids the vexing problem of stations fading as one drives, but I otherwise don't understand why XM/satellite radio is much of an alternative option. From reading commentaries about XM, I gather that you pay maybe $10, $15, (whatever the package) per month, but the music channels still have blabbering "DJs", the talk/cultural stations are locked into broadcast type commercial blocks of time, and maybe you end up listening to even worse commercial/break material to fill in between those blocks. (It was over 17 years ago that I last used a (pioneering, hackable) XM radio device, so my experience is way out of date.)
* There's a straight-forward product to buy from Sharper
--a programmable AM, FM, short-wave radio/recorder for $59.99 (which sounds like a good value).
* The normal approach is to access an available MP3 download (a PODcast) --to your computer, smartphone, or other MP3 player device. There are a ton of software options for doing that, including automatic download applications for smart phones, i-PODs, and advanced MP3 players. After learning to reflexively operate the controls and fast forwarding, such a digital device becomes practical.
I manually download what interests me (using a Chromebook), then transfer it to and play it on a simple (think I paid $15, years ago) MP3 device, which holds a caboodle of files and remembers where I last left off. (My MP3 player's fast forward sucks, however, so be sure to check that feature before you buy a player. A small "graphic user interface" helps a lot.)
~ For downloading (say) a 50 megabytes of audio over public WiFi, you want a strong, near-by signal so your download doesn't get interrupted/delayed.
* Fortunately, full featured PODcast applications have
"fast forward" --maybe even a 15 second jump feature.
For live listening:
* Were it convenient to silence those blocks as quiet time, they might be spent thinking (oh my!) or talking to a friend about the program content you were listening to. "Muzak" type background music vendors long ago realized how much more pleasing and effective their content was if rather long pauses were periodically included. Those long blabbering commercial breaks might be just the ticket for a program break --if they could be easily and methodically silenced.
However: my problem with simply turning off the radio during commercials is that I quickly get into some other interest and usually forget to turn it back on again. A "back on" timer function is exactly what's needed.
So how about that: a semi-automatic, radio commercial termination and restart system --?
** I think the radio broadcast industry has long passed up on a precious opportunity by not promoting what I call a "magazine format" for commercial content. Think about it: although newspapers and magazines charge plenty to carry ads, the reader does not have to read them ("choice": now there's an A-mazing concept!) --unless s/he is interested. Radio stations and programs would be far more popular (particularly with upscale demographics) if repeat, stupefying commercials could be easily silenced.
The Radio of the Future --how it might work: * All standard radios would be equipped with a blab-blare silence button --and such a button on a remote control for "table"/fixed location radios/entertainment systems.
* Each single commercial block of time would end with a "back on" tweet signal, such that no radio receiver timer is needed --nor any additional listener attention/distraction (so important while driving).
* Be my guess that TV/cable programming would soon get on board with something similar, probably affecting the sound but letting the video roll.
* But for now: * The best work-around accessory approach I can think of would be gimmicked earbuds --powered by the audio signal itself. There'd be a pendent button (where the volume control is sometimes located). Each push would add another 2 minutes of silence. For the long break at the bottom of the hour you'd push it 3 times in a row. (Hmmnnn: that's a simple enough device, and "dollar store" earbuds are cheap enough --as to have "cottage industry" potential.)
PODcasts: * There are progressive talk shows I'd love to be downloading, but they demand paying them $5 to $7.95 per month --each-- to do so (except for a few like Peter B Collins' and Brad Friedman's shows, which are free. (Free-will donations and subscriptions are requested and deserved.)
* I think a popular willingness to send in a modest, one-time (at a time) token of support for alternative media PODcasts is very likely. Be my guess that vastly more money would be coming in to progressive shows by setting their suggested support levels at (say) $10 per year --and without placing "premium" content behind a "members only" pay wall.
* Of what value is pay-walled content --or even just sign-up-to-get-it content? Should you be signed up, and should it be some really good and stuff --you can't just post a link or email a link to it. Neither can you ethically/legally send an MP3 clip to a friend --and especially not to some authority or public office holder. That's a good way to alienate your friend and antagonize an official, since he can't use it either. (How self defeating!)
Earlier, I suggested that PODcasts
could run commercials (which everyone who's in the market will listen to
at least once, then simply fast forward as repeats come up). But that's
a no-go since commercials are strongly time/date sensitive plus products
get withdrawn, recalled and rebranded.
Let's hear it for FM radio! * While our car's AM radio works pretty good, our AM pocket radios are horrible, as well as being horribly directional. One has to stand just so (radio in pocket, "hold that pose!") to get the station loud and the hum/buzz down to a low level of annoyance. Add to that the din of repeat repeat idiot commercials and AM radio is simply a non-starter for many of us.
Meanwhile, our FM reception is excellent and non-directional (if a wee bit "zoney"). While there's been little by way of progressive talk (out here in small town America where I live) --just a few milquetoast NPR type shows, those tireless Bible thumpers, and music-music-music, --a few local low power FM stations are beginning to make better use of the FM wasteland.
* Surely: there's a dim future for commercial AM radio (since, be my guess, most AM stations would rather die than change), and a bright one for commercial PODcasting.