It’s nice to have a podcast that is popular, but it’s another thing to have a podcast that actually changes the world. Can you guess which of our recent episodes changed the world? Maybe the one about pedestrians getting run over? Or the one about blood avocados? Nope. Here’s an e-mail from Mandi Grzelak, a listener in Cincinnati:
True story: while listening to your Feb. 6 podcast “What You Don’t Know About Online Dating,” I thought to myself, “I should try online dating!” After all, if NPR employees are on sites like OKCupid, I might have a shot with one! How amazing would that be?!
Long story short: I signed up that afternoon, started with some e-mails and went on my first date (from the site, not ever) on Feb. 10. Tim and I have been inseparable ever since, bring each other endless amounts of happiness, and last night he proposed. I, obviously, said yes. We plan to elope in NYC this August, to avoid a large dramatic wedding. But you and your families are welcome to join us.
A Freakonomics Radio listener named Kevin wrote in response to our recent episode called “Why Are Japanese Homes Disposable?” First, here’s a quick summary of that episode:
It turns out that half of all homes in Japan are demolished within 38 years — compared to 100 years in the U.S. There is virtually no market for pre-owned homes in Japan, and 60 percent of all homes were built after 1980. In Jiro Yoshida’s estimation, while land continues to hold value, physical homes become worthless within 30 years. Other studies have shown this to happen in as little as 15 years.
On May 12, Levitt and I will publish our third book, Think Like a Freak. We cannot wait for you to read it. Here’s how the publisher describes it:
The New York Times-bestselling Freakonomics changed the way we see the world, exposing the hidden side of just about everything. Then came Super-Freakonomics, a documentary film, an award-winning podcast, and more.
Now, with Think Like a Freak, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner have written their most revolutionary book yet. With their trademark blend of captivating storytelling and unconventional analysis, they take us inside their thought process and teach us all to think a bit more productively, more creatively, more rationally—to think, that is, like a Freak.
Levitt and Dubner offer a blueprint for an entirely new way to solve problems, whether your interest lies in minor lifehacks or major global reforms. As always, no topic is off-limits. They range from business to philanthropy to sports to politics, all with the goal of retraining your brain. Along the way, you’ll learn the secrets of a Japanese hot-dog-eating champion, the reason an Australian doctor swallowed a batch of dangerous bacteria, and why Nigerian e-mail scammers make a point of saying they’re from Nigeria.
You can read more about the book, check out our tour dates, and of course preorder it: the book will come in all formats including e-book, audio, large-print, and in translation around the world. We will also start up our fee-signed-bookplate-mailing program so that you can get your books autographed.
In the meantime, how about a Freakonomics Radio FAQ episode about the new book? Use the comments section below to ask us anything you want. Here’s the book’s Table of Contents to get you started …
When we ask people to contribute to our public-radio Freakonomics podcast, our sponsor station WNYC offers some of the standard public-radio gifts: a Freakonomics t-shirt, a coffee mug, copies of our books, etc. I am curious what sort of gifts people really want. The radio station tells us that people love love love tote bags, but as someone who almost never carries a tote bag, I am skeptical. But I am also happy to be proven wrong. So please let us know via the poll below, and also write in answers in the comments. Thanks.
From Babak Givi, an assistant professor at NYU’s Dept. of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery:
I am writing in regards to your January 9th podcast [“Are We Ready to Legalize Drugs? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions”] and the question about hats. Why people used to wear hats? Stephen made a comment about religious roots of hats and Steven talked about fashion.
I am sure there are links with both, but I would like to note that for the most of the human history, hats were protective garments. We are not spending as much time as we used to out in the open environment. If you spend most of the time outside, you will soon realize that similar to the rest of your body, you have to protect your head from the sun, wind, rain, or snow; but most importantly from the sun. Even now, when we spend most of our time inside our manmade structures, skin cancers are the most common type of cancer in humans. Furthermore, the most common area for developing skin cancers is head and neck, which happens to be the most exposed area of human body, as long as you are not a strict nudist. The effects of ultraviolet rays on developing skin cancers is beyond doubt. Lightly pigmented skins are extremely sensitive to the sun and with enough exposure most people will develop skin cancers. Hats, similar to the rest of clothing items, protect our skin. In addition, less sunlight will delay development and progression of cataracts (point for wide brim hats). I think our ancestors had developed the habit of wearing hats out of necessity not fashion or religion. But of course through the millennia, we start adding religious, fashion, and symbolic meanings to wearing hats.
We are setting up a new series of interviews for Freakonomics Radio in which we’ll identify interesting/accomplished/prominent people and ask them a series of Freakonomics-ish questions, ranging from their professional accomplishments to personal quirks. I am eager to hear your suggestions on both:
1) The people you’d want to hear from; and
2) What kind of questions you’d like to hear them asked.
No idea is too big/small, outlandish/traditional, etc.
Thanks in advance.
1. Wow! Listeners have so far responded way, way, way better than Levitt predicted they would in the podcast — so: 1a) Thanks!; and 1b) Nice job in proving a pretty smart guy very wrong.
2. Some of your comments and e-mails noted that WNYC’s fund-raising site doesn’t allow for contributions via PayPal, text, Flattr, Bitcoin, etc. That is true. Hopefully some of these avenues will be added over time. Some of you also noted that the podcast already has advertising, so why are we also asking for contributions from listeners? Good question. Short answer: WNYC is the funding producer of our podcast, and as such is responsible for paying all our producer and engineer salaries, studio time, field-recording costs, music-licensing costs, bandwidth, and a million other things, like the transcription of interviews (for every minute of talking that ends up in the podcast, we’ve probably got about five minutes of interview tape). We are grateful for the advertisers on our podcast, but that revenue is not nearly enough to produce the podcast. That’s why we came to you, our listeners, for additional support.
I think that our engineer/mixmaster David Herman does a fantastic job of making Freakonomics Radio podcasts sound great (no matter what you may think of all the talking that interrupts the music and other audio effects).
But there is of course a lot of heterogeneity in personal preferences. Here’s an e-mail we just received from a listener:
Heard your show for the first time yesterday on Tipping. Loved all the speaking clips and analysis. HATED the musical interludes so much that we (my husband, kids and I) cannot fathom ever listening again unless they are removed. They gave us a bad headache and were so distracting from the content that we had to turn the show off before the end. Please consider removing them. Thanks.
Afraid we just lost a family of listeners, as we won’t be removing all music from our episodes. Happy to say this is an uncommon complaint; much more common is an e-mail asking where to get hold of the music that appears. FWIW, every time we put out a podcast, the accompanying blog post includes a transcript of the episode which lists the music.
A Freakonomics Radio listener named Sudha Krishna writes with an e-mail titled “Praise and Concern.”
The praise is very nice — she finds the show “informative, entertaining, and lots of fun,” etc. — but it is the concern that most interests me. As she writes:
I confess I often find Freakonomics Radio depressing. While I am a believer in the power of “unintended consequences,” I find your story selection (and I am a consistent and attentive listener) depressing and discouraging. The stories tend to be focused on (and I am being a wee bit reductive) “good intentions leading to bad consequences (or at very least awry).” The consistent lesson of every episode — a nod to the supremacy of the market and the inexorable power of incentives (not sure about that lesson either). Rarely do you explore the opposite — bad intentions resulting in good consequences. Does such an example exist? One curious listener of Freakonomics Radio wants to know.
I could probably quarrel a little bit with Sudha — at least some of our shows are about some interesting solution to a problem, or at least an explanation for why such a problem exists. And I tend to think that Levitt and I are borderline extreme optimists, at least on many dimensions. But I get her point. The pattern she identifies is definitely a pattern.
So, in the interest of learning to think more broadly, I would love to identify some great ideas or stories about “bad intentions resulting in good consequences,” as Sudha puts it. Please leave your very best ideas (or even your mediocre ones) in the comments section below. Thanks to you and especially to Sudha.
A few times a week, we get an e-mail like this one, from Oliver Breidenbach:
I love the music you choose for the background of the podcast. Can you post a playlist on your site or let me know where I can find the music? I think many fans will enjoy that.
One reason we get this question so often is that the music in our podcasts is so good. So is, IMHO, the entire audio soundscape. All of that is primarily the doing of one man, David Herman, who is Freakonomics Radio’s sound engineer/technical director/trivia repository — and more.
As for where to learn about the music: we list it in each show’s transcript, which accompanies the blog post that is published with each episode. Our podcast archive page is here. Enjoy!
Last week we posted a survey for Freakonomics Radio listeners. Your response was fantastic — nearly 2,000 listeners — and very helpful. In return, we thought it’d be nice to share some of the data with you. As a big believer in negative feedback, I have just one regret: that we didn’t ask you to tell us what you don’t like about the podcast. Maybe next time.
WHO YOU ARE:
Our listeners are, in a nutshell: rather male (77%); relatively young (45% are 25-35 years old, another 24% are 35-44); well-educated (38% have a graduate degree; another 43% have a bachelor’s degree); and — according to the survey data at least — pretty well-off (17% earn more than $150,000 and another 23% earn between $100,000 and $150,000; then there are the 14% who earn between $0 and $30,000, most of whom are likely students).
WHAT YOU DO:
Here is a look at top occupations:
We have a good sense of the number of listeners (we do roughly 3 million downloads a month) but when it comes to who those listeners are, we don’t know very much. So we’ve put together a listener survey, below. If you have five spare minutes, please fill it in. What can we give you in return? If all goes well, more free podcasts!
Want to be part of an episode of Freakonomics Radio? We’re working on a podcast about names and we want to hear from readers and listeners about their own names — common ones, unusual ones, everything in between. So we’ve set up a voicemail line at 646-829-4478. Give us a call and tell us your full name, and then tell us a little bit about your first name – how you got it and what it means. Thanks!
Addendum: Thank you for all your emails and messages! Our line is now closed. Our names podcast will be out on 4/8/2013.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Sure, I Remember That.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.) It’s about false memory, particularly in the political realm, and how we are more capable of “remembering” an event that never happened if the event happens to synch up with our political ideology.
Hi everyone. We’re working on a Freakonomics Radio episode about — sorry, I’m going to be cryptic here — a person who expected to get/use something for free but was very surprised to learn that it wasn’t free after all.
I am looking for another good/fun example of this same idea. Do you have any? Ideally, it would be something that happened to you personally but it’s okay if you only read or heard about it, as long as we can verify it and maybe interview someone involved.
Thanks in advance.
New York City’s subways and buses carry roughly seven million passengers a day, which goes a long way toward explaining why New Yorkers have one of the smallest carbon footprints in the U.S. Doesn’t that mean that mass transit is inevitably good for the environment?
Yes, no, and sometimes.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Mass Transit Hysteria.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player in the post, or read the transcript below.)
We recently released our third set of hour-long Freakonomics Radio programs to NPR stations across the country. If you regularly listen to our podcast, there isn’t much new to hear but if you prefer to take in your radio program via the actual radio, now is your chance. Check your local station for listings. If you’re in the New York area, you can hear Freakonomics Radio on our flagship station, WNYC, for the next five weeks at the following times:
The episode was inspired by a recent poll I saw on Yahoo! Finance (at left).
Does anyone believe for a minute that this many people would actually leave the U.S. if taxes (whatever that means, exactly) were to rise to 40 percent or even 70 percent?
We have just released five hour-long Freakonomics Radio episodes that will be airing this fall and winter on NPR affiliates around the country. Because these hours are mashups of earlier podcasts, we will not be releasing the hours into our podcast stream (iTunes version; RSS feed version), but you can download or listen to them here.
This is our third season of radio hours (the first two can be found here and here). You can look for your local station here, but I will warn you that this list is neither complete nor up-to-date. What I do know is that our last season was carried by roughly 220 stations. Your best bet is probably to check the website of your favorite NPR station — and, if they’re not yet carrying Freakonomics Radio, send them a sweet, imploring note, perhaps with a crisp $20 bill tucked inside. Public-radio folks are as honest as the day as long but they are also underpaid, so a small bribe just might tip the scales.
Hope you enjoy!
We are working on a short Freakonomics Radio piece about “the value of bosses,” derived from a new working paper of that name (abstract; PDF) by Edward Lazear, Kathryn Shaw, and Christopher Stanton. The paper finds a good boss is indeed considerably more valuable than a mediocre or bad boss, at least in terms of productivity.
What do you think? We’d like to include in the radio piece some real bosses (i.e., not just the anonymized kind that show up in economics papers) so if you’re a boss (in retail or service or I.T. or manufacturing or whatever), let us hear from you via email@example.com. How much do you think bosses matter? What makes a good boss good (and a bad one bad)? Who’s the best (or worse) boss you ever had? And, most important, how are good bosses made?
Apple has just released an app called Podcasts which, yes, helps you download and manage podcast from the iTunes store.
I haven’t used the app yet so I cannot comment on it — some of the iTunes reviews indicate some fixes are needed — but I have to say that I do like Apple’s taste in the podcasts it has chosen for its promo materials:
Freakonomics Radio has been nominated as one of the top “edutainment” podcasts on iTunes, and the biggest vote-getter will be featured on iTunes in July. You can vote here. I will warn you, the competition is very stiff — we’re up against Radiolab (which would probably get my vote, to be honest), the TED Talks podcast, and some other formidables.
I realize it is the height of hypocrisy for us, the guys who say that voting is overvalued, to ask for your vote. But if you don’t mind voting for hypocrites, go ahead and tick the box.
Stitcher is a “smart radio” app that lets you listen to podcasts and live radio on demand. I only heard of it once Stitcher began advertising on Freakonomics Radio, but then I started using it and I have to say I do love it.
As of today, I love Stitcher even a little bit more because it has just launched a Stitcher List of top programs around the world, and guess which program resides at No. 1?
Thanks to Stitcher and thanks to all of you who gobble up our radio program via whatever distribution method you choose. It is most gratifying!
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “The Dilbert Index?” (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.) It’s about workplace morale and the measurement thereof.
This segment was largely crowd-sourced from Freakonomics blog readers — so: thanks! It began with a blog post in which a reader named Tim Wadlow asserted that the direction you park in your company lot may say something about company morale. We then opened up the blog to further observations on company morale. One of the most interesting: the “Dilbert Index,” as described by a reader named Damon Beaven:
BEAVEN: I look for the number of Dilbert comics and that seems to be inversely proportional to the level of morale. A lot of Dilbert comics seems to be like a passive aggressive way of an employee complaining.
We also take a step back and ask the basic questions like: How much does company morale matter to a company’s bottom line? What’s the best way to measure morale? And, in the realm of unintended consequences, what happens when a company tries to cut down on sick days?
We seem to be in the midst of a national obsession with obesity. Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is about some of the surprising contributors, and possible economic solutions, to the problem. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)
One suspected contributor to obesity, for instance, is the drastic decline in smoking in recent years. It’s great news that fewer people smoke but, according to Vanderbilt economist Kip Viscusi, people who quit smoking tend to gain weight.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “Playing the Nerd Card.”
It’s about the rise in basketball players (and other athletes) showing up at press conferences wearing the kind of eyeglasses usually associated with Steve Urkel and Buddy Holly. Among the practitioners: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, and Robert Griffin III.
What’s going on here? Has the rate of myopia exploded, even among premier athletes?
We talk to Susan Vitale, a research epidemiologist with the NIH’s National Eye Institute, who worked on a large study on myopia in the U.S. There has indeed been a huge spike in recent decades, and it’s especially pronounced among blacks.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast covers the upcoming Super Bowl between the New York Giants and New England Patriots. (Download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript.)
We figured that of the 100 million-plus people who “watch” the game each year, a lot of them aren’t what you’d call rabid football fans. Does that describe you? If so, this episode is a handy cheat sheet that’ll let you converse knowingly with your football-crazed friends, and maybe even one-up them.
Our latest Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast is called “The Patent Gap.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, listen via the media player above, or read the transcript below.)
It centers around a new working paper called “Why Don’t Women Patent?” and we talk to one of its authors, the Rutgers economist Jennifer Hunt. (We recently previewed this research on the blog, and some of Hunt’s earlier research too.)