99% Invisible


The 99% Invisible podcast is "about all the thought that goes into the things we don't think about." The quirky weekly show pokes its microphones into questions like "Where did people get ice before electric refrigeration?" and "Why are there pictures of kidnapped kids on milk cartons?" and "Why is there a phone booth in the middle of the Mojave Desert?" The host is Roman Mars, whose voice perfectly combines the resonant authoritativeness of the golden age of broadcasting with the slight vocal fry mandatory in the post–Ira Glass era.

At just 22 minutes, each audio-only podcast conveys an astonishingly large amount of oddly compelling information, typically about something the listener almost certainly had no previous reason to care about at all—no mean feat. The production quality is reliably high and the website offers good citations for the curious. The only consistent disappointment is the show's casual pro-regulation bias: When faced with tales of creative destruction, rivalrous goods, or bureaucratic malfunction, Mars and his team consistently take refuge in "there oughta be a law" platitudes in the show's final minutes.