One of the most frequently listened to and most successful podcasts in the world, Freakonomics, all began when author and New York journalist Stephen Dubner traveled to Chicago to write a column about award-winning economist, Steven Levitt, for the New York Times Magazine. Through this undertaking, the two men developed an unexpected friendship, leading them to co-write a book, Freakonmoics, which covers a variety of bizarre topics ranging from “cheating teachers, bizarre baby names, self-dealing realtors, etc.”
The men anticipated their book would only sell approximately 80 copies, however their prediction was incredibly low—Freakonomics spent more than two years on The New York Times Best Seller list, selling more than 5 million copies in 40 languages. Not to mention, this unforeseen success resulted in two more books (SuperFreakonomics and Think Like a Freak), a blog, a documentary and a radio show.
Freakonomics Radio is an award-winning weekly podcast, airing on public-radio stations all over the country and receiving an average of 7 million downloads each month. In fact, Dubner and Levitt have turned this show into a full-time job, as they co-host every episode together.
While on air, the two men discuss an assortment of topics concerning the puzzles and challenges of everyday life and the peculiarity of human nature—focusing their shows on themes such as cheating, crime, parenting, gender roles, food/diet, health, etc.
Freakonomics’s exceptionally high number of listeners is no surprise, as Dubner and Levitt cover subjects that are of interest to individuals of all sorts:
“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),” wrote Dubner.
In fact, personally speaking, one of my most favorite recent Freakonomics podcasts called, “When Willpower Isn’t Enough,” discusses the idea of “temptation building.” This is a topic that listeners of all ages are likely to relate to, as almost everyone strives to make positive and healthy lifestyle decisions, but the idea is sometimes easier than accomplishing the actual goal. To help listeners gain a better understanding of this topic, Dubner features professor and researcher Katherine Milkman, who discusses a somewhat new field called behavioral economics. Essentially, this topic combines psychology and economics inhabited by people who blend economist view incentives with the psychologist interpretation. Milkman realized that after a long day of work, she should push herself to go to the gym, but always ended up coming home to relax and watch her favorite television show instead. In an attempt to solve this habit of procrastination, Milkman only allowed herself to watch her shows while at the gym. Thus, Milkman found an effective way to combine a temptation/guilty pleasure with something she knew she needed to do, but struggled doing.