Podcasting continued thriving in 2016. With more high quality shows coming from some recently established and surprising sources, there was so much activity in this sector it was hard to keep up with every new show being launched.
For instance, who’d have thought MTV—of all outlets—could provide actual decent cultural commentary beyond which ever shallow ‘pop star’ was trending on Instagram that week? Yet a whole slew of podcast programming proved otherwise. From The Stakes—which provided a believably genuine heart felt reaction to present political upheaval in America—to North Mollywood—directly relating world events to the popular culture that surrounds it—to the appropriately forthright and feminist Lady Problems to… the list goes on because with over 180 podcasts stretched over 7+ individual shows since April, their output escalated exponentially this past year.
Not even Gimlet Media—the high profile venture into creating a purely podcast-based broadcasting company—could keep pace with MTV this year, although they did escalate the number of new program launches to make up for the lack of actual episodes broadcast, including their first foray into fiction, the excellent slow burner—Homecoming—and giving a warm welcome to their new Australian import, formerly of public broadcaster Radio National, Science vs with original host Wendy Zukerman now resident in the U.S.. Slightly less successful was their guide to the world of podcast content—Sampler—which although did it’s best to have something for everyone, was frequently weighed down by host Brittany Luse’s explicit political agenda, very relevant to U.S. listeners but heavy handed to anyone hoping for more of a ‘world view’ of podcasting.
Gimlet’s stand-out series continues to be the always innovative Reply All, which not only takes a close look at new online technology and, most importantly, how human beings are using it. As well as continuing to mess with their own podcasting format in exciting new ways such as opening up Stack communities and 24-hour phone lines to invite listeners to go real-time with hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. Making their back catalogue, pre-Gimlet, available was a genius move too. If you haven’t dropped by Reply All you haven’t heard the full potential podcasting can, and has yet to offer.
Which brings us to an interesting point. As diverse as the topics and stories podcasting has now covered, since the rise of This American Life and 99% Invisible, the most well known and easily accessible podcast content still seems to come from U.S.-centric sources and world view. In the U.K. there have been a few individual broadcasters making headway into the realm of public consciousness. Adam Buxton ramped up his output with some ace and enlightening interviews (or ‘ramble chats’ as he prefers to call them) with the likes of Kathy Burke, Caitlin Moran and Bill Hader proving what’s mainstream media’s loss is podcasting’s gain.
Likewise, music artist Scroobius Pip found firm footing with his Distraction Pieces podcast and the occasional ‘drunk-casting’. Podcast stars outside the U.S. still proved elusive, apart from queen-of-all-that-is-U.K.-podcasting, Helen Zaltzman whose ‘The Allusionist’ podcast broke through the U.S. centric barrier by being made available via PRX’s Radiotopia network.
The Guardian continued to experiment with audio content, launching new podcast such as the excellent Guardian Long Reads which converts their written content into audio-based programming (Guardian editor, Katharine Viner’s ‘How technology disrupted the truth’ is a must read/hear) relaunching others such as their technology podcast which became Chips with Everything, introduced by Zaltzman’s partner-in-crime, Olly Mann and closing others such as their regular Film review show.
Back to the U.S., podcasting remained a realm in which hidden gems were plentiful and tastes relatively customisable. Perhaps you followed a meme and ended up at Caroline Goldfarb’s This Week Had Me Like where she took down all the celeb social media shenanigans and gave them the proper crit they deserved… so you didn’t have to. Or maybe you were so hyped about a series you just watched that you ended up listening to one of the many AfterBuzz teams chatting, in depth, about Westworld or Black Mirror or whatever. Or maybe you were checking in on what yours or other gens were up to via Magan Tan’s Millennial podcast.
And this veritable cornucopia of quality content doesn’t even touch upon the radio/podcast crossover occurring with stalwarts such as film critic, Mark Kermode & popular broadcaster, Simon Mayo’s extended version of their BBC show, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review. Now that podcasting is well and truly lit, here’s hoping new and existing media outlets will continue to expand on the diversity promised by the medium and we start to see a truly international world view emerge in the coming years.
Links & References
More Reply All episodes…
Adam Buxton podcast series
Caroline Goldfarb’s This Week Had Me Like podcast series
More This Week Had Me Like episodes…
The Millennial podcast