Audacity & Audio’s The 20 in their 20s of Podcasting
Podcasts. Millennials can’t get enough of them. There is something about consuming content that can be done while, working, cleaning, driving, and, above all, texting that makes podcast the perfect medium for kids of the late 80s and early 90s. If you listen to podcasts, you listen to as many podcasts as you can handle, and if you hear someone isn’t listening, it has just become your worldly imperative to convince them of the terrible, terrible life decision they have made.
But Millennials aren’t just listening anymore. They’re starting to make them. While the podcasting giants of today start to age into their late 30s, 40s, and 50s, a new crop of creatives are beginning to go the way of their audio idols. But who are they, what are they doing, and why should we pay attention to them? Consider this piece a chance at answering that question. A Forbes “30 Under 30” for podcasting, except in this case it’s more like a “20 (mostly) in their 20s of Podcasting.”
This list is by no means comprehensive, and definitely is not some power ranking of the best podcasters young enough to have watched “All That” on Nickelodeon. This is a list of 20 people that really should be on the podcast world’s radar in 2015. Podcasting is over 10 years old and those who spent their adolescence and college years listening to podcasts are starting to put their hats into the ring, and that’s a good thing. Now that podcasting has slowly but surely made its way into the mainstream spotlight, we should have an ear to the ground to the people pushing the format.
Tim Batt and Guy Montgomery
Sometimes genius comes from years spent in meditative study and dedication to craft. Sometimes genius comes stumbled upon like a drunk falling out of a pub. On its face, the concept of another movie review podcast, even starring rising comedians Guy Montgomery and Tim Batt, sounds like another drop in the audio bucket. But there is something insidiously enjoyable about The Worst Idea of All Time.
The premise seems inane enough. Once a week for an entire year, Tim & Guy sit down and watch the same objectively terrible film. In its first year is was the abominable “Grown Ups 2.” Now in it’s second year they’ve graduated to the even more offensively terrible “Sex in the City 2.” Before you laugh off the idea, think about the implications of watching a terrible film so often it eclipses any other piece of media you consume in your life. By the eighth week, you realize you aren’t listening to two men tear a terrible film apart, you are actually listening to two men lose their grasp on sanity in weekly installments. It’s insane. It’s fun. It’s endearing. While these two may not revolutionize the podcasting industry, they will give listeners an unexpectedly entertaining concept that deserves recognition by anyone and everyone that cares about podcasts. Godspeed, you crazy Kiwi bastards.
Why is it that all the most talked about podcasts for millennials are produced by people in the 40s and late 30s? That’s what makes Megan Tan such a refreshing breath of youth to podcasting. Her self-produced podcast Millennial is now 7 episodes deep, and the show’s greatest criticism is only that we desperately want more. The appeal is in the averageness. Megan is not some wild Vice reporter, vine star, or “the voice of a generation”. She’s Megan, a 20-something just like the rest of us, doing her best to tackle the same kinds of problems we all are facing: living to our potentials, feeling stuck in a sub-optimal job, judging our self-worth relative to a Facebook feed. Megan tackles issues that feel like home for her listeners. Millennial is about significant others and money problems and taking big leaps of faith. And it is stunning.
Millennial is a prescriptive look at the Millennial Generation shown through a microcosm of one girl being willing to share her hopes, fears, and anxieties as unpretentiously as she can. Megan Tan is exactly who you want holding the microphone for all of us.
Megan makes our list for truly being a voice that stands to reclaim audio for millennials by millennials. As an added kicker, she’s doing this completely on her own outside of the podcasting meccas of NYC and LA.
Go get em tiger!
Can newsletters be sexy? Who’s to say? One thing is for sure, Nick Quah’s Hotpod newsletter is hottest thing in podcast news. For the better part of 2015, Nick Quah has been writing a newsletter dedicated to covering new and noteworthy events in the podcasting world. Nick’s podcasting scrawls are sometimes deep, sometimes ranty, and sometimes too much information. However, Hotpod continues to be the best aggregator of podcasting content on the web.
While the project was at first very much a labor of love for Nick, the subscriber list has grown deep with story-seekers and audiophiles. We believe that Hotpod is about the only real voice tackling the important topics about where the podcasting world is headed and where the movers and shakers are hiding. Now working for Panoply in audience development, Nick’s work has not gone unnoticed within the audio industry.
Ryan Broderick & Katie Notopoulos
While Buzzfeed continues to be a source of raging debate over whether it represents the crux of either good media or bad, one thing is for certain: the promise coming out of the company’s relatively new podcasting ventures. Ryan Broderick & Katie Notopoulos are hosts of Buzzfeed’s Internet Explorer podcast. Both on the Buzzfeed payroll, Ryan and Katie have created a show that gives a certain authenticity and depth to internet culture. Ryan & Katie mix humor with sensitivity in a way that many topical audio shows have not been able to get right. If Ryan & Katie’s Internet Explorer is Buzzfeed’s first jump into the deep-end of audio, then we are along for the ride.
Devon Taylor & Eric McQuade
There are there are hundreds of forums dedicated to commentary on video games. There are thousands of blogs dedicated to literary criticism. There is only one website meaningfully dedicated to podcasting an art form. Meet the team behind The Timbre.
The Timbre is a site dedicated to critical and artistic reviews of podcasting. The company is the brainchild of co-founders Eric McQuade and Devon Taylor — two writers and podcast evangelicals. Seriously. They get podcasts. Eric and Devon’s writing is deep without being pretentious and authentic without being over-stylized. The Timbre reaches for the core of what makes audio such an intimate medium. We believe that curation is a big vacuum in the podcasting world, and we also believe The Timbre is filling that void in a really unique way. No listicles. No gimmicks. Just real good words about real good audio.
Can podcasts behave more like movies? We’re about to find out. Limetown is an audio drama that feels like someone revamped the radio plays of the 1930s and gave it a gritty new age update. Centering on a mysterious event in a small Tennessee town, and resulting in the disappearance of thousands — Limetown is a movie, in an audio show, in a movie. The show is a bit of a learning curve to get into, but the production quality is fantastic. Zack Akers is the writer and director behind the project, but the whole Limetown team deserves recognition for their part in this production. The show has a lot to live up to in a world with podcasts like Serial, but we think that Zack and his team are ready to give the big dogs a run for their money.
Kid Fury & Crissle West
If there is one major knock to radio (specifically public radio) it is that shows can be extremely homogeneous and predictable — in both subject and voices. Kid Fury & Crissle West make up The Read, a hip hop and pop culture banter show on the Loud Speakers Network. The Read has culled a unique audience into podcasting- an audience that would otherwise snub their noses at the high-brow, homogeneous content of the podcasting world. Brash, bold, and never ones to pull punches, Kid Fury and Crissle are building up a dedicated following willing shell out big money for live events and promotions. You won’t find many out there like The Read in audio.
Johnathan Hirsch’s Arrvls is one cog of The Heard, an indie podcast network, and it is a show about change. Physical, geographical, and emotional change. Arrvls’s sound design and dreamlike structure backs the featured stories- manufactured to elicit an emotional response. A credit to the editing and encompassing soundscape, Johnathan’s style feels like a melting pot of Radiolab, Love+Radio, and one of those creepy ASMR videos you see on YouTube. It just works, and works in a really cool way. Between Arrvls and The Heard, Johnathan is cementing himself as a key innovator in the new wave of podcasting.
Can podcasting be avant garde? Jeff Emtman’s Here Be Monsters makes a strong case. Half audio art piece, half “This American Life,” there is a kind of ASMR quality to its production design and a wide open interpretation to its content. It’s an audio lover’s delight and the logical extension of public media’s stylized production in storytelling. Jeff and HBM have created a playground for exploring whatever topics they see fit to explore. There is a distinct sense of Jeff’s small town optimism and curiosity oozing in every episode. It’s thought provoking in a way that hits your senses first and your mind second. It’s hard to express into words just what exactly is so enchanting about HBM, but words are obviously not the medium it needs to be consumed with.
Now signed with KCRW, Emtman and its team of producers are primed to be one of those audio content juggernauts churning out programs and producers with a unique “Here Be Monsters” feel the same the Ira Glass family tree has done the same for public media. Keep an eye on the Jeff Emtman and the transom of Here Be Monsters
In our crazy digital age, the content we consume has begun to fill the gaps of real human contact. Another podcaster from The Heard, Jakob Lewis, hosts a show that speaks directly to that loss in connection with the people around us. Neighbors fills us with the forgotten idea that every person around us has an important story to tell. This is a show that isn’t breaking all the molds, but it is a new narrative outside of the “sprawling New Yorker” and the “aspiring creative” archetype seen so often. Jakob and the Neighbors team are exactly the kind of outside voices podcasting needs.
Ian Enright & Carlisle Sargent
If we are giving out points for ambition, and we are, what Ian and Carlisle are building with Goat Rodeo certainly takes the cake. They are brand new to the audio world, but are already launching a network with some untried ideas, along with a cavalcade of unique programs. Convincing congressmen, lobbyists, and presidential candidates alike to loosen their ties and share a drink in front of a microphone, traveling 9000 miles across the country documenting street musicians, and creating a confessionary show about what it’s really like to be on the gritty end of DC politics- . Goat Rodeo fashions itself a network planting a flag in the nation’s capital, considering podcasting’s propensity to be heavily entrenched in New York and LA culture. The network’s shows are big in scope and all over the spectrum, but podcasting needs people shooting for the moon like Goat Rodeo’s Ian & Carlisle.
A curator and taste maker. Brittany’s Podcast Broadcast newsletter and website are increasingly becoming a one-stop shop for figuring out exactly what you should be checking out in podcasting. Light hearted and well-written, the Podcast Broadcast is the place you send your audio virgin friends. Brittany even has a “What’s A Podcast?” section with a robust primer packet of shows and a Podcasting 101 overview for the newbies.
We know that the podcasting industry really sucks at separating signal from the noise. Sure, you have you Ira Glass-s, your Roman Mars-s, and your Sarah Koenig-s, but there’s a lot going on under the radar that you’d be likely to miss if it wasn’t for rising bloggers like Brittany Jezouit. I have a good feeling she’s going to be popping up a lot more in podcast circles in 2015.
Does podcasting need another dual mic music interview show? No, it probably doesn’t. Which is why Matthew Billy’s reformatted Between the Liner Notes is so damn refreshing to hear. What was once a run-of-the-mill interview show is now a documentary-style podcast about the little known histories and stories from the music world. Although the show is brand new, Matthew seems to have a fully formed vision and voice already in the bag. Between the Liner Notes is most certainly a show to keep on the audio radar.
Adam Spunt & Dan McCarthy
A catalog of 20 somethings not fitting the mold. Adam Spunt & Dan McCarthy of the All Work, All Play podcast are bringing an interesting mix of interview & personal life. One half of their show involves Adam & Dan talking about life and the usual topics relevant to their millennial sensibilities , but the other half is why these two make it on our list. Interviewing millennials following the “less traveled road”, Adam and Dan talk to the likes of truck drivers, young burgeoning CEOs, youtube stars, professional athletes, fitness instructors, cinematographers, and on and on and on. It’s a fresh take on an old question: what do you want to be when you grow up?
Finding any level of machismo in audio is a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack, but Adam and Dan are two of the few voices holding down the fort. They have a stride that is hard to dislike and format that speaks to the lion’s share of podcast listeners and millennials questing to break out of arrested development.
In podcasting it’s hard not to be completely overshadowed by the podcasting heavies of Midroll, Gimlet, and NPR. There’s this idea out there that all podcasting successes has to in some way go through one of the major audio giants. Not is the case, thanks to the efforts of podcasting business men like Alex Aldea. The Paragon Collective, is a small network of shows founded by Alex, churning out sustainable revenues, all booked outside of major ad agencies and distribution channels. While there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive or unifying brand behind the network, what is a through line across its shows are their niche following. The Paragon Collective’s claim to fame remains squarely on “Upvoted” Reddit’s branded podcast hosted by Alexis Ohanian, a type of podcast that is becoming ever more increasing, the Corporate Podcast. We need more podcasting businessmen, not merging ones, and if Alex Aldea has anything to say about it, there will at least be one more rocking the boat.
Podcasting in the last 18 months has become the “punk rock” sibling of radio & public media. We should be looking to the crop of young go-getters pushing the medium and giving us all something to look forward to. If you aren’t paying attention to these guy and gals, you’re missing the boat. If you are paying attention to these podcasting rock stars, pat yourself on the back and keep on spreading the gospel of podcasts.