The generation of the screens has a new obsession: the radio. In this case, independent, hyperspecialized and digital. Even Lena Dunham has gotten into the phenomenon. Podcasts are on the rise, and with good reason. Easy to fit into our busy lives, and with an endless choice of fun, short, quirky and succinct material, podcasts offer a more personalized listening experience.
He used to do monologues. He had been working in clubs and television for 25 years, but he rated his career more because of his failures than his achievements. But back in 2009, the comedian Marc Maron ended his contract with radio. His idea? He began to make a podcast as an independent, marginal, and titled WTF, which he recorded in his garage and which he took to other colleagues, some who had succeeded, such as Louis CK. In the six years of his program, it has included all the names that mean something in the world of humor and has become one of the most downloaded podcasts in iTunes.
Maron even had to make room in his garage for the secret service at one point. The guest of that day came with a special entourage; it was Barack Obama. They talked about everything, about Richard Pryor, about racism and gun control, in one of the frankest interviews that the then president of the United States had ever given. That chapter of WTF, along with the premiere of Serial, a bomb that monopolized the cultural conversation for months and went to a second season, marked a sweet moment for Maron and his exclusively live digital format.
The success of this new means of communication is due to the current habits of life. Social networks have changed us and made us hyperactive; every minute we need to be involved in cultural consumption. We take advantage of the fact that we are cleaning the house or in the gym to listen to 45 minutes of something. Many avid listeners confess that they’re into gossip and are fans of quirky conversations. When you like a podcast, you like it more than any magazine, blog or YouTube. It has to do with the format. That is, in audio it makes your connection much more direct and without distractions. The technology they usually use is an extreme case of "do it yourself" and the podcast is usually associated with indie, but that does not mean that generalist radios are not interested in the phenomenon. Some industry insiders believe that podcasts are an opportunity to do things outside the antenna, because that space is already very full, and offer, in passing, a more irreverent point of view, podcast suppose the return of the dramatic fiction or the dramatized event, a genre that was, in many cases, buried by the weight of the current programs, back in the 60s.
Here is a selection of the most interesting ones.
"You must remember this"
The historian Karina Longworth has managed to strike the perfect balance between erudition and quality gossip in her monothematic programs on "the first century of Hollywood". The series of four audios about the assassinations of Charles Manson or more recently about the golden years of Metro Goldwyn Mayer are perfect.
The Sopranos of the podcasts, for the foundational, or the Game of Thrones of podcasts, for the popular and addictive. When journalist Sarah Koenig and the veteran program team of This American Life recorded a series that studied an unsolved homicide from all angles, they did not suspect it would become a landmark of popular culture. The second season was released almost as if it were a Beyoncé record: by surprise. Explore the case of Bowe Bergdahl, an American deserter who spent five years captured by the Taliban. Like Homeland, but even better.
"Women of the Hour"
Lena Dunham recorded 10 episodes of this program for Buzzfeed and everything points to continuity. The creator of Girls pulls an agenda and calls Emma Stone, Zadie Smith or Amy Sedaris to intervene. One of the best chapters was dedicated to friendship, in which Jemima Kirke (Jessa in the series) and Dunham review the ups and downs of their relationship with refreshing sincerity.
"The podcast brothers"
Anything today is called nerd. This podcast, recorded from different cities by a digital cut and paste method, raises the bar with their specials analysing minute by minute chapters of Family Doctor or discussing about obscure Netflix children's series. Their fans are so obsessive that two of them have created a podcast tribute dedicated to analysing each episode.
But recently podcasts have become even more niche; in fact, you’ll be hard pressed to not find a podcast targeting something you might be interested in. Whether you are into auto repairs, rock climbing, DIY, flying drones, classic motorcycles, photography, or you want to listen to the best sport podcasts, you’ll find some keen individual doing a podcast about it.
Top rated hobby podcasts for 2018 include:
"Ace on the House"
Adam Carolla used to be a hammer-wielding carpenter. But through his quirky podcast Adam now shares his knowledge directly with listeners. It’s a home improvement show with episodes each Saturday, in which Adam and his long-time friend Ray Oldhafer, who is a general contractor, take calls from listeners, answer e-mails, and all with a unique comedic, and often hilarious twist.
"The Dice Tower"
This is a podcast that targets tabletop gamers. Hosted by Tom Vasel, a long-time game reviewer, along with Eric Summerer, the duo discusses board games, war games, card games, miniatures, and make observations regarding those who are interested in such things.
"This Week in Marvel" (TWiM)
TWiM is a podcast which presents all the latest on Marvel comics, film, video games, TV, toys, basically anything Marvel. Presented by Tucker Markus, Ryan Penagos, Ben Morse, Eric Goldman, and Christine Dinh, listeners use the hashtag #ThisWeekinMarvel to tweet questions for the hosts and other listeners to respond to.
What will you be listening to in 2018?