Streaming the Stories

‘“We need to have a podcast together” is the millennial “dude, we should totally start a band,”’ reads a 2018 tweet by Twitter user @severalcrows. 


Humorous as it is, in some ways, this tweet is true. In just over 10 years, a niche medium has become cliche. Every semi-prolific tech user and his favorite dude-bros has a podcast. Every white woman and her book club has a true-crime show. Though the numbers are always in flux, Podcast Insights suggests there are over 1,500,000 podcasts across streaming platforms. 


As a kid raised by an NPR obsessed grandfather, I think I was predisposed to being an avid podcast fan. Beginning in 2014, I remember listening to chatty shows created by my favorite YouTube creators at the time. I remember finding the idea of a podcast, outside of the musings of Youtubers I enjoyed, quite boring. That was until I discovered Snap Judgement. 


It was my sophomore year of high school and I chose to fill my spare hour with an elective in the computer lab. Looking back at our weekly assignments, listening to podcasts and watching documentaries, I think the class existed purely so the teacher could flex his media tastes on disinterested teenagers. , I was enthralled though


And as wild as it seems, I vividly remember being assigned the “believe-it-or-not” storytelling podcast Snap Judgement during our second week of school. Hosted by Glynn Washington, the radio show and podcast describes itself as “storytelling… with a BEAT!!”


Each episode features an incredible story of the miraculous and weird, woven together with incredible hiphop soundscapes;it has kept me engaged for the past six years.


In that time, I’ve dabbled in all genres. A few months after my flirt with auditory creative non-fiction, I found the world of fictional podcast dramas. Though I fell off the bandwagon a few years ago, the surrealist Welcome to Night Vale was everything to nerdy podcast listeners in the mid-2010s. 


Described by creator Joseph Fink as the “idea of a town in that desert where all conspiracy theories were real,” the show takes place in the fictional southwest city of Night Vale, where paranormal and supernatural news is as common as hearing a weather report (that’s a little reference for the fans). Despite no longer being my cup of tea, the impact of Night Vale’s popularity can still be felt today with the current immense popularity of the horror fiction anthology podcast The Magnus Archives.  


In 2020, my podcast feed is a little more educational. I will always sing the praises of NPR’s Code Switch or Maximum Fun’s Sawbones. These shows tackle our current issues of race and culture and public health in ways that are entertaining, engaging and respectful.  


At the end of the day, who cares if there are (quite literally) a million podcasts out there. There are a million topics and ideas that deserve attention. With the popularity of the medium rapidly increasing, and technological advances making creation more accessible, I can’t wait to continue to listen to what the world has to say.