A few years ago, a little-known Oakland-based podcast called “99% Invisible” ended up raising over $500,000 on Kickstarter, proving small podcasts could make it on their own. These days, swarms of new podcasts are popping up across the web, with shows like “This American Life” spinning off their own and major distributors scrambling to harness these shows into profitable networks. Listeners are definitely hungry for more: one billion podcasts were downloaded in the last year. What does it take to start a successful podcast? And what do all these new ventures mean for the future of podcasting and radio?
KQED Staff Favorites
"Hosted by Matt Besser, one of the original four founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade (along with Amy Poehler and Matt Walsh), Besser and 3 other improvisors (some famous, some not) take questions and suggestions, which they use to inspire hilarious improvisational comedy. Besser gets some big stars – Tim Meadows, Horatio Sans, and Ben Schwartz are all regulars — as well as some up-and-comers, and the results are always hilarious."
-Kevin Jones, Producer, KQED Arts
"Hosted by Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds of New York's Hot 97 FM. Rappers past and present put promotion on hold to dig deep into the weeds of hip-hop history. The MC Serch interview lends incredible insight into the 80's New York hip-hop scene."
-Guy Marzorati, AM Producer, KQEDNews and The California Report
"Despite its title, this podcast does NOT star Michael Douglas or James Spader. Really insightful interviews that get people to talk outside their comfort zones about tough issues like finances, the ups and downs of marriage and relationships, and the like. I thought I'd try one episode, and I binged through the whole list."
-Irene Noguchi, Producer, Forum
"The last time I heard people really engaging in fiction, discussing the language, the imagery, etc., was college. And I didn't know I missed it until I started listening to this podcast. It's hosted by Deborah Treisman, the magazine's fiction editor. Every episode, she chats with a writer about a short story that's appeared in the New Yorker in the past that's not by that writer, then the writer reads the story. So, for instance, you hear Nathan Englander read and discuss John Cheever, or Joyce Carol Oates on Cynthia Ozick. Nothing flashy, nothing crazy. Just smart conversations about literature. And then, of course, good stories, too."
-Molly Samuel, Producer, KQED Science<
"I know he's a guest, but Alex Blumberg's StartUp podcast is really, really well done, all about (as you know) his own attempt to start a podcast business. Very meta. But also really personal and transparent, as podcasts often are."
-Amy Standen, Reporter, KQED Science
"Think 'Law and Order' for the radio. This podcast is equal parts suspenseful, fascinating, and morbid, yet still manages to occasionally make me laugh out loud. The production quality is great, as is the variety of stories. If you've ever gotten hooked on a police procedural, or found yourself trying to solve a crime you read about in the newspaper,this podcast is for you."
-Amanda Stupi, Online Producer, Forum
"If you want to hear crime fiction that sounds suspiciously like political news."
**KQED Sacramento Reporter Scott Detrow is very happy to shamelessly plug this monthly podcast, which he voices.
Roman Mars, host and producer of "99% Invisible" and co-founder of Radiotopia
Alex Blumberg, co-founder of HearStartup.com, a podcast about startups, and a longtime producer for "This American Life" and "Planet Money"
Lea Thau, creator and host of "Strangers," a podcast sponsored by KCRW and Radiotopia from PRX and former director of the storytelling for The Moth
Jeff Emtman, creator of "Here Be Monsters," a podcast featuring stories about the unknown