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The Boom In Political Podcasting


If you trap four college students in a room for 12 hours, they'll either get drunk or create a podcast - possibly both. Podcasts are indeed everywhere. And the world of politics is no exception. Every week, it seems a new voice from the left or the right hits the podcast charts and sometimes nuts a new. Even former Vice President Joe Biden has one.


JOE BIDEN: Hey, you're listening to "Biden's Briefing." Every day, I handpick relevant stories and topics in the news...


JONAH GOLDBERG: Greetings, dear listeners. This is Jonah Goldberg, and this is the second episode of...


JON FAVREAU: Welcome to "Pod Save America." I'm Jon Favreau.

JON LOVETT: I'm Jon Lovett.

TOMMY VIETOR: I'm Tommy Vietor.

FAVREAU: On the pod today, we talk to...


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Power to the people.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: "The Laura Ingraham Show."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Just a sample of what's out there - to talk more about the burgeoning political podcast landscape, we're joined by conservative talk host Michael Graham of the "Michael In The Morning" podcast and Emily Bazelon, co-host of "The Political Gabfest" from the left-leaning website Slate. Good morning to you both.


MICHAEL GRAHAM: Happy to be here.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Emily, I'm going to start with you. "The Political Gabfest" has been around since 2005, which, in podcast terms, I think, makes you almost from the Jurassic Era. What has brought about this boom in new podcasts, do you think?

BAZELON: Yes, we are old if nothing else.


BAZELON: I think that there is a kind of casual give-and-take and ease of conversation on podcasts that is making them a good fit for this moment in the political cycle where people have so many questions. And there are so many things to try to figure out. And so a format where you can play with ideas and talk things through with people you trust - if you have a good combination of people, that can actually be pretty satisfying to listen to. And then the other obvious thing podcasts have going for them is, you know, you can be out for a run or doing the dishes or sweeping the floor. They're very compatible with other activities.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This moment in politics - I like that euphemism. I'm assuming by that you mean the current tenant of the White House. Michael, do you think President Trump has anything to do with this sudden interest in talking politics in the podcast format?

GRAHAM: I know he does because Vice News reported that at least 1,000 political podcasts launched after the 2016 election.


GRAHAM: And 999 of them are dedicated, in some form, to hating Donald Trump. So yeah, absolutely. There's a definite connection. You also have the fact that people who want audio content on the right have been getting it for decades from talk radio. And talk radio still has a much larger audience than podcasts, but it also has a much older audience than podcasts. And so podcasts are getting the key demographic, 25-54, as we say in the radio biz - whereas talk radio is kind of left with the - did anyone watch "Golden Girls" last night before you went to bed at 6 o'clock demographic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. I'm going to ask you both for some reviews. Let's talk about some of the new kids on the block. You have Crooked Media with "Pod Save America," former federal prosecutor Preet Bharara and his new podcast. And, fresh from the oven, Jonah Goldberg, as you mentioned, of the National Review has one, too. What do you think of these? Are they worth listening to? Do we get some insights into this moment in time with these personalities? I'm going to start, Emily, with you.

BAZELON: Well, I mean, I think this is such a matter of personal taste, right? Are you interested in the way the minds work of the people who are talking and in their rapport? So my kids - I have two teenage boys - huge fans of Crooked Media. They really like those guys. I think Preet will appeal to people who want a kind of more button-down legal analysis. And I think Jonah Goldberg - it's really interesting. The beginning of his show is he's kind of contemplating how he feels about doing a podcast at all.


BAZELON: And there's a lot of, like, hm.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's existential.

BAZELON: Exactly. A lot of, like, well, what do I think of myself in this role? And then when he gets going, he's doing some interesting interviews with fellow conservative thinkers, which I think can have a lot of value for people who want to understand those ideas.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And what about you, Michael?

GRAHAM: "Pod Save America" guys are guys I would love to hang out with. And that's what makes it work for me. Preet - am I allowed to be mean to somebody? I mean, he just puts me to sleep - nothing personal.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a review section. You're allowed to review it.

GRAHAM: But as Emily - but Emily's right. And audio is so intimate. You really do feel like you know these people. And as Emily points out, if you think you know them, and you don't like them, it really doesn't matter how valuable the content is. If you saw - if they would write it on a piece of paper, then your feelings about them wouldn't either enhance it or diminish your ability to enjoy it. And Goldberg's a buddy of mine, so I can't really - I mean, I would listen to Jonah Goldberg read the sports pages. So I'm not a good reviewer of that.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, let me ask you - I mean, we asked you to kind of listen to these. But do you listen to podcasts of different political perspectives on your own? I mean, or do you just listen to stuff that is going to reinforce a viewpoint that you may already have?

GRAHAM: I have to confess I'm a "Gabfest" fan.

BAZELON: All right.

GRAHAM: So you know, I'm like a fanboy of Emily's here. And so yeah, absolutely. And I also, I mean, I just value conversation. If someone's having a fun, good conversation, I want to be in on it, which is why, you know, there are conservatives like Sean Hannity that I can't really listen to because I'm just not enjoying the conversation. Whereas there are people on the left like Emily who I enjoy. And Emily, you need to talk more on your podcast.

BAZELON: (Laughter).

GRAHAM: There's not enough Emily on the "Gabfest."

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. This is a challenge to you right now, Emily. Give me your perspective. I mean, are you listening to stuff on the right?

BAZELON: I am more reading stuff on the right, I will confess. And maybe Jonah Goldberg and Michael's new shows are exactly the hole that I need to fill in my podcast diet.


BAZELON: And now this will all be fixed for me (laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: There is too much love going on here - too much love.

GRAHAM: Yes, I agree.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Too much love going on here - all right. We can't let you go without a recommendation. I want a recommendation from both of you. Emily, what political podcast would you recommend for this moment? And it can't be of your own, needless to say.


BAZELON: I wouldn't be - yeah, that would be embarrassing to have to recommend my own show. I am going to recommend a show that is indirectly about politics. It's called "Ear Hustle." It's produced out of San Quentin Prison by an inmate there named Earlonne Woods and a visual artist named Nigel Poor. It is amazing. If you are at all interested in the criminal justice system, I can't recommend this show more. It goes inside the prison and brings people - makes people come alive in a way that is just mesmerizing.


GRAHAM: I want to cheat and offer two because they are two sides of the conservative brain. Ben Shapiro does a very good daily podcast. And you can hear the ideas that animate much of the conservative movement. He was formerly at Breitbart and left over the issues that many people have problems with Breitbart. The flip side is that The Weekly Standard - they have turned three guys loose to do The Substandard podcast. It is almost not at all political in topic. But as you listen to Jonathan Last and Vic Matus and Sonny Bunch talk about culture and video games and movies and stuff, you hear how many conservative minds work.

BAZELON: All right. Michael Graham and Emily Bazelon, fight, fight, fight because apparently you need to have interesting conversations that way.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: No. That's Michael Graham, columnist for The Boston Herald and the host of the "Michael In The Morning" podcast and Emily Bazelon, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and the Slate "Political Gabfest." Thanks so much, both of you.

BAZELON: Thanks for having us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.


GRAHAM: Is this when I say Emily sucks, and we fight? Do I - because, Emily, I don't think you suck. But if they...


GRAHAM: Am I supposed to say that?

(SOUNDBITE OF RJD2 SONG, "GHOSTWRITER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.