Including ‘Divorce Sucks! with Laura Wasser,’ ‘Dr. Death’ and the new season of ‘Slow Burn.’
It’s 2018. Are you on board with podcasts yet?
Podcasting is no longer some newfangled fascination, and you’re less likely than ever to have to explain to the uninitiated that “it’s like radio, but on demand.” U.S. podcast ad revenue reached a record $314 million last year, according to a June report from IAB and PwC, an 86% spike from 2016. Forty-four percent of Americans aged 12 and up have ever listened to a podcast, per a report this year by Edison Research and Triton Digital, compared to just 18% a decade ago. More than a quarter of folks 12 and up said they’d listened to a podcast in the last month — nearly triple the figure from 2008.
Why are podcasts thriving? For starters, they’re easy to listen to, said Todd Cochrane, CEO of the full-service podcast hosting services company Blubrry. Their content is incredibly diverse, he added, providing “infinite categories of content for listeners to engage in what they may not find in mainstream media today.”
“A lot of it, at least for me personally, is there is so much negativity in the mainstream (that) I think people are looking for refuge in content that they love,” Cochrane said. “It’s just like reading a book — it’s a way to escape for an hour or 30 minutes with your favorite host.”
The possibilities feel endless: Apple Podcasts reportedly offers more than 500,000 active podcasts with content in 100-plus different languages. And the roster only continues to grow. “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” author Jo Piazza, for example, launched “Committed” earlier this summer through podcast publisher Stuff Media. It’s “a little like ‘This American Life’ meets ‘How I Built This,’ but for love, marriage and commitment,” she told Moneyish, featuring interviews with couples who are Olympic figure skaters, porn stars, married rival baseball reporters and astronauts. Seventeen episodes have dropped so far.
“The world can seem like a pretty grim place these days, and we all want to hear more stories about love and hope. Real stories about love and hope. There were no good podcasts out there about real relationships and real marriages,” Piazza added. “I didn’t want to listen to some self-helpy, syrupy advice from a self-described ‘expert.’ I wanted good narrative storytelling about what actually happens when the romantic comedy ends.”
Whether you’re a seasoned vet looking for recommendations, a first-time listener or anyone in between, here are nine other new and/or essential podcasts you didn’t know you needed:
“Divorce Sucks! with Laura Wasser”: You may know Wasser as the famed family law attorney who has repped such luminaries as Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie and Khloe Kardashian, or as the founder of the online divorce platform It’s Over Easy. Her monthly podcast, launched this past spring, enlists help from financial, legal and mental health professionals and others to answer questions and talk through breakups and divorce. On the most recent episode, twice-divorced Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner reveals she doesn’t want to get married again.
“Slow Burn”: This Slate Plus production hosted by reporter Leon Neyfakh, currently in its second season, tackles Bill Clinton’s impeachment — and, like its Watergate-centric inaugural season, delves into the lesser-known but incredibly consequential storylines that led to a president’s downfall. (Neyfakh also secretly records a call with seasoned call recorder Linda Tripp.) The examination of Clinton’s vast power differential with Monica Lewinsky, meanwhile, feels particularly relevant in the #MeToo era.
“Late Night Whenever”: Fans of “2 Dope Queens” are already duly acquainted with repeat guest Michelle Buteau. The comedian’s new WNYC Studios audio show, a mix of stand-up and celeb guests that launched in April, helps fill the relative void of women late-night hosts — and Buteau is the best friend you wish you had, digging into topics like waxing, road rage and Justin Trudeau’s summer music picks. Bonus: guests like Leslie Odom, Jr., Danielle Brooks, Bo Burnham and Tessa Thompson.
“Terrible, Thanks for Asking”: Author Nora McInerny kicks off her debut 2016 episode by explaining that she miscarried her second child in 2014, lost her father five days later, then lost her husband to brain cancer mere weeks after that — making her uniquely qualified to tell stories and have conversations that demystify grief. Unexpectedly, the podcast brims with humor.
“Dr. Death”: True-crime buffs and medical nerds alike will devour this six-episode miniseries from Wondery, hosted by veteran health and science journalist Laura Beil. In jaw-dropping detail, Beil investigates the rise and fall of Texas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch, whose botched procedures left multiple patients with serious injuries and killed two — all while taking to task the health-care system that allowed him to keep working. (Duntsch last year received a life prison sentence.)
“Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins”: The comedian and “BoJack Horseman” star delivers a freewheeling monologue on each episode before interviewing a special guest — the diverse array has included Roxane Gay, Helen Hong, LeVar Burton and Tatiana Maslany — and inviting his improv friends to join in a narrative improvisation set in locations such as “Kay Jewelers in a Mall,” “Pet Store, Post Robbery” and “Coachella VIP.” A piano score by accompanist Eban Schletter makes this a classy affair.
“Stay Tuned with Preet”: “Stay tuned” was once former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara’s ominous warning of things to come. It’s now the title of his weekly WNYC Studios podcast about “justice and fairness,” launched last fall following his highly publicized firing by President Trump. The ex-prosecutor uses his powers of inquiry here on guests like journalist Ronan Farrow, anti-gun violence activist Shannon Watts, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman and director-producer Judd Apatow.
“99% Invisible”: Why did Sears sell IKEA-style mail-order homes in the early 20th century? When did doctors start talking candidly with their patients about death? Where does canned sitcom laughter come from? This oldie but goodie, hosted by the dulcet-toned Roman Mars, bills itself as a podcast “about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about.”
“Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”: Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, the women behind the same-titled book series spotlighting revolutionary women, launched an accompanying podcast in March. And this “fairy tale podcast about the extraordinary women who inspire us” features a formidable lineup of guest narrators: Hear journalist Jodi Kantor read the story of mathematician Ada Lovelace, philanthropist Melinda Gates on Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke on Harriet Tubman.
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