PODCASTS ARE A DECADE OLD, BUT THEY'RE JUST STARTING TO MAKE NOISE
Alex Blumberg in real life sounds just like Alex Blumberg on the radio.
If you've ever listened to This American Life, the massively popular weekly radio show, or Planet Money, NPR's excellent economy-explaining podcast, you know Alex Blumberg's voice. I certainly did. Today, as he stands in front of the laptop he's perched on a wooden chair atop a long table (a brilliant hack of a standing desk), it's hard not to close my eyes and just listen.
That is, of course, exactly what Blumberg is hoping for. Here in the brand-new offices of Gimlet Media, on the fifth floor of a downtown Brooklyn co-working building, amid piles of old furniture and terrifying art, Blumberg and his colleagues are attempting to build a big business out of podcasts. They've been chronicling their adventures in — what else? — a podcast, called StartUp. It offers an intimate, funny, and occasionally deeply awkward look at what it takes to start a company. The podcast quickly became popular, and so did Gimlet: Blumberg and his co-founder Matt Lieber raised $1.5 million in venture capital, hired a team, and honed their pitch. That pitch, in a nutshell: we're entering a golden age of audio, the first since we all sat around radio cabinets and listened to The War of the Worlds. The future of radio is here.
Podcasts aren't new, of course. Even the term has been around for a decade or so, and now feels hilariously dated. (What is a pod anymore? Or, for that matter, a cast?) They have traditionally been thought of as two people sitting at a table with microphones, chatting aimlessly about… whatever. ESPN, for one, has built a huge podcast network on the shoulders of Bill Simmons chatting with his friends on The BS Report and its many other shows focused deeply on a single topic or a single host. Yet Gimlet Media and others are betting that there's room for more. More production, more storytelling, more narrative. So far, it seems like they're right.
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