Lore, The Allusionist, Another Round.
Lore claims a phenomenal listenership at six million downloads per month. In the absence of transparency, we have to take these figures with a pinch of salt, but if even one sixth of those downloads turn out to be genuine ‘unique’ listeners, that’s still an impressive feat for what was until very recently a one man show. No doubt Lore’s advertisers have verified the numbers, but the public are curious, and there is a feeling that a cross-platform aggregator of listenership figures will signal the maturity of podcasting as a medium. Be careful what you wish for, though. Nielsen say they will launch a podcast tracking service this year (although there’s no sign of it yet), at which point expect to see aggressive advertising brokerage and corporate, algorithm-led programming. It might signal the breakthrough of podcasting as a mainstream medium, but it might mean that Aaron Mahnke and his like will never again be able to cut through the noise and bombast of a media goldrush.
In the event of a new surge towards mainstream listenership, one imagines that Radiotopia, publisher of The Allusionist, will continue to follow their own lead in creating what they call ‘extraordinary, cutting-edge podcasts’ and will stand like a lighthouse against the storm. A kind of hipsterish lighthouse. With a beard. So long as they keep producing The Truth and 99% Invisible, we’re fans.
Buzzfeed, on the other hand is a different beast. It began life as a viral content tracker and now editor-in-chief Ben Smith’s efforts to push the site towards credible journalism appear to be succeeding. If any organisation is well equipped to flourish in a post-Nielsen land-grab, it’s this elastic entity. From Buzzfeed’s growing podcast stable, Another Round is a perfect example of how direct, unpretentious content can also be intelligent and entertaining.