Political podcasts are podcasts that focus on contemporary politics and current events. Most political podcasts maintain a connection with an existing media source such as a newspaper or magazine. They aim to inform or entertain or advocate a cause, usually for progressive causes, although there are some conservative podcasts. They are often cost-effective to produce, requiring minimal computer technology to operate. Their audiences are generally persons in interested in current events, and programs usually have a duration of a half hour to an hour.
With increasing growth of the Internet and new technologies and devices to disseminate information digitally such as laptop computers and smartphones, political podcasts have become an "emerging industry" according to one view. Most began as spinoffs of existing media. In 2005, Slate began its Slate Political Gabfest podcast with its journalists discussing current events. Since then, many new programs have been created. Most political podcasts maintain a connection with an existing news source; for example, the podcast Start Making Sense is closely allied with its parent publication, The Nation magazine. Podcasts have "come into their own recently" according to Matt K. Lewis of the Daily Caller, with an increase in the number and length of political podcasts in recent years, with growth further spurred in 2016 by the United States presidential election.
Political podcasts serve a variety of purposes, such as to inform, to make money, to entertain (often with satire and humor), to advocate a cause, or to accomplish some mix of these and other purposes. Sometimes they help drive traffic to a particular website or news medium; podcasts have been used by political parties and candidates to sway likely voters. Analyst Matt K. Lewis uses political podcasts to keep himself informed on current events; he describes them as his "secret weapon" and listens for two hours per day. Some podcasts focus on the horse-race aspects of elections, such as strategy and which candidate is doing well in the polls, while others focus on politics and issues. They typically feature reporters, politicians, academics, writers, pollsters, and others who have established credentials in the public sphere; for example, Start Making Sense, hosted by historian Jon Wiener, has featured discussions on Edward Snowden, campaign strategy, inequality and class conflict, The Nation's yearlong investigation into abuses in the federally-run private prisons, as well as various authors and artists and activists. Some are designed as public relations vehicles to bolster the candidacy of a politician, such as Hillary Clinton's With Her podcast. Her podcast was criticized for being promotional and lacking critical commentary or substantive information about her policy positions, according to the political journalism organization Politico.
Most political podcasts tend to have a liberal or progressive orientation. Analyst Charley Locke suggested that a reason for this was that many podcasts were started by progressive news outlets such as Slate and The Nation and NPR and The New Yorker, and these podcasts began many years ago. However, the podcast Ricochet was started to cater to an "articulate, politically aware, conservative audience that feels under siege in college towns," according to one of its founders. Some podcasts explicitly strive to represent all parts of the political spectrum, such as KCRW's Left, Right & Center which features three pundits, understandably, from the left, right and center.
While a podcast's political orientation can lean to the left or the right or the center, it usually reflects the focus of the parent medium, and strives to bring multiple points of view within the overall focus, while covering current events and other issues in the news. Weekly podcasts are often tied to the news cycle, and many summarize recent events at the beginning of their program. Podcasts typically do not replace news reporting, but augment it. Most tend to be thoughtful, low-key discussions, with a relaxed and conversational tone, as if a listener was eavesdropping on reporters in a District of Columbia bar after hours. The podcast Keepin' it 1600 with speechwriter Jon Favreau and Obama administration adviser Dan Pfeiffer goes a bit further, where the "political chatter flows unfiltered" with occasional vulgar language.
Audiences are interested in current events. They include other professionals, such as journalists and campaign managers and politicians, who can use the podcast's content as source material for future articles that they might write or produce. Some podcasts focus on a specific region; there are podcasts which focus on North Carolina politics, on the Kansas City region, on Texas, and on Latino audiences.
Podcasts typically last between a half hour and an hour, and usually begin with an identifying tune or music as a lead-in. They are usually accompanied by links to other social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and they have feedback buttons for posting comments or contacting hosts or guests on the show. Most follow an interview format in which the host begins by introducing the program, then the guests and their qualifications. A few shows are accompanied by a text-version of the audio content. Most podcasts are digital audio files, but if accompanied by video, they are called video podcasts or vodcasts. Some shows are hosted by comedians or satirists; for example, Iranian-born Kambiz Hosseini hosts the podcast Five in the Afternoon from Brooklyn. Some podcasters have run into trouble with authorities; for example, journalist Choo Chin-woo of South Korea was arrested after publishing content that allegedly "defamed" the brother of a governing party's candidate. Podcaster Jung Bong-ju of the show I'm a Weasel was found "guilty of spreading false rumors" by the government of South Korea as part of a crackdown against free speech, and he was sentenced to one year in jail.
Listeners need a web connection and a device to play the podcast, such as an iPod or Smartphone or computer. Controls allow the user to skip through the audio, perhaps by using a mouse or swiping a finger, and often resembles the old boombox type controls: play, pause, fast forward, skip, and replay. A political podcast's icon is valuable "graphic real estate" since it is one of the few visual cues that identify a particular program. Podcasts can be downloaded into a device and then played offline at the listener's convenience; if podcasts are played directly from the Internet without being downloaded, it is sometimes referred to as streaming. Podcast producers do not necessarily require that the host and guests be in the same physical space, such that a host in California can interview a guest in Maine, for example. Broadcast technology can vary from complex studios to basic setups, with the general trend being that equipment is getting more powerful and less expensive as time goes by. One journalist described how he souped up a laptop to handle a podcast:
We got a couple of microphones, a little converter box that plugs into my laptop and some cheap software, and Voila! — my desk is transformed into a recording studio. ... The whole setup fits in a backpack, and during the presidential conventions, we should be able to use it to do real-time interviews anywhere. The system uploads more or less instantly, so I can go from recording an interview to live on the website in about 10 minutes.
Notable political podcasts
- Candidate Confessional
- Chapo Trap House with "irreverent leftist commentary"
- Common Sense with Dan Carlin hosted by Dan Carlin for Libertarian audiences
- Decode DC
- FiveThirtyEight Elections
- Keepin' it 1600 -- a "raucous happy hour" format with political speechwriter Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer
- Left, Right & Center (KCRW) has pundits, understandably, from the left, right and center
- NPR's Politics
- Pod Save America
- Ricochet for conservative audiences
- Slate Political Gabfest with Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson and David Plotz
- Start Making Sense by The Nation magazine features historian Jon Wiener
- The Axe Files
- The Brilliant Idiots with radio personality Charlamagne Tha God and Andrew Schultz
- The Pollsters discusses new developments in political polling
- The World Next Week from the Council on Foreign Relations, highlights upcoming political events from around the world
Politicians on podcasts
On June 22, 2015, President Barrack Obama sat down with host Marc Maron for the 613th episode of the WTF Podcast. This was the first appearance of President Obama's presidency on a web-based podcast, and the first appearance of a sitting president on an online podcast. The WTF Podcast was broadcast from Marc Maron's garage in Los Angeles, California. The conversation between Maron and President Obama covered a range of subject, starting with the president's upbringing in Southern California and Hawaii then evolving into in a discussion about the main issues which the administration was dealing with at the time, gun laws, universal healthcare and the current political divide in America. The President cited the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the deadest school shooting in U.S history , as an example of his frustrations with the current Senate at the time and their inability to act due to lobby groups like the NRA, and the effects of the inaction on public opinion.
The President then continued to speak on the disconnect between the daily lives of average Americans and what is being shown in the U.S media and how the current political system does not create space for ordinary conversations about politics. Obama then spoke about disappointing his supporters on certain policy issues and how his administrations rectified some of the actions that they took, citing the difficulties about the implementations of public healthcare and national defence. The conversation then switched to racial relations in America, referring to the 2015 Baltimore protests and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. The President then argued that it is "...incontrovertible that race relations have improved significantly..." and that the shadow of racist policy and attitudes is still prevalent in American institutions. The interview ended with Marc asking Obama about his father with Obama describing him as a "tragic figure" with the interview ending with Obama and Marc discussing the President's legacy and his "fearless mindset".
Political Podcasts In Canada
Podcasts on Canadian politics span a broad range of topics, including local/provincial politics, national politics, news of the day, polls, and demographics.
- Politicoast (British Columbia)
- Coast Reporter (British Columbia)
- Calgary Sun's The Confluence
- The Broadcast (Edmonton)
- Off Script (Nova Scotia/Atlantic Canada)
- CBC Radio New Brunswick's Spin Reduxit
- The Boys In Short Pants
- Canadaland Commons
- The Docket
- Maclean's On The Hill
- Political Traction
- Brief Remarks
- Canadian Political Underground
- The Strategists
- CBC Election Pollcast
- CBC Power and Politics
- CBC The House
- CTV Question Period
- The Agenda with Steve Paikin
Political podcasts have experienced tremendous growth over the past few years, but activity may lessen after the 2016 presidential election in the United States. According to analyst Nicholas Quah of Harvard's Nieman Lab, political podcasts can take one of two routes: either increasing the frequency of their broadcasts to cover rapid new developments, or approaching topics more thematically in an effort to make each episode "less disposable." He proposed a hybrid model in which content from disposable interview-type podcasts can be used to update the archives of thematically-oriented content.
- NICHOLAS QUAH (August 23, 2016). "Hot Pod: Can a political podcast avoid being overtaken by events?". Nieman Lab. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... Political podcasts, particularly those of the conversational genre that publish on a weekly schedule, possess a peculiar kind of disposable value ...
- Morgan Olsen (December 18, 2015). "Listen up: 15 podcasts you should check out in 2016". Redeye Chicago. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... Slate’s Political Gabfest: Launched in 2005 and updated weekly, Slate’s political podcast is hosted by Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson and David Plotz. The three chat current events ....
- Jon Wiener, Bernie Sanders, John Nichols, others (September 3, 2016). "Clinton, Donald Trump, and Building a Revolution: Plus, Edward Snowden on the NSA and Greg Grandin on Henry Kissinger". The Nation. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
... The Nation interview with Bernie: John Nichols, who with Katrina vanden Heuvel sat down with the senator, sets the scene and introduces our excerpts.... Jon Wiener is a contributing editor of The Nation.
- Matt K. Lewis (August 24, 2016). "Educate Yourself: The Best Books And Podcasts Around". The Daily Caller. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...I think podcasts are my secret weapon. There are exceptions, but you don’t learn much from TV—as a rule. ....
- Charley Locke (July 6, 2016). "You Heard Right: Conservatives Get Their Very Own Podcast Network". Wired magazine. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... this election cycle is bringing listeners an unprecedented spate of opinionated incredulity. Political podcast pundits abound ... “There’s an articulate, politically aware, conservative audience that feels under siege in college towns,” says Robinson....
- Start Making Sense; Jon Wiener (August 25, 2016). "Why Obama Should Pardon Edward Snowden: Seth Freed Wessler on the power of independent journalism, Amy Wilentz on Jared Kushner, and Ben Wizner on Edward Snowden". The Nation. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
... The power of independent journalism ... Justice Department announced the end of privately run prisons ... uncover dozens of questionable deaths in these corporate, for-profit facilities in his yearlong investigation for The Nation....
- NICHOLAS QUAH (August 16, 2016). "Hot Pod: Is Hillary Clinton's podcast propaganda or a milestone for political podcast advertising?". NiemanLab. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... launch of With Her, the official Hillary Clinton presidential campaign podcast,... podcast’s focused on campaign trail life and not on policy — ended up being the point of critique for a few media outlets...
- Philip Rosenstein (March 29, 2016). "3 Political Podcasts Keep Listeners Savvy About Election". Media Post. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...Below is a list of three political podcasts that will keep you up to date with the presidential election and provide insights from Washington elites and political journalism’s best....
- ANNIE GABILLET (June 15, 2016). "8 Podcasts That Make It Easy to Be Smart". PopSugar.com. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...NPR Politics: NPR Politics features off-the-cuff discussions among NPR's political reporters ...
- Paul Singer (February 29, 2016). "Voices: Why journalism students need improv classes". USA Today. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... I'm running a weekly political podcast (check out USA TODAY'S Cup of Politics!). When I say running, I mean the whole ball of wax: We got a couple of microphones, a little converter box that plugs into my laptop and some cheap software...
- Patrick Caldwell (October 22, 2012). "The 5 best political podcasts". Daily Dot. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
- Note: a reference to the address of the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
- REBECCA NELSON (August 25, 2016). "Former Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau on Trump, Hillary, and Becoming a Podcast Star: An interview with the co-host of Keepin' It 1600, which might just be the best political podcast out there". GQ magazine. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...On the popular Keepin’ It 1600 podcast, Favreau and co-host Dan Pfeiffer, another former Obama aide, do their best to make sense of ... the 2016 presidential election. ... glimpse into the Washington political scene after hours, a raucous happy hour...
- COLIN CAMPBELL (June 11, 2016). "Seven things we learned from Tuesday's primary election". Charlotte Observer. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...The N&O’s political podcast focuses on the primary. Our panelists sort through U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers’ big loss Tuesday night to fellow incumbent Rep. George Holding. We also discuss other takeaways from the election results....
- DAVE HELLING (March 9, 2016). "You're on Deep Background — the Kraske/Helling political podcast, part three". Kansas City Star. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...Would like complete political knowledge in 15 minutes? Of course you would. ... latest political developments ... the Kansas City area ....
- Mike Ward; Scott Braddock (September 2, 2016). "Trump on immigration; Clinton on new e-mail questions: Plus more about the week in politics, including Gov. Rick Perry's new dancing gig". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...Texas politics are never boring, ... this week's Texas Take: The Podcast -- now the leading political podcast in the Lone Star State ....
- Esther J. Cepeda (March 31, 2016). "Monolithic Hispanic voting bloc a myth". San Antonio. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... I know he was talking about [unlawfully present] immigrants,” said Gamboa during an episode of “In The Thick,” a Latino political podcast....
- Tara Bahrampour (June 1, 2013). "Striking back, even from half a world away". Washington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...Since January, a weekly political podcast by Brooklyn-based satirist Kambiz Hosseini called “Five in the Afternoon” has garnered over a million hits ...
- CHOE SANG-HUN (May 12, 2013). "South Korea Seeks Journalist's Arrest in Defamation Case". New York Times. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...SEOUL, South Korea — ... prosecutors said the journalist, Choo Chin-woo, had written articles and made a podcast that “defamed” and “spread false information” about the brother of the governing party’s candidate...
- "Popular South Korean podcast host sentenced to a year in jail". Los Angeles Times. December 22, 2011. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
...A member of a popular South Korean free-speech performance group on Thursday was sentenced to a year in jail ... government crackdown on the Internet. Jung Bong-ju, 51, “I’m a Weasel,” or "Naneun Ggomsuda,” was found guilty of spreading false rumors.....
- Joseph Flaherty (September 9, 2016). "Follow These Three Tips for Designing the Perfect Podcast Icon". Wired magazine. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... Pixel for pixel, few plots of graphic real estate are more valuable than the icon that accompanies a podcast. As the sole item of visual information would-be listeners have to go on, it’s important to make it count. ...“Good icons are like jazz,” says designer Max Temkin. “They’re mostly about the notes you don’t play.” ...
- Tolentino, Jia (November 18, 2016). "The Radical Cheek of 'Chapo Trap House'". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 17, 2016.
- Ken Rudin (July 18, 2007). "New Politics in the Old Dominion". NPR. Retrieved September 17, 2016.
... a combination of brilliant analysis and sophisticated humor, hosted each week by NPR's Ron Elving and myself, and it goes up on the Web site every Thursday. ...
- Rutenberg, Jim (March 20, 2017). "Opposition and a Shave: Former Obama Aides Counter Trump". The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2017.
- Start Making Sense; Jon Wiener (September 8, 2016). "Can Clinton Win Over the White Working Class?". The Nation. Retrieved September 22, 2016.
... It’s the year of the white working class, and Joan Walsh reports on the Democrats’ efforts to win back the voters they have been losing since the sixties.... Jon Wiener is a contributing editor of The Nation.
- "Episode 613 - President Barack Obama". WTF with Marc Maron Podcast. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
- "Sandy Hook Elementary shooting: What happened?". Retrieved 2018-04-09.
- "Political Podcasts". DemocracyKit | Open Democracy Project. Retrieved 2018-04-14.