Finally, We Have A Pod To Save America

From Left: Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and  Jon Favreau

After years of feeling frustrated with the biased and unbalanced coverage of cable news, I was in desperate need for political content that is more honest and informative. Podcasts were exactly what I needed. Shows like the NPR Politics Podcast, Vox’s The Weeds, and the Slate Political Gabfest, provided the in-depth intellectual debate and the diversity of perspective that I wasn’t getting from cable news. Ever since the 2016 election I have been addicted to political podcasts, including the above mentioned and many others. Although I regularly listen to many podcasts in this genre, my current favorite is Pod Save America.

Pod Save America is the flagship podcast of Crooked Media, a news startup founded by four former Obama aides:  Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor. This same cohort used to host a similar podcast called Keeping It 1600, which was part of Bill Simmons’ podcast network The Ringer. After the 2016 election presented the four with an existential crisis, they decided that the best way to take action was to start their own media company (that specialized in podcasts). And so, in January 2017, Crooked Media and Pod Save America were born.

At its core, Pod Save America is a loosely scripted discussion about the week’s news. The show drops twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, and each episode is roughly an hour long. Jon Favreau hosts each episode along with varying combinations of the other three co-hosts. In addition to the usual free-wheeling discussion, many episodes also feature in-depth interviews with prominent journalists, politicians, comedians, and activists.

In Crooked Media’s own words, Pod Save America is:

“A no-bullshit conversation about politics hosted by Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor that breaks down the week’s news and helps people figure out what matters and how to help.”

Part of what makes the show so enjoyable is the hosts’ blunt talk and genuine emotion. Jon Favreau will often call Trump and other republicans liars or incompetents, while Jon Lovett will curse in frustration about the republican attempts to repeal Obamacare. Knowing exactly where the show’s hosts stand, because they state their opinions and rarely use ambiguous coded language, is what distinguishes Pod Save America from much of the political coverage on cable TV (i.e. the Sunday morning shows). Also notable, is that the hosts strike a good tonal balance between jocular and serious.

Pod Save America has a clear liberal lean, which the hosts are unabashedly upfront about. Do to the fact that Crooked Media is not hiding its liberal stance, the young company sees getting people to be more politically active as an essential part of its mission. It has been noted that Pod Save America – and Crooked Media at large – are the progressive counter to the right-wing media’s long established dominance over talk radio. This could be a coupling of political ideology and medium; radio is the home for conservative discourse, while podcasts (so far) have been the platform for liberals.

In the short amount of time that it’s existed, Pod Save America has grown a large fan base and ha received a fair amount of notoriety. Since January, the show has been downloaded over 100 million times. It has a five star rating on iTunes, and has managed to consistently stay in the sites top tier podcasts since its launch nine months ago. Currently, Crooked Media has not taken on any investors and have been making all of their revenues from ad sales on their podcasts. So far they have been using the money from their ad sales to build up the company: launching more podcasts, hiring a larger staff, and buying an office space; and to pay themselves a salary.

Pod Save America is the product of the distinct differences between podcasts and radio discussed by Richard Berry in his article “Podcasting: Considering the evolution of the medium and its association with the word ‘radio’”. First podcasts are not constrained by a schedule, so each episodes length can vary based on what the podcast(s) feels is necessary. In Pod Save America some episodes run around 30 minutes and others can run for an hour and a half. Second, podcasts are not beholden to FCC regulations that restrict profanity on the air. For Pod Save America, along with many other podcasts), the hosts’ freedom to curse in abundance is essential to the freewheeling nature of the show.

Pod Save America and Crooked Media are on the rise; and I predict that as they grow they will have a ever increasing influence over progressive political discourse.  You can find Pod Save America on: iTunes, Spotify, ART19, and the Crooked Media website.

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