MetaPod unpacks the web's most interesting podcasts and the stories behind them. Presented by Wendy Morrill and Kevin May, each episode of MetaPod features an in-depth interview with a different podcast host or creator.
Episode 25. SPECIAL EDITION: Podcast pioneer Todd Cochrane
“In the early days, it really was this group of geeks and hardcore people that wanted to create media and hardcore audiences that wanted to listen to it.”
How do you go from a career in the military to one in podcasting? Just ask Todd Cochrane, the founder and CEO of Blubrry, a podcast hosting company.
“Life has these right and left-hand turns and I had a right-hand turn in June of 2004,” Todd told us.
That right-hand turn put Todd among the pioneers of a new medium being raised by rebels.
While recovering from an injury that changed the course of his career in the US Navy, Todd discovered the work of Dave Winer and Adam Curry and this thing they were talking about called “podcasting”. Todd was sucked in and before he knew it, he was at the nearest Walmart purchasing his first microphone.
Podcasting since 2004 with his tech show Geek News Central, Todd Cochrane also established the first podcast advertising deal and wrote the first book on podcasting. He also founded the Podcast Awards and is a member of the Podcast Hall of Fame.
“The industry was exciting, it was basically pioneer days, we were making stuff up as we go, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but things progressed very, very quickly,” said Todd.
In this special episode of MetaPod, we talk to Todd about the early players of podcasting and what it was like to work with the techies, geeks and hardcore audiences of the medium. We also discuss how podcasting has evolved to this day, including investment, leadership, its increasingly diverse field of creators and the entry of big media platforms in the space.
Todd also tells us what the most important thing is for new podcasters to understand about the medium and why the first two episodes of Geek News Central no longer exist.
Episode 24. Dan Beeston and Greg Wah of Smart Enough To Know Better
“Smart Enough To Know Better is a podcast of science, comedy and ignorance.”
It’s a unique skill to be able to apply humour to science – and get it to work.
Greg Wah and Dan Beeston have been doing this for over 10 years with Smart Enough To Know Better, creating an extremely listenable podcast that tackles big subjects with an accessible style.
There is a lot of banter, plenty of tangents that they often head down and a very loyal and engaged audience.
What makes Smart Enough To Know Better so good is that it’s not afraid to dissect a subject and speak truth to power – but do so in a way that is, generally, positive and constructive.
And as the pair creep closer to their 200th show, what better time to understand more about the show and the issues and topics that get them going.
For our latest episode of MetaPod, we speak to the Australia-based pair about how they pick their subjects each week and how they’ve nurtured their audience over a decade.
We tackle some big issues, such as the billionaire space race and coronavirus, as well as find out how much science they actually remember.
Episode 23. Eric Mennel of Stay Away From Matthew MaGill
“When Matthew MaGill died alone in the woods on the Florida-Georgia border, he left behind a box filled with the artifacts of an incredible life. A series of coincidences leads reporter Eric Mennel to the box, sending him on a five-year search to understand the truth about its owner.”
Stay Away from Matthew MaGill is an unusual podcast. It’s the story of a man who earned a reputation for being unusually handsome, stubborn and prone to telling tall tales. It’s also the story of secrets and the spaces they occupy between us, family and friends.
Blending investigation and personal memoir, Eric Mennel extends the boundaries of what one might expect from either genre. He begins by building an understanding of Matthew MaGill’s life through the contents of the box. At the same time, Eric is grappling with the relationship dynamics of his own family.
Eric bravely chooses to reconcile with family, a choice we presume Matthew MaGill did not make. Eric’s personal reflections on this process, as well as those of his family members, are included alongside the story of Matthew MaGill.
“Along the way, the questions I was asking about him – they just became a little entangled with things that were going on in my own life,” said Mennel. “The show is largely about the journey that I go on to reconnect with my family – with the help of Matthew MaGill’s box.”
In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Eric about the contents of the box that Matthew MaGill left behind and how people earn the reputation as ‘someone to stay away from’. Eric explains the research that he undertook to understand who exactly Matthew was. We also discuss the provocative blend of investigation and personal memoir in the podcast.
Episode 22. Nina Gilden Seavey of My Fugitive
“Nina Gilden Seavey was twelve in May 1970, when an Air Force building in St. Louis burned to the ground. Her dad represented a young man arrested in connection with the fire: Howard Mechanic. Facing serious federal time, Howard fled and became one of the longest-running fugitives in U.S. history. As an adult, Nina picked up the trail. My Fugitive asks: Whatever happened to Howard Mechanic?”
Just the story of the disappearance of Vietnam War protester Howard Mechanic is an intriguing one, worthy of any podcast.
After his arrest and conviction for an obscure offence within the Civil Obedience Act, Mechanic went on the run for the next 28 years.
He settled in Scottsdale, Arizona, but eventually gave himself up to the authorities when a local reporter became suspicious about his candidacy for public office in the area. He was pardoned in January 2001 by the outgoing President Bill Clinton.
But My Fugitive is much more than the Mechanic saga, with Nina Gilden Seavey cleverly weaving in her personal connection to the case (her father was Mechanic’s lawyer in St. Louis) and investigating connections in the city to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.
What emerges is a fascinating yet unsettling look at the behaviour of government agencies (namely, the Federal Bureau of Investigation) during that period of huge civil unrest in the U.S.
In this episode of MetaPod, we speak with Gilden Seavey about her tireless work to uncover the truth about Mechanic and the FBI, how the U.S. used a combination of surveillance and the Dark Arts of domestic espionage to thwart the efforts of the anti-war movement and what it means for today’s society.
Episode 21. Marissa Bridge of The Apology Line
The Apology Line podcast tells the unsettling stories of a secular confessional telephone line.
The Apology Line project invited the public to call a telephone line and leave anonymous apologies for wrongdoings on an answering machine. The project was started by artist Allan Bridge, anonymously, in the early 1980s in New York City. Allan ran the project for more than a decade and also published a magazine companion to the telephone line.
Questions about morality and the criminal mind intrigued Allan and drove his work. Before the Apology project, Allan created an interactive art piece called Crime Time. Crime Time replicated the act of stealing. A user could either get away with the act or be caught with one’s hand, literally, in the act.
This interactive art was reportedly Allan’s way of coming to terms with his own shoplifting. Later, his purpose for the Apology project was “to provide a way for criminals and wrongdoers to apologize for their misdeeds in the hope that this will help them turn over a new leaf.”
In this episode of MetaPod, we talk to Marissa Bridge, widow of Allan Bridge and narrator of The Apology Line. Marissa talks to us in detail about the podcast and the original Apology Line project. As a result, we learn that the original project had far greater scope and insight on human behaviour than the podcast.
Marissa also recounts life in Manhattan in the 1980s and the historical context of the Apology project. She speaks candidly to us about her life with Allan and the callers whose apologies occupied much of their time together.
Episode 20. Dallas Taylor of Twenty Thousand Hertz
Twenty Thousand Hertz tells “the stories behind the world’s most recognizable and interesting sounds.”
Are you conscious of sound – especially sounds that you hear all the time?
“Our brains are very good at filtering out – especially things we hear a lot,” explains Dallas Taylor, sound designer and host of the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. “Sound is something that generally we have a hard time making conscious – but it’s very easy to.”
The Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast is an enjoyable way to become more aware of sound. Dallas and the podcast team devote a great deal of care and craft to each episode. As a result, listeners will gain an appreciation for sound, as well as the people and devices behind those sounds. Whether it’s a microphone, dinosaurs, a drum machine, or a corporate jingle, you’re sure to learn something interesting on Twenty Thousand Hertz.
“I hope that we start to really understand how sound can have a hugely negative influence on our life and how it can have a hugely positive influence,” says Dallas. “If you ever want to become conscious, just say ‘I want to become conscious about sound, right now’ and you can start to hear things that your brain filters out all the time.”
In this episode of MetaPod, Dallas Taylor explains the work of sound designers in enhancing emotion, plus his own emotional objectives for the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast. Dallas shares the backstories of several episode of the podcast, explaining how he chooses topics for the show.
He also reveals two significant moments in the show’s history to date (thank you, Bose and thank you, Roman Mars). We also discuss the changing relationship between humans and the sonic environment. Finally, MetaPod host Kevin May quizzes Dallas on some of the sounds in his personal life.