The last several years has seen an explosion in the popularity of podcasts, and one of the biggest beneficiaries of this surge have been those in the news, politics and current affairs space. The recent popularity of shows like The Rest Is Politics and The News Agents has demonstrated that there’s a strong public appetite for informative, engagingly presented insights, and an increasing number of political decision-makers are now counting podcasts as a notable part of their media diet.
So why have political podcasts become so popular - and just how much impact can they actually have on the policy negotiations that take place within the halls of power? This week, Matt Hill and Rhianna Dhillon sit down with Ros Taylor and Andrew Harrison from the Oh God, What Now podcast - formerly known as Remainiacs - to discuss the growth of the show post-Brexit, the role of opinion within political commentary, and why more women need to get into current affairs podcasting.
Don’t rely on big-name talent
“We're not dependent on the good offices of Famous Person X,” Harrison points out. “So for instance, some of those big deals that have been done, yes, they're getting people to the top of the Apple chart, but what happens if Famous Person X decides that they want to move on, they want to do something else? What happens if they're tempted back into politics? What happens if another job turns up?”
“They're the Premier League and that's fine, but when you're the Premier League, you're very dependent on your signings. You're very dependent on your big ticket signings and we sort of feel like we've built it up more from the grassroots and that it makes us a little bit more robust.”
Have faith in your audience
“We thought we needed to build our own escape pod,” says Harrison, “so we'll do something that is like Remaniacs - same tone, same vibe, a lot of the same cast - but it won't be about Brexit. It'll be about everything else in politics because what's going to happen is once Brexit fades from the scene, you know, Remaniacs will naturally fade away. But it just didn't; Remaniacs stayed very popular and actually increased its listenership in a lot of metrics.”
“We realized that what really made it tick was, people came for the Brexit, but they stayed for the panel… all these people for whom they had become like their gang; their sort of emotional support group/grand inquisition talking about the world of politics. So we actually ended up with two really healthy podcasts alongside one another.”
Don’t be afraid of disagreement
“Well, we are quite centrist,” says Taylor, “though I think there are more centrist podcasts. I think The Rest Is Politics, to be honest, is the most centrist one out there. But there are people who listen to us who disagree with us and who take us up on things. And actually, that's quite healthy. That's cool.”
“We've got listeners and we've had guests from basically across the pro-European spectrum,” Harrison adds. “We’ve had soft Tories and one-nation Tories and we've had members of Momentum and the pro-European ‘capital L’ left… So it's a spectrum. We just draw the line at, we're not very interested in having somebody from whatever the Brexit Party is called this week.”