A new era of talkshows
Four projects you’ll want to check out
In my household growing up, the TV was called the idiot box. My parents wouldn’t spring for cable or any pay channels, so our television broadcast only the four main networks, which mostly aired garbage around a steady flow of ads. Our after-school options included soap operas and daytime talk shows. It’s no wonder my folks placed such strict controls on our watching. In any given Maury Povich episode, a scandal or sordid affair would be revealed, inspiring family members or estranged lovers to brawl as the audience hooted and cheered. The commercial breaks served as a reminder that the whole purpose of the spectacle was to sell paper towels or laxatives. That reliance on advertisers, along with the general tenor of outrage and schadenfreude, still resonates in the present moment, reminding one of today’s Twitter and Facebook. The idiot box hasn’t gone away; it just changed channels.
When YouTube debuted in 2005 and adopted the slogan “Broadcast yourself,” suddenly anyone could become a host, director, or actor. There was something thrilling about the democratization of the medium, although the motive of it all eventually became to sell ads (largely for the benefit of the company rather than the creators).
Around that same time, podcasting took hold, offering a maverick approach to radio. Podcasts and independent video existed on parallel trajectories until a more recent development: the two media began to merge into the now very popular video podcast. But it has remained a slog to get that sort of show out into the world, requiring one to cobble together a bunch of instruments and platforms—sharing the video via YouTube, then the audio through a podcast distribution service, plus hawking one’s show across social media.
At Substack, we recognized the need for a simpler, more elegant home for this new genre, which was already flourishing on the platform. So we built a bunch of product features, making it possible to create a video podcast with the click of a button. Aspoints out, “The friction in starting a media business based on video has been reduced to almost zero. You can have an idea for a video show at breakfast and be making money from it on Substack by lunchtime.”
What’s especially magical about the advent of these shows is the uncomplicated purity of their approach. There are no laugh tracks or special effects to prop up weak material; no commercials to sit through; and, in contrast with the Ricki Lakes and Geraldos of my youth, the fisticuffs and shouting have been stripped away. Many shows on Substack feature two or three people engaged in thoughtful discourse, or one person speaking directly to their audience. These shows are intimate, smart, and often fun.
Fresh shows are launching weekly on Substack. Here are four brand-new projects that demonstrate the incredible depth and range of what you can find on the platform.
, by , Nancy Silverton, and
Three legends of the food world come together each week to recount old stories and discuss new trends in food, cooking, and restaurants. Ruth was the editor in chief of Gourmet magazine and writes books as well as a Substack; Nancy is the queen of sourdough, winner of the James Beard Outstanding Chef award, and proprietor of many beloved restaurants; Laurie travels the world for her reporting and is general manager of food coverage at the L.A. Times. These women have been friends for decades. It’s a pleasure to eavesdrop on their wise and lively conversations.
Further Ado, by
Director, author, actress, and activist Amber Tamblyn offers a dynamic new video interview series featuring in-depth discussions with captivating guests—from acclaimed writers and admired artists to climate scientists and retired schoolteachers. Amber and her guests explore topics such as how to cross new creative thresholds, ways to un-numb ourselves in difficult times so we can remain politically and spiritually engaged, and juicy behind-the-scenes stories from her three decades in the entertainment industry. Upcoming guests include Blake Lively, Priya Parker, and Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson.
So Into That, by
One of Substack’s top food writers invites some of her favorite people to share what they’re obsessed with right now, whether that’s a book, show, recipe, beauty hack, or an approach to marriage and parenting, community, or friendship. Early guests includeof ParentData and of Smitten Kitchen.
The Chris Cuomo Project features the independent voice of award-winning veteran broadcast journalist Chris Cuomo, providing listeners with an up-close view of politics, global affairs, and American culture from a vantage point uniquely shaped by decades of insider experience. On his Substack, Chris is posting ad-free episodes of his video podcast, along with exclusive bonus content.
What are your favorite podcasts, either on or off Substack? Tell us in the comments.