NEW YORK Two years ago, podcasts devoted to
fiction were a blip on the radar, but the genre is gaining momentum under
the watchful eye of Hollywood, which sees it as a hotbed for new movies and
There are only a handful of fiction podcasts, almost drowned out by the
talk shows, true crime, science and history series, but their numbers and
quality keep going up Blackout, Passenger List, Carrier to name some
recent entries, soon to be joined by Motherhacker or Frontier Tween.
It's something we hoped would happen, and now we're seeing it really
gaining momentum and traction, said Rob Herting.
He founded a production company, QCode, barely a year ago, and already it
boasts several successful series, including Blackout, in which a massive
electrical outage threatens the very foundation of society.
A major sign of interest in this new format are the top-tier actors such
as Rami Malek ( Blackout), who in February won the Oscar for Best Actor
lending their voices to audio fiction series.
Just two years ago, when I started, nobody was thinking about fiction
shows, said Mimi O'Donnell, who is in charge of the genre at Gimlet, a
production company bought by Spotify in February.
But she has seen an influx of writers, including creators that have never
done anything in audio but are really well-known in film, TV or theater.
Many writers at QCode also come from those fields, even if the link between
styles isn't always evident. It's absolutely a new muscle to flex and an
exciting challenge for a lot of them, said Herting.
Podcasts, which until recently were heavily tethered to reality, are just
beginning to realize the potential of audio fiction.
What audio drama can do is build this amazing connection to the listener,
said Marc Sollinger, co-creator of the podcast Archive 81.
By removing images, it lets the listener create with their mind's eye and
imagine the characters, the settings, the monsters, the situations, he said.
And the images that they create are going to be so much better, so much
more interesting than a film with a $20 million budget.
In Herting's opinion, people are turning to audio because they can't stare
at screens anymore.
It's somewhat ironic that the saturation of images has contributed to the
revival of a medium almost wiped out by the rise of television.
During the 1930s and 1940s, radio was the preferred medium, and audio
fiction was a major genre.
On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles created a mass panic when thousands of
Americans heard him reading passages of The War of the Worlds on the radio
and believed Martians really were invading.
From sound to image
In a growing podcast landscape, where audio platforms seek out premium
content that will attract listeners and paying subscribers, the fiction
podcast can seem like a way to stand out.
In addition to drawing writers and actors, there is growing interest in the
genre in Hollywood, always hungry for new material.
Homecoming, the Gimlet podcast adapted by Amazon and starring Julia
Roberts, made a big impression.
In mid-October, Facebook Watch (the social media giant's video platform)
will launch Limetown, the televised version of a podcast produced in 2015.
We're building these new stories with the hope and intention that they
can build and grow into TV shows, said Herting, a former Hollywood agent.
That's something that we factor into our business model for each piece of
content that we make.
O'Donnell has a different approach: There's no way you could be developing
audio thinking about, 'It should be a film,' because it's just completely
different, she said.
We're not choosing something in the hopes of what might happen after, she
One of the things I really like about the podcast fiction medium is
stories that exploit the sonic potential of the medium, said Sollinger.
I like stories that don't feel like they're just television scripts with
the images cut out.
For Herting, the next step for audio fiction is creating a big hit. I
don't think the scripted side and fiction has those yet, and I think they're
coming, he said.
English-language podcasts are able to become global successes since they
aren't limited by the rights and territoriality that often constrain
Spotify and Gimlet are therefore looking at stories that feel big in scope
for audiences all over the world, said O'Donnell.
Those are starting to come to us as well as thinking outside of just the
United States, New York, she said.
Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)