In introducing its newest podcast, The Outline World Dispatch, The Outline hit on many things that are having a moment: brief news roundups, cassette tapes, and of course, podcasts themselves, in a now seemingly eternal moment.
But like the site itself, launched in December 2016, the M-Th podcast follows its own aesthetic rules, and the ostensible nowness of the venture is really a distancing from what is current, at least as it applies to the generalized sound and feel of podcasts these days.
“I think that what feels modern now can often feel very dated very quickly, and so we were looking for a blend of something old and maybe something a little unfamiliar,” The Outline CEO and EIC Joshua Topolsky tells Fishbowl. Topolsky says that in the earlier stages of the podcast’s development, overseen by audio director John Lagomarsino, the suggested mandate was “to make it distinctly weird…almost like an alternate reality NPR is sort of how we talked about it early on, like NPR from the world of Stranger Things.”
You can hear some of those influences right as the podcast begins, the sound from a vintage news report distorted until it gives way to a synthesized, deep baritone voice announcing the podcast’s name. And instead of adhering to the emerging model of morning briefs centered around the day’s hard news, The Outline World Dispatch is organized around The Outline’s own content areas: power, culture, future.
For now, many of the segments in the podcast connect back to stories that appear on the site, not as spoken-word versions of the same content, but as tie-ins that provide “color” as Topolsky describes it. For many listeners, it will likely come across as entirely new. “What we see in traffic patterns is not everybody who comes back is reading every story and not every new reader is reading every story,” says Topolsky, and the podcast provides an opportunity to reintroduce content that might otherwise have gotten lost among the internet’s endless stream. As the podcast progresses, there will also be more original content mixed in. “I think over time we’ll probably expand to purely original,” says Topolsky.
The Outline World Dispatch is available on a number of different platforms, including iTunes, Google Play and Pocket Casts. In this very early stage, iTunes has been the biggest driver of subscriptions to the podcast.