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Political Podcasts Stepping Up to the Election Campaign

Whoever loses, podcasters win

12:00 PM GMT+1 on June 5, 2024

    When Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun on the general election campaign two weeks ago, it wasn’t just prospective MPs who sprung into action. Producers of political podcasts also began scrambling to make the most of the month and a half to polling day.

    It’s a six week long Christmas for these shows, with an endless stream of stories to discuss and an uptick in interest from listeners. And unlike TV and radio, podcasts face no regulations enforcing balance or what can and can’t be discussed. For a medium that’s always seeking to take any advantage it can over its entrenched media rivals, the election is a golden opportunity to capture audiences’ attention.

    In fact, many of these podcasts were likely conceived with just this moment in mind. Over half the top twenty shows in the Apple Podcasts news chart were set up in the last year. Twenty percent even launched over the past month. We’re even getting in on the act, launching a free daily newsletter rounding up what each political podcast is talking about for every day of the campaign.

    Given the stakes, we’ve taken a look at a selection of shows that are going the extra mile to give their listeners the inside track on the general election.

    Electoral Dysfunction
    One of the major selling points for Sky News’ weekly Westminster update when it launched in March was that (unlike some of its popular competitors), Electoral Dysfunction featured working politicians still active in their field. Featuring Labour MP Jess Phillips, Conservative Peer Ruth Davidson and Sky’s political editor Beth Rigby, the show promised in-the-know reporting from the front line of politics.

    But what do you do when one of your hosts hits the campaign trail seeking reelection? And what happens when you double the size of the problem by switching to two episodes a week?

    Well, Electoral Dysfunction have answered both questions. Their new Tuesday episode will feature Labour Peer Ayesha Hazarika in place of Jess Phillips, while Phillips will nominate a special guest to take her seat each week on the regular Friday episode.

    Meanwhile Sky News’ partnership with Politico, Politics at Jack and Sam’s, is also increasing its output. The once weekly show has moved to daily releases for the duration of the campaign, publishing each weekday morning.

    The Political Party

    Here’s a really interesting challenge (stunt? folly?)

    Matt Forde over at the Political Party is attempting to interview a candidate from every single constituency before the election is over. He’s covering some distance already, interviewing ten candidates from Sussex to Scotland across three episodes. You get the feeling he’s going to need to pick up the pace though. The podcast is daily, but with 640 interviews to go and only four weeks to get them, this could go down to the wire.

    Pod Save the UK

    Nish Kumar and Coco Khan are guaranteed to be interviewing at least one candidate before the election is out, with Jeremy Corbyn scheduled to appear on tomorrow’s episode. The former Labour leader is running as an independent against his old party in the Islington North seat that he’s held since 1983.

    The previously weekly show is another one to step up its output, moving to two episodes a week releasing on Sundays as well as their usual Thursdays. Their Thursday afternoon slot has also been shifted forward to first thing in the morning, keeping the news that little bit fresher.

    The Rest is Politics & Talking Politics

    One of the most exciting trends in podcasting in recent times has been the tentative movement into TV. Following the success of the Traitors: Uncloaked companion podcast broadcast on BBC 2 after each episode of the hit show, other channels are giving the format a whirl.

    The Rest is Politics has been snapped up by Channel 4, with six episodes of what was already one of the UK’s most popular podcasts to be broadcast terrestrially each Tuesday night. Hosts Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart will then join the channel’s TV coverage on election night.

    It’s a nice gig for Stewart and Campbell even though they have to make do with a slightly sleepy 11:10pm slot. No such late nights for ITV News’ Talking Politics team, who have been given an enviable teatime spot at 4pm every weekday.

    While these are short-term arrangements to supplement broadcasters’ election coverage, we’re excited to see if they’re a success. Bringing podcasts to a new audience through more traditional channels can only be good news for creators and listeners. The election may seem to be a crucial period for politicians but despite who might succeed at the ballot box, it’s podcasters and their audiences could end up as the real winners.

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