Can’t wait to debrief after listening to the latest episode of your favorite audio series? A new growing crop of podcast conversation clubs on- and offline can connect you with other eager fans, book club-style.

By Lexi Walters Wright
January 07, 2020
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Chances are, you’ve belonged to a traditional book club: You found your way to a group of interested (and hopefully interesting) other readers and fully intended to complete the assigned book, show up to the next scheduled gathering, and wax poetic—pinot in hand—about the novel’s highs and lows. And then, life intervened. Maybe you could barely slog through the first half of the tome; perhaps none of the meeting times worked for your schedule; maybe the titles your crew chose drove you batty. Book clubs can be work. But podcast clubs may be the antidote.

This growing trend takes as many forms as there are types of podcasts out there. But the central idea remains the same: Participants listen to the same episode (or series), then discuss (online or in real life). The intimate nature of audio reporting lends well to connecting with others around a central topic. And the short (20- to 60ish-minute) length of shows makes them easier to consume than, say, that three-inch novel atop your nightstand.

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How to Find a Podcast Club

You don’t even have to get out of your jammies to attend some podcast clubs. Though you could: Lots are popping up in cities across the country with the intent to foster in-person community. Depending on how you’d like to connect with other listeners, choose whether to participate in person or online.

Local Meet-Ups

If you’re hoping to actually get together with other listeners near you, check out groups like #PodcastClub, a Chicago-based group with monthly meet-ups that also offers an accompanying podcast from those gatherings for those who can’t make it in person. (How meta!)

Similarly, Podcast Brunch Club distributes themed listening lists (typically 1 to 5 hours of shows) for folks to download and discuss in 70+ cities across six continents. Show themes have ranged from fake news and homelessness to “secrets” and Chinese culture. You might also check your local public library: Many specifically host podcast discussion groups (sometimes referred to as “podclubs”) for patrons, all for free.

Online Clubs

The New York Times Podcast Club, for example, has more than 17 million followers in its Facebook group. Hosts—who work for the Paper of Record—choose episodes of shows (not produced by the Times) for participants to listen to each week, then offer probing discussion questions in the comments for all to answer. They also encourage the sharing of series recommendations: Listener suggestions range from the obscure (regional call-in shows) to the unavoidable (Serial, The Dropout).

Other places to discover and discuss podcasts:

Consider also looking to the specific websites and social media feeds of your favorite shows and podcast companies to connect with other listeners:

  • Last summer, for example, The Nod (a black culture podcast from Gimlet Media) hosted their own Summer Podcast Club on Twitter, using hashtags to help organize the ongoing conversation.
  • The Facebook page for 99% Invisible, a design podcast from Radiotopia, lists each episode as a new post and encourages listener participation there (though of course, lurking is allowed).
  • The parenting podcast Don’t Mom Alone encourages listeners to start their own podcast club to “create community right where you are” using resources provided by the show hosts.

Not so sure about joining an “official” podcast club? Just swap episode links with your best pal/ cubicle mate/ spouse/ kid at college. You’ll reap all the connection benefits (and great storytelling), minus the commitment headaches.

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