Podcast of the Week: REPLY ALL
What has quickly become widely regarded as Podcast 101, I had long heard the praises of REPLY ALL extolled before I took a chance and subscribed, but let me allow to join the masses screaming at you to do the same. Yes, you will need to have a taste for the preferred clean-cut milieu of NPR (not that it’s affiliated, but it’s certainly friendly), but if you can get past that minor hurdle, a treasure trove of gripping stories awaits. When you step far back enough, REPLY ALL is a podcast about technology in the modern world; don’t run for the hills just yet, because that’s what initially made me wary of investing too. The reason why Gimlet Media’s critical darling is so effective is that it makes sure to focus just as much on, if not more so, the human stories that develop out of our pervasive technological predilections, with results ranging from the heartwarming to unsettling to cautious.
With the entire team’s pedigrees reading like a Who’s Who of podcasting, the ease with which REPLY ALL is able to effectively draw out and fully massage and explore stories is astounding. Especially when considering how economical all of the runtimes are, REPLY ALL confidently situates itself as one of the most rewarding listening experiences you can have, regularly using whopping narrative hooks to then transition into a thorough exploration of practical takeaways from the story to be utilized in the real world. It’s a genius format that returns untold dividends, and no matter who you are or what you do, you can gain valuable insight into the implications of your presence and identity when plugged in, and how to change or edit it accordingly.
For my money, the best place to start is all the way over with Episode 91, “The Russian Passenger.” Head REPLY ALL honcho Alex Blumberg has begun to have Uber charges delivered to his phone for rides from Russia. Getting in touch with Uber, he’s informed that it would appear as if his account has never existed in the first place. Going on a multi-episode journey to get to the bottom of who hacked him, under the cover of a genuinely head-scratching whodunit, the show covers everything from haveibeenpwned.com to the importance of password managers in general, and how professional hackers can essentially get around anything internet security throws at them. It’s a story that’ll make you laugh, think, and furiously research how to improve your online defenses, and if that’s not a ringing endorsement for a podcast, I don’t know what is.
Is REPLY ALL a little nerdy? No, it’s a lot nerdy. But it approaches each of its topics with such a genial charm and passion for quality that it’s impossible to not find yourself eager to go along for the ride. Distributed in perfect bites that ensure you’ll never get tired or bored, Gimlet’s golden boy is as essential as everyone’s told you. C’mon, you’ve got a commute coming up, give it a shot!