Pod­casts of­fer plat­form for con­ser­va­tive voices

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS­TIAN TOTO

Me­dia en­tre­pre­neur Pa­trick Cour­rielche re­mem­bers vis­it­ing the talk ra­dio booths at the an­nual Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton with one nag­ging con­cern: He didn’t know how to stand out in the con­ser­va­tive crowd.

That worry even­tu­ally led to his found­ing of “Red Pilled Amer­ica.” The iHeartRa­dio pod­cast, cre­ated with his wife, Adryana Cortez, doesn’t mimic your av­er­age red-state show.

The pod­cast ped­dles sto­ries, not mono­logues, akin to what lis­ten­ers hear on NPR or the Won­dery pod­cast net­work. Ex­cept the sto­ries at the core of “Red Pilled Amer­ica” are un­abashedly right of cen­ter.

A re­cent episode about Face­book’s mer­cu­rial stan­dards be­gan

as an up­lift­ing tale of U.S. vet­eran Brian Kolfage, who be­came a hus­band, fa­ther and en­tre­pre­neur after los­ing both legs and his right hand in ser­vice to his coun­try in Iraq. Face­book last year shut down his page of right-wing news items dur­ing a sweep of more than 500 ac­counts that the so­cial net­work ac­cused of be­ing fake. Mr. Kolfage has since raised more than $19 mil­lion to fund Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der wall. The Go­FundMe cam­paign has a $1 bil­lion goal.

Other re­cent top­ics in­clude me­dia bias, global warm­ing and the #MeToo move­ment.

So far, Mr. Cour­rielche said, he hasn’t had to dig deep to find sub­jects.

“It’s what it must have been like in the early days of Fox News,” he said, adding that many top­ics are ei­ther ig­nored by the main­stream press or cov­ered in a slanted fash­ion.

Take, for ex­am­ple, an episode about sanc­tu­ary cities.

“I can’t tell you how many par­ents I’ve found who have lost loves ones at the hands of il­le­gal im­mi­grants,” said Mr. Cour­rielche, who noted a 300 per­cent uptick in lis­ten­ers of his pod­cast in re­cent weeks. “There are so many sto­ries. … Which one do I tell?”

“Red Pilled Amer­ica” be­gan in Novem­ber and at the mo­ment isn’t a threat to gi­ant con­ser­va­tive pod­casts such as “The Ben Shapiro Show” and “Mark Levin Au­dio Rewind.” NPR and lib­er­al­lean­ing shows dom­i­nate the iTunes pod­cast rank­ings.

Many of those high-rank­ing shows em­brace sto­ry­telling, Mr. Cour­rielche said.

“It’s a big for­mat for the en­ter­tain­ment world. TV stu­dios are look­ing at these pod­casts as prov­ing grounds for in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty,” he said.

Show­time aired a ver­sion of “This Amer­i­can Life” for two sea­sons in 2007 and 2008. The wildly pop­u­lar “Se­rial,” an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism show that ex­plores one crime over a sin­gle sea­son, will soon be­come a lim­ited se­ries for HBO. More pod­cast-themed shows are in de­vel­op­ment.

Mathew Passy of ThePod­castCon­sul­tant.com says the medium lends it­self to the sto­ry­telling for­mat, with fic­tion­al­ized tales lead­ing the way.

“It’s a throw­back to the early ra­dio se­rial dra­mas of old,” said Mr. Passy, adding that the down­side is the amount of pro­duc­tion needed to pull the for­mat to­gether.

Nar­ra­tive pod­casts de­mand solid edit­ing, nar­ra­tion, the oc­ca­sional voice ac­tor and mu­sic to “en­hance the sto­ry­telling,” he said.

Mr. Cour­rielche said his show al­ready has changed a few hearts and minds. He pointed to the Face­book-themed episode tied to Mr. Kolfage’s plight. His busi­ness took a mas­sive hit when Face­book yanked his com­pany’s page after he re­port­edly spent $300,000 on Face­book ad­ver­tis­ing.

“We made the ar­gu­ment that Face­book is sim­i­lar to a com­pany town. … They buy up all the land,” he said.

That per­suaded some con­ser­va­tive lis­ten­ers to re­con­sider their hands-off ap­proach to cor­po­ra­tions as large, and al­beit pri­vate, as the so­cial me­dia gi­ant.

“That’s why the left is so good at win­ning the cul­ture wars. It has so many plat­forms to tell sto­ries. We’re not even on the play­ing field,” he said of fel­low con­ser­va­tives.

Mr. Passy won­dered how much a sin­gle pod­cast could shape a given nar­ra­tive.

“A lot of peo­ple who lis­ten to lef­t­and right-lean­ing pod­casts prob­a­bly al­ready sub­scribe to a point of view. [The show] re­in­forces what they al­ready tend to think about or lis­ten to,” he said. “I don’t think they do a lot to change opin­ions. They can be ed­u­ca­tional, en­light­en­ing and/or re­in­force be­lief struc­tures.”

Scott Im­mergut, CEO of the rightlean­ing Ric­o­chet Au­dio Net­work, said most of the sto­ry­telling pod­casts hail from the left, but he hopes his net­work will help change that this year.

“It’s an or­ganic way to get out of the, ‘let’s talk about im­mi­gra­tion, let’s talk about [U.S. Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett M.] Ka­vanaugh’ mode … and delve into top­ics in a deeper way,” Mr. Im­mergut said. “We should not be ced­ing that to [the left]. We should be do­ing our own … and maybe we’ll at­tract some peo­ple from the left as well.”

Mr. Im­mergut said he doesn’t think sto­ry­telling pod­casts should al­ways align with ide­o­log­i­cal bor­ders.

“I wish that nar­ra­tive pod­casts didn’t have to be a right, left thing,” he said, not­ing that a Slate pod­cast that leans left re­cently served up a “bru­tal take­down” of for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

Mr. Im­mergut also hopes pod­cast­ing con­tin­ues to branch out from talk ra­dio, where a small num­ber of dom­i­nant per­son­al­i­ties rule the land­scape.

“I want pod­cast­ing to be hun­dreds of voices driv­ing the con­ver­sa­tion,” he said.

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