Podcast Playlist

Reddit podcast Endless Thread launches second season

Endless Thread, from WBUR and Reddit, launched its second season in August. Lindsay Michael caught up with hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Silvertson to talk about what they've learned and where they want to take their show next.
Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Silvertson, hosts of Endless Thread (Ben Brock Johnson)

Reddit can be a weird and wonderful place.

The self-proclaimed "front page of the internet" is made up of countless message boards, known as subreddits, spanning topics from cute animals to bad Tinder exchanges.  

Reddit's myriad communities are home to some of the best stories you'll find anywhere on the Internet. And the podcast dedicated to uncovering those stories has just launched its second season.

Endless Thread is produced at WBUR in Boston, in partnership with Reddit. Shortly after their season launch, co-hosts Ben Brock Johnson and Amory Silvertson joined Podcast Playlist host Lindsay Michael for an interview. Here's part of their conversation.

What makes Reddit so interesting that you thought it was worth dedicating an entire podcast to it?

Ben: I've been a redditor for a really long time. I was working, I think, at Slate probably about eight years ago now, and discovered this story about a bus chaperone that got bullied, and it went viral and Reddit raised a bunch of money for her so she could retire. And that was the first moment that I was like, whoa, this is a really interesting, powerful, strange platform. And basically I've been a redditor ever since.

So when I got wind that WBUR was considering making a podcast about Reddit, I was like, oh, this makes perfect sense, it's amazing. There's so many amazing stories on there.

Amory, is it true you didn't really use Reddit before this show?

Amory: Yes, guilty.

So how did the show change the way you think about Reddit?

Amory: Oh, it changed everything. I mean I was always curious about Reddit, but to me I think I fell into the typical trap where you assume that it's a place for tech-y people, that it's a little less accessible to everyday lurkers on the Internet who don't spend that much time online.

I came around to Reddit really, really quickly, in that I started by just subscribing to subreddits that had obvious interest to me. So — we talk about this on the show a lot, I love elephants — so the fact that there's a whole subreddit devoted to baby elephant GIFs was mind-blowing.

So you start there and you learn about things like r/birdswitharms which you love and you don't even know why you love it. Or r/askhistorians, which I love a good history story. Or there's a good one called r/100yearsago that I love. And you just realize that Reddit is a unique place that taps into all of these interests that you have that had never really been validated before.

You're working with Reddit on this podcast. What is the nature of your partnership with Reddit?

Amory: We have one key advisor that we meet with regularly, and we'll just kind of give them a sense of which stories we're pursuing, which episodes we're working on crafting.

Ben: You might worry that their editorial interference would be pretty heavy, and it's not. They are super open with us about how they feel about us tackling certain topics, but they're never like, 'You can't do this.'

And it's my understanding that it's not a sponsored podcast, that it's really a true partnership where you're just working together on the stories. Is that true?

Ben: Yup, that's true. I think that part of the business agreement has some revenue-share on the backend for underwriting. But it's not — it's, I think, an equal share and they don't spend any money on producing the podcast, that's all on the WBUR side.

So Ben, if Reddit is this amazing place where you find all these stories, what do people get out of listening to your show instead of just going to Reddit directly and finding these stories themselves?

Ben: Our hope is that we give a more holistic view of a story that we find. I think it's really about trying to use a post as a jumping off point.

Amory: Yeah, and a great example is we did an episode called Getting Home. And that was inspired by a post that someone made in the NYC community about how to deal with panhandlers on the street, whether you should give them money or not.

That entire episode turned into something completely different than what we were envisioning. Because we thought we were going to be exploring panhandlers and what to do about them, and then as we read through the comments to that post, we found someone who weighed in who said, "Hey I just want to share my perspective as someone who used to be homeless on the streets of New York." And I reached out to that person and said we'd love to hear more of your story, and he became pretty much the entire episode.

So we can think we're going in one direction and talking about one post, and often we find that our episodes end up going in a completely different direction. So it's not just taking a post and transferring it to a podcast. Sometimes things really take off, and that's an exciting thing about this show for me.

This transcript has been condensed and edited. For more on this story, listen to the interview at the top of the page.