Boston, Mass. — October 5, 2017 — To bolster the Boston-area podcasting ecosystem and ensure that great independent shows made here reach a wider audience, local audio producers joined today to launch Hub & Spoke (hubspokeaudio.org), a Boston-centric collective of podcasts produced outside the traditional public media system.
Taking inspiration from existing podcast collectives such as Radiotopia and The Heard, Hub & Spoke provides a community where producers share mutual support and advice. Member producers also work to grow the listening audience for all of the Hub & Spoke shows through “on-air” mentions and other forms of cross-promotion.
New England, as the home to institutions such as WGBH, WBUR, Atlantic Public Media, Transom, PRX, and AIR, has long been a mecca for public radio. But today, much of the local audio community’s creativity is flowing into podcasts, including many non-station-affiliated shows. Hub & Spoke’s goal is not only to boost the success of each member show, but to contribute to the growth of the vibrant community of audio makers in Boston and around the country, and to help all independent podcasters reach the audiences they deserve.
Hub & Spoke’s inaugural lineup includes: The Lonely Palette, where art historian Tamar Avishai demystifies artists and their works through enchanting interviews and talks of a sort rarely heard in museums; Ministry of Ideas, an exploration of the ideas that shape our society, from producers Nick Andersen and Virginia Marshall and host Zachary Davis; and Soonish, a show from veteran technology journalist Wade Roush that tells the human stories behind the technologies that will shape the future. Full descriptions are below.
“I fell in love with podcasting—first as a listener, and then as a creator—because it’s such an intimate, engaging, accessible, and memorable way to share ideas,” said Soonish host and Hub & Spoke co-founder Wade Roush. “I’m excited to start Hub & Spoke because we always need more ways to spread the word about great work. I think Tamar and Zach and Nick and Virginia make awesome shows, and I’m already learning a ton by collaborating with them.”
“The world of podcasting is a little like the Wild West right now,” said The Lonely Palette host Tamar Avishai. “There are so many opportunities for collaboration and infinite potential for new ideas and new listeners. But figuring out to best way forward as an independent producer is an ever-expanding experiment. I’m thrilled to be supported and motivated by such a talented collective. It’s a lot less lonely in a community.”
“As one of the intellectual capitals of the world, Boston deserves world-class intellectual podcasts,” said Ministry of Ideas host Zachary Davis. “That’s what I think we’re all trying to do with Hub & Spoke—create shows that make powerful ideas as engaging as possible.”
Davis’ producer, Nick Andersen, agreed. “I’ve always been delightfully surprised by the curiosity and passion of the Boston-area audio scene,” Andersen said. “And with Hub & Spoke, I hope we can help fan that vital energy out to listeners and podcasters around the world.”
Hub & Spoke’s launch coincides with the public unveiling of Ministry of Ideas. The show, produced in collaboration with the Boston Globe’s Ideas section, celebrates its debut on October 5 with an event at the Matter and Light Fine Art Gallery in Boston. Host Zachary Davis will discuss “The Real Threats to American Democracy” with Yale University professor of law and history Samuel Moyn. The live conversation will be recorded and used in a future episode of the podcast.
The name “Hub & Spoke” is a mixture of puns and allusions. The Hub is a traditional nickname for Boston, deriving from Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1858 remark describing the Massachusetts State House as “the hub of the solar system.” Spoke is a reference to the world of spoken-word audio and podcasting. Together, the words evoke a bicycle wheel—a metaphor for the collective itself, which starts with a core group of shows based in Boston and environs but will soon radiate out to other cities, states, and countries.
Hub & Spoke’s founding shows are:
The Lonely Palette — “The podcast that returns art history to the masses, one painting at a time.” Host Tamar Avishai begins each episode by interviewing real museum-goers in front of well-known paintings and other works, then builds sweeping, immersive stories of the artists behind the works and the movements to which they were responding. The show’s informal, inviting style appeals to serious art lovers and amateurs alike; in the words of Open Source’s Christopher Lydon, “it’s what those snooze-a-thon museum audio tours should be.” Tamar trained in art history at Tufts University and she launched the show in May 2016 as an offshoot of the regular talks she gives at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. Her show has been featured in Wired, Paste, NPR’s The Big Listen, Salon, and Hyperallergic.
Ministry of Ideas — A podcast that investigates and illuminates the ideas that shape our society. How do we think about history? Why does modern society value efficiency so much? What happens when politics and comedy become indistinguishable? What do selfies have to do with Rembrandt? Ministry of Ideas asks leading thinkers in relevant areas of academia, journalism and culture to weigh on the complicated questions that keep us all awake at night. It is driven by the belief that a better world starts with better ideas. Host Zachary Davis has worked as a humanities media producer at HarvardX and is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School.
Soonish — A longform narrative show about the technology and culture, Soonish enters its second season with the motto “The future is shaped by technology, but technology is shaped by us.” Its mission is twofold—to investigate the advances in information technology, the life sciences, and other fields that will alter the fabric of our lives in the future, but to do so in a way that reminds listeners of their own power to decide which technologies to adopt and which to avoid. The show’s first season covered topics ranging from space entrepreneurship to monorails to lab-grown meat. Wade has a PhD in the history of technology from MIT and has spent more than 20 years writing about science and technology for publications such as Science, MIT Technology Review, and Xconomy. In 2014-15 he was acting director of MIT’s Knight Science Journalism program. Wade’s favorite listener comment on Soonish: “It’s like This American Life, except I’m not depressed at the end.”
Hub & Spoke expects to grow quickly as the founders recruit new producers and shows into the collective, from both inside and outside the greater Boston area. Independent audio producers interested in learning more about Hub & Spoke can visit hubspokeaudio.org, follow the group on Twitter at @hubspokeaudio, or write to email@example.com.