How Nick Quah Became the Podcast Whisperer

His newsletter vaulted him from obscurity to industry expert — a formula everyone is now trying to crack

Rob Walker
Marker
Published in
16 min readOct 21, 2020

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Illustration: Michael Kennedy

It was early November 2014, and Nicholas Quah was irritated. Serial had become a pop culture phenomenon, introducing millions to the idea of “the podcast” — which was perhaps a niche form, but hardly the oddball novelty it was being treated as. “I was really frustrated,” Quah recalls, “because people were writing about [podcasting] as if it came out of nowhere.” In fact, podcasting had been around for more than a decade, and according to Statista, in the U.S. an estimated 40 million people were already monthly podcast listeners.

At the time, one fledgling podcast network, Gimlet, was raising $1.5 million in seed funding from private investors, and another, Radiotopia, was on its way to raising $600,000 on Kickstarter. To Quah this seemed like a true breakthrough moment — “a new frontier,” he later wrote. “But if that was the case, why didn’t anything that was written about this moment feel emotionally true?” And so, over two proceeding lunch breaks on November 4 and 5, he banged out the first issue of Hot Pod, an email newsletter devoted to his own idiosyncratic musings on podcasting as both a creative form and a media business category.

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