James Andrew Miller, the author of best-selling oral histories of Saturday Night Live, ESPN and CAA, is bringing a version of that idea to the podcast world. Origins, which launches this summer, explore the beginnings of some of the biggest recent events in sports, politics, pop culture and business via firsthand accounts from people present at the creation.
The idea is to take a single topic - an album, a TV show, a company, even a famous romantic relationship - and explain how it came to be and the impact it had on the present.
"Considering the credentials, reputation, access, trust of his peers and the storytelling ability that come with the name James Andrew Miller," says Chris Corcoran, Chief Content Officer at DGital Media, which is producing the series, "a podcast is an unbelievably perfect medium with which to share a new phase of his reporting."
Adds Miller, "I've had this idea for quite a while now. When working on oral histories and other reporting, one of my favorite parts of the process has always been digging into the beginnings of journeys. I find early stage stories intoxicating, and love examining the factors that contribute to success or sometimes lead to setbacks, many of which seem incidental at the time but later prove pivotal."
Indeed, in the course of writing Those Guy Have All the Fun (about ESPN), Powerhouse (about CAA) and Live From New York (about SNL) Miller has interviewed more than 1500 people over the years. Powerhouse, which published last summer, arrives in paperback May 16.
DGital Media is a prominent player in the podcast space. Among its programming partners are Jon Favreau's popular politics show Pod Save America, Tony Kornheiser's daily podcast, Katie Nolan and MMQB with football writer Peter King. Other partners include Fortune, Yahoo Sports, Sports Illustrated and Vox Media.
Podcasting remains an attractive option for many media personalities and is a growing commercial space. Kornheiser, for example, gave up his daily Washington, D.C., radio show last year in favor of a daily podcast. Podcasting has also given birth to a number of breakout hits that have generated the kind of "water cooler" buzz that has many TV executives envious. Two very recent examples are Missing Richard Simmons (devoted entirely to exploring why the fitness guru dropped out of public view) and Serial follow-up S-Town (devoted to Alabama eccentric John McLemore).