Podcast Review: Upvoted by reddit

Reddit might be known for niche communities and viral content, but their latest podcast venture is nothing to sneer at.  Appropriately named, “Upvoted” is a brand new podcast dedicated to broadcasting the fascinating lives of a select group of redditors and debunking the popular belief that reddit is filled with underachieving riff raff and homebodies.

It should be obvious to bystanders that Upvoted takes inspiration from the hit podcast Serial, following the rising popularity of a subreddit dedicated to discussing said podcast. But Upvoted springs forth with a tried-and-true story format, one that is followed by great films like Forrest Gump: the story of a lost and forlorn soul thriving in the face of adversity and eventually finding purpose in life. Without fail, all three episodes that have been released thus far featured stories of nobodies turning into somebodies after they stumble upon reddit. Coincidence? I think not.

Shameless self-promotion aside, Upvoted is a remarkable attempt at mimicking the success of Serial. Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian steps up to the plate as the host, and fills in the story gaps articulately without overshadowing the main storytellers.

The stories themselves are incredible. If you like the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, then you would dig this podcast.  The cast for the first three episodes is as follows: we have Dante Orpilla whose newfound faith in humanity hinges on his participation in an altruistic subreddit which gave him strength to pursue art and eventually landing a career in reddit HQ. Then there is the legendary James Erwin who turned a reddit writing prompt into a book deal. Last but not least, episode 3 treated listeners to some great acapella tunes by Max Gleason (a.k.a Smooth McGroove) who is now making a decent living off of combining his love for music and video games. These larger-than-life stories will inspire you, move you and perhaps make you reflect upon your own life a little.

Now let’s take a pause and enjoy Smooth McGroove’s epic acapella performance:

Overall, there is a lot of energy, youthfulness, and kookiness in Upvoted, which is very much in tune with reddit’s identity. Maybe it’s the cachet of their coveted success in entertainment, but Reddit’s decision to jump on the podcast bandwagon was a good call.

Obviously this is reddit’s first attempt at making an audio show, therefore a bit of initial trial-and-error is fair game.  Episode 0 was filled with amateurish mistakes, including sloppy editing, using the same sound clip twice, jarring ad breaks, and heavy-handed background music. But the Upvoted team listened and took people’s feedback seriously. By the third episode, drastic improvements have already been made.

A big negative that remained is the inappropriately hefty amount of ads. We are talking about a total of 6 ads played at the beginning, middle and end of a 30 minute show, on top of a music sponsor, making up roughly 10% of the entire episode. Like all for-profit businesses, Upvoted, and by extension reddit, needs to be at least self-sustaining, but this high frequency of sponsored messages can be a huge turn-off to serious listeners.

It is unclear what reddit has envisioned for Upvoted. Uniting the reddit communities? Serving as a marketing engine for reddit? Making money from ads? One thing is for certain, Upvoted was not created out of love for podcasts, and for that reason, it might never attain the same level of ingenuity as the top podcasts.  With that said, tremendous time, money and talent went into producing each episode and fine-tuning their craft so definitely give Upvoted a listen before you write it off as another marketing gimmick.