Bellwethr Magazine

Post-Apocalyptic Podcast

The creator of Radio Zed talks about the medium’s popularity, zombie problems, and the lack of strong female characters.

WORDS BY Ally Balcerzak

Sarah Borger didn’t listen to podcasts. But after being introduced to a few episodes of The Thrilling Adventure Hour, a throwback to old-time live radio shows, she was inspired to use the medium in her own work. That experiment convinced Borger and her company, Joynt Effort Productions, to create Radio Zed, a zombie-themed podcast airing every three weeks. Zed is at the forefront of a podcast renaissance, with programs from WTF with Marc Maron to Comedy Bang! Bang! and Filmspotting helping vault the medium back into pop-culture relevance. Weekly podcast consumption grew 25 percent every year, according to media analysis firm Edison Research’s Infinite Dial 2014 study.

“People have learned a lot from the pioneers of podcasting and have come back for round two,” says Tom Webster, vice president of strategy and marketing at Edison Research. “There’s no more syncing and subscribing. Mobile phones and streaming have replaced that.” In a phone interview from Los Angeles, Borger talks about the podcast comeback, broadcasting the apocalypse, and writing strong female characters.

Bellwethr: Why do you think podcasts have come back?

Borger: I think it’s the same reason radio is popular. Podcasts are a great way of finding each [person’s] interest and hearing people talk about them. You can get very specific and have all of this entertaining information at your fingertips essentially, because it just comes straight through your phone.

What made you want to produce podcasts specifically?

The way that [podcasts] are using technology is very new and also very classic at the same time. Radio play has been around for a hundred years, and I was very intrigued by that and started thinking about what I could do and how I could use that.

Where did the idea for Radio Zed come from?

I knew I wanted to do a narrative podcast, and I wanted it to have something to do with the supernatural because I like that. The easiest way to have a radio show, where you’re not constantly worried about having to cast tons of new people, was if there had been a zombie apocalypse. The premise is the survivor found a broadcasting radio station, so all the characters are aware that they’re talking on radio. It’s an interesting way of dealing with the whole post-apocalyptic world.

Why the focus on female characters?

It’s not so much that they have to be women. I find that just as disturbing as they have to be men. It’s more along the lines of I haven’t seen a strong survivor character with intelligence and street smarts that doesn’t need anyone but herself in a really long time. Ripley from Alien — I can’t even think of [any other examples] off the top of my head where the fact that she’s a woman is a secondary quality to everything else. I wanted to write a real person, who had survived all these things and just happened to be a woman.

What’s the ultimate goal of Radio Zed?

I would really like to get a following and fans and have this sort of support, like The Thrilling Adventure Hour, where people are so excited by what they’re hearing. Really, that’s when it becomes my ultimate goal. I don’t need it to get any bigger than that.

Photos courtesy of Radio Zed.

A terrifying zombie from Radio Zed's post-apocalyptic world. PHOTO COURTESY OF RADIO ZED.
A terrifying zombie from Radio Zed's post-apocalyptic world. PHOTO COURTESY OF RADIO ZED.
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