Malcolm Gladwell's podcast is tops

NEW YORK• On Thursday, Malcolm Gladwell launched a podcast called Revisionist History. It reexamines past events that he thinks were misinterpreted the first time around. Even before anyone could listen to it, the 10- episode show was a hit.

On Wednesday night, it was the top podcast series in iTunes, even though it was nothing more than a three-minute introductory clip. 

Last week, Gladwell visited the 92nd Street Y on Manhattan's Upper East Side to give a preview of the show's first episode, which examines the stories of 19th-century painter Elizabeth Thompson and Julia Gillard, the first female prime minister of Australia. They were victims of misogyny, Gladwell said.

When Mr Jacob Weisberg, chairman and editor-in-chief of the Slate Group, the company behind the podcast, first asked Gladwell to collaborate on a podcast, the author was sceptical. "But then I got into it," he said.

He sees the project as a lark. Sure, it likely would have been more lucrative to bind up the podcast scripts and sell a million of them in airport bookstores, but that is not much of a challenge anymore for Gladwell.

"I didn't have a single involvement in the business side," he said. "I haven't even seen the contract." 

The stakes are higher for the Slate Group. It sees Gladwell's star power as an essential component of the success of Panoply, the podcasting network it launched last year.

Gladwell's new show is also notable for its sponsor: Apple's iBooks, which bought all the advertising space for the show.

Mr Andy Bowers, Panoply's chief creative officer, said there was an unusually intense amount of interest from marketers to associate themselves with Revisionist History. "I mean, you can't buy an ad in a Gladwell book," he said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2016, with the headline 'Malcolm Gladwell's podcast is tops'. Print Edition | Subscribe