Introducing: 'The Content King', the Man Who's Listened to Every Podcast Ever

Why contemplate life or enjoy a moment of silence when you can binge watch a docu-series while reading the "New Yorker" and scrolling through Twitter?
illustrated by Esme Blegvad
Introducing: The Content King
The Content King will never stop consuming. 

He’s listening to a podcast through his headphones right now as you’re speaking to him. You ask why the kitchen light was off and he says “it’s about redemption in Wyoming”. The corners of his lips crease slightly in anticipation for another hit of homespun human folly, and so you turn away to leave and he laughs quietly. “He was in Mexico all along.” That’s the Content King.

The Content King is a kind of druid of the Information Age; someone who's intensely involved in attaining new knowledge but very stressed out about it and driven by forces he doesn’t understand and feels unable to stop.


A creature of his own algorithm-based media milieu, the King wants omniscience through near-continual reading and listening, but takes it to extremes and his retention suffers, due to tech but also his very OTT approach to it all: always insisting on warning you down the pub about the unimaginable economic fallout of The Big One; often halfway explaining a new elaborate identity politics take glimpsed in the Guardian before trailing off; regularly on at you about what’ll happen when the Queen dies or how, for a brief moment in the 70s, we could have “really done something about climate change”.

So he’s on the bus now, and he’s doing this thing, but it’s unclear even to him if the nuggets stick: if a longread listened to on the bus while also checking BBC Sport and idly dragging at a timeline, is another one gained. But that doesn’t matter. For the King – who is terminally bored but perma-engaged – the only way to be one with the constant gurgle of pieces, breaking news and podcasts (while his attention span withers under blue light) is to try and swim with it. To be listening, reading and watching while walking, sitting and sleeping.

Obviously he’s got his counterpart too, the Content Queen, who subsists on a diet of America’s new female Twitter comedians, the very same documentaries and literary Instagram. Fifteen years ago, the King was merely firing off letters to the editor, thankful for the golden era of TV but aware that Infinite Jest had set off something within him. This new King is the result of our #content based new world.


In his Notes you’ll find a long list of must-reads, great listens, and other bits that form a stratum of to-do content that, taken as a whole, would be impenetrable to most, but the need to try is axiomatic, the MO of the thing. That’s because for him and others like him there is an implicit premium on having read it, heard it, seen it, to the point where they are the silent content intelligentsia, bathing in the wash of slick Monocle newsletters, NPR productions and true crime serials.

So he’s on the train now, except he’s not. Not really. He’s listening to John Ronson and his Welsh drawl, transported through words to an actual prison. Spiritually he’s locked up, peering through a barred window into someone else’s life, except that person’s a Broadmoor hospital psychopath and he’s starting to think he too could “do Broadmoor” if he just had a video-library of docs to pass the time.

The King’s not sure if he enjoys it. No one seems to enjoy it, least of all the recipients of the King’s trickle-down proclamations of what he can remember of the piece he’s sure was exceptional but sounds very much like a treatise on hand dryers now.

He has Grammarly and is absolutely rattled by it. He daren’t look at that pile of unopened New Yorkers. Sleep has become an excuse for a parade of “lovingly-curated audiobooks” to mask the unnerving stillness of the night. Or worse still, YouTube binges that introduce continually evolving worlds within worlds, each narrowly unlike the last and yet so far from the initial 11PM “Alan Watts” search. These inevitably end with fraught Monday Night Football punditry exchanges or clips of Graeme Souness where he goes dark.


All of this is good though, good content. Ultimately, the emotional tug of content is just too enticing for the King. Through Joe Rogan rabbit holes, he can tell you all about the intricacies of the LA comedy cliques and how difficult it is starting out as a comic; without thinking he finds himself gorging on Eddie Hearn interview comment sections; he often watches Munchies shorts while eating sad versions of the food in question; he spends an overly long amount of time contemplating Lil B’s whole Twitter vibe and, though he might not have said it, he’s been on that Sleep With Me podcast for over a year.

Sarah Koenig soundtracks his every step; the Guardian Football Weekly each bus journey; @dril is a bi-daily treat; In Our Time is a nighttime tipple; David Squires a weekly reprieve and silence has become an affront to the great anecdotes he knows Ira Glass could tell to punctuate the void. For the King, multi-sensory content has become a proxy for original thought; and any moment he gets for quiet rumination is reflexively interrupted by the narrativised retelling of life as it is (somewhere, anywhere!) else.

“Just one more,” he’s saying now, except you’re not sure if he even sees you, those eyes bloodshot after a day of “listening in the bath”. He twists the tap to run another bath and you hear tinny voices through the babble and steam as he sits still in the shallow water. A breezy mattress advert plays.