A year and a half after launching its first season, NPR’s podcast Invisibilia, a show about the invisible forces that shape human behavior, is back, armed with new co-host Hanna Rosin. Rosin hails from print journalism, writing mostly for Slate and The Atlantic. This is her first serious radio endeavor.
“She’s bringing a fresh set of balls to the show,” says co-host Alix Spiegel, who tag-teamed last season with Lulu Miller. “Hanna is an amazing journalist, and I think she thinks very similarly to Lulu and me.”
After the first season launched in January 2015, Invisibilia quickly snagged the number one spot on the iTunes top-ten chart. The debut season aired on nearly 350 public radio stations around the country, according to WBAA, and it had a regular presence on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Excerpts were also played on This American Life and WNYC’s Radiolab.
The first episode of the second season is out now.
Rosin’s extensive reporting chops, plus the confidence that comes with more than 50 million downloads from the first season, mean the show is now “tackling stuff that we were too afraid or cash poor to tackle,” Spiegel says. There are episodes about terrorism, racism, Aspergers—all examined through a psychological or scientific lens.
This season also takes on more international topics. Rosin, Spiegel, and Miller will look at a McDonalds in Russia to test the limits of the Soviet bureaucracy and an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico to see if you can transform emotional norms like masculinity. They discover a radical social experiment in Rwanda and a strange way of treating mental illness in a village in Belgium.
“I love Invisibilia,” Rosin says, who was a fan before becoming a host. “I feel like its vibe is very similar to my stories.”
Even so, Rosin says that she’s had to learn an entirely new set of journalistic skills. “As a print reporter, you just ask people questions to get information,” she says. “In radio, you have to get people to convey information in an emotional way. You really have to frame things differently.”
The show’s second season debuts on the heels of a controversial Collisions Media article listing the top 22 most influential people in podcasting. Published Thursday, the list had only two women on it—Sarah Koenig of Serial and Megan Tan of Millennial—sparking an eruption of outrage. Because of the response, Collisions decided to pull the article on Friday. “Clearly, there are many influential women…shaping the podcast industry, and we apologize for the deficiencies in our list and for making the mistake of not digging deeper,” they said in a statement.
When I told Spiegel about the list, she said she was surprised because there are so many amazing women in podcasting right now. Rosin, who wrote the pop sociology book The End of Men, says that although podcasting has been historically dominated by men, there’s now a new wave of women transforming the medium.
Spiegel, Rosin, and Miller are surely a part of that transformation.