Amory Sivertson doesn’t consider herself “internetty,” nor was she into Reddit when her boss at the podcast department of WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, approached her about potentially producing a new show they were creating. She convinced Amory to have a conversation with Ben Brock Johnson, who was set to host it. Ironically, Amory’s father was already a fan of Ben’s (thanks to Ben’s show from American Public Media, Marketplace Tech). In fact, he had even nicknamed Ben “Ben Jo”… something he does with people he likes and considers “close friends,” even if they have never met or spoken. Clearly, the deck was a bit stacked against Amory—how could she say “no”?
That initial call, during which Ben cooked a grilled cheese sandwich for his pregnant wife, made the pair quickly realize that they had a knack for making each other laugh. This was the beginning of Endless Thread.
Ben was already a “redditor,” the name given to users on Reddit, so getting him on board for Endless Thread was easy, as he already had the in-depth knowledge of the platform that would inevitably lead to comprehensive commentary on the show. Initially, the show was a partnership with Reddit. Ben and Amory shared the belief that what drives Reddit is “how it helps people feel like they are not alone,” and that became the catalyst to making the show about internet communities a perennial hit.
Endless Thread is no longer partnered with (or just about) Reddit. It has expanded far beyond that platform, but what it still does is bring people together, so they see that they are not alone with the things they do and care about.
It’s been four years since the show launched, and much has changed in Amory and Ben’s lives. Ben’s twins are now four years old, and Amory’s dad now knows Ben personally. (They have yet to get Ben’s piano-playing dad to jam with Amory’s drummer dad, though.)
The releasing of episodes has had a varying cadence over the years—weekly, then seasonal, and now, back to weekly. No matter the schedule, it is important to Ben and Amory that “stories are told, mysteries are solved, and communities—including those new to the internet realms—are given the light of day via the sometimes unbelievable but true.”
Ben is grateful for the relationship with Amory, as he “hates to burst anybody’s bubble, but not all co-hosts are friends. The rapport is often scripted and fabricated on mic.” Not so with them. He admits they have a highly produced podcast that is researched and scripted, but he and Amory script them together. While the scripts are often a recreation of some offline conversation they had, they are always real. Being able to write for each other and think as the other thinks has made a big difference in the response they receive from listeners.
The pandemic has created an explosive growth in the number of new podcasts, while also prompting long-time podcasters to make changes in how they build their communities. Although Amory and Ben have yet to be recognized on the street, they held their first Zoom gathering of fans in 2020. Not knowing what to expect, they were humbled by the chat comments and the far-reaching impact they discovered the show has on fans around the world.
Endless Thread “increases people’s wonder about how the world is and how people can be to one another, since they are not always kind.” In fact, he hopes the show is a “kindness force multiplier.” He and Amory endeavor to help people find empathy for others and just be nice. Doing so is their very definition of success.
Amory, an avid podcast listener herself (especially since COVID), also hopes their show is “one that people want to listen to, whatever is put out, whenever it is.” Whatever the topic, they cover it in a way that “will still offer a glimmer of hope. We show our audience that we’re all going through it together.”
The bottom line for Ben and Amory is that their show be “a safe space, in the joyful sense of the phrase.”
True to its original Reddit roots, Endless Thread and its hosts worm their way into your heart and mind and keep you coming back for more… spreading kindness and hope along the way.
February 2022 Issue