By Linda Thorsen Bond for LONGMONT MAGAZINE

Andy Eppler (Ando), Host of The Hippie Report

In a year of disruption and loneliness, the podcaster is the voice crying out in the wilderness. Often alone tossing out thoughts to an unseen audience, the podcaster is truly the voice of our time.

Alone? Well, not quite. According to that unimpeachable source, the internet: “There are currently 850,000 active podcasts and over 30 million podcast episodes. More than half of all US consumers above the age of 12 listen to podcasts. Sixty-five percent of podcast listeners tune in using portable devices such as smartphones and tablets. Nearly three out of every four podcast listeners in the US say they tune in to learn new things.”

According to the New York Times, a podcast is an on-demand digital audio or video file often broadcast as a series of episodes which can be listened to on any schedule. Podcasts are more like an internet radio on-demand with no scheduling and timing constraints of broadcast media. Each podcast can be as long as it needs to be and listened to or downloaded for listening in the future. It is primarily a mobile medium which can be consumed in urban spaces, while driving, or in public places.

Daniel Yerger, Host of A Smart Financial Plan.

Longmont has spawned its own podcasting prophets that are as unique as the community itself. Artists, city officials, financial advisors and more have their space in the local podcast world. They can be found online on platforms such as Spotify, Alexa, Stitcher and Apple Podcasts. One way to find podcasters locally is to go to their Facebook pages and find the link.

If you see a sticker on a car proclaiming “SideDish: Occasionally Interesting” you’ve seen one of more than 5,000 listeners of Brady Steffl and Eric Hozempa. They’re the duo of writer (Brady) and foundation director (Eric) who entertain Longmonters once a week with information about “what’s gnawing at us,” the buzz in town and an interview with a visiting guest.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts myself,” Eric said. “I can listen while doing other things and keep up with what’s happening. When we started SideDish we were rocking and rolling along with information about new restaurants and new businesses. Then suddenly it’s no new restaurants and no new businesses. So we give people solace in the craziness. We chew the fat; we talk about topics like ‘is a hot dog really a sandwich.’ We just want to provide some happiness.”

Eric Hozempa, Co-Host of SideDish

Eric and Brady are always interested in finding people to interview and musicians to perform.

Laura Ambler’s podcast, “Creating Your Community,” was designed so she could talk about fun things to do and explore in Longmont and how people had formed their own communities. She changed gears in the last 90 days of 2020 and started exploring topic bites. She has done a podcast every day since she made that decision.

“I wanted to keep the episodes short and different every day so there would be a reason to listen,” Laura said. “I share topics from ways to feel better to hearing and understanding. From fun daily holidays like ugly sweater day to winter poetry. From how to communicate when friends don’t agree to what needs to be in an emergency kit. From grief and letting go to childhood memories.”

She finds ideas everywhere: “Talking to friends, discussing poetry, reading, watching birds fly, playing with my dog, weekly calls with my brothers, Instagram, art classes, eavesdropping, though that’s a little harder with social distancing.”

Laura Ambler, Host of Creating Your Community

Laura is philosophical about podcasts. She said, “The roles of podcasts are as varied as the topics they cover and the people listening. I follow podcasts about art and one of my favorites in from England, TALK Art. Cutting Chai Stories is another by a friend of mine that I have never met in person. Jayati Vora’s podcast refers to cutting chai-half cups of chai- and the stories she shares are 100 words or less–beautiful tiny portraits of the life around her.”

“Podcasts help us express ourselves, share knowledge, and build connections. When you’re listening to a ghost story from England or an interview about someone’s transformation in Australia your world becomes both massive and personal. The conversations, the stories, build bridges and community.”

She said she is hoping to reach people who longing for connection, want community, caring, who want to chuckle, perhaps cry, find something in it for them, memories of their childhood or experiences.

A third local podcaster is musician Andy Eppler, AKA Ando. He has done about 130 episodes of The Hippie Report as a Facebook live show most weeknights. It is rebroadcast on Channel 8, the Longmont cable channel. He has no guests and generally talks for 30 minutes to an hour. He said he doesn’t pick the subjects; he just shows up and starts talking.

Andy said, “I started doing this show a few weeks into quarantine. Things were getting weird and dark in our community and a lot of us were feeling disconnected. I tried to do this so that people could get a little bit of grounding and normalcy on the internet instead of constant talk about pandemic and bummer political operatives. In other words, I just started inviting the entire community into my living room for a smoke out just like I would do for my friends before quarantine.”

“Live streaming affords me the opportunity to accidentally run into people who happen to be on social media just scrolling around.,” Andy explained. “It also allows me to just walk into my living room and do a show at any time of day without any notice at all. That turns out to be an essential element in this project for me. I’m a workaholic and this show is basically me forcing myself to take a break and smoke a joint.”

Two local podcasts will begin in January. Certified Financial Planner Daniel Yerger starts hosting “A Smart Financial Plan.” He said his podcast will be 30-45 minutes long bi-weekly. He plans to have guests, specifically professors and researchers in the field of financial planning. Daniel said, “While the primary audience for the podcast is financial planners, so far in recording we’ve found a lot of good takeaways even for a layperson. If you’re interested in learning about some of the fancier concepts in financial planning for application in your own life, it’s not a bad medium to learn in.”

The Longmont librarians are working together to offer Book Chatter, a monthly book review and discussion. According to Josie Brockmann, librarian at the Longmont Public Library, five librarians in adult services have formed a team to host the podcasts.

Josie said, “We created a book club for busy people who can’t make a traditional book club or might not want to interact face to face. It’s an opportunity to read the book, contact us to give your opinions and let us know what you think about it. We will use the questions and comments and integrate them into our discussion of the book. But people can also just read the book and listen to the podcast if they don’t want to add their input. “

The podcast will be 30 minutes to an hour long on the second Friday of each month at 8 p.m. The first two books are “Golem Girl: A Memoir” by Riva Lehrer in January and “The City We Became,” by N.K. Jemisin in February.

Josie said, “We are going to purchase a few extra copies of the books we discuss as well as copies that can be downloaded as an eBook or eAudio, so that more people have the possibility of reading each one. We hope to include titles that are not on the best seller lists, maybe titles people don’t know about or have read in other book clubs. We really want to hear people’s input.”

Contact the Longmont librarians on FaceBook (Longmont Public Library) or call 303.774.4875.