The podcast for eavesdropping on gossip
Normal Gossip has quickly become the internet’s favorite place to hear shit-talk.
This is my only gossip. —Kate
It’s rare that you get to witness the birth of a great idea out in the open, but astute Twitter followers of Kelsey McKinney were clued into Normal Gossip before the podcast became an internet favorite. To the slight chagrin of her editors at Defector, the culture and sports website where she is also a cofounder, McKinney tweeted out her idea for a podcast in which she would share other people’s gossip. It was quickly scooped up as one of five podcast ideas piloted with Defector subscribers in early 2021.
McKinney is first and foremost a writer, having “proceeded through several websites that are now all dead” and authored the book God Spare The Girls, and didn’t necessarily see herself as a podcaster.
“I think my bias against podcasts was that they were a lot of work, which turned out to be true, but also that they were not writing, which is not [true],” she tells me over Zoom.
Ultimately, Normal Gossip was one of two podcasts greenlit for a first season. The other, Namedropping, is hosted by Defector’s Giri Nathan and Samer Kalaf. Both are produced by Alex Sujong Laughlin.
A follower of McKinney’s, I saw her first tweet about Normal Gossip, and soon started seeing chatter about it all over the internet. Almost every week, someone was recommending it in the podcast thread in r/blogsnark, and McKinney’s videos were showing up on my TikTok For You page.
The format is simple: McKinney, the host, relates a piece of low-stakes gossip, sent in by a listener, to whoever her guest host happens to be that episode—they’ve ranged from comedian Josh Gondelman to Vanity Fair’s Delia Cai to ICYMI podcast co-host Rachelle Hampton. McKinney pauses throughout the story to ask her guest host questions: What would you do in this instance? Do you agree with what just happened? What do you think should happen next?
Behind the scenes, McKinney and Laughlin comb through their Gossip Hotline voicemails for potential stories and email with submitters to flesh them out into full episodes. Currently, they're gearing up for season two. In this interview for paid subscribers, McKinney and I talk about all that and more, including why we care so much about other people’s gossip in the first place.