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10 November 2016

Election Profit Makers – the podcast that captured how we feel about the 2016 US election

A show about making money on political betting markets ended up being about much, much more.

By Caroline Crampton

“She was already trading at ten cents by 10 o’clock.”

Hearing these words spoken on the last-ever episode of the Election Profit Makers podcast really put the events of the past 48 hours into context. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I stayed up all night on 8 November, hoping to see Hillary Clinton elected as the next President of the United States. We were clinging on, hoping that she could still do it in the early hours of the morning, but the election-related markets on PredictIt.org (the trading website that EPM is focused on) already knew what the outcome would be. Clinton’s stock was junk.

I wrote last week about using podcasts as therapy for anxiety about the US election, because they offer a way to stay politically informed while enjoying the company of reassuring, familiar formats and personalities. Several of the shows I highlighted there – Keepin it 1600, See Something Say Something, FiveThirtyEight Elections – have put out episodes since the result. Our own New Statesman podcast this week just has a one-word title: “Trump”. All of them do a reasonable job of trying to process what has happened, and in many cases their hosts are very honest about what they got wrong and why.

However, none of them affected me like the final episode of Election Profit Makers. The three hosts alternately laughed and cried on mic as they recounted how much money they had lost betting that Hillary Clinton would take the White House. The long, despair-filled silences followed by angry rants and exhortations to remember that “the mid-terms are only two years away” feel like the most accurate reflection of my own feelings over the past few days.

David Rees, Jon Kimball and Starlee Kine, either by accident or design, created in Election Profit Makers a show that perfectly summed up 2016’s slow slide into sadness. When the first episode went live in mid July, the hosts were confident that everything would turn out fine. Rees was just learning how to bet on the election-related markets, and listeners kept writing in to find out how Kimball’s pet parakeet was doing. Bets were placed on whether Donald Trump would drop out of the race before the end of August, and then the end of September.

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Gradually, almost imperceptibly, everything shifted. Rees became more and more irascible, half-jokingly “banning” various acquaintances and strangers who he disagreed with from listening to the podcast. Kimball’s anxiety was increasingly audible, as he invested more money in markets that weren’t quite moving as he had expected. Kine, originally an off-air producer, started appearing on mic to celebrate her unexpected successes on PredictIt.org and to air her concerns about the direction of the race. Her final contribution was an impassioned plea to any women hearing the last episode not to wait for permission to start their own projects.

And then it finished. With a mixtape of topical remixes and pledges to canvass harder in future, Election Profit Makers came to an end. Unlike FiveThirtyEight Elections, which will continue analysing political data through to the inauguration in January at least, EPM worked best as a limited season. It captured the mood of an extraordinary time with humour and grace, and I sincerely hope that Rees, Kimball and Kine will return with a new audio project in the future. But for now, there are no more profits left to be made, and no more waves to ride.

Do you have ideas for podcasts I should listen to or things I should write about? Email me or talk to me on Twitter. For the next instalment of the New Statesman’s podcast column, visit newstatesman.com/podcasts next Thursday. You can read the introduction to the column here