Hi Reddit!

I’m Molly Wood, a longtime lurker here and the host of Marketplace Tech. I’m here with Kai Ryssdal, who hosts Marketplace.

We appear on your public radio station every day, and once a week we combine forces for Make Me Smart. Our motto is “none of us is as smart as all of us.” That means no matter the topic, Kai and I, our guests and our listeners are all helping each other learn together. Some of our recent episodes have looked at ripple effects from tax cuts, bias on huge platforms like YouTube, and how spambots work. Next week, we’ll be hosting our biannual Explainathon, in which we attempt to answer as many of your questions about tech, the economy, etc., as we can in 30 minutes.

Before Marketplace I was a tech columnist at The New York Times and executive editor at CNET, where I hosted the long-running podcast “Buzz Out Loud.” Kai got into radio at the ripe old age of 34, when he interned at KQED in San Francisco. Before that, he was a foreign service officer and spent eight years as a fighter pilot in the Navy. He’s been hosting Marketplace since 2005.

Here’s my proof! And Kai’s.

We’re here to answer your questions about our show(s), the tech industry, the economy, beer, “Fortnite,” or anything else you want to know!

This AMA is part of r/IAmA*’s “Spotlight on Journalism” project which aims to shine a light on the state of journalism and press freedom in 2018. Join us for a new AMA every day in October.*

EDIT: We've got to head to the studio now. Thanks so much for all these great questions! This was really, really fun. Keep them coming and we'll try to answer a few more if time allows. Thanks again!

Comments: 771 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

ChappaQuitIt324 karma

I’m curious, why aren’t there any non-profit health insurance companies?

unau403 karma

That is a GREAT question. I'm writing it down for Make Me Smart research. (aka Pass to Tony)

roenick99269 karma

Hi Kai ( and Molly),

​ Did you ever get your answer as to why nobody was prosecuted following the 2008 financial crisis? I watched the documentary "Inside Job" the other day, so I already came to my own conclusion to answer that question, but I would love to see how the 3 insiders answer it.

unau255 karma

I also would like to know the answer to this.

Duke_Paul238 karma


What was something you thought you knew, then later found out you were wrong about?

unau249 karma

Ok, I guess it's time.

I thought that someone out there had the plan. Like, I thought there must be someone smarter than me who had a list in their head of all the right things you were supposed to do in life that produced the optimum outcome, and maybe that person would come along and take care of me or at least tell me what to do. And then I realized that nope. No one has a plan, no one can give me all the answers (though some people can give me SOME of the answers), and for the most part, I'm going to have to do things for myself. And at first I resented that, but then eventually I realized it was super freeing, because I'm in charge. Which is just how I like it. :)

unau46 karma

Dangit. Ok I opened this in a new tab and I'm going to come back to it right at the end ...

exfilm158 karma

Do you believe that the Trump administration is doing any real long-term damage to the global standing of the United States?

kai-ryssdal428 karma

So look. The president has made clear his distaste for multilateralism and international cooperation. That will have follow-on effects that'll last decades -- and it'll be reflected economically both in the US and in the global economy. The long term part is a sure thing. The extent of those effects is the unknown.

thegusdad393 karma

"So look...."

Kai types the way he talks!

unau288 karma

Hahaha ... I thought the same thing.

GreatGreenGeek136 karma

For both Kai and Molly:

What is a story you're dying to cover in your respective shows but haven't found a good economic/tech excuse to shoe horn into the daily programming meeting?

Love make me smart and both of your regular programs.

unau150 karma

I want to come back to this. There are so many. I think I've had to SLIGHTLY back off my space obsession because, while awesome, it's not like one million percent obviously a tech and business story? I mean, I think it is. But it's also very much in the realm of government. Still working on the right angles for that.

ZeusTroanDetected41 karma

I think there's a great angle exploring how the growing privatization of space...uh, stuff... could result in securing discoveries as intellectual property rather than a common good. Imagine if someone had a patent on GPS or protected these cancer-fighting technologies as trade secrets.

unau32 karma

I agree. I actually think it’s a huge nascent economy. I’ll get it in there. ;)

josecgomez102 karma

Why is the podcast so short? I miss Buzz out-loud style 1+ hour type of show. I know you guys are busy but I would love a once a week (or once a month) whole hour of news and discussion.

unau149 karma

I wonder if it's a once a month thing ... I can tell you that all these radio people are horrified by the idea of an hour-long show. I think there's some discipline that comes with a shorter show, and we actually want to be respectful of people's time. But I wouldn't mind occasionally doing a big blowout round table type thing. I'll ask the bosses!

exfilm92 karma

6 years on Reddit, no comments, and only this post, really Molly? Do you not use Reddit at all, are you a serious lurker, or is this just a play for massive karma?

In all seriousness, I love you guys, and I’m glad to see you here!

Edit: clarification

unau142 karma

LOL SERIOUSLY. I was actually quite embarrassed when I saw that. I ... don't know what happened. But I look at the app every day!! It's where I get all my tech and bitcoin news! I guess I'm just ... not a natural commenter? Hahaha

steffiliz60 karma

Maybe that's why you're so smart - listening more than speaking!

unau78 karma

Hahaha ... I'm gonna start saying that. That's definitely it. :)

Chtorrr76 karma

What would you most like to tell us that no one ever asks about?

unau122 karma

Aw. I love this question. Like, this is a really considerate question! I'm stumped for an answer but I want to acknowledge it because I love it. :)

Novashi69 karma

Got a take on the China hack yet?


Aside from the immediate market effects, how might it affect the White House's stance on China? Do you think they'll enact more tariffs, or will they consider another response?

unau141 karma

What I find interesting about that is the blanket DENIAL from Apple and Amazon and the US government. Not even a "we're looking into it." I've been at the dentist this morning (TMI) and now doing this, so I haven't dug too far into this. But I'm working on a thesis that basically we're all at cyber-war, all the time, and that's the new reality. That said, any excuse to keep hammering China will, I believe, be taken.

Travelisty64 karma

Am I a bad person for investing in the sin stock of tobacco believing that big tobacco is ready to roll out marijuana once nationwide legalization occurs? #MarlboroMarijuana

unau145 karma

Ohhhh, wow. That's ... I hadn't actually thought of that. It's a little mercenary but hey, way to play the system. ;) I'm going to be watching to see if that actually happens. Mind = blown. OH! Especially now that Juul and vaping are under attack! OMG THIS IS A THING.

WritersofRohan1758 karma

Hello, I love Marketplace and I support it monthly- thanks for all that you all do. 3 questions:

1)what do you two think is the best course of action on student loan debt? 2) which CEO would you more like to interview on the show? Any particular reason? 3) how would you suggest young people get more involved in economic journalism? 4) bonus: how big is the current bubble? Will mortgages pop it or something else?

Thanks again! You all are truly awesome

colenotphil9 karma

Second the Student Debt question, even though these guys aren't experts per se

unau24 karma

Oh my god you guys, Kai's answers are really good.

CoffeWithoutCream54 karma

How does the growing wealth gap relate to the strength of the economy?

unau162 karma

I think it's everything. Actually I want to go back and re-answer my last answer about economic calamity. The thing about wealth inequality is that rich people can't buy ALL THE THINGS IN THE WORLD. Our economy relies on consumption, and if there's no middle class to buy houses and cars and cable subscriptions and cell phones and televisions and organic kale and almond milk, then the whole thing falls apart. My opinion? Economic inequality is the single biggest threat we face as a society that ISN'T climate change.

essari37 karma

How many hours of research typically go into one of your episodes? Do you personally do the research, and if so, what advice would you give aspiring reporters/students/information seekers in the discovery and synthesis of big issue subjects?

Love both of your work!

unau69 karma

Thank god for producers, man. They do a ton of background work and dig up sources and prepare us with questions; we do a lot of giving-big-ideas-that-have-to-be-whittled-down-into-doable-episodes and we obviously mix up questions and thoughts and such on the fly when we're talking to people. But it's a big team thing. Shout out to Shara Morris goes here. :)

THAT SAID, we do a lot of research as well, and what I find is that like all journalism, the key to understanding a topic is MULTIPLE respected sources. I want to see at least three articles on a topic, and they can't just be from the last week or month. Historical context is KEY. Add a time frame to your search so you know what people were saying two years ago, or a decade ago.

And then I want to do a web search for rebuttals to a topic or argument, and a lot of times, I want to read the comments on those articles to see where people might disagree. You can get analysis paralysis if you consume TOO much, but I find that the key is to have a lot of possible arguments to a thesis in your head. Know where you want to push back so that you're prepared when you hear something that just doesn't make sense.

Chtorrr34 karma

What is the very best dessert?

unau73 karma

The cheese plate.

wingwang133 karma

Kai: I think you have a pretty good 'bullshit' meter. On a scale of 1 to 10, where do you put Ajit Pai, Jamie Dimon, Mnuchin, and any others that might stand out? Who seems genuine and who is just blowing hot air?

unau69 karma

I don’t know where Kai stands on this. But one thing I find helpful as a journalist is this maxim that my mom taught me: Every villain is the hero of his own story.

lula248832 karma

What's your "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" story?

unau44 karma


Actually, ok, this is kind of an answer to the question about what I want to shoehorn onto the show, but I think biohacking will start to fall into this territory reaaaal soon.

Honestly_28 karma

Hi Kai,

First of all, how did your parents pick “Kai” for your name?

Secondly—and Molly please feel free to give your opinion here as well—where do you place yourself in the NPR all-name team vis-a-vis Ofeibea Quist-Arcton and Sylvia Poggioli?

I think only the annual lists of college football all-name teams can compete with NPR on that topic.

unau56 karma

Well, I can say that when I was at the New York Times, I got featured in a roundup of "NYT staff with the most interesting names." So, take that Ofeibea. But seriously, who can compete with Saraya Sarhadi-Nelson?

rpgFANATIC25 karma

It seems like journalists that report news to the country are more frequently living in large cities - especially with the decline of local, regional newspapers.

Do you see challenges with bringing a fair, impartial integrity when you both report to the entire country?

How do you 'break out of your bubble' - especially with today's super-political climate - to make your journalism relatable and relevant to your listening audience around the country?

unau35 karma

This is such a good question and it bugs me every day. I mean, I actually think there are GREAT regional and local reporters that just don't get enough resource and attention. But just because a journalist might live in a big city doesn't mean they came from there (I use my experiences growing up in Montana and North Dakota all the time). I think it's more about how we hire, who we listen to, and the hard questions we ask ourselves around the editorial table every single morning. Like, who's this for??

ClydeDaGlide18 karma

You sometimes reach outside the normal realm of economics/government for interviews on your show (off hand I recall your interview with Urban Meyer). Do you either of you have a favorite interview from one of those “outsiders”?

unau34 karma

I LOVED George Lakoff on Make Me Smart. And April Reign, that was fantastic. And my favorite interview I've done on Tech and maybe ever was William Gibson and exploring the idea of tech inequality ("the future is here, it's just not very evenly distributed").

eldre03918 karma

What are steps technology companies can take shift their supply chains from China to avoid risk espionage and hacking? We cannot sprout up factories on the snap of a finger in the US..... In the future, will we all be paranoid our iPhones have microchips in them?

unau23 karma

There are so many things to be paranoid about when it comes to our phones. I don't know the answer to this, actually. But I also made a note because this is a really good question and story idea. So thank you :)

CasualSpider16 karma

Hey Kai,

I know you are a craft beer guy...so whats been on tap for you lately?


Any thoughts on using Reddit as a hub for housing Make Me Smart Listener Questions? I have heard you state before that you are unsure if FaceBook is the best platform to host your show.

Keep up the great work you two! Love the show (and your respective marketplace spots too)!

unau21 karma

I would love to create a Make Me Smart subreddit, that's an awesome idea. Tony, are you watching??? :)

cahaseler14 karma

Do you guys get as excited as we do when you hear the Marketplace intro tune? It's the best thing in public radio.

unau18 karma

I can tell you that, having filled in for Kai a lot of times, when I hear it, I basically talk along with him. Because: nerd.

colenotphil14 karma

Hey Molly and Kai! Let me first say, huge fan of Marketplace. I've been listening since my Dad played it in the car when I was 11, before I even remotely understood anything discussed. I am 24 now, and I listen so religiously, the show has had more staying power in my life than any other show, TV or radio. And as a another aside, noting your 10/2 episode of Make Me Smart, I thought you might find it funny I nicknamed my bong "Kai Ryssdal" a couple years back because I often listened to Marketplace while smoking after a long day at work. But I digress:

I want to ask about your interview with Ben Barnanke, Timothy Geithner, and Henry Paulson earlier this year, because there was a bit where the men were still on the defensive, arguing (and in paraphrasing here) that they truly thought what they were doing was the best for the American people. Yet still today I read a lot of opinions that there was not enough punishment of the bankers involved, and that we should have let the banks fail. Do you agree that, 10 years after the The Great Recession as some call it, there is still a great deal of dissonance between the decisions of these men, and the American public? What thoughts do you have on this matter? If you could ask them another question on this matter, what would it be?

Thanks again for holding that interview, I think more people need to listen, it was extremely informative and interesting.

unau19 karma

Man, this isn't for me, but I'm just jumping in to say I found that interview with the Big 3 to be SO fascinating and almost as like, tense and stressful as the "Too Big To Fail" movie. It seems so clear that the feelings and memories from those days are SO RAW. I think we'll be arguing about the right responses for ... decades.

MismatchedParens12 karma

Hi Molly and Kai, I love Make Me Smart! :)

How do you avoid talking over each other and your guests when everyone is physically in different places? Professional Radio Training (TM), good connections, magic?

unau17 karma

Hahaha ... at least some of it is the magic of editing. But we try to do a good job of ping-ponging our questions. And we use Slack to tell each other when we're going to either jump in or suddenly stop talking. Also yes, really fast Internet and a minimum of lag.

goletasb11 karma


What is your favorite IPA and why is it Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA?

Have you tried any Belgian beers that you like? I'm a huge fan of abbey style beers (Rochefort 10, Westmalle 12, St. Bernardus Abt. 12, etc.), and I fear for your beer literacy if your exposure to "Belgian" beers has been limited to things like Blue Moon.

Finally, to you both– what do you think our current top 3 contenders are for the next economic calamity?

unau21 karma

I'm gonna say aliens. Aliens, for sure.

No seriously, I don't now. I feel like, and Kai can correct me here, but I feel like every economic calamity is basically the SAME economic calamity, right? Out of control systems with not enough checks and balances and a credulous public. So if I had to guess, I guess i'd say that.

Duke_Paul11 karma


We're really excited to have you here! Have you come up with a name for your new between-the-cracks stories segment? My vote is for the BetamaX-Files, which doesn't really fit, but it seems like it would be a good name for a segment on Marketplace Tech. Also, how do you feel about your son having a Twitter account? Finally (for now), how exhausting was it doing a daily podcast?

unau7 karma

Ooooooh. The Betamax is super funny! No, I'm stumped on that segment name. Keep the ideas coming because ... I don't know. Maybe it's just like, "and also this?"

awwstn9 karma

In what ways do you think public radio – and terrestrial radio in general – will change in the next ten years?

unau23 karma

Smart cars! I think the upgrade cycle of cars, which will introduce more and more connected features, is going to profoundly change how people consume radio. Right now it's still kind of hard to connect your phone and find the right podcast and this and that, at least I think so, but when voice really works, and you hop in and say, "play this or that," it'll be a game changer. I think LOCAL radio stations would be wise to start promoting themselves nationally, if they have a cool niche (like the Current from Minneapolis, which we all streamed when Prince died). Because I think radio will no longer be confined to certain regions once you can stream anything anywhere super easily. The rights conversations are gonna get crazy though ...

moneybaby7 karma

What other podcasts do you guys listen to/recommend?

unau20 karma

Even though it's competition, I really like the Pro Rata podcast from Axios. And I listen to Up First every morning. And shout out to a new show called Under the Hood -- our old producer Jennie Josephson is working on it! It's all about women's issues and pregnancy and just like, being a lady in the world today. It's a fantastic show. Prepare to be kind of shocked now and then. :)

ZeusTroanDetected6 karma

What is an optimistic or positive story or trend that you don't think is getting enough attention?

unau17 karma

So one annoying thing about the news business that I also find kind of hopeful is this. Part of the reason so much bad news gets reported is that it's ... unusual. That's a good thing, I guess, right? It's rare for planes to crash or fires to happen or people to get murdered. So that's what surfaces. And then it gets easy to forget that more people are better off now than at any point in history, ever. People are helping each other and living longer and raising money for their schools and painting murals and giving each other thoughtful gifts ... I don't know. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed I say I'm just gonna play small ball. I'm going to focus on the little and good life that I live. And also I read that new New York Times thing they started that's about good news. That's not a specific answer. But ... there you go.

Jose_Monteverde6 karma

Hi Kai and Molly! Make Me Smart junkie here

Questions for both:

  • What conservative media sources do you recommend?
  • Will there be any Make Me Smart merch soon? I'd wear it with pride!
  • Thanks to listening to you guys, I've been able to discern bot activity on places including this one, did you ever chat with Jonathan Haidt about any potential informed solutions for this? Would love to hear him on the show again
  • I play an instrument called Charango and wanna learn to cover the theme music. Could you share the name of the song? I had trouble finding it using my mobile
  • Thank you both so much for making me smarter <3


  • Any books on philosophy that you have read and would recommend?
  • How do you feel about the show Rick and Morty and their touch on nihilism and existentialism? Is that something you find a particular interest in from a philosophical rather than economics perspective?


  • You make me laugh so much on the show, keep the singing coming!
  • What do you think of the new interactivity between robotics and low-latency Telepresence?. Do you think AI could play a role in this space? I wear one of these on my forehead
  • Do you have a favorite robot?
  • What Bourbon do you recommend I buy next?

Bonus question:

I'm fixated on this article that reports that California is banning bots pretending to be human


The measure bans automated accounts from pretending to be real people in order to "incentivize a purchase or sale of goods or services in a commercial transaction or to influence a vote in an election," effective July 1, 2019. Automated accounts will still be able to interact with users, but they will have to disclose that they are not, in fact, humans, according to NBC.

Is this even something that can be enforced? Would love to hear your thoughts

Lastly, Thanks again for everything you guys teach us. Cheers!

Edit: wording, typos, spelling

unau10 karma

Jose, you might be too smart for us. Every one of these questions is a story idea. :)

miamivt5 karma

The four major sports in the US are

  1. Football
  2. Basketball
  3. Baseball
  4. Hockey

Will we ever see Soccer make it into the top four (in the next 25 years)? And/or, is there going to be re-ordering of these sports based on further CTE research?

unau28 karma

How has soccer not ALREADY overtaken hockey? No disrespect to hockey, I really like it, but I feel like I see a lot more about soccer. That ... might be my bubble, though. I do think it's coming up, and I do think football is going to slide. But gradually. Although can we talk about this baseball playoff system and what a hot mess it is!? My Oakland A's have a better record than any team in the NL and didn't make the playoffs AND had to play that stupid one-game wild card game? That makes no sense. Send the top four teams to the playoffs, NBA style. Done and done.

Oops, I'm off topic. OR AM I?

saltblock4 karma

Hey Kai, what’s your beef with the new bagel emoji?

unau3 karma

I mean, that does look like a pretty flavorless bagel.

Crell3 karma

As the hosts of your various shows, you've said before that you're "just the talent" and "don't let the talent run the show". (I forget which episode that was on, but I know you said it.)

So... how much editorial input do you have on a regular basis? Do you get to approve every story you do, how it's edited, etc., or do they just hand you a script and say "here, read this and go home"? I'm assuming it's somewhere in the middle, but quite curious where.

(This question is for both of you, so feel free to answer separately.)

unau3 karma

HA, Kai says that. I'm more likely to say, "I'm the annoying talent who thinks she's a producer." :) Actually my favorite thing about both Make Me Smart and Tech, and about Marketplace in general, is that we're not a "just the talent" shop. At all. The thing I love MOST about my job is the editorial autonomy. It's a rare and beautiful thing.

ModusPwnins3 karma


How long did it take you to perfect your trademark "...huh.", and do you find yourself using it more lately in the current political and economic climate?

Molly and Kai,

Do you have a favorite thing that you have learned while making Make Me Smart?

unau5 karma

To this day and still, my favorite thing I learned on Make Me Smart was all about Columbia River Bar Pilots with Debbie Dempsey. :) But truthfully, this podcast has been a good REMINDER about how great a great community is, and how much they make our show better.

GraniteRambler3 karma

Hey Molly and Kai, thanks for being here! Love the show.

My question is... What is Janet Yellen thinking right now?

On a more serious note – any general reactions to the growing popularity of socialism particularly among younger generations? Is this a temporary reactionary movement or does it harbor the potential for substantive reform to our system? What's still missing from the conversation?

unau6 karma

Such a great question and ANOTHER story idea. I get the feeling isn’t actually that new in American culture for college kids to be kind of socialist, so it might be idealism at work. I guess the one question it still has the answer is how do you pay for it. But I do think we are having real conversations about reforming capitalism, and I hope they go somewhere.

PS I wish Janet Yellen could call this new guy and tell him to quit raising interest rates cuz I’d really like to buy a house. :/

TheToastIsBlue1 karma

How much money would it take for you to willingly be incarcerated in a metropolitan jail for 6-months with no notice? Does that amount change if a private corporations is making a profit off if your sentence?

(Also I'm a huge fan of your program and listen to it regularly while walking to work)

unau2 karma

Is this like a Reddit trap question? Like would I fight a bunch of tiny ducks or one giant duck? :)