Lily BuiEngineering Gotham From Below: A Mole’s Eye View

Lily Bui posted on Friday, November 22nd, 2013 | Blog, STEM Story Project | No Comments

This post is part of PRX’s STEM Story Project series.


The New York City Subway is one of the most complex engineering feats in American History. In 1904, it spread out the dense population at the southern tip of Manhattan and has since fueled the city’s growth. In Engineering Gotham From Below, hear how the first subway system was engineered and its current expansion from the MTA’s chief engineer, historians, and the tunnel workers who make it possible.

In a conversation with PRX, producer Bishop Sand shared the inspiration behind the story:

“When I first moved to NYC, I loved the idea that I could get anywhere via the subway. The subway seemed to be this infinitely large passageway that I’d never fully explore. I remember riding in the front of the C train, where there is a window facing forward onto the tracks, thinking that there was an entire world of utilities and sub-tunnels down there. Then I wondered–how this was ever built with the city buzzing above and around it?”

With so much to say about a subway system that is one of the oldest in the U.S. (preceded only by Boston’s MBTA green line), it was a challenge to decide what information to include or exclude. One noteworthy aspect of production that was included, however, was Bishop’s interview with the Sandhogs, the guys who “do the dirty jobs that nobody else can do” and improve the subway for those who take public transit. (The myriad of improvements to work on may surprise you.)

“[They work in] the ‘hog house,’ where the workers change into their work clothes before they go into the tunnels. Inside, guys who knew each other for years asked about families, told jokes, and gave a lot of support to each other when someone was injured…The interview was done in small room, in between off-color jokes that would never make it radio…”

After about half an hour of trying to gather stories from the Sandhogs, Bishop began to realize that what we may see as an impossible feat is just like any other ordinary day.

“To them, their normal day’s work doesn’t seem like anything worth talking about and yet it is almost superhuman for most people.”

Lean in and listen to the story about the engineering of New York’s underbelly.

Image: Wikimedia

JakeWelcoming Janet Balis to the PRX Board of Directors

Jake posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 | Blog, PRX | No Comments


Please join me in welcoming Janet Balis as our newest member of the PRX board of directors!

Janet is an accomplished digital media executive who has just started a new position as Chief Revenue Officer at Betaworks in New York City.  Prior to Betaworks Janet most recently served as Publisher of the Huffington Post and held senior roles at Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Time, Inc. and Aol.

Janet is on the board of Advertising Women of New York (AWNY), a founding member of Women in Media Mentoring Initiative (WIMMI) and a board member at the International Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“I’ve been an avid public radio listener my whole life,” says Janet. “I’m excited to join PRX as an innovative organization defining new models for public media content, distribution and engagement.”

Janet joins PRX board members Henry Becton, Torey Malatia, Susan McKeever, Ashton Peery, Jake Shapiro, and Bruce Warren.

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GenevievePop Up Archive is Live

Genevieve posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 | Blog, Press Releases | No Comments

Pop Up Archive has arrived. The platform for archiving audio has been in beta since April of this year, and after months of feedback and tweaking, is open to all.

The service — a lightweight web application developed by Pop Up Archive with PRX — allows content creators to store, search, and access audio files from anywhere, with additional features like automatic transcription, keyword generation, and timestamped search.

Plans are available for both individuals and organizations (like public radio stations!). Indies, head on over to to get started. (By the way, Pop Up Archive is integrated with PRX so individuals can log right in with their current PRX accounts.)

Media organizations, newsrooms, and archives: check out Pop Up Archive’s time-saving enterprise services.

Questions, comments, or anything audio on your mind? Let Pop Up Archive know.

Get the official word below in the press release, and see you in the Archive!


November 20, 2013
Media Contact: Anne Wootton,, 510 463 4066,

Pop Up Archive lends a new (searchable) voice to sound

Oakland, CA ­­ The web is getting noisier — but sound is trapped on servers and hard drives, untranscribed and unheard. Pop Up Archive has built simple tools to help journalists and media organizations find and reuse sound.

Developed with the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) through support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Pop Up Archive is a workspace and audio search tool for journalists, archivists, and the institutions supporting them.

Pop Up Archive is:
● Immediate automatic transcription
● Keyword extraction and tagging
● Time­stamped search results
● Transcript refinement

Pop Up Archive enterprise features include:
● Mass ingest
● Archival processing and metadata creation
● Newsroom integration
● Team access
● Publishing to third­parties
● Long­term digital preservation at the Internet Archive (
● Amara ( for perfect transcripts and translations.

Pop Up Archive is lightweight, designed to fit individual workflows and some of the biggest media collections in the world. Pop Up Archive began with rigorous user research across media industries and archives. Initial partners and clients of the service include Illinois Public Media, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Pacifica Radio Archives, and the Studs Terkel complete radio archive, curated by the WFMT Radio Network and the Chicago History Museum.

“As radio and history lovers, we support the creators and archivists who make and preserve our collective memory,” said Pop Up Archive co­founder, Bailey Smith. “Around the office, we talk about the magic of serendipity — what we discover and create when voices from the present and past are searchable. Pop Up Archive liberates undiscovered sound.”

“PRX is excited to collaborate with Pop Up Archive to develop this innovative service,” said Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX. “We share Anne and Bailey’s vision of preserving and expanding a diversity of voices from radio and beyond, and will use PRX’s distribution platform to ensure that exceptional stories reach audiences everywhere.”

“Pop Up Archive is the smart solution we’ve been waiting for. The team is ahead of the curve in ways that make our job easier and our team more effective,” said Joaquin Alvarado, Chief Strategy Officer, Center for Investigative Reporting.

“Archiving and preserving audio is an ongoing challenge for content creators; tackling the issue becomes even more important as technologies continue to evolve,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism and media innovation. “With its entrance into the mainstream market, Pop Up Archive is filling a major gap—providing newsrooms, journalists and others with an easy way to apply audio to enrich the quality and breadth of their storytelling.”

About Pop Up Archive
Pop Up Archive inspires the next generation of media by giving a new voice to audio on the web. Co­founders Bailey Smith and Anne Wootton’s first challenge was thirty years of unsearchable audio from San Francisco producers The Kitchen Sisters. The result: simple tools that organize sound through automatic transcription, tagging, and search indexing. Pop Up Archive is a winner of the 2012 Knight News Challenge: Data and is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, in addition to serving on the Innovation Working Group of the Library of Congress National Digital Stewardship Alliance.

About PRX
PRX is an award­winning nonprofit public media company, harnessing innovative technology to bring compelling stories to millions of people. operates public radio’s largest distribution marketplace, offering thousands of audio stories for broadcast and digital use, including The Moth Radio Hour, Sound Opinions, State of the Re:Union, Snap Judgment, and WTF with Marc Maron. PRX Remix is PRX’s 24/7 channel featuring the best independent radio stories and new voices. PRX is also the leading mobile app developer for public media, with apps such as Public Radio Player, Radiolab, This American Life, WBUR, KCRW Music Mine, and more.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation advances journalism excellence in the digital age through an array of media innovation projects and other initiatives. For more, visit

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. Because democracy demands wisdom, NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars.

JonesPRX at Ten / Where Are They Now: Kiera Feldman, Rockstar Journalist

Jones posted on Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 | Blog, PRX at Ten | No Comments

This post is part of PRX at Ten’s Where Are They Now series about former PRX staff.

Back when Generation PRX started YouthCast in 2006 — a podcast to showcase the best in youth-produced radio — we decided to look for a smart host who could reach both youth and adult audiences. Kiera Feldman – who began in youth radio at KBOO and was a Brown University junior at the time – basically blew the lid off what we asked for and elevated the job to art form. Funny, talented and whip-insightful, we knew Kiera was destined for greatness. Now a freelance reporter for the Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund, we asked Kiera to share what she’s been up to since the good ol’ YouthCast days.

From Kiera:

Kiera Feldman, former YouthCast host, current rockstar reporter

I often find myself returning to something I read in a Transom essay some years back. “Radio is my first love,” wrote Gwen Macsai, “and like a first love, no matter how far you stray and no matter how badly it ended, your heart still skips a beat when it walks through the door.”

Back when I hosted PRX’s alt.NPR YouthCast podcast (2007-2008), I thought of myself first and foremost as a Radio Person. I’d be making annual pilgrimages to public radio conferences ’til I died, I thought. But these days, my shotgun mic is stashed away beneath my bed, still a treasured possession but more of a relic from another time. (It’s an AT835b, because I know you want to know.)

To recap: after graduating college in 2008, I moved to Brooklyn because it was a thing people did. I found a new extracurricular: producing segments for a progressive radio collective on WBAI called Beyond the Pale, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. (That first year, I also worked on PBS documentaries and as a fill-in producer at WNYC.) I was the only 20-something in the lefty radio collective, which meant I’d get goaded into doing all the stories that involved young people and going into the belly of the beast. I was a Radio Person working with print people on a volunteer-run show, and gradually I became a print person, too. It started with doing magazine versions of radio stories, like this n+1 story about Jews for Jesus.

The thing was, in the radio world, there just wasn’t much opportunity to do longform narrative storytelling of the muckraking variety–which I discovered was what really made me tick. But that’s a thing you can do in magazines, and I’m deeply indebted to radio: my ear for dialogue, being able to pull off the print version of the perfect tape-to-tape transition, being able to do interviews where you get people to recount events so that you can reconstruct it as a scene later (the Ira Glass “and then what did you say? And then what did she say? And what was going through your mind?” approach), and on and on.

Lots of my stuff is on my website, but here are some highlights:

+ The story I’m most proud of: “Grace in Broken Arrow,” about child sex abuse cover-up at an Oklahoma megachurch. (Over at the Nieman Foundation, I laid out some of my thoughts and working theories about trauma reporting, investigative narrative, and the tremendous honor and responsibility of being entrusted with vulnerable people’s stories.)
+ “The Romance of Birthright Israel” in The Nation. The story was funded by the awesome and amazing Investigative Fund, which is supporting a few of my current projects (thus making it possible to be a freelance investigative reporter).
+ The last radio story I did–a dispatch from the Birthright trenches–and it is pretty funny, I must say.
+ “Living the American Dream in the West Bank” for VICE: about New Yorkers who become West Bank settlers (“the long white flight,” I called it in a follow-up story).

kerriCheers to WFIU: Indiana Member Station and Regular Royalty Earner

kerri posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 | Blog, PRX at Ten | No Comments

PRX is home to the largest open marketplace of independent public radio content. Stations of all sizes buy weekly shows, specials, short pieces, and long documentaries. We take pride in the quality and variety of content that stations can buy and present to their audiences.

Stations are also active producers. One of our founding objectives was to make good on the “X” part of PRX. The exchange was intended for stations, recognizing their dual role as consumers and producers.

This is why we’ve been watching WFIU of Bloomington, Indiana. They have been a consistent royalty earner on PRX, often in the top 20 each quarter.

What makes WFIU stand out? They post several regular series on PRX and the royalties have added up. At this point, WFIU has made back their PRX membership two times over. Yep, more than double.

WFIU has been broadcasting since 1950 bringing classical music and jazz to southern Indiana. They are charter members of NPR, showing their early and deep roots in public service. Back in 2004, they joined PRX and quickly saw us as a distribution path as well as a valuable catalog from which to select material.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with PRX — it gives smaller stations like ours a great opportunity to get to much larger audiences and helps other stations extend their programming resources.” -Will Murphy, Program Director

So today we salute WFIU – they are producing great content locally and distributing it nationally. PRX helps them get it out into the world… and monetize it!

(Hey, other stations! The lesson here: charge for your pieces! Choosing zero points is okay for a one-off special, but if you do a weekly series, we encourage you to charge points so you make royalties.)

Lily BuiTracking the Secret Life of Soot: Sediment Surveillance

Lily Bui posted on Friday, November 8th, 2013 | Blog, PRX, STEM Story Project | No Comments

This post is part of PRX’s STEM Story Project series.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 11.07.27 AM

For a long time, scientists have known that breathing in soot from vehicles and power plants is bad for us. But the soot itself might not be the problem—at least not entirely. Scientists have found that particles live a ‘secret life’ once released into the atmosphere, picking up toxic gases and other hitchhikers before making their way into our lungs.

In researching Tracking the Secret Life of Soot, producer Reid Frazier was struck by how the scientists he spoke with described the properties of soot as it ages in the atmosphere. Their words of choice were “sticky” and “gooey,” not exactly the most scientific terms in the book! “It struck me as a wonderful way to describe the process–it’s visceral,” he explains.

But how to convey that through audio? Then one day, Frazier had an idea:

“I was at home writing the script one day when I looked at my garden—really, just a patch of untended flowers and weeds. I got an idea. I dug a hole, filled it up with water, then took my shoes off and stood in the muddy pit I’d created. I turned my mic on to capture the mucky, suction-y sound of me trying to lift my feet out. This is how I made that goopy sound you here in the background of the story as one of the scientists explains what happens to a soot particle in the atmosphere. It was the most fun you can have working—getting to walk barefoot in the mud. And it made great ‘gooey’ audio.”

Since Reid’s piece came out, a new study from MIT found that 53,000 people a year die prematurely because of automobile pollution in the U.S., compared to 34,000 people a year who die in traffic accidents.

Air pollution has also been implicated in low birth weight (and subsequent health problems and premature death), 430,000 premature deaths per year in Europe, and 4,655 premature deaths in São Paulo in 2011. Emissions from cars are a major cause of Beijing’s infamous smog.

Learn more about the secret life of soot and other particles in the air around us by listening to Reid’s piece.

Want to help monitor local air quality? A new citizen science project named AirCasting allows you to use your smartphone to record and share data about the air quality around you.

Image from EarthTimes.

AudreyMore Meta Moth Moments

Audrey posted on Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 | Blog, PRX | No Comments

A few months ago, our colleague Rebecca Nesson threw her name in the hat to tell a story at one of the Cambridge Moth storySLAMS. Her story was so exceptional that it led to her telling her story at a Moth Mainstage show at the Somerville Theater. And this week, the story is featured in the Moth podcast!

By day Becca works on PRX’s mobile apps, including of course The Moth app.

We all knew Becca was a talented developer but we didn’t know how gifted she was as a storyteller. Proof is in the puddin’. Listen and enjoy.

Here’s Becca on The Moth’s homepage this week!

kerriThrowback Thursday: The First Earners on PRX

kerri posted on Thursday, October 24th, 2013 | Blog, PRX at Ten | No Comments

May 21, 2003. Steve and Phil setting up the PRX server.

In the ten years since PRX launched, over 112,000 individual pieces have been purchased in the marketplace. Just think about that. In our relatively small public media world, that is a lot of decisions regarding a lot of content.

Back in 2003, there was little to no market for the exchange and payment of non-network public radio content. We took a leap of faith in assuming stations were hungry for a diverse array of content and were willing to pay for it. PRX set out to reduce the friction of each transaction. That hypothesis has proved correct. PRX has distributed over $2M in payments to producers over this span of time. We can boldly claim that without PRX, this money would not have been paid to so many audio content producers.

Back in 2003 we introduced (and still use) PRX points. Stations pre-buy point packages (much like buying tickets at a fair) then they can spend those points on content that best suits their audience. The cost of points is on a sliding scale, so that small stations can get access to excellent content. PRX subsidizes royalties for some of the smallest stations.

As we reflect on our 10-year milestone, we are taking a thorough look at the economy we built. Today, the exchange of paid content is commonplace.

The first batch of royalties ever paid (January 2004) totaled $4,414. We pay almost 70 times that amount each year now. Back then we calculated each check individually and sent paper statements using mail merge. Looking at the first list of payees below, we are reminded that PRX was built for multiple users – individual producers, organizations and stations. I look at this list often – as a reminder of the producers who took the leap of faith with us and as a call to action to continue improving our service.

Many of these first royalty earners are still selling their work on PRX today:

Ten years in, we are rebuilding the PRX website for the fourth time. We’ve listened, learned and matured. Chip in your two cents with our user survey and help us continue serving you.

JonesWhat is PRX NXT?

Jones posted on Monday, October 21st, 2013 | Blog, PRX | No Comments

Originally posted on Generation PRX.

At PRX HQ, we’ve been talking about how to improve PRX in a number of ways, including some exciting changes to profile pages, audio and, ultimately, listening. It’s a project we’re calling PRX NXT. We asked Director of Project Management Matt MacDonald, who heads up the project, to break it down.

GPRX: Take it from the top: What is PRX NXT?

Matt MacDonald, developer smarty man

Matt: PRX NXT is a significant refresh and update to the website, improving the publishing process and creating brand new piece and producer profile pages with a focus on increasing listening.

GPRX: What are the biggest changes producers will notice as it rolls out?

Matt: Producers will notice that piece pages will be updated to make it much easier for people to listen to their stories and share their work. We know that visitors to PRX often first experience a producers work via a piece page, that essentially a piece page is a homepage for PRX and the producer. With that in mind we’re focusing on designing that page to encourage more listening. Right now when you visit a PRX piece page it is very much geared toward the marketplace, producers selling pieces and stations buying pieces. The most visible change will probably be how much we’re improving the listening experience.

GPRX: How will these changes help producers get audio work out in the world?


Matt: I’d say the most important change that we’re making relates to the listening experience. has always been an open and transparent marketplace and the listener community has just sort of come along for the ride. With PRX NXT we are creating a world-class listening destination for professional audio and storytelling producers. We want to make sure that when a producer points someone to their PRX piece or producer profile that they get a great listening experience.

GPRX: Anything else we should know?

Matt: We’d love to hear what producers at all stages of their career and experience level need to improve their work and build audience. Whether you are looking to become a professional producer or a skilled hobbyist, we want to make sure that PRX is the home for your audio stories.

Have an opinion? Fill out the PRX Producer Survey.

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JakeWelcoming Matter Two

Jake posted on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 | Blog, PRX Projects | No Comments

We are excited to announce Matter Two!

This was an extraordinarily competitive and rigorous selection process. Hundreds of startups applied from across the U.S. and from around the world. It’s clear that word of Matter has spread, and our focus on mission, our design thinking and entrepreneurship program, and our growing community of mentors and partners is a beacon for many remarkable entrepreneurs.

We conducted in-person interviews with the top 48 semi-finalists and then selected 20 finalists to complete an 8-hour design thinking assignment that tested key assumptions about the desirability, feasibility, and viability of their ventures.

And then we jumped into a round of intensive follow-up conversations, product demos, code reviews, reference checks, due diligence, and many, many, internal discussions about our choice.

We are so proud of the result – Matter is investing in 7 media startups that will change media for good:

Connu helps emerging writers find, connect with, and monetize audiences through publishing the best new short stories.
Contextly enables publications of all sizes to be both informative and viable in the age of drive-by readers by marrying editorial wisdom to the power of algorithms.
Creative Action Network is a marketplace for artists, causes and supporters to harness their talents for good by creating, buying and sharing original, crowdsourced creative content and merchandise.
Formidable Corp. bursts the filter bubble to help connect you to people outside of your social circle.
GetCast empowers creative professionals to take control of their careers by connecting them through a platform that helps them showcase their work, hone their craft, and collaborate on a global scale.
Hacklog empowers individual journalists to be more relevant to their audiences, impactful with their stories, and in charge of their careers by providing honest analytics.
Woopie (Write Only Once, Publish It Everywhere) empowers writers and publishers to easily reach their audiences on all devices and platforms through a digital content publishing tool focused on responsive design.

Last week, these 15 mission-driven entrepreneurs packed up their lives and converged on their new home in San Francisco. They traveled from as far as Finland, Argentina, and Ireland and from as close as SOMA and the Mission. Matter has officially gone international.

Their journey kicked off with an intense, week-long bootcamp focused on building scalable media ventures using a human-centered and prototype-driven process.

The experience not only gave our entrepreneurs the tools and mindsets they’ll need to navigate the “drunken walk of the entrepreneur,” but also established the culture and community that will provide the true acceleration of the Matter experience.

Now, we drive to Demo Day. Each team with unveil their products on Feb. 20 in San Francisco and on Feb. 25 in New York City.

Where you see the teams now is just a snapshot in time. Each team will constantly iterate on its product, its distribution strategy, and its business model by getting out into the world, testing its assumptions, and gaining traction with their customers. The application process was all about testing to see if they could do that.

Each day they will be a step closer to hitting the sweet spot of feasibility, viability, and desirability. We are excited to see where they end up.

The adventure has just begun.

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