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Case Study: Esquire Classic Podcast for Broadcast

Podcast to broadcast.

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Todd Mundt

We kick around this notion all the time at PRX: can the stories and styles that work so well in the highly intimate podcast medium also work in the mass form of radio?

Some do, some really don’t, and I am skeptical of podcast-to-broadcast working in every case. But KUOW in Seattle is one of those daring stations that’s willing to try something at least once. A few weeks back Todd Mundt, managing producer at KUOW, reached out to PRX saying he’s a big fan of the Esquire Classic podcast that we produce with Esquire magazine.

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 5.58.46 PMEvery two weeks, Esquire editor Tyler Cabot, host David Brancaccio (and anchor of the Marketplace Morning Report from APM), producer Curtis Fox and I select a nonfiction story from the Esquire archives. The Esquire Classic podcast then dissects the story and its background—the assignment, editing, twists and turns—and its newfound context in the 21st century. Cindy Katz, an actor, usually reads excerpts live and David interviews an expert: the article’s original  author, editor, or someone else who really knows the material.

Todd suggested trying an episode for broadcast in Seattle. “The larger KUOW view is that we find, curate and present the most interesting content from wherever we can get it,“ he said. That mindset attracted him to an episode about a Tom Wolfe story profiling Silicon Valley pioneer Robert Noyce. Noyce was a major developer of the silicon chip, and helped create the entrepreneurial culture that we now associate with innovation. Brancaccio interviewed acclaimed tech reporter Kara Swisher of Re/code for the podcast.

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Robert Noyce

“It was a moment to present a story the [Seattle] audience would find interesting,” said Todd. “This was a creation moment for Silicon Valley, the whole ethos of it, and Kara is in a unique position as a chronicler. With Brancaccio known to the audience, you have it all come together.”

The challenge was to take a 30-minute podcast and make it sound right on air. Todd worked with producers Caroline Chamberlain and Curtis Fox to break the podcast into four sections. Caroline had to craft tight and contextual host leads that really fit each excerpt. “We chose to serialize [the podcast], and that is harder. As you get deeper in, you get to parts two or three or four, and you have to do more backfilling of information in host intros, which we try to keep to no more than 25 seconds,” said Todd. He and Caroline went through many drafts. The Esquire Classic excerpts ran on consecutive days within a cutaway in All Things Considered (ATC). “It worked because I think of ATC as a bit of a step back from the day’s news. Plus our listening is high then.”

PRX is interested in working with other stations on this notion of podcast-to-broadcast. If you are station that’s game for surprising your audience with newly contextualized, original content, please get in touch at john@prx.org. You can find all the Esquire Classic episodes on PRX.org.

Written by John Barth, chief content officer at PRX.

What’s in My Buds? Featuring Craig Newmark from craigslist

Craig Newmark is the founder of craigslist. He is a self-described nerd, web pioneer, speaker, philanthropist, and advocate of technology for the public good. Craig has had an illustrious career, but it’s not widely known that he’s also a longtime podcast enthusiast, and a Radiotopia lover. When we dropped him an email, Craig told us, “I love the written word, and hearing it performed across areas that fascinate me. That includes storytelling, history, and comedy. With podcasts, I get to enjoy whenever I like.”

Photo credit: Bleacher+Everard

We talked to Craig about some of his favorites.

What is your go-to podcast and why?
That’d be a combination of WTF with Marc Maron, Judge John Hodgman, and Welcome to Nightvale. That included The Thrilling Adventure Hour [now sunsetted]; I miss it a lot.

All very smart, funny, and articulate.

What show do you fall asleep to?
Most often it’s WTF; it depends on what’s newly available, and my mood.

What show do you wake up to?
I might complete what I had been listening to while sleeping, but then I go to either NPR One, or the local streams from KQED, WNYC, or WAMU, depending on where I am.

What is your favorite listening environment?
In bed, or walking to work.

What show do you rave to your friends about?
WTF, Welcome to Nightvale, The History of English, The History of Rome, The Thrilling Adventure Hour. Those are what come up in conversation.

How would you describe a podcast to a six-year-old?
It’s people talking, like radio, whenever you feel like listening. (Not sure if six-year-olds know what radio is).

Who is your favorite podcast personality?
A combination of Cecil Baldwin, Marc Maron, John Hodgman, Mike Duncan.

Some of Craig’s favorites

If you were to start your own podcast what would the subject be?
Maybe what being a 1950’s, old-school nerd is about, but that subject is limited.

What is a podcast that doesn’t currently exist that you think should?
I need something that I enjoyed as much as The Thrilling Adventure Hour or The Bugle.

If you’re not listening to a podcast, what do you put on to listen to?
Mostly NPR One, or the local streams from KQED, WNYC, or WAMU, depending on where I am.

 

 

 

 

David Sedaris On Michael Ian Black’s How to be Amazing

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How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black is a weekly, interview-style show where Michael sits down with some of today’s most provocative writers, entertainers, artists, innovative thinkers and politicians for humorous, thought-provoking conversations that dive into the creative process, and the intricate minds of some of the most influential voices of our time.

Today, the show releases the first episode of a two-part series with David Sedaris, a humorist, comedian, author, and radio contributor. In the episodes, Michael chats with David about his amazing life and career, and how growing up ‘Sedaris’ helped shape him. The first episode is particularly revealing, as David discusses how he crafts his stories and how his career as a writer and performer turned out to be so successful. He reveals how he developed his writing style, and how attending school with visual artists in Chicago helped hone his speaking style. He also describes attending author readings in college, which taught him what not to do when he was at the podium. David later goes on to painstakingly discuss the ways his audience can break his heart, and how he copes. He even reveals how much money he makes a year (seriously).

In part 2, launching December 30th, David talks at length about his father. He describes how hard his dad was on him growing up, and how that has actually made him grateful. It is incredibly poignant and unguarded.

Check out the first episode here.

 

2015 Radiotopia Holiday Gift Guide

Presenting the 2015 Radiotopia Gift Guide: the best presents for that audio nerd in your life.

Grab some goods from all 13 Radiotopia shows.

Posters, stickers, notebooks and more!

T-shirts Galore

Radiotopia

The Truth

99% Invisible

The Memory Palace
The Allusionist
Fugitive Waves from the Kitchen Sisters
Love+Radio
Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
Radio Diaries
Strangers
The Heart
Song Exploder
Mortified
Criminal

New Podcast: Orbital Path with Michelle Thaller

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Please welcome the newest podcast from PRX, Orbital Path.

Hosted by NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller, the series takes a look at the big questions of the cosmos and what the answers can reveal about life here on Earth. Space, stars, the universe, and us — for space lovers or just the curious.

The debut episode features the infamous Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, as Michelle and Phil talk about why aliens get the credit for almost everything unexplainable. And episode two is in the works with another guest you won’t want to miss.

Subscribe on iTunes and beyond.

Orbital Path is produced by award-winning reporter Lauren Ober based at WAMU in Washington, DC. Many thanks to the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for making the show possible, along with PRX’s STEM Story Project and Transistor, our podcast featuring science stories from reporters near and far.

Thank you, also, to Carl.

Reveal Podcast to Go Weekly in January

Reveal, the nation’s first investigative reporting radio series and podcast, will start releasing episodes on a weekly cadence beginning January 9, 2016.

PRX launched Reveal in conjunction with the Center for Investigate Reporting in January 2015, and saw a great deal of success in its first year. The show managed to inspire state and federal legislation, reforms in school policing, and additional attention to worker safety in the oil industry, among other things. With such high demand from audiences, CIR and PRX decided to produce more frequent episodes in order to raise the standard for investigative reporting.

Read the full details on the launch below:

“REVEAL,” NATION’S FIRST PUBLIC RADIO SERIES DEVOTED TO
INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM, EXPANDS TO WEEKLY EPISODES

Launched by CIR & PRX, Peabody Award-winning program ramps up frequency after its first year inspires reforms, policy changes, and debates nationwide

Emeryville, California– Capping a successful first year that inspired state and federal legislation, reforms in school policing, and additional attention to worker safety in the oil industry, “Reveal,” the nation’s first public radio show and podcast devoted to investigative reporting, will expand from monthly to weekly episodes beginning on January 9, 2016.

The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) and PRX launched “Reveal” as a monthly show in January 2015. The show’s instant impact on policy and growing popularity among radio and podcast audiences reflect the seamless and successful translation of CIR’s award-winning reporting to the audio format. Founded in 1977, CIR is the nation’s longest-running independent, multi-platform investigative reporting organization. PRX is the public media company that distributes programs like This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, and the Radiotopia podcast network.

Hosted by the award-winning Al Letson, creator of the public radio series “State of the Re:Union,” “Reveal” breaks down complex investigations into compelling, narrative-driven stories that inform, engage and often inspire audiences to act.

Each episode of “Reveal” is built around a theme and features an original investigative story along with related pieces that provide context, texture, and a deeper understanding of the topic. The show is based on reporting from CIR’s newsroom as well as from media partners around the world, and benefits from CIR’s signature approach to collaboration with other nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms including the Center for Public Integrity, Texas Tribune, The Houston Chronicle, New Hampshire Public Radio, WNYC, WAMU in Washington, D.C., Michigan Radio, and others.

The original “Reveal” pilot won a George Foster Peabody Award, one of broadcasting’s highest honors, for its September 2013 story about how the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs feeds veterans’ addictions to prescription opiates. Resulting policy changes resulted in 100,000 fewer veterans being prescribed opiates by the VA. Other episodes from the past year have led to increased accountability of oil companies for worker safety and the introduction of school police reforms in Virginia to protect students with behavior issues from abuse.

The new weekly version will be aired on major market stations in Seattle, Washington DC, San Diego, Miami and Boston, among others.

“For nearly forty years, CIR has set the bar for investigative reporting on multiple platforms, and we’re thrilled that our high standards have thrived in a new format, with a new generation of fans,” said Joaquin Alvarado, CEO of The Center for Investigative Reporting. “We look forward to having a platform on a weekly basis for the kind of high-impact journalism that holds the powerful accountable, shines a bright light on injustice, and protects the most vulnerable in our society.”

“‘Reveal’ has demonstrated its ability to deliver high-quality investigative stories that resonate with audiences on both an intellectual and emotional level,” said Kerri Hoffman, COO of PRX. “The increased frequency to a weekly program raises the standard for investigative reporting at a time when many news organizations are cutting back.”

Significant funding for “Reveal” comes from The Reva and David Logan Foundation, which in 2014 awarded CIR a three-year grant for the series, citing its founders’ commitment to investigative journalism as the “guardian of the public interest.” Other major supporters of Reveal include The Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Knight Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

About The Center For Investigative Reporting
The Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation’s first independent, multi-platform investigative reporting organization. Devoted to holding powerful interests accountable to the public trust, CIR creatively employs cutting-edge technology and innovative storytelling to reveal injustice, spark change at all levels of society and influence public dialogue on critical issues. CIR produces high-impact reporting across print, video, TV, radio and online platforms and is the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, winner of a 2013 Emmy Award and a 2014 George Foster Peabody Award, and a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2012 (for local reporting) and 2013 (for public service). Learn more at revealnews.org.

About PRX
PRX is an award-winning nonprofit public media company, harnessing innovative technology to bring compelling stories to millions of people. PRX.org operates public radio’s largest distribution marketplace, offering tens of thousands of audio stories for broadcast and digital use, including This American Life, 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 was created through a collaboration of the Station Resource Group and Atlantic Public Media, and receives support from public radio stations and producers, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and Knight Foundation. Follow us on Twitter at @prx.

What’s in My Buds? Featuring PRX’s Josh Swartz

We’re kicking off a new blog series this week called What’s in My Buds?  The series will profile different members of the audio community, and allow them to tell, in their own words, what podcasts and shows they love to listen to. Our hope is to help our readers to get to know these people on a more personal level, and, of course, to get new show recommendations. Follow the series on social using the hashtag #PRXInMyBuds.
Our first entry comes from Josh Swartz, the PRX Remix curator right here at PRX.

From Josh:

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I listen to a lot of audio each week. In fact, it’s quite literally my job. So I want to take a moment to invite you into my headphones and share some of what I’ve been hearing. Here’s my day*, wavelength by wavelength:

My alarm goes off at 7:20 a.m. to the sweet, silvery tones of Roman Mars’ voice – thanks, Radiotopia Ringtones! Then I jump on the train at 8:15. I’ve never been a morning person and I’m not a coffee drinker so by this point I need a pick-me-up. Cue Errthang, a variety show helmed by everything-man Al Letson. Poet, playright, comic book writer, former host of State of the Re:Union and current host of Reveal, Letson is an accomplished storyteller with a magnetic personality and Errthang is a perfect vehicle to showcase his talents. The show balances casual, lively conversation with highly-produced stories —a recommended substitute for caffeine.

Once I settle into the office I peruse the new stories posted to the PRX website. Two series have stood out recently: Scene On Radio and Cargoland.

Scene On Radio comes from John Biewen and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. It promises to feature past student work in combination with new stories, with an emphasis on active tape or “capturing the sounds of life happening,” as the description reads, in lieu of studio recording. The first handful of episodes are part of a sub-series called Contested, which aims to look at the world through sports. But these aren’t “sports stories,” per se. Or, at least, that’s not all they are. Biewen takes a wide tack and places the institution of sports as the object of inquiry, exploring the effect sports have on identity, community, and society. My favorite is Episode 2: Friends and Basketball, about the extent to which camaraderie on a girl’s high school basketball team transcends race and class status. Listen through to the end —it’s worth it.

Cargoland is a radio and podcast miniseries from Lu Olkowski and KCRW’s Independent Producer Project about the changes facing the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Olkowski does a masterful job providing a glimpse into the world of the thousands of workers whose lives revolve around cargo shipping containers. Believe me, this is not an area I knew anything about prior to listening; I was not aware that shipyards were used for any purposes other than Hollywood’s favorite backdrop for extravagant dance-offs, nefarious activity, or third-act fight scenes. But Cargoland made me care about this world and these people and I hope you give it a shot. Episode 4: The Pirate instantly became one of my favorite audio stories of all time. I’ll leave it at that.

It’s 3 p.m. and there’s a lull. I’ve listened to a lot of audio so far and my ears and brain are tired. I need a break from the stuff that requires energy to focus and absorb information. Enter The World According to Sound. I think of this show as the weird baby cousin once removed of Everything Sounds. Each episode is a 90-second story about sound like you’ve never heard: a French flatulent artist, a language made entirely of whistles or, my personal favorite, an Italian pop song sung entirely in gibberish English. They’re short, they’re fun, and they’re filled with super bizarre noises. A much appreciated break from the heavy stuff. It’s after 5 p.m. and I head home. I’m walking and in need of something with a beat to propel me forward. But I don’t turn straight to music. Instead I hit play on Out Of The Blocks, a collaboration between electronic musician Wendel Patrick and radio producer Aaron Henkin for WYPR. The idea is to profile one Baltimore city block at a time. Patrick’s original compositions weave together individual stories from each block to produce a rhythmic, surprisingly moving, thoroughly engaging result.

I walk through my front door and settle in for the night. But I don’t ditch my headphones just yet. All the sounds of the day swirl around my head as I flip the mental switch from curator to producer. I get to work on my own podcast, Bandwagon, a show profiling the followers of a different cultural phenomenon each season. I’m currently producing a slew of episodes featuring stories from the Bernie Sanders Campaign. The latest is about an ex-marine leading a contingent of veteran support for the campaign. Also…a kazoo band.

So there you have it – a snippet of what’s playing inside my headphones these days. But there’s lots more! For further recommendations email me at josh.swartz@prx.org or just tune in to PRX Remix, a never-ending storytelling channel featuring all the shows mentioned above and many, many similarly great ones.

*This day is based on true events

The Coin, the Quilt and the Superfan: Radiotopia Fundraising Lessons

Last week, PRX wrapped up its second major fundraiser for Radiotopia, our podcast network, and the results were astonishing. While last year’s Kickstarter brought in an impressive lump sum of money, the goal for this campaign was to obtain sustained monthly support in order to propel the network throughout the year.

Radiotopia often functions like a labwe mix content, personalities and styles to see what we can produce together. This campaign demonstrated, as experiments do, that even when you assemble the perfect components and prove your hypothesis, there are many lessons learned along the way.

challenge coin

Lesson #1: Stories and symbols are tied together.
Roman Mars is our guide to the beauty and intentionality of the world around us. He pulled back the curtain on the intricacies of flag design, and later on the meaning of coins. Military challenge coins serve as literal tokens of gratitude. They can symbolize everything from a nod of appreciation, to a deep personal connection, which we thought would make the perfect premium for our fans. Donors went crazy for the coinsword traveled fast across social media, and they quickly became our most sought-after reward. By the end of 30 days, we had nearly 10,500 people contribute to the challenge coin prize.

Excitement for the challenge coin reaches beyond 99% Invisiblethe coin has become a badge of gratitude from all of our shows.

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Lesson #2: We are defined by the company we keep.
First, we had the necessary support and infrastructure to run this campaign due to Radiotopia’s generous grant from the Knight Foundation. Secondly, Slack, the business messaging service that allows efficient collaboration, was our most valuable internal tool. It has fundamentally changed the way we work at PRX and Radiotopia.  Throughout the campaign, we used Slack to communicate challenges, react quickly, answer questions, and share links and files. As a loyal Radiotopia partner, Slack helped kick off the campaign momentum by offering a $25,000 donation if we could secure 5,000 donors in the first week. We hit that goal with time to spare. The Slack team was so impressed they upped the ante… they offered an additional $50k if we could hit 10,000 more donations. After we blew through that goal, an anonymous superfan stepped in and offered an additional $10,000 if we could snag another 1,000 donors in the final 24 hours. We managed to pull that one off too, three hours ahead of schedule. These generous supporters gave us momentum and encouragement- they are an important part of our success.

Lesson #3: Keep calm and shoot for the moon.
Every successful fundraising campaign feels like a high wire act. There are more questions than answers: Do we need a goal? What if we don’t make it? What if the goal is too ambitious? Will the technology work? Is the message clear? Is the campaign too long?

For this campaign, we designed everythingthe purpose, messaging, donor levels, incentives, promotion plan, the payment process, the video, and the rewards. We made many plans that were often be tossed aside at a moment’s notice. The effort was part science, part art.  

The results speak for themselves:
We secured over 19,500 donors total, from over 60 countries, shattering our stretch goals. The outpour of recurring support was staggering: a whopping 82% of our donations. This means we will have continued support for our producers throughout the upcoming year. It gives us an opportunity to consistently connect with donors and fans, further cultivating and strengthening our community. It also means we will never start at zero again.

One especially moving result of the campaign was the number of people, nearly 100, who donated at pilot fund level. Contributors to this premium will play an active role on our internal committee that will evaluate show pilot ideas, ensuring fan participation in planning the next generation of Radiotopia content.

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Lesson #4: Differentiation matters.
There are over 300,000 podcasts in the iTunes store now, so quality and strength of narrative is how we improve our signal-to-noise ratio. In the spirit of Radiotopia’s diverse mix of style, topic, voice and sensibility, we offered unique donor incentives along the way: a handmade quilt from The Allusionist. Exclusive content from Love+Radio and Song Exploder. Private storytelling workshops from Strangers. Free live show tickets from Criminal. Our rewards reflected our collective creativity, and that resonated loudly with donors.

Lesson #5: Make bold statements (e.g. We have the best fans in the world).
Overall, this campaign taught us a great deal about our audience and ourselves. We were delighted to receive heartfelt love letters from fans all over the world, professing their devotion to our shows. Campaigns like this raise money of course, but most importantly they allow us to connect more closely with our listeners. The last 30 days helped set the tone for the future of Radiotopia; we are excited to plot what will come and grateful that our fans will be our partners along the way.

Q+A with Ann Heppermann of The Sarah Awards

PRX is very excited to be a sponsor of The Sarah Awards, a new international audio fiction competition from Sarah Lawrence College.

Submissions open today (November 23) and PRX Community Manager Audrey Mardavich corresponded with Sarah Awards Founder Ann Heppermann to chat about how The Sarahs came to be, what kind of work they’re looking for, and what greater goals they are hoping to accomplish.

The Sarah Awards Founder, Ann Heppermann
The Sarah Awards Founder, Ann Heppermann

AM: Can you begin by telling me what prompted you to start The Sarah Awards? And once you decided, how did you convince Sarah Lawrence the awards would be worthwhile?

AH: The spark for The Sarah Awards happened about five years ago when I was teaching a radio class at Sarah Lawrence College. At the end of the semester, I allowed the students to create fictional pieces for their final projects. The work they turned in was unlike anything I had heard before. With audio fiction, it was much easier for them to find their own voice, experiment with form, and freely play with sounds. My theory is that this expressiveness was possible because the students did not have preconceived notions of what audio fiction should sound like. With their nonfiction pieces, they already had Ira Glass or NPR tucked away somewhere in their subconscious. It was hard to shake the voices they listened to all the time from their heads. But with fiction, the students kept casting about their creative ideas and seeing how they landed. I loved the pieces.

But after the class was over, these fictional pieces had no home. It was disheartening. I thought to myself, “Audio fiction needs its own Third Coast.” In my opinion, the Third Coast International Audio Festival has completely transformed the narrative non-fiction and audio documentary landscape. It is a huge reason why we are currently experiencing a second Golden Age of Radio, and significantly shaped its sound.

Luckily, it was not difficult for me to convince Sarah Lawrence to get behind this initiative. Sarah Lawrence College is an academic institution that fosters experimentation and playful creativity. Over the years, Sarah Lawrence has cultivated the talent of visionaries like Yoko Ono, Meredith Monk, J.J. Abrams, Alice Walker, and many others. They embraced the idea of The Sarah Awards and raised the money for the launch. Thus, the revolution was born.

AM: What are a few of characteristics of superb audio fiction? What are you looking for? What gets you excited?

AH: For me, superb audio fiction affects your entire body. It makes me belly laugh. It causes me to weep unabashedly while riding the subway. Most importantly, it should sound like it is a part of the 21st Century. Audio fiction these days should have the same complex sound design listeners demand of non-fiction shows along with exceptional writing and acting. Just like a good book or piece of art, a superb audio fiction piece should stick with you. Because amazing fiction can say more things about the human condition than reality sometimes.

What we are looking for, and encouraging, is audio fiction that challenges the way we think about the genre and pushes the boundaries for what audio can and should be. No more stuffy studio overacting, no cliched sound effects—sound has evolved since the 1930s, let’s use this century to redefine the genre. We want to hear pieces that are so sonically advanced you feel as though you’re watching an entire movie inside your head. Radio drama for the 21st century. That is what the Sarah Awards stands for and celebrates.

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AM: Can you tell me a little bit about your podcast Serendipity? Serendipity showcases stories from other producers but also includes a plot about you and Martin, your Sarah Awards cofounder. Can you explain how chose this format?

AH: With Serendipity, we wanted to create a podcast that showcased audio fiction from around the world. When thinking about Serendipity, Martin and I didn’t just want to say, “So, here’s a piece of audio fiction you’ll enjoy.” We wanted to create a podcast where the feature story is nested in another story—kind of like a Russian doll. So we decided that we would have our own story to tell, the story of Ann and Martin. Sometimes you don’t know where the story of Ann and Martin ends and the piece we’re featuring begins. We really wanted to use podcasting to play with the form. It’s more fun this way.

My hope is that you hear things on Serendipity that you’ve never heard before. The first handful of episodes feature pieces we commissioned for the launch of The Sarah Awards. When we launched we knew that people would ask, “What is audio fiction?” So this was also our attempt at an answer. The answer is, “It’s varied.”

We are also using the podcast as a springboard for collaborations with various shows, artists and audio institutions. In October, we collaborated with Snap Judgment as part of our Very, Very, Short, Short Stories Contest. Snap Judgment producers Eliza Smith and Mark Ristich created a hauntingly beautiful sonic triptych called “Sleeping Girl.” It’s so different than anything that we would have made on our own and we loved it. We plan to do more collaborations in this way so that we can introduce both listeners and creators to the possibilities of audio fiction in the 21st Century.

AM: Submissions for The Sarah Awards open today—what are you hoping to accomplish with this contest? Do you have any secret goals (you can tell us about) that you want to reach with the entries?

AH: The ultimate goal for The Sarah Awards? Revolution. Yes, I know it sounds silly and hyperbolic but I am serious with my answer. I want awards to completely change the expectations of listeners and creators when they think about fiction for the ears. I want The Sarah Awards to help define what audio fiction is for the 21st century. This also means opening the award and its mission to the entire world. The Sarah Awards’ official name is The Sarah Lawrence College International Audio Fiction Award. We take the international aspect of the award seriously. We want to hear and share audio fiction stories from around the world and in different languages. What is the culture of audio storytelling in countries from around the world and what can we learn from them? I hope we can help start those conversations.

In the end, we want The Sarah Awards to be both inspired and inspiring. We want to be the beacon of light that has producers swarming together like moths on an autumn evening, to make some of the most awe-inspiring works people have ever heard. Because the audio fiction revolution will not be televised. It’s headed straight for your ears.


Ann Heppermann is a documentary artist, reporter, and educator. She is the founder of The Sarah Awards and its podcast Serendipity. Her Peabody award winning work has aired across the world and on numerous public radio shows in the United States including This American Life, 99% Invisible, and Radiolab. In 2011 she was named a United States Artists Rockefeller Fellow. She teaches audio fiction and narrative journalism at Sarah Lawrence College as part of its writing program. Bitch Magazine has called her a “sort of Goddess of podcasting.” She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Welcome Radiotopia Executive Producer Julie Shapiro!

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Greetings from day 3 at PRX. I’m Julie Shapiro (no relation besides friend/colleague to PRX’s other J(ake) Shapiro) and mere words can’t describe how excited I feel to have joined the family via Radiotopia. Maybe a few sounds would do the trick? Use your imagination.

There’s no single trajectory that delivered me here, but surely a few dots have connected along the way: countless record store jobs, publishing a zine (Anodyne) for years, programming an experimental music festival (Transmissions), earning a degree in Sociology, traveling all over the place, a few years with the Center for Documentary Studies, thirteen amazing years with the Third Coast International Audio Festival, and, most recently, launching and steering the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s small but mighty Creative Audio Unit (CAU).

Certain recurring themes have persisted over the years: listening and stories. Asking questions and experimenting. Championing independence and fostering community. Thinking, encouraging, challenging, obsessing over font choice and organizing – from ladies’ clothing swaps to international radio gatherings. Horses, books, mixtapes, sesame bagels and PTDS.

Around the time Radiotopia blazed into the podcasting galaxy, I moved with my family to Sydney and immersed myself in building the CAU from the ground up. But I listened closely (ok, obsessively) from afar as podcasting turned mainstream – undoubtedly helped along by Radiotopia, and all of the amazing producers in its orbit, and realized I wanted/needed to be closer to the epicenter.

Now, I’m starting this gig in the middle of Radiotopia’s 2015 fall fundraising campaign, and have already been astounded by the show of love and support for the network so far. So many sustaining donors! So much generosity! So many exclamation points! (If you haven’t yet donated, please consider this my first official nudge, me to you, to head over to Radiotopia.fm and get busy. Thank you!)

We have new Radiotopia ideas, plans and projects in the works, to say the least. Now if we could just bend the space-time continuum to provide more listening hours in the day…

I’m working on it. Stay tuned.

Photo credit: Alex Craig