The Birth of Rice-A-Roni and the Power of Podcasts

This week, as people observe the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the Fugitive Waves podcast published a story about Rice-A-Roni. The genocide and the ubiquitous rice mix are linked in an unexpected way: A young couple rent a room from an old Armenian woman. The older woman, Pailadzou Captanian, teaches her young, pregnant tenant how to cook, and shares her personal stories of the Armenian tragedy – stories that she published in a book decades earlier. From these kitchen sessions comes a delicious pilaf that eventually becomes Rice-A-Roni.


Read more and view photos.

Nikki Silva of The Kitchen Sisters, which produces Fugitive Waves, shared some thoughts about the piece:

“The Birth of Rice-A-Roni” was originally a shorter piece for NPR’s Morning Edition. It absolutely killed us that we couldn’t include more than a quick mention of Mrs. Captanian and her rare eyewitness account. I’ve been sitting here listening back to the tapes and crying – because of the stories, but also because it’s taken us so long to get them out there. So, finally, we’re able to include extended interviews with the librarian in Germany who translated the book, and with Mrs. Captanian’s grandson, and can begin to piece together the story of this woman’s experiences and accomplishments.

Hooray for podcasts!

Hooray, indeed. Listen to the episode, and subscribe to Fugitive Waves. Listen to all the Radiotopia shows at Radiotopia.fm.

Producer Spotlight: Conor Gillies of Stylus

Each month we’ll be highlighting a different PRX producer to find out what they’re working on and hear about the challenges they face as indies as well as the stuff that gets them stoked.

How long have you been using PRX?
Been using it for three years or so.

What are you working on right now?
Producing a weekly show and podcast for Radio Open Source and working on a couple new podcast pilots, too. Trying to get Stylus on the airwaves, as always.

Can you tell us more about your show, Stylus?
Stylus is a radio series about big ideas in sound, music, and listening. It started when my coproducer Zack and I and a cadre of people in and around WBUR pitched the show and produced a pilot, which led to the station funding us for a four-episode first season: “Silence,” “Seeing and Illustrating Music,” “Songs of the Earth,” and “The Sound of Science Fiction.” It’s a kind of left-field, non-narrated documentary show for music people and art fans, but also anyone who’s interested in the links between sound, place, history, and society.

What is your biggest challenge with that project?
Finding new listeners through the Internet. Of course, everyone doing community radio or longform audio faces that challenge—largely because social media isn’t designed for sound or not-for-profit content. But also I’m just bad at tweets. [Editor’s note: aren’t we all, Conor.]

What are you most excited about in public radio or podcasting?
For shows, I’m excited about Reveal. I hope it gives old-school muckraking a shot in the arm. Wicked excited Scott Carrier is podcasting. Also, I’m excited about the serial format generally. I’m listening out for the big return of radio drama.

Want to learn more? Sam Greenspan of 99% Invisible wrote a nice little thang about Stylus and the first episode, Silence, was featured on HowSound.

The Top Poetry Audio

I’ve made the claim before that poetry is for everyone, especially radio lovers and I stand by that! I wanted to dig a little deeper and see what poets were doing with audio, whether it be podcasts, broadcast programs or archival audio recordings. There’s so much amazing poetry to listen to on the web, here are some of my favorites.

Studs Terkel in Conversation with American Poets
“Poetry doesn’t deal in ideas, it deals in the experience of ideas.” – John Ciardi, in his interview with Studs Terkel.

The News by Wendy Xu via WFMT and the Poetry Foundation
We repeat a process of hoping our bodies
to the future though for now mine
eats cucumbers in bed. I had a dream
about a crystal blue pool.
I felt stupid when I saw the ocean.

The Gift
Imagination is the seed of empathy – a centrally important function – and both the gift and burden of the writer, argues Kwame Dawes in The Gift from WBEZ.

What is Poetry?
One of my all-time favorite pieces on PRX is this Carl Sandburg remix produced by Barrett Golding called “What is Poetry?”

State of the Re:Union Poetry Month Special
Host Al Letson tells his personal stories of how poetry influenced his life and features some incredible slam poets from around the country.

Woodberry Poetry Room Recordings
The Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard contains a landmark collection of poetry readings that have taken place at Harvard. You can listen online to many of them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Video

  • Steve Roggenbuck’s “Make Something Beautiful Before You Are Dead.” Start at 10:24.
  • Steve Roggenbuck from LUMA Foundation on Vimeo.

  • Allen Ginsberg’s “Father Death Blues.”

Podcasts

Got a favorite poem recording, poetry radio program or podcast I’ve missed? Let us know in the comments.


PRX Raises $7M for Earkat

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PRESS RELEASE

PRX Launches Earkat, Raises $7M for Live Audio Streaming App

Cambridge, MA (April 1, 2015) – PRX, the Public Radio Exchange has just launched a new live audio streaming app called Earkat. Playing off the success of Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope, they have launched the app which is quickly climbing the iTunes charts.

“We’re in the golden age of audio. Live audio streaming is the next logical step to further democratize shareable audio,” said PRX Chief Content Officer John Barth.

With $7 million dollars of funding at launch, Earkat is making waves in the tech and podcasting world.

“We only have to solve half the problem that Meerkat had with video, so we only need half as much money,” says PRX CEO Jake Shapiro.

Earkat is currently available on the iTunes Store.

Zeitfunk Award Ceremony

We have come together today to celebrate the winners of the annual Zeitfunk Awards, bestowed upon the winning-est producers and stations from across PRX.org. These winners made it to the top in each of our 13 categories. Check out all of the winners here.

We want to also give a shout out to Hindenburg Systems who have generously offered each winning producer and station a copy of either Journalist Pro or Broadcaster. Thanks, Hindy!

PRX Remix's Erica Lantz and PRX Community Manager Audrey Mardavich celebrate Zeitfunk
PRX Remix’s Erica Lantz and PRX Community Manager Audrey Mardavich celebrate the ‘funk. Image credit: Chris Kalafarski

Our Producers and stations have worked very hard for this honor and we wanted to give them the opportunity to accept their award and say a little something to the audience.

Congrats again to all of our winners! Now, take a listen to the speeches.

Clay Ryder, Most Licensed Debut Producer



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KALW, Most Licensed Station by PRX Remix

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Mighty Writers, Most Licensed Debut Group



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David Schulman, Most Licensed Producer by PRX Remix

Collecting Carriage Gets a Whole Lot Easier

Stations, starting today, you might notice a change when you license a piece on PRX. We are now requiring carriage information for each program that you purchase. This has been a highly requested feature on PRX.org and we’re excited to finally launch it.

The details:
On the buy page, you can choose the first day and the time that you will air the program and add any additional airings. If you’re not sure yet when you will air it, you can choose “I don’t know” and fill that info in later. You will also be prompted to update your contact info so that we know who to follow up with about carriage information.

Producers spend a lot of time tracking down carriage info and we wanted to make that process smoother for everyone. By working together, producers can help you promote the work you’re airing on your station.

Below is a screenshot of what the purchase page looks like now. Contact us at prxhelp@prx.org if you have any questions at all.

prx____purchases____new

Radiotopia by the Numbers

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A year ago this month, PRX launched Radiotopia. It has been a year full of incredible growth and lessons learned for all of our shows as well as for the network itself.

In terms of measuring success, we know that not all metrics are equal – some metrics we measure over different periods of time while other metrics are episode specific. We also always monitor things that are less quantifiable like actions our listeners take, fan love, and also fan disappointment.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers we pay attention to:

  • $620,412 raised through our Kickstarter campaign, (248% of the goal)
  • 21,818 backers of the Kickstarter campaign
  • 54% of the money raised through Kickstarter was in donations under $50
  • Our aggregate monthly downloads in January 2014 (right before launch) were 936,928
  • We added three new shows in January 2015 and topped 5,781,240 monthly downloads/streams. We also added a fourth show this month.
  • The most significant growth for one of our shows was 545%
  • There were $34,884 in donations outside of the Kickstarter campaign
  • There were 29 unique sponsors supporting Radiotopia
  • 150+ “best of” podcast articles mentioned Radiotopia shows
  • We launched Radiotopia with 7 shows (now 11)
  • 5 out of 11 Radiotopia shows are produced and hosted by women
  • We are proud of our 14 hard-working PRX staff members (10 FT, 2 PT, 2 long term contracts), each of whom devotes some of their time to supporting Radiotopia.
  • 100% of Radiotopia shows are owned by the producers
Image via Shutterstock.
Image via Shutterstock.

Numbers aside, we also pay attention to another metric…the love:

  • “They transport me to another place.”
  • “The only good thing to ever come out of Spotify ads is my discovery of @radiotopiafm”
  • “They cover a wide scope of topics and ideas. I have enjoyed everyone one of them and look forward to listening to them all”

Image via Shutterstock.
Image via Shutterstock.

All feedback is welcome – we pay attention to the less-than-love too:

  • “I hope this hideous trend in self-indulgent, precious cuteness runs it€™s course soon so I can enjoy the great stories and information underneath all the silliness”
  • “Oh my god what the fuck is Radiotopia, wait I don’t care”



At the end of the day, regardless of the love, the hate, the lists and the downloads, our mission is to bring great content to more and more listeners. Onward!





Introducing Transistor, A Science Podcast from PRX

PRX is thrilled to announce the launch of a new weekly podcast series Transistor (official press release). Three scientist hosts — a biologist, an astrophysicist, and a neuroscientist — report on conundrums, curiosities, and current events in and beyond their fields. Sprinkled among their episodes are the winners of the PRX STEM Story Project, a competition we held for unique science radio.

Just as the transistor radio was a new technical leap, this Transistor features new women voices and their science perspectives. We’ve launched with four episodes from our three scientist hosts:

  • Dr. Michelle Thaller, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, who studies binary stars and the life cycles of the stars.
    • We Are Stardust: We’re closer than ever before to discovering if we’re not alone in the universe. Astrophysicist Michelle Thaller visits the NASA lab that discovered that comets contain some of the very same chemical elements that we contain. Then, Michelle talks to a Vatican planetary scientist about how science and religion can meet on the topic of life beyond Earth.
  • Dr. Christina Agapakis, a biologist and writer based in Los Angeles. Her research focuses on the intersection of microbiology and design, exploring the symbiosis among microbes and biology, technology, and culture.
    • Food, Meet Fungus: The microbiome — the trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in and on our body — is hot right now. We explore what we do know in the face of so much hope and hype, starting with food.
  • Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology in the Center for Neural Science at New York University, whose research focuses on understanding how our brains form and retain new long-term memories and the effects of aerobic exercise on memory. Her book Healthy Brain, Happy Life will be published by Harper Collins in the Spring of 2015.
    • Totally Cerebral: Untangling the Mystery of Memory: Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki introduces us to scientists who have uncovered some of the deepest secrets about our brains. She begins by talking with experimental psychologist Brenda Milner, who in the 1950s, completely changed our understanding of the parts of the brain important for forming new long-term memories.
    • Totally Cerebral: The Man Without a Memory: Imagine never being able to form a new long term memory after the age of 27. Welcome to the life of the famous amnesic patient “HM”. Neuroscientist Suzanne Corkin studied HM for almost half a century, and gives us a glimpse of what daily life was like for him, and his tremendous contribution to our understanding of how our memories work.

Each scientist is working with a talented independent producer: Lauren Ober, Julie Burstein, and Kerry Donahue.

Subscribe to the show through iTunes or RSS, or you can stream it on PRX.org.

Follow us at @TransistorShow.

Transistor is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, enhancing public understanding of science, technology, and economic performance. Learn more at sloan.org.




PRESS RELEASE

For information, interviews, photos contact:
Patrick Kowalczyk, patrick@pkpr.com
Scott Piro, scott@pkpr.com
PKPR, 212.627.8098

PRX LAUNCHES TRANSISTOR – A NEW PODCAST

FUSING SCIENCE & STORYTELLING AND FEATURING WOMEN SCIENTIST HOSTS

Cambridge, MA (February 18, 2015) – Blending science and storytelling, a new podcast featuring three women scientists as hosts officially debuts today from PRX, the public media nonprofit that last week was named one of the world’s ten most innovative media companies by Fast Company.

Reporting on conundrums, curiosities and current events from across the scientific world, the “Transistor” podcast launches with four episodes exploring a wildly diverse range of topics from long-term memory and amnesia to the search for intelligent life in the universe and the role that trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses play in food and in our gut.

“Transistor” is part of a PRX science storytelling initiative supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. In addition to its scientist-hosted episodes, “Transistor” will include winners of PRX’s STEM Story Project, which has brought dozens of original stories about science, technology, engineering and math to public radio since 2013.

Three of the “Transistor” featured hosts are women scientists who have never done a podcast before: Dr. Wendy Suzuki, a Professor of Neural Science and Psychology at NYU and author of the forthcoming book Brain Healthy; Dr. Michelle Thaller, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; and Dr. Christina Agapakis, a biologist and writer based in Los Angeles, whose work focuses on the intersection of microbiology and design.

“There is a growing audience for scientific news, and ‘Transistor’ meets that demand with original, captivating storytelling from the perspectives of women at the forefront of their fields,” said Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX. “We are thrilled to bring this fascinating and addictive series to listeners worldwide.”

“‘Transistor’ explores the meanings behind scientific discoveries that we hear about everywhere in our lives,” said Dr. Suzuki. “Asking big questions humanizes science, and ‘Transistor’ opens up scientific fascination to audiences who don’t always look past the headlines.”

Listeners can subscribe to “Transistor” through iTunes and stream the show for free at transistor.prx.org.

About PRX (Public Radio Exchange)
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 thousands of audio stories for broadcast and digital use, including This American Life, The Moth Radio Hour, Reveal, Snap Judgment and the Radiotopia podcast network. 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, PRX Remix, and This American Life.

Matter Expands: four media partners join forces

Matter — the mission-driven media accelerator that PRX helped launch back in 2012 — has just announced that four major media companies have joined our community alongside original founding partners PRX, Knight Foundation, and KQED.

You can read more from Matter Managing Partner Corey Ford in his post. Below is also a press release from McClatchy — one of the four new partners — that helps explain their reason for joining.

With our fourth class of startups underway (announcement on who is in the class will be out tomorrow) and these new partners, it’s clear that Matter has reached an important moment of impact in media.

Having helped first developed the concept of the “public media accelerator” that evolved into Matter under Corey’s leadership, it’s exciting to see Matter take shape at the center of a community bringing entrepreneurship, design thinking, and public media values into the tech startup movement.


PRESS RELEASE

McCLATCHY JOINS MEDIA ACCELERATOR MATTER

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 17, 2015 – The McClatchy Company (NYSE: MNI) announced today that it has signed on as a media partner with Matter, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm and incubator that supports promising media startups and entrepreneurs.

“This is a very exciting partnership and opportunity for McClatchy,” said Pat Talamantes, McClatchy president and CEO. “In the midst of our company’s own digital transformation, Matter and the startups it nurtures will provide ideas, innovation and potential new business models for successful media companies of the future.”

In addition to McClatchy, The Associated Press, A.H. Belo Corporation and Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. will join founding media partners KQED Public Media for Northern California, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Public Radio Exchange in support of the Matter program.

The new partnership features a powerful mix of international, national and local media organizations with a vast reach across television, radio, digital and print. The network of media partners gives participating startups extensive mentorship by industry leaders, connections to potential customers and real-world opportunities to test their ideas.

Matter, founded in 2012, brings selected startups together at its San Francisco headquarters that “have potential to become meaningful media institutions of the future – creating a more informed, connected and empowered society.”

Matter invests seed capital and provides an intensive, five-month program for the budding entrepreneurs to refine their business plans, develop prototypes, work collaboratively with other entrepreneurs and learn from leaders in media and technology. The program culminates with “demo days” presentations in San Francisco and New York in front of a select group of investors, media executives, mentors and others.

Matter has a current portfolio of 19 early-stage media ventures.

About McClatchy

The McClatchy Company is a 21st century news and information leader, publisher of iconic brands such as the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, The (Raleigh) News and Observer, and the (Fort Worth) Star-Telegram. McClatchy operates media companies in 28 U.S. markets in 14 states, providing each of its communities with high-quality news and advertising services in a wide array of digital and print formats. McClatchy is headquartered in Sacramento, Calif., and listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.

Contact: Karole Morgan-Prager
Vice President, Corporate Development,
General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
(916) 321-1828
kmorgan-prager@mcclatchy.com