Podquest Update: Tips from Our Judges

We’re one week into Podquest, and the entries just keep coming in. Here are some helpful tips from our internal selection committee on what makes a great Podquest entry, and what we’re looking for in a new Radiotopia show. Our committee is made up of PRX and Radiotopia audio vets, so take these notes to heart when entering. Good luck!


First, here are five tips from our executive producer, Julie Shapiro, on what makes a greatgirl-podquest-dark story-driven podcast:


1. A clear sense of a topic or theme that can be explored in different ways.
2. An engaging host who connects directly and personally with listeners.
3. An original sensibility and tone.
4. A careful and intentional sound design that helps tell stories.
5. An emotional range across different episodes—from humorous to provocative, and everything in between.


Next, what are our judges looking for in a submission?


I’m looking for a show with well thought-out ideas from folks who don’t generally have easy access to capital, and aren’t represented in traditional media outlets.


A show that forefronts curiosity and lets go of notions of authority (and, by extension, modest hosts who find other people more interesting than they find themselves)… a show that plainly loves the way people’s voices sound, and the strange ways in which we talk to each other about the world.


Submissions that present a strong core idea and examples of stories that support that idea.


A well-defined aesthetic experience, tonality, and self-awareness (but not self-consciousness). Something that inspires an emotional connection to a person, people or experiences that I would not have otherwise encountered, or leads me to a new understanding of something.


Humor! You have to bring some personality into your show and make me laugh.


Ideas I haven’t heard much elsewhere, and a host or producer who stands out from all the others. Also there are enough po-faced podcasts in the world, so I’d love to hear more irreverence.


Your own unique style of hosting and sound design, rather than a copy of your favorite host’s style. An idea of who your audience will be and how you will grow that audience.