Julie Shapiro Selected as New Radiotopia Executive Producer

Drumroll please… After a highly competitive search, Julie Shapiro has been selected as the Executive Producer for PRX’s Radiotopia.

Julie’s leadership, creativity and commitment to excellence will drive Radiotopia’s success as a leading podcast network at a moment of growth and opportunity for the industry as a whole.

Julie will help lead overall strategic planning for the network, establish and oversee production standards and best practices, develop and manage creative collaborations, and set and meet audience and revenue targets.

We are thrilled to welcome Julie as the newest member of our stellar team.

Check out the press release below for details.


Contact Kerri Hoffman, COO
Email kerri@prx.org
Website www.prx.org

Cambridge, Mass., September 1, 2015 — PRX is pleased to welcome Julie Shapiro in the new role of Radiotopia executive producer.

Radiotopia is at the epicenter of the newly expanding galaxy of podcasts. Since launching in February 2014, Radiotopia has accelerated to 8.5 million monthly downloads across a growing roster of 13 programs, including 99% Invisible, the celebrated show on design from Roman Mars, and Criminal – a new breakout hit from Lauren Spohrer and Phoebe Judge. In May 2015 the Knight Foundation awarded $1M to PRX to support the development and strengthening of Radiotopia.

Julie will bring editorial vision, creativity and leadership to Radiotopia’s expanding portfolio of top programs. She will work closely with PRX, Roman Mars and the Radiotopia producers to grow the shows, cultivate relationships with talented producers and partners, and build sustainability of the podcast medium.

Julie co-founded and was artistic director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival (TCIAF) for thirteen years. As the creative engine at TCIAF, Julie did everything from co-producing the biannual conference and Filmless festival, to co-curating and editing the Re:sound podcast, to leading strategic direction and public image of the organization.

In 2014, Julie left TCIAF to become the founding executive producer of the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s Creative Audio Unit (CAU), where she led a team in establishing two weekly, national shows and set the strategy and vision for the unit. She is a thought leader and a determined advocate of creative pursuits. Julie originally coined the term “Radiotopia” in a speech at the Third Coast Festival, describing it as a place where awesome stories live.

“Julie has championed the work of hundreds of independent producers and has demonstrated the passion and bold thinking we need to make Radiotopia thrive.” said Kerri Hoffman, Chief Operating Officer of PRX.

Julie is also known for her dedication to diversity and gender balance in public radio, and wrote the influential ”Women Hosted Podcasts” article which had a major impact on the public media industry.

Radiotopia co-founder, Roman Mars said, “Julie Shapiro will provide leadership and vision for both Radiotopia and for the emerging podcasting industry as a whole.”

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, Reveal, and the Radiotopia podcast network. 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.

Lessons from Podcast Movement, or What I Learned at Summer Camp


What do a professional wrestler, a comedian and a design buff have in common? Successful podcasts.


Over 1000 would-be and experienced podcasters shared tips, ideas, and creative support in Forth Worth at the 2nd Podcast Movement Conference. If you weren’t there and felt like you should have been – you have experienced the first thing they did right: promotion.

The conference creators were able to create a lot of buzz leading up to the conference. They used bold words like “biggest ever”, “for the first time” and “lifetime achievement”. They hosted a podcast academy of awards complete with tears and “I’d like to thank the academy…” speeches. The opening day party featured a mechanical bull, live music and a goofy game of olympics. It was loud, the food was terrible and we had a great time.


What the conference organizers did very well

  • Energy – it was fun and exciting.
  • Bright future – there were almost no radio vs. podcast conversations.
  • Community – lots of sharing and support.
  • Diversity – the variety of participants felt like a bigger sector of the public.
  • Respect – they celebrated the veterans who contributed to the industry and were also wowed by the young go-getters.
  • Sharing – the most successful were not afraid to share real, actionable strategies and advice.

What public media does very well

  • Content – hands down our content is compelling and will have a long shelf life.
  • Storytelling – our shows take listeners on a journey.
  • Production techniques – our shows are artfully crafted with rich sound.
  • Scale – we have bigger reach. Less than 1% of podcasts have more than 50K downloads per episode.
  • Engagement – over time, our listener loyalty increases.


My Takeaway

We met a lot of podcasters that are aces at marketing and promotion. They are experimental and bold about monetization. They are savvy about one click payments and some are adopting a direct support model. Most listeners do not differentiate between public media podcasts and others, they just know shows they love.

The talent-drain is real. We are already seeing it. One speaker said openly that the future of podcasting is weighted toward “ex-NPR people and media/celebrities”. While monetization is critical, we should not be motivated only by this. It doesn’t serve the audience well. It is important for public radio to develop new and innovative shows that can sustain and maybe even subsidize traditional distribution models. And when we do, we should brag more.

Radiotopia by the Numbers

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!

A Radiotopia Surprise…

Dear Diary,

I can’t believe I am going to stand on a stage and read aloud our secrets. Am I nuts? Will you, or technically me, embarrass me? Will I be mortified?

You, our wonderful fans, are giving Radiotopia such an incredible Kickstarter campaign (still going strong!). We have a surprise for you. And it’s a good one — not something like your prom date deciding to take your best friend at the last minute instead. Although we’d like to hear about that, too…

Please join us in welcoming the brand-new Mortified podcast — launching in early 2015 — to our Radiotopia network!

Mortified is a popular stage show with ongoing events in nine cities. They have a documentary film, a TV series on the Sundance channel, two books and now… a Radiotopia podcast.

Imagine adults channeling their younger selves by sharing embarrassing moments immortalized in their diaries, letters, poems, lyrics and art. You will remember your own fights with parents, teenage drama, fantastical fantasies and complete preoccupation with sex — both good and bad.

Hailed a “cultural phenomenon” by Newsweek and celebrated by This American Life, The Today Show, The Onion AV Club, Entertainment Weekly, and beyond, Mortified is a comic excavation of the strange and extraordinary things we created as kids.

We are thrilled to welcome Mortified to the Radiotopia family. Stay tuned and prepare to be Mortified!

Cheers to WFIU: Indiana Member Station and Regular Royalty Earner

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.)

Throwback Thursday: The First Earners on PRX

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 PRX.org 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.

Happy Birthday PRX

Extending the shelf life of great content in public radio is undoubtedly a good idea.

How to do it – physically – has drastically changed over PRX’s relatively short lifespan.

Before PRX was a twinkle in the eye of SRG  and Jay Allison, Bill Thomas  of North Dakota Public Radio instituted the “tape exchange” to do just that. Years later, deliberating on an NEA panel, Jay Allison and Terry Clifford hatched the idea of a new service that would use the power of the Internet to give producers access to audiences while showcasing innovation at the station level.

The idea took hold by combining the resources and credibility of major public radio stations, the strategic expertise of Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas with the creativity of Jay Allison. And they called it….

Interested Stations Group

“ The basic ante is this: Each interested station commits to providing weekly flexible time in the schedule. The time will be at reasonable hours, i.e. not 2am.”



“ To facilitate the relationship between radio artists and local public radio stations by creating new opportunities for producing, showcasing and distributing work. In-the-Air is a flexible vehicle that creates an opportunity for the local curator to feature independent radio producers, local station productions, and even the work of audience members.“


The Radio Exchange

“ The Radio Exchange is a decentralized partnership linking stations committed to program innovation and independent, station-based, and network producers whose work doesn’t fit conventional national vehicles and schedules–a web-based buffet from which stations each week pluck extraordinary, peer-reviewed content to assemble unique and compelling programming and enrich their public service.”


The Public Radio Exchange

“Making public radio more public”

Ultimately to…   PRX

“Our Vision is an informed society, connected by shared stories and inspired to improve lives and communities. Our Mission is to harness technology to bring significant stories to millions of people.”

As the name took hold, so did the service.  Jake Shapiro  joined as founding executive director and brought on Steve Schultze to oversee the design and functionality of PRX 1.0, launched 10 years ago. Kerri Hoffman, (then of SRG) jumped in to help with business operations. Today, a talented staff works tirelessly to improve the core service, advocate for compelling content and add more tools that benefit the mission of public radio.

Happy Birthday PRX – thank you Tom, Terry and Jay. Thank you Bill Thomas and thank you founding stations for your willingness to experiment and innovate.

Founding stations include: KQED, KUOW, KUT, WBEZ, WGBH, WKSU, WNYC, WPSU, WUNC, WVPE, WYSO

Cheers to our current and past employees who have contributed untold amounts of energy, enthusiasm and dedication to an impactful service.