A Huge Thank You To Our Fans And Backers

We are blown away by what you, our fans, have done.

The Radiotopia Kickstarter campaign brought in $620,412 from 21,808 backers. You made us the most funded and most backed project in Kickstarter’s Radio/Podcasting subcategory as well as the entire Publishing category.

You showered us with money, you showered us with love. We’ve been pushing the dream of a new kind of public radio uphill through uncharted, bumpy terrain. You smoothed that path a LOT.

What the path looks like now:

The party’s over. The party’s just begun.

A huge thank you to our tireless ringleaders Kerri Hoffman and Roman Mars, to PRX CEO Jake Shapiro, to the immensely supportive Kickstarter team, to the Knight Foundation, to MailChimp, and to the entire Radiotopia crew:

Benjamen Walker
Sam Greenspan
Avery Trufelman
Katie Mingle
Nick van der Kolk
Brendan Baker
Lea Thau
Kaitlin Prest
Helen Zaltzman
Eric Mennel
Phoebe Judge
Lauren Spohrer
Jonathan Mitchell
Kerry Kastin
Joe Richman
Sarah Kramer
Nellie Gillies
Neil Katcher
Dave Nadelberg
Andrew Norton
Robert DeBenedictis
Audrey Mardavich
Rekha Murthy
Genevieve Sponsler


Radiotopia Visits Kickstarter HQ

The Radiotopia Kickstarter campaign is barreling along, with just 3 days left. We are so excited about our final stretch goal: $600,000 to start a pilot fund for new voices. Our (nearly 20,000!) backers are helping us truly revolutionize public radio.

The folks at Kickstarter recently invited us to their beautiful Brooklyn digs for a conversation with the Radiotopia producers*, led by PRX’s Jake Shapiro. They talked of the joys and challenges of making radio in a new way, building relationships with a new kind of listener, and funding their passion.

Kickstarter HQ
Some excerpted highlights:

Stephanie Pereira gave us a tour of Kickstarter’s remarkable offices, a 99% Invisible fan’s dream. Oh look, there’s Roman, snapping a pic. >>>

Special thanks to Stephanie, Kickstarter CEO Yancey Strickler, and Owen Katz for a great day.

* except Benjamen Walker who was busy teaching podcasting.

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!

Stretch Goal #1 Reached!

We are very excited to say that today we hit our first Radiotopia stretch goal of $400,000! This means that we will be able to bring on three new podcasts, all hosted by women. Woo!

Helen Zaltzman of "Answer Me This" with PRX COO Kerri Hoffman at Radiotopia Live.
Helen Zaltzman
of “Answer Me This.”

The shows:

  • Soon-to-be-titled Helen Zaltzman words and language program(me)– Created by Helen Zaltzman, host of the popular UK show “Answer Me This,” this brand new program peels back the surface of language to find out why we say the things we say.
  • The Heart, produced by Kaitlin Prest
    The Heart,
    produced by
    Kaitlin Prest
  • The Heart – A show about the triumphs and the terrors of human intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love and the wild diversity of the human heart. Hosted by Kaitlin Prest.
  • Criminal – Riveting true crime stories about being wronged, doing wrong, and being caught in the middle. Hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Eric Mennel and Lauren Spohrer.
  • Criminal, hosted by Phoebe Judge
    Criminal, hosted
    by Phoebe Judge

The Hover 20,000 Backer Challenge.

We are still working toward another huge challenge from Hover to reach 20,000 backers. Please consider backing the project and getting a friend, a significant other or a family member to back our project, too. Every $1 pledge gets us closer to $25K.

Stretch Goal #1 and Hover 20k Backer Challenge

Helen Zaltzman of "Answer Me This" with PRX COO Kerri Hoffman
Helen Zaltzman of “Answer Me This” with PRX COO Kerri Hoffman at Radiotopia Live.

Three days ago Radiotopia hit our Kickstarter funding goal. We are thrilled! Thank you for your support and for getting the project to this point.

We are very excited to announce 2 major updates:

1. Our first stretch goal! This is huge and we’re really thrilled to share this.

As of February 2013, only 20% of the top 100 podcasts are hosted by women. We want to change that. If we reach $400,000 we will be able to green-light three new shows, all hosted by women.

The shows:

  • Soon-to-be-titled Helen Zaltzman words and language program(me)– Created by Helen Zaltzman, host of the popular UK show “Answer Me This,” this brand new program peels back the surface of language to find out why we say the things we say.
  • “The Heart” – A show about the triumphs and the terrors of human intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love and the wild diversity of the human heart. Hosted by Kaitlin Prest.
  • “Criminal” – Riveting true crime stories about being wronged, doing wrong, and being caught in the middle. Hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Eric Mennel and Lauren Spohrer.

2. The Hover 20,000 Backer Challenge.

Hover is offering $25,000 if Radiotopia is able to reach 20,000 backers. Every pledge gets us that much closer to $25K and this is going to be a tough one, so please consider backing the project and sharing with your friends.

Radiotopia Goal Reached! Thank You!

We did it! YOU did it!

A huge group hug for the more than 6000 of you who got Radiotopia to our Kickstarter goal in just six days! Amazing, just amazing. We are feeling the love and the very real financial support, and we are energized by it. Thank you for helping us take storytelling and podcasting to new levels of craft and audience. PRX is so proud to be charting the future of radio with these talented producers and you.

We’re not stopping there. Keep an eye on this space for some exciting stretch goals. But first, we have a (completely full) Radiotopia Live! party to throw in NYC tonight…

A Surreal “Hack Day” in 3D Sound

Benjamen Walker’s podcast Theory of Everything tosses aside conventions in many different ways, but perhaps no more so than when Walker blends truth and fiction in the same program. Not everything you hear on Theory of Everything is “true” — figuring out where his work crosses that line is one of the pleasures of listening. And Walker’s genre-bending makes a bigger point, especially when he delves into our high-tech lives: much of our reality (Twitter bots, Google Glass) feels on the verge of being fake; and some of what’s staged seems like it could be plausible.

binaural mic
The binaural mic used for this episode.
credit: Imprint Projects

If we don’t completely know the difference between truth and fiction anymore, Walker seems to be saying, let’s explore the line between the two together and maybe get lost.

So that’s why I don’t want to give away exactly when and where “reality” breaks apart in Walker’s latest podcast, “Prêt-à-Portable,” but the result is dark and funny. The episode concerns the rise of “wearables,” technology that interfaces closely with our bodies (Google Glass being a prime example, but Walker thinks we’ll be seeing a lot more wearables, and very soon).

What makes this episode especially interesting is that part of it was recorded with binaural microphones, a technology which, combined with good headphones or the right kind of speakers, can create a passable illusion of three-dimensional sound. Jawbone, who make 3D-sound-enabled speakers, sponsored this part of the podcast. It’s about a surreal “hack day” at SXSW Interactive in Austin — usually a place to present new tech ideas, but this crew at this hack day want to use technology to keep us off technology, mostly by making it clunkier or more painful. The results, especially for anyone with any memory of the 1980s or 90s, are pretty amusing.

I asked Walker what it was like doing binaural recording, which is relatively new for spoken-word productions.

Walker: We were in a beautiful studio (Arlyn Studios). We had a whole room with five of us in there and this giant head. The microphones are in the head. It was a Neuman KU 100. It’s really heavy. I was on a chair behind it. Isn’t that weird? We were all pretty close together.

To record outside, the engineer built an over-the-shoulder pole to carry the head dangling from it. We used it when we went to the Driscoll Hotel lobby to pitch our hack day ideas.

Barton: Was there anything tricky about mixing or editing the sound later when it’s recorded this way?

Walker: No, not really. The digital image is a little harder to work with, you have to be more careful with panning. We had two scenes in a car, but it wasn’t moving. We walked through the Driscoll lobby, but we didn’t use that part.

Barton: So it’s when speakers cross, say, from right to left across the recording area that things can get trickier post-production?

Walker: Yes. The scenes we ended up using were stationary. I would love to experiment more with this.

Barton: How did this episode come together?

Walker: I’ve been a little down on technology lately. Theory of Everything is not a technology show; someone described it on the Internet as “tech-ish,” which I like… Anyway, I’ve gone to SXSWi for years, but this year I was feeling a little down and out about going, so I didn’t register.

Then I got a call from folks from Imprint Projects — they looking for someone who wanted to produce a segment that was binaural recordings. I’ve been curious about binaural mics for a long time.

The mic is not bad — it should be for something that costs $10,000! I was impressed.

Barton: Why wearables — why is this an interesting story to you?

Walker: “Portable” in French means computer, so the title is literally “ready-to-wear computer.”

What I learned from doing this episode is that the wearables are coming, and we are not prepared. We have no idea what’s about to happen. It’s coming this summer. It’s going to start out as health-related: “Wear this watch or die of a heart attack!” Every single one of our friends is going to get one of these wearables the day it comes out. Everything’s going to change.

The way people talk about this technology, it’s kind of the way addicts talk. What I took away is that we are so unprepared for this change. The people in charge of this debate (about wearable technology) are people like the ones I interview, Sarah Slocum and Shingy (AOL “digital prophet” David Shing). Let’s just say they’re less critical than I’d like them to be. They’re “boosters.” But at least they’re thinking about all this.

Julia Barton is Managing Editor of Radiotopia from PRX, of which Theory of Everything is a proud member.

Indie Shows Join Forces For Radiotopia

Radiotopia logo

At PRX, we think of podcasts as digital-first radio shows. These shows may or may not ever be broadcast on terrestrial radio but we want them to reach new audiences, enjoy an active fanbase, and earn money that lands somewhere between compensation for time spent and fabulous wealth. Right now, that’s not happening often enough.

Today, PRX is proud to announce the launch of Radiotopia.

With the help of seven top-notch producers and the Knight Foundation, Radiotopia will mine the possibilities of a space full of shining talent, eager listeners, and new technologies. Call it a network, a collective, a coterie of awesomeness, whatever. The point is that a group of great storytellers is stronger than any one on their own, and PRX wants to wield that combined power to the benefit of everyone.

The inaugural Radiotopia lineup is:

  • 99% Invisible by Roman Mars
  • Radio Diaries by Joe Richman
  • Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything
  • Strangers by Lea Thau
  • The Truth by Jonathan Mitchell
  • Fugitive Waves by The Kitchen Sisters
  • Love + Radio by Nick van der Kolk and Brendan Baker

Learn more about this dream team in the press release below. Subscribe to the shows via Radiotopia HQ.

And do the Facebook and Twitter thing for new episodes, new news, and to make us feel, well, heard.


PHOTOS: http://imgur.com/a/cijMd


Patrick Kowalczyk, patrick@pkpr.com, PKPR, 212-627-8098

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, media@knightfoundation.org

PRX launches Radiotopia, new podcast network of story-driven public radio shows by industry’s best emerging and established talent

Knight Foundation funds new model for audience engagement and revenue growth in public radio

Cambridge, Mass. – Feb. 4, 2014 – To establish a model for sustaining quality, story-driven public radio shows, PRX, the award-winning public media company, today launched Radiotopia (radiotopia.fm), a podcast network of the best emerging and established talent. The launch is supported by $200,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

With Knight support, PRX will develop new audience engagement and revenue strategies toward a sustainable model for digital-first audio programming. The network will experiment with collaborative crowdfunding and new methods of sponsorship and cross-promotion, helping independent producers develop their programs over the long run. Together these insights will benefit PRX and the field as a whole.

“PRX is creating a platform where the art form’s innovators, risk-takers and most gifted producers connect with an audience, expand their own brands, and flourish,” said Jake Shapiro, CEO of PRX. “Radiotopia closes the gap between listeners who increasingly seek content on-demand and producers expanding the sound and experience of public radio.”

“PRX is responding to a demand for flexibility from listeners who are increasingly turning away from traditional news sources and platforms,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation VP/Journalism and Media Innovation. “With this as a basis, the network will create a model to reach and inform wide public audiences using digital platforms as a gateway to mainstream success.”

Radiotopia is anchored by 99% Invisible, the wildly popular design and architecture podcast hosted and produced by Roman Mars, who was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in 2013. Mars is program director of PRX Remix, PRX’s 24/7 story channel available on XM 123 and public radio stations nationwide.

Radiotopia’s inaugural lineup includes: Radio Diaries, the ordinary made extraordinary through first-person accounts exquisitely crafted by veteran producer Joe Richman; Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything, a surprising exploration of philosophy using a mix of journalism and fiction; Strangers, a fascinating look at how people connect in the modern world created by Lea Thau, former executive and creative director of The Moth; Love + Radio, an otherworldly journey into the minds of characters both seedy and sublime; The Truth, a fictional series breathing new life into radio drama by Jonathan Mitchell; and Fugitive Waves, an audio historical journey from the pioneering public radio production duo The Kitchen Sisters. Full descriptions are below.

The Radiotopia network roster will expand as PRX enlists new producers and programs that push the boundaries of storytelling and adopt a wide digital distribution model. PRX has a track record of introducing innovative new programs such as The Moth Radio Hour, Snap Judgment and PRX Remix to millions of listeners across broadcast and digital, Shapiro said. Radiotopia will draw upon PRX’s technology, editorial, distribution and marketing expertise to cultivate a new generation of storytelling talent that resonates with today’s audiences.

Mailchimp has joined as a launch sponsor, and the network plans to test creative use of personalized email campaigns to support distribution, marketing and fundraising for Radiotopia programs.

Radiotopia’s inaugural roster is:

● 99% Invisible – With over 1 million downloads per month, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts in the world. The program explores design, architecture, and the 99%-invisible activity that shapes our world. The show is the brainchild of award-winning producer Roman Mars, who has been dubbed “the Ira Glass of design” by architecture and design columnist, Allsion Arieff of The New York Times. Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life, calls 99% Invisible “completely wonderful…entertaining, and beautifully produced.”

● Benjamen Walker’s Theory of Everything – Combining drama, essay and interview the show creates a new kind of audio experience. Recent stories have ranged from “work at home art” to a story about a former prisoner from Guantanamo Bay, and a meditation on ephemeral images in the digital age.

● Radio Diaries –Extraordinary stories of ordinary life, Radio Diaries offers first-person diaries, sound portraits and historical documentaries from award-winning producer Joe Richman and team.

● Fugitive Waves – From powerhouse producers, The Kitchen Sisters (Lost & Found Sound, Hidden Kitchens, The Hidden World of Girls) this new show mines the Sisters’ deep archive of stories, lost recordings and shards of sound, along with new tales from remarkable people around the world. They are stories from the flip side of history.

● Love + Radio – Like nothing you’ve ever heard before, Love + Radio offers in-depth, otherworldly produced conversations exploring all of life’s gray areas on an eclectic range of subjects, from the seedy to the sublime. The show gets inside the mind of a rogue taxidermist, a Mafia associate turned investigative journalist, a woman who gives away her life savings every night, and countless other inimitable and fascinating characters.

● Strangers – The brainchild of Lea Thau, who earned a Peabody Award for her work with The Moth, Strangers features true stories about the people we meet, the connections we make, the heartbreaks we suffer, the kindnesses we encounter, and those frightful moments when we discover that we aren’t even who we thought we were.

● The Truth – The Truth brings a modern radio storytelling sensibility to traditional radio drama, resulting in rich, evocative pieces that could be described as short films without pictures. Produced by Peabody Award winner Jonathan Mitchell, the show combines excellent writing with authentic, often improvised performances and rich sound design.

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 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.

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.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. www.knightfoundation.org

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