INCUBATING NEW IDEAS AND NEW VOICES
New York Public Radio continued to lead the industry in innovation by being the place where new ideas and new voices take shape. Here are some of the things we incubated in Fiscal Year 2015.
Werk It! How to Be a Grown Ass Podcaster
WNYC hosted the first-ever women’s podcasting festival, “Werk It! How to Be a Grown Ass Podcaster," on June 4–5 in The Greene Space. Approximately 250 people gathered for this invitation-only, two-day conference that featured keynote addresses by Roxane Gay (author of Bad Feminist) and Pat Harrison (president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting). Participants included representatives from WNYC, WBEZ, WGBH, KPCC, KUOW, WLRN, NPR, Gimlet, Midroll, BuzzFeed, Slate and Radiotopia. The women in attendance took away tangible strategies for pitching new show ideas, scaling up their podcasts and making their voices heard. Two public events were part of the festival: a comedy show called “How to Be a Grown Ass Woman” hosted by Sara Schaefer and featuring The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams, High Maintenance creator Katja Blichfeld, and NYMag.com advice columnist Heather Havrilesky; and a taping of BuzzFeed’s popular podcast Another Round.
Podcasts for TV Superfans
Throughout the fiscal year, WNYC remained at the center of the cultural conversations spurred by America’s obsession with great television. As highly anticipated programs were broadcast, WNYC released a series of podcasts recapping and analyzing the action. WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone hosted a House of Cards podcast, Radiolab Executive Producer Ellen Horne hosted a Mad Men podcast, and Caitlin Thompson, editor of WNYC.org, hosted a podcast recapping Empire. WNYC also launched Duplicast, a podcast hosted by “two cloned women from another dimension.” It is the only Orphan Black fan show about clones, by clones, for clones and other humans. Duplicast, hosted by Anna Rubanova and Siobhan Thompson, is not an Orphan Black recap podcast. It is a podcast that contains recaps, but also very silly things.
The WNYC Podcast Accelerator is the first of its kind in the dynamic podcasting space. In June, WNYC invited podcast ideas from around the country, choosing five diverse finalists from hundreds of submissions. After they gave their final pitches at the Online News Conference, two winners were chosen: Nancy is a lighthearted LGBTQ magazine show, and The City combines true investigative reporting with deep character profiles. Both podcasts will be piloted in Fiscal Year 2016.
The New Yorker Radio Hour
In April, the New Yorker and WNYC announced a partnership to produce a new national radio program and podcast. The one-hour weekly program is built around the New Yorker’s award-winning writers, artists and editors. The program launched as part of the weekend schedules of public radio stations across the country last fall (Fiscal Year 2016).
We also come to this project, I think, with certain shared values that are not in infinite supply. They include: deep reporting; a devotion to intricate and innovative storytelling; a refusal to pander to the audience; a sense of fairness but an unembarrassed willingness to take a point of view; precise and careful editing; a devotion to the truth with the knowledge that the full truth is always just beyond human reach; a willingness to spend resources to go to where the story is; a sense of modesty and decency and humor; and a willingness to correct mistakes. That we fall short of our own principles and values is a daily given. But that we are devoted to them must also be a given. If that is overly righteous, so be it.
(David Remnick, “Radio Is an Obsession of Mine,” an edited version of his remarks from the 2015 Public Radio Program Directors conference about
PODCASTING WITH POWER
On-demand audio has not only become mainstream, but established itself as a powerful vehicle for connecting with large, loyal and content-hungry audiences. According to Edison Research’s 2015 Infinite Dial Study, 46 million Americans listen to podcasts each month. New York Public Radio was the first in public radio to produce podcasts, and it is now one of the country’s leading podcast producers.
Radiolab dominated the on-demand audio marketplace and was consistently in the top 10 on iTunes. For the fiscal year, Radiolab’s on-demand episodes were accessed approximately 4.9 million times per month. For the South by Southwest festival, Radiolab partnered with Detour, a San Francisco startup that creates location-based audio tours, to produce an innovative project that tells the story of an Austin-based murder mystery. The project was released during South by Southwest so that attendees could experience it while in town. The Austin American-Statesman reported that the tour “could be the most compelling digital experience at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive.” Download “The Year That Broke Austin.”
Freakonomics Radio continued its incredible success this year as Stephen Dubner examined topics such as “Why Doesn’t Everyone Get the Flu Vaccine?” and “Could the Next Brooklyn Be…Las Vegas?” Freakonomics Radio has been in the top 10 on iTunes since its debut, and its on-demand episodes were accessed approximately 4.5 million times per month in Fiscal Year 2015.
Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin launched its third season in November 2014. The first episode featured This American Life host Ira Glass, who compared notes with Alec on interviewing, the afterlife, religion, fact-checking and how to find your reportorial voice. Other episodes in the third season featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Julianne Moore and John McEnroe.
Note to Self (formerly New Tech City), hosted by Manoush Zomorodi, has developed a national following and is consistently one of the top tech podcasts. In January and February 2015, Note to Self coordinated the audience engagement project and series “Bored and Brilliant.” The project gave listeners challenges aimed at helping them detach from their electronic devices and spend more time thinking creatively. More than 21,000 people participated in the innovative project, and the “Bored and Brilliant” challenge is now being packaged for distribution and deployment by other local public radio stations across the country.
Death, Sex & Money continued its strong audience growth in Fiscal Year 2015. BuzzFeed named it one of “12 new podcasts that will make you a better human,” and the Guardian called Anna Sale’s interviewing skills “the best in the business.” It is consistently ranked among the top podcasts on iTunes, with provocative and heartfelt episodes exploring, for example, couples who stay together through gender transitions, a daughter coming to terms with her father’s secret gay life and survival lessons from the fabulous Ellen Burstyn. Listen here.
New in Fiscal Year 2015, the Hodgepod newsletter offers 120,000-plus subscribers a weekly digest of diverse and enlightening podcast recommendations as curated by James Ramsay, a bright young fellow in the Digital Content department who did not write this description. To receive his fantastic recommendations each Friday, do subscribe.