Audio storytelling is as old as the radio—if not the campfire—but the approaches to the form since the dawn of the podcast are still pretty new. And while there are plenty of innovators in that world, there are also a lot of people hungry for the next big thing.
Among those searching for the new voice in podcasting are Radiotopia, the network that's responsible for story-driven podcasts including 99% Invisible, The Memory Palace, Criminal, Song Exploder, and The Mortified Podcast. To that end, they're launching "Podquest," a month-long campaign in which they're seeking out people with good ideas for podcasts and taking ideas. Of those who submit, 10 semi-finalists will receive a little bit of cash ($300) and some mentoring from Radiotopia's producers, while three finalists will each take home $10,000 to produce a three-episode pilot season for their show.
"They'll have four months and a pile of money to go produce, and in that time, we'll really talk with them about the process of starting a podcast," Radiotopia executive producer Julie Shapiro tells Co.Create. "We'll be able to talk about support around marketing and the business side of things, and the tech side of things. How do you build successful social channels? It's not just, 'Here's your money, go!' That's a really important part of this whole effort—this has become an industry, and there are ways to succeed and ways to fail, and we want to share the expertise that we have."
An open call for aspiring podcasters is an idea that makes a lot of sense. Shapiro says that, while there are a seemingly infinite number of podcasts on a seemingly infinite number of topics out there, what she's most interested in is finding voices and stories that she hasn't seen a lot of so far. Podquest isn't an explicit call for increased diversity in podcasting, but it's definitely on her mind.
"We'll consider anything—it's a lot about the spirit in which it's presented, and the energy that's conveyed through the submission process," Shapiro says. That process—which involves a one-to-two-minute audio sample—will, she hopes, lead to something unique. "It doesn't help to say 'We'll accept everything!'" she laughs, "But we're really curious about the way people are thinking, and what people will bring to us. We're expecting to get a lot, but it's going to be the ones that rise around the creativity around it, and the originality, and the new ideas that will really stand out to us. Stories about people in other places that aren't just America, or by people in other places that aren't just America, or by people of color—who are really underrepresented in podcasting—or about gender issues, or people who aren't coming from traditional public media training grounds. There's no rules about who can participate, so we're really hoping to discover and introduce some new talent."