Buzz: Podcast News September 17-23

Each week in Buzz, we’ll give you a roundup of our favorite podcast reads from around the internet.

September 24, 2015: Prix Italia Winners Are Announced

There is a ton of great work honored by the Prix Italia, including WireTap, which won the Radio Drama Award. But we’re extra-excited by the newest category added to the awards this year, the “Golden Award for New Radio Formats,” which honors and celebrates audio work done outside traditional radio by independent producers—i.e., podcasts! The Heart‘s Kaitlin Prest brought home the award for her piece, “Movies in Your Head.” And it’s an outstanding story that you should definitely hear.

We caught up with Kaitlin to ask her a few questions about her work and what it meant to win.


As you know, the Prix Italia is a very old and prestigious broadcasting award, but this is the very first year the Prix Italia opened up its competition to independent producers with the new award, “Golden Award for New Radio Formats,” which allowed a place for work like yours and other podcasters to be considered and honored. Tell me a little bit about what it means to you—and the industry—that this category was added.


The truth is, I would be so disappointed in any great radio institution that doesn’t see podcasting and independently released audio as a part of the tradition of radio. To me, whether or not it goes on the radio is a (largely irrelevant) question of tech.


How did it feel to hear the news that you were the first winner of this new award? Did you have any suspicion you might win?


Ha. Good question. I felt many things.

I was very prepared not to win, because we’ve lost so many times at so many other things. I did feel like “Movies in Your Head” was worth an award, but I tried really hard to stay zen about it.

When I found out my heart started beating really fast. I silently hung up the phone, sat on the floor, and buried my face in Mitra’s lap. She knew right away.

I wondered if she was both happy and sad, because this meant “The Hurricane” didn’t win. Even though either would technically have been a win for both of us. Recently we’ve been talking obsessively about ownership and crediting within collaborations, and being the main recipient of the award was on my mind. And then I got out the calculator and started figuring out how to divvy up the cash.


Your piece, “Movies in Your Head,” deals with perception in the early stages of a romantic relationship—specifically about projecting fantasies on a person you don’t really know to an almost obsessive degree. I think this is something everyone can relate to but isn’t always admitted or discussed. What inspired this story? Was this a personal piece for you or did you have a hunch this was a universal experience?


It was both. I am generally interested in how we negotiate truth in a world full of conflicting truths, particularly in romantic relationships. As a romantic, I often see more than what’s there, and get really sad when I realize it’s mostly my imagination.

I met a guy in a bar one night, (the man you hear at the beginning of the piece) and a few beers into our conversation he dropped the phrase “don’t make movies in your head.” I knew what he meant immediately and reflected on how many times I’d made that mistake.

The piece began as a documentary, and as soon as I started talking about it to people I realized it was a universal experience. Everyone had a story. Shira Bannerman (the assistant producer) and I recorded about 17 interviews before realizing the only way to represent the truth of the experience was to fictionalize it. So we took three storylines (one of them was mine) and consolidated them into a single narrative.


Your piece runs almost exactly 20 minutes. This is not necessarily long for a podcast episode, but producing a piece like this can take weeks or even months. How long did it take to produce this piece from interviewing to editing and mixing?


This piece took one year to make. Shani Aviram and I were passing mixes back and forth from December until June of 2014.


While you personally wrote and produced this piece and have now won the Prix Italia award, the work required help from a whole team—including fellow nominee and The Heart producer Mitra Kaboli. How much assistance goes into creating a beautiful piece like this?


A shit ton. Mitra and I brainstorming and developing what the idea even was, spending afternoons storyboarding on my floor with Crayola marker and a big sketch book. Shira Bannerman helped me interview and log a million hours of tape and workshopped the ideas behind the piece. Sharon Mashihi forced me to write the script. She just sat with me while I started the painstaking process of fiction writing (so, so hard). She gave crucial feedback on the early cuts and was the brains behind the opening scene. And of course Shani Aviram. Her compositions and editorial input transformed the piece completely. It would have been nothing without her.


Finally, the award comes with a prize of 7,000 euros—almost $8,000. Any special plans for how you are going to spend the money? Diamonds? Rubies? A cruise down the Rhine?


Ha. I’ll go out for an obscenely expensive dinner and drink fancy whiskey until someone carries me home. And then I’ll probably just pay the IRS all the money I owe them. After divvying up the cash between the people on the production team—we made this piece for absolutely zero dollars. None of us got paid a cent at the time.

September 23, 2015: Third Coast Announces the Winners of The 2015 Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition

Presenting…the 2015 TC/RHDF winners (alphabetically, by title):

695BGK (USA)
Produced by Lauren Spohrer and Phoebe Judge for Criminal

Betrayed by Silence (USA)
Reported and produced by Madeleine Baran and Sasha Aslanian, with editor Mike Edgerly and project director Chris Worthington for Minnesota Public Radio News

Britney (USA)
Produced by Starlee Kine with Eric Mennel, Melinda Shopsin, and editor Eli Horowitz for Mystery Show

Burma’s Rohingya: Easy Prey for Traffickers (USA)
Reported by Axel Kronholm with editor Mia Lobel and producer Rob Sachs for America Abroad

The Living Room (USA)
Produced by Briana Breen with editing, mixing and scoring by Brendan Baker for Love + Radio

Mayday Mayday (UK)
Produced and directed by Becky Ripley with editor James Cook for BBC Radio 4

Sight Unseen (USA)
Produced and edited by Jad Abumrad with Soren Wheeler and Jamison York for Radiolab

Sounds Up There (UK)
Produced by Colin McNulty, with executive producer Kevin Dawson, and studio manager Gareth Iles for Whistledown Productions and BBC Radio 4.

Structural Integrity (USA)
Produced by Joel Werner and Sam Greenspan with editor Roman Mars for 99% Invisible

It’s awards season apparently, and Third Coast announced the results of its annual audio documentary award. We won’t actually know who won what until the Third Coast Filmless Festival in Chicago at the end of October (so book your tickets!). A huge—and wonderful—takeaway is how many of the winners debuted on podcasts. The talent and creativity on this list is pretty staggering, and so many of these stories step outside the traditional documentary style. This is just further proof that the field is expanding and innovation is rushing in. It’s also worth nothing that Radiotopia snagged three awards with its shows, Criminal, Love+Radio, and 99% Invisible. If you haven’t heard these stories, set some time aside this weekend and enjoy the incredible work from this talented bunch.

September 23, 2015: Abid Rahman for Hollywood Report, Serial” to Tackle Bowe Bergdahl Case for Upcoming Season

The second season of the hit podcast Serial will focus on the Bowe Bergdahl case, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

Maxim magazine first reported that the This American Life spin-off series will look into the mystery surrounding Sgt. Bergdahl’s disappearance from an army base in Afghanistan in 2009 and his subsequent five-year imprisonment by the Taliban. Bergdahl was finally freed in May 2014 in a prisoner exchange for Guantanamo Bay detainees. 

Ah, Serial, we meet again. It’s tough to go a week without hearing Serial pop up in the news, but this is actually a pretty big development. The second season of the show will step away from true crime and instead, investigate a very well known and controversial matter relating to a U.S. soldier accused of desertion in Afghanistan. It’s probably smart that the podcast is not trying to duplicate what it did in Season 1, but we’re curious about if it will catch on in the same way. It’ll also be interesting how much access producers can get and what will remain classified.

As an aside, producers from the show released this statement after Maxim started sniffing around: “We’d very much appreciate if fellow journalists would give us some room and not feel the need to attempt to dig into and try to figure out what you think we might be doing, especially since we’re actively reporting stories, and having a bunch of wild speculation out there makes our job reporting harder. Doesn’t feel very menschy. In any case, here’s what I can tell you: The Serial staff is currently working on several things simultaneously: Season 2, Season 3, and some other podcast projects. For now we’re not talking publicly about anything that we’re working on.”

Oh, it’s tough to be famous. But bonus points for the use of menschy.

September 19, 2015: Nicky Wolf for The Guardian, “Edward Snowden: we may never spot space aliens thanks to encryption”

And extraterrestrials may never notice us, either, if our technology is sufficiently sophisticated, whistleblower tells Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Leave it to journalists to focus on the most far-out comment Snowden made to Neil deGrasse Tyson in the latest episode of StarTalk. But seriously. This is one case where we can say that the article was more exciting than the podcast, unless you think listening to two nerds giggle under the sheets (or in this case, over a “beam remote presence system”) about technology is worth your time. It is a multi-part series, so perhaps the next installment will be different. And yeah, we like hearing people unabashedly tackle issues surrounding ET and AI as much as the next dork, but the interview is surprisingly sober—well, surprising if you read The Guardian’s article about it first. The alien talk comes in around the 30-minute mark and lasts for mere seconds. We found Snowden’s remarks about 9/11 quite humanizing and, therefore, more exciting.

September 17, 2015: Rick Broida from CNET, “Is Apple’s new Podcasts app finally good?”

The new, iOS 9 version of Apple Podcasts boasts a fairly substantial redesign and some much-needed new features. For example, there’s now a tab that shows all the podcasts you haven’t listened to yet.

Intrigued? For anyone who quit the app years ago and moved on to something like Downcast, Instacast or Overcast, the question is simple: Is there any reason to switch back?

We’ve put heavy mileage on the Apple Podcasts app in iOS 9, and it’s a nice upgrade–we’re in agreement with CNET. However, it insists on crashing on a regular basis. As of yet, it isn’t bad enough to make you throw your hands up in the air, but it persists. We imagine this will be fixed in a subsequent build, but if you’re listening to a lot of podcasts, expect the app to boot you out to the home screen a few times a week. Otherwise, the upgrade is solid. The app is managing your unplayed podcasts in a cleaner way, and there’s a handy mini player added to the bottom of the screen that lets you pause and play while you’re shuffling through episodes. In 2015, this is as close to a good podcast player as there is, but don’t get your hopes up too much. This isn’t a revolutionary upgrade. It’s more iPhone 5s than 6 Plus.

September 21, 2015: Sarah Schmid from Xconomy Podcast Fans Can Connect and Share Episode Highlights on Fireside”

Christian Bator, co-founder of Ann Arbor, MI-based startup Fireside, is also a big fan of podcasts. Frustration over the inability to highlight great shows to his friends was the reason he started the company.

‘I had no good way to share what I was listening to,’ he says. ‘In the past, podcasts have not been very socially discoverable. Why shouldn’t there be a place where sharing audio is as easy as sharing pictures?’

Fireside is a new app that works a little like Twitter, only for podcasts. It’s a way to share 20-second sound bites from podcasts with other people. It makes an awful lot of sense when you look at the success of Vine and Snapchat. You can tease your favorite episodes or just highlight really beautiful snippets of tape. We haven’t had a chance to immerse ourselves in it, but the concept is fully formed. The 20-second time limit works like the 144-character cap in Twitter: The restrictions make the focus sharper and easier to consume. One problem with Fireside is going to be its ability to incorporate all podcasts. Right now, it doesn’t represent all the podcasters, specifically indie labels. The biggest obstacle of all, however, is understanding how Fireside will stand on its own when someone will incorporate this functionality into Twitter. Others do, but they aren’t podcast specific, and they haven’t found widespread adoption. It’s going to be tough for Fireside to get its own loyal users and fend off Twitter’s massive network, yet good ideas have a way of winning out.


September 30, 2015, is International Podcast Day

Hang on to your hats, folks. A new network is coming!



Author Description

The Timbre brings thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis to podcasts and the larger culture of podcasting.