Invasion of the Pod People
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You might think of Julie Shapiro as a master listener.
Back in 2000 – before podcasting was invented – Shapiro was a co-founder and the artistic director of the highly respected Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago, dedicated to extending the craft and awareness of artful radio storytelling. She did that for 14 years: a time during which the creative audio community, listenership and marketplace exploded.
Today – amid all the excitement, investment and real innovation around podcasting – she’s the executive producer of Radiotopia, the tightly curated Boston-based network widely considered the ‘indie record label’ of podcasts … and home to 99% Invisible, Ear Hustle, The Heart, Song Exploder and many more.
Shapiro also boasts a strong connection to Australia. From 2014 to 2015, she lived in Sydney as executive producer of ABC RN’s Creative Audio Unit, which produced the boundary-blasting Soundproof and the storytelling show Radiotonic.
This December, she visits Melbourne to share insights from her long career in listening – and to discuss collaboration, reinvention and the long view in the era of the podcast, with host Sophie Black.
In the second part of this event, Julie Shapiro will lend us her ears as a judge of So You Think You Can Pod – the Wheeler Centre’s search for new, audible ideas – alongside Audiocraft executive director Kate Montague, Australian podcast producer Eric George (Bowraville, Ballarat's Children) and Wheeler Centre senior digital editor Jon Tjhia.
Julie Shapiro is the executive producer of Radiotopia from PRX, a curated network of extraordinary, cutting-edge podcasts.
From 2014–15, Julie was the executive producer of ABC RN's Creative Audio Unit. In 2000, she co-founded the Third Coast International Audio Festival – where as artistic director she shaped the Festival's creative trajectory and prioritised innovative audio and a cross-pollinating international listening culture.
Julie has taught radio to university students, presented at conferences all over the globe, and produced stories for the airwaves and podcasts in the US and beyond. She lives with her husband and son in Arlington, MA.
Kate Montague is the Founder and Director of Audiocraft – an organisation for Australian radiomakers and podcasters.
She has made audio stories for ABC RN’s Earshot, This Is About, Pocketdocs and Long Story Short programmes, the CBC's Love Me podcast, NPR’s Snap Judgement, FBi Radio’s All The Best, online publications such as Narratively, and exhibitions such as The Pool.
Kate is currently doing a practice led PhD at Macquarie University researching personal storytelling in radio documentaries and podcasts.
‘Women have many reasons to be wary, depressed or downright terri ed of the internet. No guaranteed safe space exists for a woman online. Especially a lippy one. And yet ... as a tool for social change, the internet, to the extent that we can still refer to it as a single entity, still offers immense possibilities.’
Sophie Black is head of publishing at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the national to writers scheme The Next Chapter, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest. Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media, where she headed up titles such as Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Daily Review and SmartCompany. In 2013, she delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director. She sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and the human rights publication Right Now.
Eric George is a multiple Walkley Award-winning podcast producer and the Australian's Multimedia Editor. He produced the investigative documentaries Bowraville and Ballarat's Children and launched the newspaper's weekly business podcast, The Money Cafe.
Eric also covers netball for the Australian, and hosts Three Feet Away, a netball podcast. He has worked with SBS, Business Spectator and Eureka Report. Prior to journalism, Eric pursued a career as a winemaker.
In the last few years, podcasts have matured into the storytelling format du jour – with a little help from a certain sensationally popular true crime serial (ahem). Yet the surge of interest and excitement around audio features and podcasts has been gaining momentum for even longer, propelled by a diversity of formats.
Take the narrative artisanship of This American Life or the sonic vivacity of Radiolab; the topical deep dives of Slate’s Culture Gabfest or Phillip Adams’s Late Night Live; the animated storytelling of The Moth or Sum of All Parts; or the intimate conversations found in Death, Sex and Money or WTF with Marc Maron. The influence of these and countless other shows can be felt in today’s most interesting podcasts (insert shameless plug for the Wheeler Centre’s own successful forays into richly-produced feature-making, including Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead, and The Messenger, here).
Beloved for their sense of proximity, their active listenership, portability and in some cases, ambitiously-crafted audio, podcasts have a unique ability to keep listeners in the company of their own choosing – and to render mundane tasks bearable. And since design show 99% Invisible’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns – podcasts have also shown promise in otherwise dim times for media businesses. What’s next for podcasting – and how could it be done better?
In celebration of all things audible, we’re bringing you some of podcasting’s best and brightest to share their thoughts and insights on the art (and business) of listening.