Invasion of the Pod People
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PJ Vogt (Reply All) shot to podcasting fame last year. But behind his recent success, Vogt has been deeply involved with the craft of storytelling – and some of its most celebrated institutions.
Reply All is a show about people, technology and the internet, produced by Vogt and co-host Alex Goldman, with whom he also made the podcast TLDR (for WNYC’s On The Media). Since its November 2014 debut, the show has covered internet shaming, One Direction relationship truthers, time-travelling hitmen and the inventor of the pop-up ad. Vogt’s work has also appeared on This American Life and NPR’s All Things Considered.
The show is produced in New York at Gimlet Media – a for-profit podcast network founded by former This American Life and Planet Money producer Alex Blumberg. Joined by Ben Birchall (Ingredipedia podcast), he'll talk about the new wave of American audio storytelling as he sees it – from the dark corners of the internet to the shadowy truths of the world.
Presented in partnership with Sydney Writers Festival.
(Note: We're sorry to tell you that Starlee Kine, originally billed as part of this event, has been delayed in America – and is thus unable to attend.)
So You Think You Can Pod
So, you think you can podcast? Got perfect pitch? Here’s your chance to put our money where your mouth is – and gather some pro tips along the way.
Pitch us your podcast idea for a chance to have it workshopped by a panel including Gimlet Media's PJ Vogt, RN Soundproof's Miyuki Jokiranta and the Wheeler Centre’s digital manager (and Paper Radio producer) Jon Tjhia – with the standout entry given the chance to have their podcast produced by the Wheeler Centre. Find all the details here.
PJ Vogt hosts the podcast Reply All from Gimlet. Reply All is a thrice-a-month podcast that mixes narrative journalism with an editorial sensibility that favours weirdness, humour, and surprise. Every month, the show is downloaded over 2.5 million times. He won a Third Coast award for his hard-hitting look at a prolific songwriter who has written eight albums about toilets.
Ben Birchall is a writer, broadcaster and creative director who has worked in radio, advertising and digital publishing. He hosted 3RRR FM’s Breakfasters from 2009-2012 and is currently the host of Ingredipedia – a factual food fight podcast that consistently tops the iTunes Australia food charts. His writing has appeared in the Age, Smith Journal and Frankie and his advertising work for clients like NAB, Mars, CUB and the Wheeler Centre has won awards internationally.
Miyuki Jokiranta is a radio maker and writer who currently produces for Earshot at ABC RN. Previously, she produced and presented Soundproof, RN’s playground for the sonically curious; within her own radio arts practice, she crafts a space between music and words. She has also produced for RN’s Books and Arts, Poetica and Off Track, and – while living and studying in the US – for a range of National Public Radio programmes including Radiolab, Radio Rookies and Radio Diaries.
Jon Tjhia was the Wheeler Centre’s Senior Digital Editor.
He worked on the Wheeler Centre's multimedia, editorial and digital projects from 2010–2020, including #discuss, the short-form multimedia series Housekeeping, and long-form podcast series Better Off Dead and The Messenger, which won several awards. He's a co-editor and co-founder of the Australian Audio Guide, and has been a member of Audiocraft's programming committee, the Walkley Awards' Radio/Audio Feature judging panel, the New York Festivals Radio Awards Grand Jury and ABC RN's Ian Reed Foundation committee for audio fiction/drama.
Elsewhere, Jon produces the Paper Radio literary fiction and creative non-fiction podcast, makes the occasional radio thing, writes essays and plays music with Speed Painters. In 2016, he was a top-ten finalist in Radiotopia's Podquest competition.
Better Off Dead was named Finalist at New York Festivals Radio Awards 2016. The Messenger was awarded the Grand Trophy and two Gold Medals at New York Festivals Radio Awards 2017; the 2017 UNAA Media Award for Best Radio Documentary; the 2017 Walkley Award for Radio/Audio Feature; and (with Behind the Wire's They Cannot Take the Sky), the 2017 Australian Human Rights Commission Media Award. It was also a finalist at the 2017 Quill Awards, and runner-up for the 2018 Whicker's Documentary Audio Recognition Award.
Previously, as a digital producer at ABC Radio Australia, Jon developed websites in seven languages, interviewed musicians from around the Pacific Islands, and provided multi-platform coverage of that region’s largest music festival, Fest'napuan. He’s occasionally involved in art and sound projects (including a collaborative residency in Wiluna, Western Australia, Eavesdropping at the Ian Potter Museum of Art, and the Soundhouse programme at London's Barbican Centre) and has presented, suggested and advised on sound design and audio storytelling at an armful of festivals, conferences and email threads.
He holds a BA (Cultural Studies) and MMm. The latter is an actual postnominal, although your cooking is indeed good.
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.