Google Podcast Creators Program: Q&A with Kerri Donahue of PRX and Zack Reneau-Wedeen of Google

Google in partnership with PRX had announced the launch of the Google Podcasts Creator Program in October. The goal of the program is to empower under-represented voices in podcasting. Here’s a Q&A with Kerri Donahue of PRX and Zack Reneau-Wedeen on the various aspects of the program and podcasting in general. 

Kerry Donahue, director of Training, PRX

1. Could you give us an idea of how the program was structured and the overarching objective?

Kerri: The Google Podcasts creator program has two main components – a 20-week training program and a series of Podcasting 101 videos which will focus on specific skills development and will be translated into many languages. The 20-week training program is an accelerator model where participants will go through a week-long bootcamp in person (at the PRX Podcast Garage in Boston, Massachusetts) and then return on a monthly basis for “creative reviews” for the teams to present their progress for feedback.

The program will end with a public showcase. Over the course of the training, the teams will be developing pilot episodes for their podcast and a business plan with a focus on marketing, audience engagement and paths to monetization.

We are selecting 12 teams to participate in two trainings (six teams per training) to be offered in 2019. We are running two application windows for the trainings. We are currently in our first application period and will announce the selected teams before the holidays. The second application window will open in April 2019.

The program also has a large and global advisory committee. Amit Doshi from IVM Podcasts in Mumbai is the co-chair of this advisory committee. Advisory committee members will provide guidance on selection teams and mentorship to the teams selected.

The overarching goals for both of these programs is to create access points for people here in the U.S. and abroad who want to get into podcasting. We believe training is a way to close a skills gap that keeps many outside of the industry, particularly women, people of color, and other marginalized voices.

2. What are some of the biggest challenges that creators are facing that you guys hope to address through the program?

Kerri: There’s a long list of barriers and they are likely to be slightly different for each podcaster. They can range from a lack of technical skills using microphones and recorders to learning digital audio editing software. There are also more general production skills, such as how do you focus your idea into a great podcast (or a great idea for a podcast episode into a strong episode), to learning to write for your voice and in a narrative style, to how to plan for and produce a remarkable interview.

Then there is a whole layer of getting your work out in the world, from thinking about your audience and what it needs from your podcast, to understanding distribution and marketing best practices in a quickly shifting landscape. Finally, like a lot of creative work, podcasting can be a lonely business. The Google Podcasts creator program will build a community of creators and mentors to provide support and counsel so creators have the support they need to stick with it, especially when the work gets challenging, which it always does.

3. It’s been over a month since you guys announced the program, how has the response been so far?

Kerri: The response has been strong and global. More than a third of the applications are from outside of the U.S. with representation in English speaking countries (Canada, the UK and Australia) as well as India, South America, Saudi Arabia, Romania and Slovakia, among others.

4. Any surprises in terms of the response so far?

Kerri: Only in the wide reach of applications. While there have been other training programs announced recently, the global reach of this program offers new insight to podcasting hotspots outside of the United States.

5. Wouldn’t you agree that along with training focussing on the content side, there also has to be a focus on the business side of podcasting, given the difficulty in building something sustainable?

Kerri: We completely agree. That is why our training program is longer than most, at 20-weeks, and why the teams have to focus on their business plan in addition to honing their craft and content. PRX is not in the business of creating more starving artists, nor are we hit-makers. We want to offer PRX’s knowledge and expertise in this space to provide a pathway for others, to offer our knowledge and support for creators who are ready to do the work. We never lose sight of the challenges for creators.

Zack Reneau-Wedeen, product manager of Google Podcasts 

1. What was the thought process behind creating the program?

Zack: Podcasting has quickly become one of the best ways to share and listen to stories, but its future depends on a diverse array of stories, voices and creators. With the launch of the Google Podcasts app in June, we’re working to make it easier for people around the world to find and access podcasts.

While there are more podcasts than ever before, there continues to be an imbalance in who is creating them. Women and people of color are still underrepresented as hosts, and many of the world’s most popular podcasts hail from western, urban areas. The Google Podcasts creator program aims to support these underrepresented voices in podcasting, and make it easier for people to learn how to get into this growing medium.

2. What’s next after the 2 rounds of the program?

Zack:We’re committed to investing in empowering publishers for the long-term, and it’s one of the core pillars of our team. At this time we don’t have any specific plans to announce beyond what we’ve already announced publicly.

3. Does Google have any plans to do country-specific programs in countries like India where the potential audiences, both creators and listeners can be massive?

Zack: At the moment we do not have explicit plans to announce in terms of offering classes in other countries. However, we are making a Podcasting 101 video series which will be translated into many languages, and creator program applications will be accepted from around the globe. We also have a number of folks from around the globe on our Advisory Committee, including Amit Doshi of IVM podcasts in Mumbai.

4. How would you characterize podcasting in countries ex-US and are you working on any specific initiatives to spread awareness about podcasts in such countries?

Zack: Podcasting is a vibrant ecosystem around the world, and we see a huge opportunity to make it easier to discover and listen to podcasts, particularly outside the US. Google Podcasts is available globally in all languages, and we are always on the lookout for pockets of success that we can help amplify.

5. How would you respond to characterizations that this program is just a big corporation co-opting an emerging medium?

Zack: We launched Google Podcasts in order to make it easier for people to find and access podcasts, and to expose this content to a larger audience. We started the Google Podcasts creator program to help make sure that this growing pool of podcast content is relevant to and designed for global and diverse audiences. We’re doing this by partnering with PRX, who has extensive experience in bringing underrepresented voices to the fore, and by designing a program that empowers people around the world to reach their audience and tell their own stories. Of course this issue is larger than the Google Podcasts creator program, and we’re excited by all efforts in the space.

The application for the program close on December 2nd. If you are interested, you can learn more about the program and apply here

Posted by Bhuvanesh

A podcast junkie on a mission to make podcasts great.

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