Earlier this year we announced Podquest – an open call out for new show ideas. A whopping 1537 people responded. Ten were selected as our semifinalists. All along we planned to choose three finalists, but picked four in the end. At the end of the year we’ll invite at least one finalist into Radiotopia. Read more about Podquest, what happens next, and all the submissions that made it to the semifinalist round, below.

Introducing… Radiotopia’s Podquest finalists (PQ4)!

Ear Hustle

Ear Hustle brings you the hidden stories of life inside prison, told and produced from the perspective of those who live it.

Earlonne Woods dreamed of attending film school, but by age 26 he was serving a life sentence. While incarcerated he saw a documentary about a film program being offered at San Quentin Prison and transferring there became his goal. He is now a co-creator, host and producer for Ear Hustle.

Antwan Williams was awaiting sentencing in 2006. “I was in the holding tank, it was tense. This guy started rapping. All of a sudden there were no concerns, there was only the now and the freedom of music. I wanted that.” Antwan is the sound designer for Ear Hustle.

Nigel Poor is an artist whose work explores the way people make a mark and leave behind evidence of their existence. She is a professor of photography at California State University, Sacramento. In 2011 Nigel got involved with the prison, she is the co-creator, host and producer for Ear Hustle.


Meat is a podcast about our bodies and the lives we live because of them.

Jonathan Zenti is an independent radio producer based in Rome, Italy. He has been finalist at the Prix Europa twice and he won the GanBéarla Award at the Hearsay Audio Festival in Ireland. He is the founder and a proud board member of MIRP – Meeting of Independent Radio Producers.

The Difference Between

The Difference Between dives into the world of “information doppelgängers”—the stuff you always confuse for that other thing—to find out what makes them truly unique.

Jericho Saria is a freelance video producer, writer, and former Jeopardy! champion. His work covering immigration rights for the Filipino American community has won awards for outstanding journalism. He is a resident artist with Bindlestiff Studio, the Filipino American black box theater in San Francisco’s SOMA district.

Hadrian Santos is a freelance videographer/editor, who was once a Chuck E. Cheese performer, airport ramp agent, Lenscrafters lens crafter, news editor, and reality TV cameraman for shows like "Dukes of Melrose" and "Hollywood Exes." His interests include Bob Ross, bourbon, and esoteric podcasts.


Villain-ish is a show about gaining new perspectives on dubious figures that we've been taught to revile, and exploring the hidden details we may have never considered.

Vivian Le is a first-time podcaster with an eclectic and slightly embarrassing background in television production. She is from Southern California and once helped teach Betty White the lyrics to “Rapper's Delight.”

From PRX’s Radiotopia, Podquest is one of a series of new initiatives funded by a $1 million grant received in May 2015 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Podquest is additionally supported by Hindenburg Systems, the media talent network, and Blue Microphones.

Note! The information below reflects our initial intent to choose three finalists. Ultimately we picked four. It happens.

Podquest is an open call-out for story-driven podcast ideas.

We’re seeking diverse talent, new voices and sustainable ideas that clearly align with Radiotopia’s mission: to support motivated, independent producers and original shows that champion creativity, narrative richness, and high production values.

Ten semi-finalists will win $300 each, office hours with Radiotopia producers, free Hindenburg editing software and a year-long membership with the media talent network AIR. Three finalists will be chosen and supported ($10,000 each) in the production of three pilot episodes over the course of four months. At the end of this period, Radiotopia will invite one finalist to join the network in 2017.

Podquest pitches will be accepted March 17 to April 17, 2016. Finalists will be selected by a committee of Radiotopia producers and PRX staff, with input from 99 donors who volunteered to help shape the future of Radiotopia. Learn more in the FAQ below.

Timeline (all dates in 2016)

  1. Podquest open for submissions: March 17 – April 17 (11:59pm EDT)
  2. (10) Semi-finalists announced: June 1 at
  3. (3) Finalists announced: June 28
  4. (3) Finalists introduced: July 6 – 8 at Podcast Movement (Chicago)
  5. Production season: July – October
  6. Winner/s announced: Late October
  7. Winner/s introduced at the Third Coast Conference in November (Chicago)

Evaluation Criteria


And then what happens?

  1. If selected as one of ten semi-finalists, you will be asked to outline eight potential episodes for your proposed show idea, and must be available for a Skype interview between June 1 – June 17.
  2. If selected as one of three finalists, you will produce three pilot episodes for your show, during a four-month production season (July – October).
  3. Finalists will be paid $5000 up front and $5000 upon completion of all three pilot episodes.
  4. Finalists will be expected to attend Podcast Movement in Chicago in July 7 – 9, to participate in a panel discussion about starting a podcast. Expenses will be covered for one person; other team members will be encouraged to attend.
  5. The finalist/s whose show is selected to join Radiotopia must commit to attending the Third Coast Conference in Chicago (November 11 – 13), where Radiotopia will officially welcome them aboard. Expenses will be covered for one person; other team members will be encouraged to attend.

What you get

Semi-finalists (10)

Finalists (3) All of the above, plus:

Winner/s (Radiotopia reserves the right to choose more than one winner)

Finer print

Questions? Please read through our FAQ then if you’re still wondering, email

From PRX’s Radiotopia, Podquest is one of a series of new initiatives funded by a $1 million grant received in May 2015 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Podquest is additionally supported by Hindenburg Systems, the media talent network, and Blue Microphones.

Congrats also to the Podquest semifinalists, selected from 1537 submissions.

Dear & Sincerely

Unemployed, depressed, and living in her parent’s basement Genevieve decides to ask the smartest* person she knows for advice, herself.

*Indicates questionable judgement

Genevieve Kersten currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband and their dog. She writes for fun and works odd jobs. Genevieve thanks her parents for supporting her financially and emotionally through 5 years of varying degrees of despair… give or take a few decades.

Do Over

Do Over is the real fake story of how your life could have turned out if you’d just done that one thing differently.

Kelly Jones is a producer for BackStory, a public radio show about American history. Her work has appeared on the BBC and she won a Third Coast Short Docs award for a story about poutine. Kelly used to be a competitive gymnast and philosopher. She wants go to space.

Chioke I’Anson is Instructor of African American Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He is also the community producer for UnMonumental, part of AIR’s Localore: Finding America project. Chioke absolutely does not want to go to space. He loves motorcycles. A lot.

Claire Tacon’s first novel, In the Field, was the winner of the 2010 Metcalf-Rooke award. Her new manuscript, Henry & Starr, is forthcoming with Wolsak & Wynn. Claire lectures at St. Jerome’s University and is a fan of home-brewing and nerdy German strategy games.

Reflected Message

Perched at the edges of music and radio storytelling, Reflected Message is like an update of ‘folk’ – pop-sized experiments with voices, memory, repetition and the everyday.

Jon Tjhia is a writer, multimedia editor, audio maker and musician from Melbourne. Since first embarking on designed radio work in Vanuatu and remote Western Australia, he’s co-produced the Paper Radio podcast, made audio (and humming internet) for the Wheeler Centre, and played and released music with Speed Painters.

The Stoop

The Stoop is a space where race, identity, fun, funk and journalism come together in a tightly produced podcast that will go deep into issues about black identity that aren’t always openly discussed.

Leila Day is a producer at KALW in San Francisco. She’s reported for many national outlets; was an Annenberg Fellow; and won two major awards for commentary. Leila responds to the repetitive question “but where are you really from?” with an eye roll and the answer “Las Vegas.”

Hana Baba is a Sudanese American Muslim mom who grew up on folktales. She was a fellow at PRI, UC Berkeley, and hosts the KALW newsmagazine, Crosscurrents. She reports on culture, religion, education and immigrant communities for NPR, PRI, BBC – and can bust out a Slick Rick rap on demand.

The editor for this project is Julie Caine.

Third Culture

Third Culture celebrates those who are from everywhere and belong nowhere, unearthing stories of juggled identities.

Naima Sakande is British, Burkinabé, believed she was Dutch, found community in Costa Rica and made a home in the USA. She collects stories the way tourists collect fridge magnets. Currently based in London, she works in criminal justice and is busy trying to resurrect her English accent.

This Isn't Working

This Isn’t Working is a show about "making a living" in the U.S. in an age of corporate domination, industrial transition, and general labor weirdness.

Susie Cagle is a journalist and illustrator in Oakland, California. She has written and drawn for the Guardian, Pacific Standard, ProPublica, and others, and was most recently a Knight fellow at Stanford. She has also pulled weeds, made cold calls, and cared for other people’s children in exchange for money.

Podquest FAQ

What are you looking for?
We’re looking for Radiotopia’s next podcast. We’re looking for creative, motivated, diverse producers, who will help take Radiotopia in new directions and attract new listeners. We’re looking for fresh ideas about compelling subjects that we can help grow into sustainable podcasts with increasing audiences and revenue over time.
What are you not looking for?
While we’re fans of many podcast formats out there, we’re not looking for: unstructured conversations, live storytelling, or ideas that overlap with shows already in Radiotopia.
What do you mean by diversity?
Through Podquest we’re consciously seeking producers who range in background, experience, voice and style, and are especially interested in hearing from podcasts and producers not yet represented in Radiotopia. We encourage anyone who self-identifies as marginalized in the podcasting landscape – whether this is related to your race, ethnicity, religion, economic background, sexual orientation, physical abilities or other – to submit a show idea.
I don’t have very much production experience. Should I bother entering?
If you’re totally new to podcasting but have a stellar idea and the drive and motivation to bring it to life, we will consider your pitch. We recommend starting to get familiar with basic equipment and software the minute you finish reading this.
I already produce a podcast. Can I submit that?
Maybe. If your podcast is in its early stages or has been around for some time but you have clear ideas about continuing to evolve it, and your ideas are in line with Radiotopia's creative mission, go for it.
Remind me of Radiotopia’s creative mission?
To support motivated, independent producers and original, story-driven shows that champion creativity, narrative richness, and high production value. Also: keep reading.
What do you mean by story-driven?
Radiotopia shows explore storytelling across a range of styles, through compelling subjects, unforgettable characters and complex narratives. Radiotopians use the tools of the trade to tell these stories: interviews, scenes, research, recordings, writing, scoring, careful editing and sound design. Radiotopia shows inform, entertain, explore and provoke - all through the telling of exceptional stories.
Does fiction count in your definition of story-driven?
Yes, submissions for fiction podcasts are welcome.
What do you mean when you say you’ll provide mentorship and podcast-relevant skill building?
Depending on needs per finalist, PRX and Radiotopia producers will provide support in the form of editorial input, technical assistance, and workshops on marketing, promoting, budgeting, visual branding, and best social media practices in starting up a podcast. If needed, general oversight will be available throughout the pilot production season.
Will you accept international submissions?
Will you accept Non-English submissions?
No! (Sorry, we don’t have the resources to support finalists working in languages other than English.)
How many ideas can I submit?
Entrants may submit one idea each. Send us your absolute best.
What are you listening for in my audio clip?
We’re looking for an original idea expressed clearly either through example or description. This can be an example of your work, or an audio introduction to you as a host. We’re open to exploring new forms; here’s your chance to get (and hold) our attention.
Can I submit an idea in collaboration with someone else?
Collaborations are welcome. Keep in mind that should your team be selected as a finalist, expenses will only be covered for one person to travel and participate in relevant activities.
What's up with the 99 donors who are helping evaluate proposals?
In last year's fundraising campaign, donors had the option of supporting us at a level to "help shape the future of Radiotopia," which is manifesting in their involvement in Podquest. Ninety-nine people raised their hands to do this, and will be contributing feedback about proposals, which will be considered in all final decisions made.
Will my proposal be shared publicly?
Maybe. We’ll be celebrating our ten semi-finalists online, including a sentence or two about their show ideas. If you’re further chosen as a finalist, we’ll bring you into public conversations about designing podcast strategies around initial show ideas.
When and how will you announce the semi-finalists?
By June 1, via the PRX blog and at You will be notified (gently) beforehand if your proposal is not chosen.
When and how will you announce the finalists?
At the Podcast Movement conference in Chicago July 7 to 9.
What happens if I'm a finalist but not invited to join Radiotopia?
You own your idea 100% and are welcome to pursue your show on your own.

Further questions? Contact with any others.