On Saturday it was the ceremony for the British Podcast Awards. This year we did it live as a massive outdoor festival in Brockwell Park. This is the fifth year of the Awards and it’s been an interesting journey from deciding in a pub with Matt Hill that maybe we should put on some awards for podcasting, to standing in a park with a team of 70 making busy preparations, as I looked up hoping for no rain.
There wasn’t any rain, which was fortunate as 650 people showed up to celebrate a sector that’s seen huge growth.
We decided to do the Awards mainly because no one else was, and we felt it would be a good way for the general public to discover new podcasts. Even then we knew that everyone loves a good list.
Part of the reason no one had created an awards is that the sector is incredibly broad. On one side there’s people who have always done audio - both people and radio broadcasters, then there’s those that do different media and have adapted - print publications, telly. There’s then people who want to extend what they already do and see podcasting as a medium that would be helpful. You see a huge range of companies and charities doing this. Then there’s those who have a story to tell, or just want to be heard. Taken together, these are not a bunch of people who would otherwise meet up.
However, from whichever end they come from, all of these people do now share something - from devising a show to producing it, and then going on to market it and grow an audience. Also as a relatively new medium, there really aren’t that many experts. The rules are still being written, so it’s a journey that people are pretty much taking together. It also helps that there’s lots of growth - in who’s tuning in for the first time - and how much time they’re spending listening.
For the Awards it creates an amazing atmosphere when you bring these people together - there isn’t much other media, where everyone is generally happy for the winners!
Matt Hill and I often talk about the Awards being a ‘big tent’, so it was good for everyone to actually be under one this year. We have huge support from across the sector to help us put on the event. It exists to reward excellence and to spread the word about shows, so sponsor funding ensures we’re able to do that. What’s also been brilliant is how may of our partners are able to help multiply our activity by using their own reach and channels.
Our headline partner, Amazon Music, is new for this year, reflecting their entry into the market with a great podcast listening experience online and in-app, but also content creation through their Wondery acquisition and their ad-tech involvement by buying Art19. They’ve worked with us to use their social channels to promote our nominees, creating assets for them and supporting with above the line spend too. We’re over the moon to matchmake some these opportunities and hope these new relationships will be even more fruitful in the future.
Apple and Spotify also support our winners with BPA branded promotions on their apps and services. Being a winner, or nominee, is a great hook to tell people that your podcast’s special - so we know that branded playlists and landing pages on these services really help discovery.
BBC Sounds has continued to support the Listeners’ Choice award and our weekly recommendations newsletter. Listeners’ Choice is our public vote, and hugely popular - over 140,000 people voted this year. We also designed it to be a promotional mechanism. Post-vote listeners can tweet their choices, including listening links - driving awareness and sample of shows. My colleague David Madelin’s built the tech that does the listening (with Podfollow) and a very clever and secure voting system that copes with the big peaks we see when an influencer drops that Instagram Story swipe-up.
We also work with the excellent Carver PR to get the news of our winners out there. It was great to see a talk-up on The One Show on Friday, an interview with our chair of judges Dr Rangan in the Telegraph on Saturday and some great post-awards mentions in The Sun, Mirror, MailOnline, Hello and loads of regionals and trade press too.
As you can imagine I get a Google News alert every time the British Podcast Awards is mentioned. It’s terrific to see how many shows use a nomination, and any flavour of win, to promote their show, tour or other activity. If it’s driving discovery or providing context to help people press play on something new - we’re over the moon.
To hit those aims of providing discovery and rewarding excellent work, what’s developed is a real machine, that gets added to each year. I’m really proud of the operation and there’s lots of people involved that I can’t name all of them here. Thanks to Carver PR that help us with celebrities and public relations, Create Productions who did the massive job of building the event and managing the show, Josh Divney who makes the brilliant social videos and Jamie Lee who ensured all the social media worked on the day. Holding it all together on stage were our excellent hosts Poppy Jay, Jordan North and William Hanson. Obviously our sponsors are pretty key to the whole thing happening too, so thank you to them.
The Awards is a great thing to be involved in, especially when it’s more than a party and works to help grow recognition and reach of UK podcasts. Speaking of which, you can see our terrific winners here. Go find your new favourite show.