Wondery CEO Announces the Podcast Academy Awards During Keynote Speech

The keynote at Podcast Movement’s Evolutions 2020 in LA kicked off with a stirring rendition of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” led by the moderator Matt Marr, who then introduced Wondery’s founder and CEO Hernan Lopez, who talked about the art and business of podcasts. He started with a brief history of podcasts and talked about the days when there were few advertisers drawn to podcasts and a feeling that podcasts weren’t cool.

On the screen behind him, he put up a picture of Howard Stern and his quote from 2015: “Podcasts are for losers.”

Lopez also talked about the early days of television and movies, when they were considered “a place for human cattle.”

“Podcasts don’t require our eyes, and that’s a great thing,” he said. “Our eyes are bombarded with visuals all day.” He noted that smartphones continue to bring in new listeners; 240 million people will have smart earphones — that’s double last year.

Lopez pointed out that podcasts can still be launched and made successful by a single person, compared to other forms of media, where large teams and lots of money are needed to launch a product. It can take three years to get a TV show off the ground and more than five years for movies.

Podcasts are in this unique position where a podcast created by a single person can beat a show produced by a big company,” said Lopez. “I do want independent producers to thrive.”

One way we can do this, he said, is to reward quality work, with awards like the Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys. Nonprofit organizations that work in the industry could vote for categories based on their individual professional skill set. That didn’t happen until today, with Lopez introducing the board of governors of the new Podcast Academy.

In a later tweet, Lopez clarified that only people can be members and not organizations.

Also on stage was Kerri Hoffman from PRX, Alia Tavakolian CFO of Spoke Media, and Christy Mirabal from Sony Music — board members who will start doing awards in 2021.

The other founding board members include Donald Albright (Tenderfoot TV), Erik Diehn (Stitcher), Anya Grundman (NPR), Courtney Holt (Spotify), Rekha Murthy (Independent), and Lauren Spohrer (Criminal).

During a Q&A with James Cridland, Lopez said, “This will be a non-profit organization funded by members of the Academy, as well as fundraising from the bigger companies. This is a professional organization.”

When asked about the diverse makeup of the board, Mirabal said, “It’s not by accident, we want everyone to have a voice.

As someone who has been in podcasting for 13 years, I can’t express what big news this is for us and our industry. In many ways, it feels like a legitimization of our art and business that we’ve been waiting for.

Editors Note:

You can find out more about the Podcast Academy and how to register by going to www.thepodcastacademy.com and submitting your email address.

Matty Staudt left his gig as a morning show host and EP of San Francisco’s #1 morning show to help start Stitcher 12 years ago. He’s been helping people get into podcasting ever since. His current company, Jam Street Media, focuses on podcasts for brands as well as show and company development. You can reach him at Matty@jamstreetmedia.com

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