Illustration by Neema Iyer.
Producers, reporters, journalists, makers—give us your best pitch.
AIR’s legendary Pitch Panel at Third Coast Conference puts participants directly in front of editors and producers, selling their stories with a little help—this year, from host Leila Day, of Pineapple Street Media and The Stoop Podcast. We’ll choose six to 12 producers to pitch a project in front of a live audience.
The 2019 Bitchin’ Pitchin’ Panel host will work with the selected producers in advance to refine their ideas. During the panel, each participant will make a real pitch to a real editor or host from a top public media show or podcast. The resulting dialogue between a commissioning entity and the pitcher will reveal how, in this important first phase of development, a concept moves from the initial spark in a producer’s imagination to a fully formed, highly crafted story.
The editors and hosts invited to participate this year are among the best in the business, with digital and broadcast distribution platforms ripe for indie producers’ new sounds and perspectives. This year’s panel includes editors and producers from Planet Money, Reveal, WHYY’s The Pulse, Spotify, and Dipsea.
AIR’s Pitch Panels are fun, educational, at times terrifying. We’re counting on you to give it a shot! Read on to learn how to proceed.
How to participate:
Submit your pitch by filling out this short form!
DEADLINE EXTENDED: Friday, September 13, 2019, at 8pm PT.
Please note: Do NOT send your pitches to the panelists.
Be sure to include:
1. Which program/producer you are pitching.
2. A concise description of your story idea—under 200 words.
3. A clear, thoughtful description of how it will sound, and the audio elements you might include. Can you play tape during your pitch? Let us know.
4. Do you have more than five years radio experience, or less? Specifically, what kind of experience?
5. Your contact info. How do we reach you before and during the conference? Email and phone number, please.
6. Have you participated in an AIR pitch panel in the past three years (please include the date/venue)?
Contact Leila with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org and see below to find pitch guidelines for the editors’ shows along with their bios!
Warm up your pitching skills with a webinar from AIR!
Are you excited about AIR’s Pitch Panel but nervous about the art of selling your story? AIR put on a Pre-Pitch Panel webinar to help you on your way to a winning pitch. Panelists bringing expert advice included independent producer Angilee Shah and Marketplace editor Eve Epstein. The webinar was organized by AIR’s Story Talent Curator Jeanette Woods and will hosted by our very own Project Editor Annie Russell.
Leila Day is a senior producer at Pineapple Street Media and co-host of The Stoop Podcast: Stories from across the Black diaspora. She’s a former reporter and editor at KALW in San Francisco and she’s created work for various national outlets and podcasts. Leila has also edited and produced award winning pieces and has taught storytelling from inside San Quentin State Prison and at Transom Storytelling Workshop.
Editors & Show Hosts
Learn about the Bitchin’ Pitchin’ panelists, then click “read more” to find their show’s pitch guidelines.
Jen Chien is a senior radio editor for Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Jen is also lead editor for 70 Million, an open-source podcast about criminal justice reform from Lantigua Williams & Co. Previously, she was managing editor at KALW, and her work has been recognized by the Peabody Awards, PRNDI, and SPJ NorCal. Before entering journalism, she had a successful career as a professional dance and theater artist, teacher, and massage therapist.
Click below for Reveal’s pitch guidelines!
Please note, you don’t need to fill out the form but should be able to answer the questions: http://revealnews.org/pitching-reveal/
Erika Clarke works in Original Podcasts at Spotify, where she creates and develops podcasts that center around news, documentary, pop culture and social impact. Prior to joining Spotify, Erika spent nearly two decades producing, writing, directing, and developing content for cable television, advertising and PR firms, and top media/digital brands. Prior to entering television, Erika was an editorial assistant for TIME for Kids, and worked in publicity for Caroline/Astralwerks Records. Those experiences led her to a ten-year stint with MTV News + Docs, and as a freelancer she was a producer for the Peabody-award winning pro-social campaign, CNN Heroes, as well as an executive producer on documentaries dealing with topics ranging from race to the opioid crisis in America. She holds a B.A. in Journalism/Mass Communications from New York University.
Click below for Spotify’s pitch guidelines!
At Spotify, my team focus primarily on pitches that fit within either news, documentary, pop culture, scripted, or social impact, but we also have teams that work in: music, comedy, and sports – with more verticals to come!
That being said, whether you’re pitching an investigative docu-series, an interview show, or a game show concept, we focus on the below tenets and the components within them:
QUALITY IDEA—fundamentally, does the world need and/or want this podcast? Is it in a less-crowded genre where we need more quality content? Is it a great addition to a genre where we know people want more great content?
PERSONALITY—a combination of the personality of the presenter(s), and the voice and style of the podcast in general. Is this a podcast we want to spend time with?
CREATIVITY—is this a new idea? Is there something surprising about it that will make audiences pay close attention? Will it be able to do things that other podcasts don’t, or at least do it better? In a crowded marketplace, is this something audiences would seek out?
VIABILITY—is this sustainable? What is the cadence – weekly? Always on? Do you have a good grasp of what it will take to make this and to reach the right audience(s)? How close are you to making this podcast?
So with that—I’m excited to hear your pitch!
Kristina Loring is a sound-oriented storyteller, writer, and artist. She’s currently the storytelling lead editor at Dipsea, an audio erotica app designed to turn you on. She’s the co-creator and producer of the interactive podcast Cooking By Ear. Her audio work has appeared on McSweeney’s The Organist podcast, NPR stations WCAI and KALW, PRX’s Public Radio Remix, and WarInk.org. Her sound installations have appeared in the Market Street Prototyping Festival in San Francisco, the White Rabbit Open Air Festival in Nova Scotia, The Appointed Time Gallery in Oslo and have been featured in The Atlantic, Curbed SF, Fast Company and Inhabitat.
Click below for Dipsea’s pitch guidelines!
Access Dipsea‘s guidelines here.
Catherine Saint Louis is the senior editor of podcasts for Neon Hum Media, a Los Angeles-based podcast house founded by Jonathan Hirsch. She edited Crooked Media’s This Land, Larger than Life from the LA Times, Spotify’s The Conversation with Amanda De Cadenet and Break Stuff from The Ringer (which was exclusive to Luminary). She has two new podcasts in the works that have yet to be announced. She is a proud Transom grad. Before her podcast life, she was a reporter and editor at the New York Times for 15+ years. She hates errors and loves baked goods.
Click below for Neon Hum’s pitch guidelines!
Guidelines to pitch a multi-part series to Neon Hum Media:
- Be able to describe your multi-part documentary podcast in 30 words or less. You should be able to say in a sentence what makes this series a surprising stand-out that will have broad impact.
- Who are the main characters in the series, what is the series arc, and what are the central questions the episodes will grapple with. It sounds brutal but why should listeners care about this story? (I never assume anyone will inherently care about anything. It’s our job as storytellers to get people to care and to realize if we don’t deliver, listeners stop listening.)
- If a single podcast episode is a sequence of events where a character encounters a problem and attempts to overcome it, then the bar is even higher for a multi-part series. So give us a sense of the multiple problems the character encounters and how they try to overcome them. In other words, what the evolution over the course of the series? What are the turns along the way that will keep listeners gripped over multiple episodes?
- Pinpoint the number of episodes for your documentary show and give a sense of why X episodes is just right for your series.
- Prepare a deck, but don’t use it for the pitch. Have it ready to send.
- Be clear how Episode 1 will lay out the point of the series and hook listeners so they are compelled to subscribe and immediately listen to Episode 2
- If it’s a chat show or mixed format chat show, tell us why it’s the first of its kind, or why it will succeed where others have failed. How to you see keeping the show fresh week after week. Who is the host, and what’s the draw.
- Define the audience and tell us how you are honing this idea for that audience, and why other audiences will also be able to connect — how is your show both specific and universal
Maiken Scott hosts WHYY’s The Pulse—a national health and science radio show and podcast that explores the people and places at the heart of health and science. Since its launch in December 2013, The Pulse has crafted a unique, “ground-level” approach to telling compelling stories and breaking down complicated issues. The show airs on more than 50 public radio stations across the country.
For The Pulse, Maiken has explored Natural History museums as ‘time capsules for our planet,’ Thomas Jefferson’s ill-fated attempts to study Native American languages, and why so many patients cry after waking up from anesthesia, just to name a few topics.
Maiken grew up in Karlsruhe, Germany (where Heinrich Hertz did his famous work on radio waves, and an early version of the bicycle was invented.) She moved to the US when she was in her early twenties. She studied journalism at Temple University in Philadelphia, and also completed a graduate degree in American history at that university. Before hosting The Pulse, Maiken worked as a reporter and producer at WHYY. She started as an intern at WHYY—and basically just never left.
Click below for The Pulse’s pitch guidelines!
Our Values. At “The Pulse” we…
Put people first.
Our show presents complicated issues at a human scale. We let reporters and the characters in our stories be themselves and speak with their authentic voices. Our style at the Pulse is conversational. If it’s appropriate feel free to write a bit of yourself into the narrative. The stories we love the most are from audio producers with the confidence to be exactly themselves on the radio — curiosity, attitude, accents, life-experience and all. Bring it.
Take the audience on a journey.
The destination is understanding. Place is key. If the choice is between interviewing someone in an office and in a hot-air balloon over the Rio Grande … you know the rest.
Answer questions people didn’t know they had.
One of the best sources for great storytelling is personal experience. If you find yourself wondering “why is that?” odds are our audience is, too. Some of our best work — and favorite stories — are based on an idea we got after a Tuesday morning doctor’s appointment.
If the audience can’t predict what will happen next … we’re succeeding.
Empower people to take control of their health.
We aren’t here to market gadgets or push fad diets. We are in the business of giving people the tools to understand their options and their rights.
Celebrate with skepticism.
Groundbreaking research is our lens to understanding the human condition. Just keep in mind that science is a moving target.
Keep it weird.
The fringe is where the action is.
Let stories breathe.
We are not the 6 o’clock news. We strive to do timely reporting on issues that matter, but we don’t do breaking news. So, slow it down, take a breath, and tell us a story.
Robert Smith is a host and correspondent for Planet Money. He is spending the year as a Knight-Bagehot fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. Over the last 30 years, Robert has done just about every job in public radio: reporter, producer, editor, and news director. He’s spent most of his career at NPR, but back in the 20th Century, he worked at various public radio stations in the West: KUER, KUOW, KBOO. Robert also teaches radio and podcasting courses including gigs at Columbia Journalism School and Princeton.
Click below for Planet Money’s pitch guidelines!
How To Make Your Best Planet Money Pitch:
Planet Money is a show about business and economics, so your pitch should have some tangential relationship to money. But honestly, don’t get too caught up on this. The money angle is necessary, but it is the easiest part to tease out during the creation process. The show is really about memorable characters facing real challenges and, in the end, teaching us something about how the world works. The story needs to be surprising and feel relevant now, and it needs to have enough action or ideas to hold up for 20 minutes.
Please don’t pitch a topic like “inflation” or the “weird economics of pet food.” Pitch a story. Your pitch should highlight a character you have access to and should briefly lay out the plot. You should articulate why we should care about this story and what it teaches us. Include why you are the best person to tell this story and how we know you can deliver. Keep your pitch to about a page. We want to read something that makes us want more!
If your pitch is for us to air an episode of another podcast, it’s best to contact us as soon as possible in the reporting process. We sometimes adapt previously produced material, but it is difficult. Let us know what you are working on early and we can give you guidance for getting the right material.
Shows like Planet Money face a dilemma: we desperately need more surprising story ideas and yet we are always wary of how much extra time and effort it will take to work with a new person. Your job is to get us hooked, convince us that no one else can tell this story, and make it seem like the process will be a piece of cake.
It is never a piece of cake. We know that. But at the beginning, we all want to be excited and feel like there is a clear path and this just might be the one story that will magically come together without pain. And then the work begins.
Some common reasons why we reject pitches:
- The person has clearly never heard the show.
- Or the pitch is “too Planet Money,” just imitating what we have already done.
- The story doesn’t feel surprising.
- The pitch is too long. If you can’t focus your pitch, you can’t focus your story.
- There is not enough action or plot to hold up for 20 minutes.
- We can’t figure out what this story teaches us.
- We are not sure that the reporter has the skills to pull off what they are proposing.
- We spot errors of reasoning or economic knowledge. Don’t try to fake it!
Inside Planet Money, we often use this checklist to shape our stories. It’s useful for pitching to just about any show:
5 big questions (and 17 small ones) you should ask before you do a Planet Money podcast
1) Do you have a character?
- Is there someone I can identify with or love in this story?
- Is it you? (just asking)
- Does this character have feelings about what’s happening?
- Does your character have a goal?
2) Do you have action?
- Can you relate a series of actions your characters took?
- Did they struggle or overcome obstacles?
- Did they achieve or fail to reach the goal?
- Did they learn something from the process?
- Can any action, large or small, be captured on tape?
3) Are the stakes big enough?
- Did the characters risk anything (money, future, reputation)?
- Does their success or failure affect the listener’s life?
- Does their success or failure affect the world?
4) Is this story surprising?
- Does it bring us into a world we know nothing about?
- Do things happen we can’t predict?
- Are there surprising details?
- Are you, the reporter, surprised or surprising on tape?
5) Is there a bigger idea?
- Is there a lesson about economics or behavior that I can use to understand the world or my life?