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Tell me more about the Ready To Learn podcast training. What is it?
The Ready To Learn initiative, from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS, with support from the U.S. Department of Education, aims to develop new content that helps young children, ages 4-8, particularly those in low-income homes, build vital skills to help them succeed in school and life – particularly through building functional literacy, critical thinking, interpersonal collaboration and age-appropriate exposure to career opportunities.
To learn more about Ready To Learn, this link will take you to the 2015-2020 initiative.
PRX, as a leader in podcasting, will work with CPB and PBS to create and host a 16-week virtual podcast training for FIVE selected production teams. The training will take a listener-centered approach to developing and strengthening show concepts, particularly geared toward the career readiness/world of work educational content for these podcasts, educational and emphasizing intergenerational listening content for children and families. It will also coach teams to adopt entrepreneurial and mindsets — to be more willing to experiment, take risks, and try new ideas and strategies — around effective community engagement and growth. Participants will leave this highly interactive training with plenty of peer and industry feedback on their work, new production processes and skills prioritizing iterative prototyping, the foundation to create compelling and educational audio and programming for children and their families, and a clearer path forward in their podcast development.
What will the selected teams receive?
Selected teams will receive:
- 16 weeks of podcast training (including a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, workshops and webinars);
- Regular feedback on all aspects of their production;
- Access to and representation on PRX’s podcast distribution and ad platforms;
- A $10,000 stipend, to offset production and operational expenses;
- Reimbursement for all approved travel-related expenses, if applicable
As part of this RTL project, participants’ podcasts may be selected for distribution on PBS KIDS digital channels, which will offer opportunities to get audience feedback on the podcasts from kids and their caregivers. PBS and CPB also intend to produce and fund a season of one of the participating podcasts. They will make a selection based in part on the results of early pilot testing with PBS KIDS audiences. They may also look to extend the one podcast into other digital media.
What is the application deadline for the training?
The application period has been extended and now runs through Friday, March 26, 2021 at 5pm ET/2pm PT. Applications submitted past this date and time will not be considered.
What are you looking for? Who should apply?
We are specifically looking for new or existing podcast ideas that aim to introduce children, ages 4-8 and their families -- with an emphasis on low-income families -- to the world of work and future careers. This includes content that illustrates important social skills and dispositions like self-confidence, goal-oriented behavior, and task persistence as well as exposure to a variety of careers and jobs. We are open to podcasts of all formats and subject matters (fiction or nonfiction), but submissions must strive to promote intergenerational learning and prioritize educational experiences.
We are looking for passionate and creative production teams with:
- A demonstrated level of experience or interest in children’s storytelling and educational media;
- A demonstrated level experience in audio production;
- A driving passion to create content that delights, engages and instills a love of learning in young children;
- Deep empathy for children, encompassing a knowledge of developmentally appropriate content and ways to encourage social and emotional learning (SEL) for children;
- A commitment to making U.S.-centric content that is authentic to an American audience;
- Willingness and capacity to undertake a rigorous 16-week virtual training program. We will do our best to set a program timeline that works with everyone’s schedules, but be prepared to shift things around and/or work outside usual office hours;
- Openness to learning and adopting new processes, feedback and pivots.
As long as applicants meet the above criteria, we welcome both independent production teams and teams affiliated with an organization.
Do we have to be American citizens or based in the United States to be eligible?
You do not have to be currently living in the United States or be a citizen of the United States to apply. However, as this is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, podcast pitches must be U.S.-centric, and participating teams must be committed to making content that is authentic to an American audience.
What is the minimum age requirement for applications?
18 – currently, we are not able to process contract work between PRX and minors for our podcast accelerator programs. Additionally, our training program involves a significant time commitment, which will likely be in conflict with traditional K-12 school hours. However, we highly encourage adult participants to share their training with and involve all team members in the work outside of the virtual training sessions.
What do you mean by intergenerational content?
We believe intergenerational content prioritizes the child’s experience and point of view and effectively integrates co-listening with parents, guardians and other adults. An ideal intergenerational podcast is enjoyable for both adults and children, and sparks conversations across generations.
Do we have to have experience in children’s programming to be eligible?
We prefer production teams with experience in this field, but don’t want to cut off great ideas or new talent in this space. If you don’t have a history in children’s content, please make a compelling case in your application for why PRX should consider you, how the training will support you and what you will bring to the program and to the children’s podcasting landscape. New talent and new voices are welcome.
Do we have to have audio experience to be eligible?
Yes, the training will focus more on idea development, audience and community engagement, and developing children’s programming. You do not have to be a seasoned sound engineer to participate, but the training will not cover basic audio production.
Can we apply with more than one idea?
No – pick your strongest idea.
Can we submit an existing podcast?
Either an existing podcast or a new idea for a podcast is fine to submit. Our main criteria are that all teams be flexible about all ideas and be open to feedback and change.
Can we submit branded content?
No, it is important to us that the producers of the podcast have full editorial control over their work. Branded content is produced by an advertiser, funded by an advertiser, and is designed to build awareness for a brand (e.g. Sargento producing a podcast about cheese as a way to advertise its own cheese products).
Some notable examples include The Message from General Electric and #LIPSTORIES from Sephora. This is not the same as you working for a media outlet or organization and making a podcast that would fall under your organization’s broader content strategies.
Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should we pitch a limited series or an on-going program?
We are looking for consistent podcasts that are in it for the long term; therefore, short-run seasons (e.g. six-episode terminal podcasts) are not a good fit. This does not mean the show has to run forever, but there should be intention to produce the podcast as a continuous series.
Can we apply with a non-English-language, bilingual or multilingual podcast?
We are not currently looking for podcasts fully in other languages. However, if your podcast is primarily in English and incorporates another language because it’s necessary to the story you want to create, that’s fine. Please be clear about the language breakdown in your application.
Is the 2-minute limit for the audio sample for the submission a hard limit?
Yes, the audio can be shorter than two minutes but not longer. We will not be able to consider samples longer than two minutes. If we would like to hear more, we will visit your podcast feed.
What if we have a new idea but no audio yet?
Get creative! You can prototype something aspirational. This is an opportunity to take your first stab at what you think the show will sound like and what listeners can expect to hear.
If we haven’t settled on a title, can we apply with a working title?
A working title is fine. Please note that in the application.
We have participated previously in another PRX podcast accelerator. Can we apply to Ready To Learn?
Yes – however you must apply with a new idea for a children’s podcast. We also recommend you send different team members. If you have participated in a previous accelerator with a kids podcast, you cannot apply for Ready To Learn with that same show.
Training and Program Expectations
How many people should attend the training?
We are only able to accommodate up to three (3) people per podcast in the group training sessions in order to maintain an optimal virtual learning environment, but larger teams will have access to our training resources and will be invited to supplemental webinars and events. We recommend sending a multidisciplinary team, with one person dedicated to community engagement, promotion and/or social media – though this is not necessary.
What is the structure of the 16-week training program?
The entire training will run from May to October 2021.
The first 12 weeks are dedicated to hands-on training and mentorship with PRX staff. We kick things off with a one-week intensive “boot camp” at the end of May, where we will cover fundamental skills, tools and mindsets that will set up the teams for the remainder of the program.
Then, participants will attend weekly synchronous group sessions, which will integrate lecture, design-thinking activities and processes, and peer-to-peer learning. These synchronous sessions will occur once a week and last about five hours. There will be some “off” weeks, during which teams are expected to continue their podcast work, but will not be expected to attend a group session. We will also schedule mandatory biweekly mentorship check-ins and optional webinars to supplement learning throughout the training. You can expect approximately 5-10 hours of work for any given week – including synchronous group sessions, webinars and independent work on assignments. The teams will work in a rapid and focused way. The training is often compared to a sustained sprint.
The final four weeks are reserved for the teams to work on and submit their final deliverables. There will be a final showcase for all five teams following the 16-week training, which will involve a few additional weeks of prep and rehearsals in October 2021.
We will do our best to set a program cadence that accommodates participants’ schedules, but we ask you to please offer your greatest flexibility to maximize the chance we can include you. The exact dates and times of the training will ultimately depend on the availability of the final teams that are selected for the program.
What are the content expectations of the program?
There are four key deliverables for this program. We know that a lot of things can change throughout the production process, so we do not expect you to commit entirely to everything you submit – but your deliverables should be close to a final product or, at the very least, provide a strong and clear foundation for the remaining trajectory of your work:
One (1) pilot episode;
- A production and editorial calendar for the upcoming season;
- A preliminary promotion/community engagement strategy;
- A 10-min presentation for a final showcase following the completion of the training
Who owns the Intellectual Property of our show during the training?
PRX takes no intellectual property in this process. PRX will ask the teams to sign an agreement that covers crediting and such, but participants own their shows for the purposes of the training. A number of pilot episodes will also be posted on PBS KIDS.
Participants may be asked to sign a separate agreement granting PBS the exclusive right to share the pilot podcast on the PBS KIDS platforms for the purpose of allowing listeners to vote for their favorite pilot. PBS may choose a team for further development which will require a separate agreement that gives PBS and CPB the exclusive right (to concept, title and characters) to fund and distribute a full season of the podcast, with options for future seasons.
What kind of financial training are you planning to provide? Will PRX be sharing info like CPM rates and what to ask for?
Absolutely. The training will discuss monetization and how to make a podcast attractive to sponsors. We will also explain things like ad technology and dynamic ad insertion, and set teams up with the tools to identify and measure their versions of success.
The contents of this FAQ were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. The project is funded by a Ready To Learn grant (PR/Award No. S295A200004, CFDA No. 84.295A) provided by the Department of Education to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.