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The Podcast Academy is moving forward with plans to host its first-ever awards show this spring.
The non-profit group has set a March 28 date for the first annual Awards for Excellence in Audio, nicknamed the Ambies. During the show, the Podcast Academy plans to hand out 23 awards that recognize a range of audio-first work. Winners will receive a gold statue holding a microphone and wearing headphones. (The Ambies has replaced earlier plans to call the awards the Golden Mics.)
The date of the show will put the Ambies in a window when many of the entertainment industry’s biggest awards shows, including the Grammys and the Academy Awards, typically take place. That was intentional, says executive director Michele Cobb, who notes that podcasting “is an entertainment medium just like all those others.”
With the Ambies, the Podcast Academy — which launched earlier this year through an effort led by Wondery CEO Hernan Lopez — is seeking to create an event that treats audio-first work with the same respect as other art forms. It comes as the podcast industry has seen an explosion in recent years, driven by the accessibility of streaming audio on mobile phones and investments from large tech companies including Spotify. Weekly listenership in the U.S. has grown to 68 million people, according to Edison Research, and U.S. podcast ad sales are expected to grow 15 percent to $708 million in 2020, per a report by the IAB and PwC.
Cobb says the Podcast Academy’s board of governors spent a lot of time deciding how awards would be handed out. The Ambies will be structured similar to the Emmys and Oscars with the Podcast Academy’s more than 500 industry members, which are organized into into peer groups, voting on the eventual winners. “It was important to us that we build a wide and diverse membership of people who are professional building podcasts and making them and want to build a community,” says Cobb, explaining that people who vote on the awards “really understand the craft.”
Nominations will be gathered from Oct. 19 through Dec. 15. A list of nominees then will be released for voting before the show.
The Ambies will be split up into two categories, show awards and talent awards. Show awards will span a range of genres, from documentary podcasts to sports podcasts to interview podcasts. Talent awards will highlight the work of individuals or teams for areas of work like hosting, reporting, scriptwriting and production and sound design. There will also be an award handed out to the Podcast of the Year and a governor’s award designed to honor particular achievement in the audio industry.
Cobb stresses that the board of governors will be flexible over time about adjusting the awards to best reflect the work taking place in the industry. “As a young organization, we will learn in this first year and we will think about what we do in the second year and make some small adjustments,” she says.
Though the business of staging awards show has been upended by the pandemic, the Podcast Academy says it is moving forward with plans to host the event in Los Angeles. Cobb says the group is currently in discussions with potential broadcast and streaming partners. “We do hope to have something happening in Los Angeles that anyone can have access to because there’s so much great stuff coming out in the podcast industry,” she says. “We want to introduce as many people as possible to all the high-quality materials that will be nominees.”
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