Slate’s “Slow Burn” took home the Podcast of the Year award at Friday’s inaugural iHeartRadio Podcast Awards at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles. The 90-minute event was livestreamed on Twitter (watch the replay HERE) and broadcast on more than 150 iHeartMedia radio stations across the country. “Podcasters, you guys have become rock stars,” co-host Bobby Bones told the crowd of industry executives, hosts and producers.
NPR was honored with the first-ever iHeartRadio Podcast Pioneer Award. “They are the biggest producer of podcasts. They were at the forefront at the very beginning and were the gold standard for podcasting. They still are,” presenter and podcaster Aaron Mahnke said of the public radio network. He noted that since launching, NPR has accumulated 150 million downloads and now has 20 million monthly unique listeners. “At NPR we are story tellers and we have been having a blast exploring the potential of audio for 40 years,” NPR senior VP for programming and audience development Anya Grundmann said as she accepted the trophy. “Now podcasts are everywhere and woven into everything we do. We have been proud to be one of the catalysts for this incredible movement with all of you.”
In the hotly contested Best Crime Podcast category, the winner was “Up and Vanished.” “The Joe Rogan Experience” took the prize for Best Comedy Podcast. “It’s very exciting to be part of this growing medium,” Rogan said in a brief video beamed in from his vacation. The Best Scripted Podcast was won by “Wolverine: The Long Night,” a coproduction of Stitcher and Marvel. And Ben Shapiro’s long-form talk show for “The Daily Wire,” which secured distribution on dozens of radio stations in recent months, took the prize for best news podcast.
Syndicated “The Breakfast Club” radio host Charlamagne Tha God was honored with Best Multicultural Podcast. “I love the platform of podcasting even though I’m a radio personality,” he said. “In a few years podcasting is probably going to dominate because it’s the longer-form conversation and people get to hear people in the most intimate and vulnerable way so I’m glad I’m doing a podcast.” Fellow syndicated radio host Bobby Bones was also honored with Best Musical Podcast. His “Bobbycast” features in-depth interviews with songwriters, producers and artists in Nashville. “What a lot of us producers have done is we found a niche and specialized in it, and then got to elaborate on it,” Bones said.
Among the other awards that were presented was the Innovator Award, which went to Marc Smerling, co-creator of Gimlet Media’s “Crimetown” and “The RFK Tapes.” “My job is to get other people to be really creative,” Smerling said, and credited his move into podcasting to Gimlet CEO Alex Blumberg. “I don’t think I would be doing podcast without him, he sat for me at lunch one day and told me how great it was working without a studio,” said Smerling, a veteran of TV and film.
The highest-profile awards show for the industry to date put a bright L.A. spotlight on podcasting at a time when the entertainment industry is mining podcasting for new TV and motion picture ideas. It even included the announcement by actor Topher Grace that he’s launching a new podcast, acknowledging with humor there’s no shortage of shows. “The internet is now full,” Grace joked.
Read the complete list of nominees and winners spanning 22 categories HERE.