PRX, the public radio content creator that’s putting more of its efforts into developing podcasts, is making a big bet on the next generation of listeners. It has just created Trax, a network of original podcasts for preteens and teens aged 9-13 years old. The network will launch next year and will be bankrolled by a $1.6 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a promise to feature on-demand audio that is enriching, entertaining, and diverse in genre, format, style, and voice. 

“Trax will bring public media’s high standards of curation to a mix of both established podcasts and new productions, and will expand to include programming from a variety of ambitious independent creators, established producers, and emerging voices,” said PRX chief Kerri Hoffman in the announcement. “Trax intends to broaden the possibilities of audio for preteens and teens––an under-served audience––with bold programming that can also be trusted by parents and caregivers.”

Pat Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said in a statement that its funding of Trax fits into CPB’s mission. “Reaching untapped audiences on the platforms they access most is essential and CPB is pleased to collaborate with PRX in the development and launch of Trax,” she said.

As Trax is unveiled, it’s clear the tween target is something that’s been under growing focus at PRX. The company has been developing the new network with Gen-Z Media, one of the top publishers of audio content for youth and their families. Gen-Z already produces and curates acclaimed podcasts ranging from action-adventure to science education, including Pants on Fire, Tumble, Molly of Denali and Earth Rangers. Trax will feature podcasts from Gen-Z Media, as well as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Cocotazo Media, members of the team behind Night Vale Presents, among other producers. 

Veteran producer Michelle Smawley will lead Trax as its executive producer. Smawley has produced and developed programming featured on NBC, PBS, CBS, and A&E. Formerly an instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Smawley has also served as a reporter for news-talk KBIA Columbia, MO (91.3).

Podtrac reported PRX was the No. 5 podcast publisher in November with its 81 active shows delivering a unique U.S. audience of 9.1 million and more than 70 million downloads. Compared to last November, PRX’s audience was up 24%.

In August PRX celebrated the first year since it merged with Public Radio International. It has since retired the PRI name and it now has more than 28.5 million listeners and generates in excess of 70 million podcast downloads each month with many of its radio shows finding new podcast audiences. PRX spun-off the podcast listening app RadioPublic as a freestanding unit in 2016 when it decided to focus on developing content, not distributing podcasts.