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VPM Podcast Studio Pilot Program

The VPM Podcast Studio Pilot Program is an open call for original podcast ideas. We’re looking for ideas from new talent and diverse voices to develop into pilots and fully-realized, highly-produced shows.

We'll select 3-5 pitches and help grow them into pilot episodes. That means we'll provide money, mentoring, and development to help you make a single episode that best showcases what your podcast can be. Exceptional pilots will then be in the running for season development with all of the financial, marketing, and audience insight support given to a VPM Podcast.

We’re looking for relevant, high-quality audio content that engages audiences across platforms. Our content is rooted in Virginia in the genres of Arts & Culture, History, News and Science, and reflects the diverse communities we serve.

Who can submit an idea?


Anyone can submit a pitch -- a single producer or a small team of people -- all are welcome to send in show ideas. We are especially interested in ideas from producers or teams who are typically marginalized within the wider podcasting space (whether by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, economic background, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, geography, or other reason).

You don’t need to be a podcast or radio professional to pitch to us, either! See below for the robust support that VPM will provide during the pilot production process.

What type of podcast are you looking for?

We’re open to all kinds of ideas and formats, but each VPM podcast has traits in common. It’s useful to think about how your pitch incorporates these.The more of the following criteria your proposal meets, the better its chances of success: 

  • have a passionate and compelling host who is committed to the project’s success
  • be timely or topical and always meaningful -- not simply entertaining (though they should be that, too!)
  • appeal to large, diverse podcast audiences both locally and nationally
  • have long-term, high-impact potential in the form of multiple seasons
  • have the potential to spark civic dialogue
  • be able to take advantage of VPM's strengths in multimedia and digital storytelling, including photography and video
  • take risks and push the boundaries of what audio storytelling can do
  • have clear paths to financial sustainability - e.g. grants, sponsors or major donors.

What are you not looking for?

  • Unstructured conversations
  • Branded content
  • Ideas that duplicate existing shows 

Am I giving VPM rights to my podcast idea by submitting it?

No! You maintain full rights to your intellectual property in the submission process. If your idea is selected for piloting, we’ll start contract negotiations and discuss payment and ownership.

Do I need to speak English to participate? 

At least one member of your team should speak English well, even if your podcast is in another language. While we are very open to content in languages other than English, proficiency in English will be essential for the piloting process as we negotiate contracts, discuss processes, and have rounds of editing and feedback.

Are there any geographic restrictions to pitches?

No! All VPM content should advance our mission to use the power of media to educate, entertain and inspire -- and that power isn’t limited to stories in central Virginia. However, national content should have strong relevance and connection to central Virginia and local content should be based around the stories and issues that matter most to our community.  We’re interested in content that helps achieve our vision of more connected, informed and empathetic Virginians.

How many ideas can I submit per open call?

As many as you like!

Can I submit something that I’ve already produced?

Yes! Please just indicate that -- and link to where we can hear it -- in the form provided above.

I made a mistake on my application - can I make changes to it?

It’s not possible to edit your application once it’s submitted, but you can withdraw it and begin again. We’ll review applications on a rolling basis, so it’s best to apply early and submit just once.

Can I submit the same idea again if I submitted it during the last open call?

Of course! Please highlight the changes you made since the first submission and let us know about any new developments. You’ll need to start a new application for each open call.

What happens after I submit a pitch?

After you submit a pitch, the rolling review process begins! There are three phases to this process:

  1. First, your pitch will be reviewed by our VPM Podcasts development team to determine if it is a good fit for further development. 
  2. After our first round of review, we’ll request more information from selected submitters. In this second round, we’ll ask you to make a two-minute audio sample, which will help us a) hear what your podcast will sound like and b) decide which pitches are good candidates for further development.
  3. Finally, a small number of pitches will be selected for piloting. We’ll enter into contract negotiations to determine your role in the development and production of a pilot. These pilots will then be evaluated for potential full-season production.


Who is reviewing the pitches?

When you say, “your pitch will be reviewed by our VPM Podcasts development team,” who exactly do you mean?

  • Name + role
  • Name + role
  • Name + role

External evaluators:

  • An experienced producer or editor not employed by VPM whose work and interests align with the themes of the pilot pitched
  • A representative from our partner, the Podcast Center at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia

What will the reviewers pay particular attention to?

Our evaluators will be looking for:

  • whether the team represents or intends to reach an audience currently underrepresented in the podcasting landscape;
  • whether this idea compliments already-existing VPM Podcast programming by being unique and original while fitting VPM’s public media mandates; 
  • whether the team has a clear sense of the audience it wants to reach, including a sense of what the audience needs are and how this podcast will address those needs;
  • whether the team has expertise or particularly interesting approaches to the pitched topic; 
  • whether the team understands the time commitment and skills necessary to make a successful podcast, knowing that VPM will support each team in the pilot process.

What feedback will I get?

We are only able to give feedback on those pitches that are selected for piloting.

What is the pitch selection timeline?

  • February 1 - March 1, 2020: Rolling call for and review of submissions
  • March 9, 2020: We’ll contact a select number of applicants for further information and to request a two-minute audio sample
  • March 23, 2020: Deadline for submitting an audio sample
  • March 23 - March 27, 2020: Review of audio samples
  • March 30, 2020: Notification of the podcast pitches selected for piloting

Is there compensation?

Yes! If your pitch is selected for piloting, we will enter into contract negotiations with you that will include competitive financial compensation. Typically, compensation for a pilot is about $5,000 all-in for the lead producer. We will also work with you to craft a show-specific budget.

How many submissions will be selected to be piloted?

We expect to pilot 3-5 shows per open submissions window.

What happens if my pitch is selected for piloting?

You’ll negotiate and sign a contract and then work with VPM Podcast’s development team to produce your pilot episode! This will be an intensive process of shaping your best story into a compelling example of your podcast idea while defining an audience, receiving editorial feedback, and developing a marketing strategy. A sprint like this helps ensure that the show idea is viable in a typical production timeframe.

What is the pilot production timeline?

  • March 30, 2020: Notification of the podcast pitches selected for piloting
  • April 1, 2020 - July 1, 2020: Pilot production / two rounds of edits and feedback
  • July 1, 2020: Final pilot episode submission deadline
  • July 1 - July 14, 2020: Listener surveys and feedback
  • August 3, 2020: Pilots selected for season development announced
  • September 9, 2020: Public showcase and pilot listening party

What does VPM provide if my pitch is selected for piloting?

  • Competitive funding to produce the pilot
  • Support in crafting and executing on a production budget that imagines the show existing for at least one season
  • Regular office hours with VPM Podcast editors
  • Up to three rounds of feedback from VPM Podcast team members and selected external mentors
  • Scheduled meetings with VPM’s marketing and management teams
  • Listener surveys to collect audience feedback and measure success
  • Support with music licensing
  • A partnership with the Podcast Center at Richmond’s Institute for Contemporary Art (including access to potential assistant producers and student interns)
  • Cross-promotional opportunities with other VPM Podcasts
  • A year-long AIR (Association of Independents in Radio) membership
  • Professional development opportunities like complimentary Third Coast Conference tickets or coverage of Union Docs workshop registration fees (specific opportunities will be subject to request on the part of the pilot production teams and approval by VPM management teams)

If your idea is selected for a full season, we will enter into contract negotiations again. Generally, VPM will provide production resources and funding, marketing support, underwriting/sales and membership opportunities as necessary for your project. 

How often does VPM have pitch submission periods?

We have open calls for submissions twice a year: early spring (February) and early fall (September).

I have episode/topic ideas for an existing VPM Podcast. Where can I submit that?

Great! Please visit the web site specific to the VPM Podcast you have in mind to learn more about how to submit episode/topic ideas.