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VPM Podcast Pilot Program

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VPM is looking for ideas from talented and diverse voices to develop new, ambitious podcasts. Pitch us your idea, or read below for additional details about the program.

Selected pitches will receive financial and professional support to create a pilot episode that best showcases the potential of the podcast as a series. Exceptional pilots will then be considered for production of a full season with all of the support given to a VPM podcast - including funding, staffing, marketing and production assistance. 

We hope to give creative people who represent a broad range of backgrounds, views, voices, and styles the platform and support they need to tell stories that will educate, entertain, and inspire.

Submitting A Pitch | Selection Process | Pilot Creation

Submission Criteria

Who can submit an idea?
Anyone can submit a pitch—a single producer or a small team of people. We are especially interested in ideas from producers or teams typically underrepresented within the podcasting space (whether by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, economic background, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, or other reason).
You don’t need to be a podcast 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. VPM podcasts should: 

  • 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 and/or opportunities for social change
  • 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
  • (Bonus) fall into one of the content categories VPM is prioritizing as part of its content strategy: news, history, arts & culture or science

What are you not looking for?

  • Unstructured conversations
  • Branded content
  • Shows that copy or are not clearly differentiated from similar shows

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?
We prefer to have (but don’t require) at least one member of the team based in Virginia. However, the ideas in your pitch do not need to be restricted to content that is about Virginia or only relevant in Virginia. We are looking for ideas that will have broad, national appeal. 

Can I submit something that I’ve already produced?
Yes, you can submit a show at any stage of production—from proposal or pilot to an already available podcast that you'd like to work with us on.

Submitting A Pitch

How do I submit my idea?
Fill out the pitch submission form here.

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.

Are there restrictions on how many ideas I can submit per open call?
Nope! Once you submit your pitch, you will have the option to refresh the form and submit another.

I made a mistake on my submission - can I make changes to it?
It’s not possible to edit your application once it’s submitted, but you can request to withdraw it and resubmit. Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Pitch Submission Withdrawal Request” and we’ll coordinate with you to remove your initial submission.

I have episode/topic ideas for an existing VPM podcast. Where can I submit that?
Great! Please email [email protected] with your suggestion or pitch.

Selection Process

What happens after I submit a pitch?
After you submit a pitch, the review process begins! There are three phases to this process:

  • First, your pitch will be reviewed by our VPM podcast development team to determine if it is a good fit for further development. If it’s not, we’ll send you an email letting you know.
  • After our first round of review, we might request more information through a few virtual meetings. In this second round, we’ll also ask for a two-minute audio sample, which will help us hear what your podcast will sound like and decide whether your pitch is a good candidate for further development.
  • If your pitch is selected for piloting, we’ll enter into contract negotiations to determine your role in the development and production of a pilot. When it’s finished, your pilot 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 podcast development team,” who exactly do you mean?

  • General Manager
  • Show Development Producer
  • Editor
  • Program Manager

Other VPM staff who may read and help evaluate pitches:

  • Chief Content Officer
  • Executive Producer, Arts & Culture Content
  • Executive Producer, Science & History Content
  • Director of Marketing & Communications
  • VP of Development

What will the reviewers pay particular attention to?
Our evaluators will be looking for whether:

  • the team represents and/or intends to reach an audience currently underrepresented in the podcasting landscape;
  • this idea complements already-existing VPM podcast programming by being unique and original while fitting VPM’s mission; 
  • 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;
  • the team has expertise with and/or particularly interesting approaches to the pitched topic; 
  • the show addresses a currently unmet need in the competitive landscape of available podcasts 
  • the team understands the time commitment and skills necessary to make a successful podcast, knowing that VPM will provide support throughout the pilot process.

How many submissions will be selected to be piloted?
We expect to pilot 4-6 shows per year. 

What feedback will I get?
We are only able to give feedback on those pitches that are selected for piloting. If selected, you will receive extensive feedback on your work.

Pilot Creation

What happens if my pitch is selected for piloting?
You’ll negotiate and sign a contract and then work with VPM’s podcast development team to produce your pilot episode. This will be an intensive, two- to three-month process of shaping your best story into a compelling example of your podcast idea while further 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 time frame.

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. We will also work with you to craft a show-specific budget.

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
  • Two rounds of feedback from VPM podcast team members and selected external mentors
  • Listener surveys to collect audience feedback and measure success
  • Music licensing
  • A year-long AIR (Association of Independents in Radio) membership
  • Professional development opportunities (specific opportunities will be subject to request on the part of the pilot production teams and approval by VPM management)

What happens after the pilot is completed?
If your idea is selected for production of 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.

In some cases, VPM may retain the pilot for a set term in order to determine whether additional funding can be secured to offset potential production costs associated with development of a full season/series.
If you produce a pilot with VPM and we decide not to move ahead with production of the show, we will release the pilot back to you with no obligations.