FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

GENERAL QUESTIONS

What is the application period for this round of Project Catapult?

The application period has been extended. It now ends Thursday, Aug. 8, at 5 p.m. ET.

Will you be holding any information sessions for stations interested in applying?

We will offer three info sessions:

What types of shows should apply?

PRX is encouraging creativity and risk taking with Project Catapult, but we are not looking for types of shows per se. Project Catapult supports stations to develop podcasts that are meaningful and relevant to the community the station serves and addresses gaps not already met by podcast or broadcast programming.

What ideas are we looking for?

There is no specific, winning idea. The best ideas are closely aligned with the station’s primary content strategy. They have vision, intent and some notion of growth. Additionally, we care a lot about identifying and developing new talent in the public media system and helping stations reach new audiences.

If a station has more than one podcast idea, how should we choose?

Pick the idea that has the strongest team creating it and the one that most closely aligns with your station’s content strategy.

How will PRX weigh local vs. national appeal?

PRX will happily consider a podcast that primarily serves the station’s local audience. Ideally, the Catapult podcasts serve both a local audience and, through solid storytelling and production, may also have national appeal.

The application mentions a focus on rural, Southern and Western public media stations. If my station is not in those regions, should we still apply?

While we will be giving additional consideration to stations who serve these regions, the training cohort will not be limited to these regions. We encourage all applicants.

Can a station submit an existing podcast?

Either an existing podcast or a new idea for a podcast is fine to submit. We’re looking for ideas that need some retooling, refining and a fresh start. Our main criteria are that all teams be flexible about all ideas and be open to feedback and change.

Should we pitch a limited series or an on-going program?

PRX is looking for consistent podcasts that are in it for the long term. That means short-run seasons (e.g. six-episode terminal podcasts) are not a good fit. Consistency is critical to building an audience and attracting sponsorship and donors.

Can a station partner with another station to apply?

Yes. We encourage experimentation and change. Bear in mind that sometimes, managing change can be difficult when you have several stakeholders.

Our station is considering a cross-border podcast. Is that OK?

Podcasts go everywhere! International podcasts are fine.

Are podcasts in languages other than English OK?

Sure, as long as it meets the other selection criteria.

Is the two-minute limit for the audio sample for the submission a hard limit?

Yes, the audio can be shorter than two minutes but not longer.

If we haven’t settled on a title, can we apply with a working title?

A working title is fine. Please note that in the application.

We applied in a previous round but were not selected. Can we apply again?

Yes.

We were selected in a previous round of Catapult. Can we apply again?

No.

Can community radio stations apply?

Yes. Any station is welcome as long as the station holds a Community Service Grant (aka be CSG-qualified).

Can public television stations apply?

Yes. Any station is welcome as long as the station holds a Community Service Grant (aka be CSG-qualified).

Can interns, students or volunteers be part of the production team?

Yes, but keep in mind this is a three-year commitment, and most students, interns and volunteers will not be able to make a full commitment.

Is there a way to get the application questions as a document so that we can work through them?

Yes, you can download it here. Please make a copy of the document for your own use.

PRODUCTION TEAMS AND THE TRAINING

PRX encourages and supports new voices in our public media system. As such, we will be looking for teams that reflect the wide diversity of the United States, both in their staffing and in defining their intended audience.

How many people should we plan to send?

We have budgeted for core production teams of two people, who will participate in the full 20-week training. However, stations are invited and encouraged to pay to send a third member, who would be heavily involved in marketing. Additionally, other key station staff will be invited to remote trainings whenever possible.

Which roles at the station will benefit the most from the onsite training?

We are looking for multidisciplinary teams. The two production staff should be the people who shape the sound of the show and who are authorized to take it in a new direction. That might be two hosts, a host and a producer, and so on. You’ll know best which people are closest to the editorial and production work. At least one member of this pair must be a station employee.

The optional third team member should be someone who is involved with and excited about marketing this new program. This person should be comfortable with social media and targeted messaging and have a clear sense of audience. Because we feel strongly about the role of marketing early on in the creative process, we encourage stations to consider sending this third person.

What is the structure of the 20-week training program?

We kick things off with a one-week bootcamp in October. Then, each month, for four months, there are three-day (two night) visits to the Podcast Garage in Boston for training and "creative review" presentations of the podcasts. There will be a live showcase event during the final week. Additionally, there will be virtual webinars between visits.

The onsite training days will start at 8:30 a.m. and end around 5 p.m. We will often plan optional dinners and other gatherings. Attendees will know the schedule in advance of each visit. We will invite others from the station to join us during some part of bootcamp and for the final showcase in 2020. All other trips will be limited to the two- to three-person production teams.

Should stations commit to the podcast being the producer's primary job?

Definitely. We know people are often wearing multiple hats at a station. However, we do not want this to be a “nights and weekends” project for any of the staff involved. At the very least, we recommend that the show be 75-80% of the primary person’s job in order to support its success.

Do the team members need to be "staff" or can we use outside resources?

You can use outside resources. However, based on our experience, at least one member of the production team needs to be a full-time station employee. For projects with team members who are not employees, we recommend you make sure they are committed to the project for the duration. Also, stations should be absolutely clear with all contributors about who owns what in terms of rights and intellectual property for the idea.

If our station is in the process of hiring one of the team members and that hire won’t be complete before the application deadline, can we still apply?

Yes. Please just lay out your hiring plan and timeline in the application.

Speaking of Intellectual Property, does PRX have any strings attached for supporting these podcasts?

PRX takes no intellectual property in this process. PRX will ask the station to sign a multi-year agreement that covers crediting and such. In terms of intellectual property on the station’s end, PRX can provide guidance, but we require rights be cleared either way.

What kind of training are you planning to provide for the underwriting staff? Will your team be sharing info like CPM rates and what to ask for?

Absolutely. We will provide webinar training to the sponsorship and development teams, covering how to make your digital property attractive to a sponsor already in your local network. We will also explain things like ad technology, dynamic ad insertion and ways programs from the start can set themselves up with local sponsors.

CONTENT AND DISTRIBUTION

What are the production expectations?

During the 20-week intensive training, teams will produce two episodes. They will be developed in a way that focuses heavily on understanding and defining an audience, creating prototypes and getting feedback from listeners. The teams will work in a rapid and focused way. The training is often compared to a sustained sprint.

At the final showcase, the teams will present the pilot or tell another story that encapsulates the spirit of the podcast. From there, the station will be expected to continue releasing programs on a regular schedule, adding up to at least 20 episodes in the following 12 months. The exact release schedule will be determined during the training process.

PRX must be identified as a co-producer in every episode, and each episode must include a CPB funding credit.

What kind of support will PRX provide?

PRX is committed to supporting the Catapult shows for a total of three years, with the most significant support in the first year. That includes financial support through the first year, creating an ecosystem that involves the Catapult stations in promoting and otherwise supporting one another, PRX’s editorial guidance for show content and production, training for station staff involved with marketing and sponsorship for the podcast, and access to PRX’s technical distribution and hosting infrastructure.

The application mentions third party distribution. What does that mean?

PRX will take the primary responsibility to place the shows with well-known distributors, such as Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher, NPR One, PRX Remix, Spotify and RadioPublic. PRX maintains excellent relationships with all of them and is in the best position to advocate for the Catapult cohorts as a group.

DEFINING SUCCESS

Given the more than 750k podcasts out there, and based on what you learned in the first two rounds of Project Catapult, what would you say are the critical elements for success?

Three measurements:

  • A show that is steadily growing its audience
  • The station is engaging new talent
  • The station's muscles for developing new content are strong – from the process of creating shows to approaching marketing

To quote PRX's Chief Content Officer John Barth, a successful Catapult station should, after the first year, reflect on progress like so: "Wow, we weren't doing that before and now we're doing something very, very different than we were a year ago."

In terms of revenue, while stations need to be realistic about financial goals for the podcast through sponsorship, some programs in the first round were able to attract grant funding and funding from new sources.

Is the plan that after the year of PRX funding the project will be self-sustaining?

No. The podcast environment is remarkably complex and competitive, so sustainability is not guaranteed. But Project Catapult is designed to give station-based podcasts the best training, insight, team support and cross-station mentorship necessary to deliver a sustainable podcast. By focusing hard on meeting listener needs, station podcasts will be in the best position to increase audience and chances of commercial sponsorship. The first round of Project Catapult training saw podcasts with a mix of grant support, direct listener support and sponsorship. Some combination is necessary at this early stage of podcast development.

Are there set goals of audience and revenue?

We will set these together and expect there will be a range of targets.

What happens if a selected podcast “fails”?

We don’t expect this. Each station will have a different goal of what success means for them, whether that’s an increase in audience, revenue, mission and visibility, etc.

Will stations need to report to CPB?

No. Stations will report to PRX, and PRX will then report to CPB. We will provide instructions and a schedule.

BUDGETS AND FUNDING

How much funding is available?

PRX will provide funding up to $70,000 to selected stations in the first year and non-financial support for two years following. The idea of the funding in the first year is not to fully finance the production, but to provide enough support that teams can fully participate and make a good show. Our aim with the budget part of the application is to get a sense of what you will need. That being said, we may discuss the budget with you.

What should we put in the budget?

The idea is to invest in the production team and show. If you aren’t sure if something is covered, please ask. This is a sample list of line items you might include in your budget:

  • Personnel related to show production and oversight
  • Studio time
  • Tape syncs
  • Field recording
  • Equipment
  • Audio editing software
  • Office space
  • Supporting website
  • Music clearance, archival footage, other expenses in support of show production
  • Live local shows
  • Marketing
  • Internships targeted to encourage diverse voices

Note: Travel between the station and the Podcast Garage in Boston will be covered directly by PRX and does not need to be part of your budget.

Can indirect costs (aka overhead or facility/admin costs) be part of the sub-grantee budget?

That's fine, as long as you follow CPB's Guidelines for Indirect Costs.

Must all the funds be expended in year one?

It's more accurate that funds must be spent within the first 15 months.

What type of budget responsibility will the stations have?

Everyone involved in the project should have a good understanding of what’s in the budget, how money is going to be spent, etc. It is also helpful to have transparent ways of communicating and managing the budget. The station should identify a financial point person, who is prepared to organize contracts, reports, receipts, prepare reimbursement invoices and track amounts over the course of the grant period. It's detailed work and PRX has specific reporting deadlines set by CPB, which we will share with you.

What time frame should our budget reflect - one year or three?

Please plan your budget around what it will take to produce the show each year.