Without a doubt, winning a podcast award or competition feels good. And, of course, it can help you promote your show. But not all podcast awards and competitions are alike. Some aren’t necessarily rewarding. In this article, I’ll show you how to evaluate podcast awards and competitions, how to apply to them, and how to get the most out of the contest, whether you win or not.
Just looking for a list of awards and opportunities? Jump straight to them.
What Makes an Award Rewarding?
Because the podcasting medium is so new, there’s minimal precedent for what makes a podcast award or competition either prestigious or beneficial. Podcasters need to take the initiative and evaluate available opportunities to determine if they’re worth the time and energy.
Chiefly, podcasters need to weigh how much they have to put into the application process compared to what they will get from it. What does the award organizer require? Is there a one-page form or a ten-page form? Do they want audio files, links to the show, or a script? What kind of fees or ticket prices are involved? There are a lot of considerations that can affect your decision-making process, and they all involve time and energy.
Before attempting to enter any podcast awards or competitions, the first thing to check is whether or not your show is eligible.
Region or country of residence, creator demographic, podcast category, and production time frame can all affect eligibility. Usually, your podcast must have published episodes within the most recent year or season to be eligible if the award is annual.
In some cases, the average independent podcaster can’t enter. A committee picks the nominations, and then either a jury or public voting determines the winners. For example, The iHeart Podcast Awards has its own internal criteria for nomination and winning, which may combine internal and external inputs.
In other cases, your podcast has to be completely under wraps all the way up through the winner’s announcement. The panel judges only unpublished shows for some competitions, such as the Tribeca Festival and the Austin Film Festival’s podcast script competition. Tribeca, for example, wants to premiere the project at their Audio Storytelling festival, just like they do with their film festival. You can’t launch the show until after you’re notified.
Fees and Other Costs
Another aspect to consider when exploring competitions and awards is whether they charge a fee to apply. How does the fee measure up to your other podcasting expenses? For many competitions, the earlier you submit your application, the lower your fee, and fees increase with later deadlines. Some organizations use fees to make sure that only companies above a certain income level can apply. For example, in the case of the 2018 Webby awards, entry fees ranged from $175 to $475 per entry. This relatively high price knocks most independent podcasters out of the competition.
Sometimes, the competition’s organizers require that the nominees be present at the award ceremony to win. Recently, this sparked controversy when the British Podcasting Awards changed ticket prices for their awards ceremony, starting at £295.
These ticket prices would make it difficult for anyone to attend unless they represented one of the corporations for whom podcasting is a side venture. Fortunately, the BPAs saw the light and instituted a tiered pricing system to accommodate podcasting companies with more modest funding.
The fees pay for resources to make the award or competition happen, such as a per diem for evaluators, or a website. Personally, I compare a competition’s fee to my monthly media hosting expense because that number stays the same for years at a time. I’m more likely to apply if the fee is equivalent to less than a month of media hosting. If the fee amounts to more than a month of hosting, I take a tough look at any possible benefit of applying.
Is This Award a Good Fit for Your Podcast?
Podcasting awards and competitions all have different reasons for existing. Some are simply a way for a media company to promote itself. Other competitions want to aid in the discovery of new and exciting content, raise professional standards, or celebrate the medium. You need to ask yourself if this is the kind of organization you wish to associate your brand with: Do they make the kind of show you make?
Take time to find out who or what podcasts won in the past. Do they have the same kind of resources and audience that you have? Technically, my podcast is eligible for a Peabody Award. But, most Peabody winners have full-time teams working on every aspect of production. My show doesn’t. In my case, applying for the Peabodys might not be worth it. That’s not a pejorative view of my show or the award, merely a description.
You also want to look at the prize. Is it money, production, training, or credit toward a company’s goods and services? What about the second prize or finalist level? Is this tier’s prize something that raises your podcast’s profile?
Beware of vampire award systems. Check the organization’s mission statement or “about” page. Some competitions are so new they don’t know what podcasters really need in a prize. If they offer “exposure,” remember, you can always expose yourself.
Others are flat-out scams. Fiction writers and essayists have been a target of contest scams for much longer than podcasting has existed. Fortunately, they share valuable intel. It’s worth your time to read Victoria Strauss’ Awards Profiteers: How Writers Can Recognize Them and Why They Should Avoid Them, and Anne R. Allen’s Beware Bogus Writing Contests! Look For These 8 Red Flags. These blog posts show a lot of the tactics that people use to make and promote predatory contests to people in any creative field.
Be sure you’re not being drawn into something that costs you money and doesn’t benefit you much.
Good Reasons to Apply to a Podcast Award or Competition, Even if You Don’t Win
If the application doesn’t take time and effort away from your podcasting workflow, the fee is manageable, and if the prize helps your podcast to gain an audience, then you should apply. It’s good PR for your podcast, and deadlines are motivating. For example, applying to a competition is a great way to set yourself up to achieve a SMART goal. It never hurts to light a fire underneath your own cooking pot. Some people need deadlines to be more productive.
If the podcast award or competition is connected to a conference or festival, applying raises the stakes for attending. You’re not just there for the show; you’re invested. Award ceremonies can help you meet new people, go places, and have interesting experiences. Despite the added expense, it can be fun.
If it inspires you to improve your work, motivates your progress, and helps you share your work with the world, it’s good. But, if the application process requires you to put more into the award or competition than you get out of it, put that time and energy into something else for your podcast.
Second Place Isn’t a Bad Place
Moreover, even if you don’t win, you may be able to use the festival in your media kit (i.e., saying it’s a finalist or second-rounder). I have sent scripts to the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference twice, and the script made it to the finalist level both times. Including this in any description of those scripts shows people that an independent, unbiased expert gave them a seal of approval.
High-profile competitions may have so many applications that, even if you don’t win, being a finalist is a big deal. Philip Thorne and Øystein Brager sent The Amelia Project to The Austin Film Festival in 2017 and reached the finalist level. Thorne said this experience “gave us that extra push we needed to launch our show. We learnt from some of the most innovative audio dramatists out there, workshopped our script and our pitch, and had BBQ and beers with like-minded and inspiring people.” For Thorne and Brager, the finalist level fueled them to make The Amelia Project one of the most enduring and engaging podcasts today.
A List of Podcast Awards and Competitions in 2024
This is by no means an exhaustive list of opportunities. You’ll notice that many fees are a range. Often, competitions incentivize sending in your work early by charging lower “early bird” fees, and higher fees for later deadlines. We’ll update this information as deadlines, fees, and opportunities change. For now, here are a few of the opportunities for podcast awards and competitions.
The Ambies: The Awards for Excellence in Audio
The Ambies are the award effort of The Podcast Academy, whose “mission is to support podcast makers and advance the cultural merit of the medium.”
“Through programs including The Ambies®; we celebrate, inspire, and connect creators from around the world, while attracting new audiences to their work.”
- Fee: TBA. In 2023, the fees were $150-$250.
- Deadline: Submissions for 2025 will open in the summer of 2024.
Apulia Web Fest
International podcasters are welcome to submit to The Apulian Web Fest, an Italian festival for digital content. “Our event will be focused on the uniqueness of the Mediterranean zone, which since the dawn of humanity has been a bit of the cradle of civilization and then immediately a crossroads of intense trade and cultural meetings. For this we would like to return to talk about the Mediterranean of Peace.”
- Fees: $10-$25. Film Freeway Gold members get a discount.
- Deadlines: Regular deadline, 16 Feb. Late Deadline: 27 April. June 28, 2024, is the Extended Deadline.
The Audio Production Awards
Recognising and celebrating outstanding achievement in Audio production. The Audio Production Awards are open to all: from freelancers to those working at production companies, with brands or broadcasters, independently, or in any form in audio (which includes podcasts, radio, audiobooks, and more).
- Fee: TBA. In 2023 it was £35+VAT to £55+VAT. Audio UK members get a discount.
- Deadline: TBA.
FINNOF International Festival of New Nonfiction Narratives
Spanish-language podcasters, get ready. FINNOF is the first International Festival that rewards innovative narrative projects in the field of non-fiction, including journalistic, documentary and educational productions. The podcast criteria says, “Includes all those journalistic, documentaries and educational productions distributed in audio formats as chapters or episodes of a series.” And, this festival is online, so you don’t have to travel.
- Fees: Free to enter.
- Deadline: 29 March, 2024
The International Women’s Podcast Awards
The International Women’s Podcast Awards “recognise moments of brilliance in podcasting and the women and people of diverse genders that produce them.”
“Celebrate these intimate moments of podcasting brilliance and the women and non-binary folk that make them happen. [The organizers, Everybody Media] don’t look at the genre your podcast is in, and we don’t care how many downloads you’ve had.”
- Fees: TBA. In 2023 the fee was $25 to $60.
- Deadline: TBA
Minnesota WebFest is the first film festival in the Midwest dedicated to online entertainment formats like web series and podcasts. “Our mission is to identify high-quality web entertainment, to promote the works of the creators, and to highlight the diverse voices that online entertainment empowers.”
- Fees: $20-$70.
- Deadlines: Very Early, January 31, Early, March 15, Regular, 30 April, and May 31 is the Late Deadline.
New Jersey Web Festival
NJ Web Fest says, “Submissions from all over the world, and from every genre, are welcome. Quality is the only criteria: we want to showcase the very best. We accept webseries, short films, pilots, trailers, music videos, narrative fiction podcasts, actual play fiction podcasts, actual play livestreams, and short scripts, so that all digital creators can experience the #JerseyMagic!”
- Fees: $49-$69
- Deadlines: Early Bird, Jan 12, Regular Deadline, March 16, and June 7 is the Late deadline.
The People’s Choice Podcast Awards
The People’s Choice Podcast Awards “is the longest-running premier podcast awards event in the podcasting space, open to shows worldwide.”
“Designed from the beginning to allow fans to show their appreciation by nominating their favorite participating shows. Culminating with a live-streamed awards show on International Podcast Day.”
- Fee: TBA. In 2023, it was $50.
- Deadline: 2024 Annual Awards Registration will open Feb 1st, 2024.
The Signal Awards
The Signal Awards “seek to honor and celebrate the people and content that raise the bar for podcasting. Luminaries and leaders within the industry will judge Shows, Limited Series & Specials, Individual Episodes and Branded Shows & Advertising across categories ranging from Best Innovative Audio Experience to Best TV & Film Recap.”
- Fee: Varies. In 2023, it ranged from $135- $855.
- Deadline: TBA. Check the Signal Awards’ Key Dates & Info, and subscribe to their mailing list.
T.O. Webfest is designed to support, connect, promote, and celebrate independent content creators from Canada and around the world. The TOWF Conference offers engaging keynotes, panels, networking sessions, web series screenings, and an Awards Gala!
This opportunity is mostly for web series, but they also want podcasts: fiction, unscripted non-fiction, and Actual Play.
- Fees: $25-$75.
- Deadlines: Early Bird, February 29, Regular Deadline, April 30, and June 7 is the late deadline.
Tribeca Audio Storytelling
Deep in the Tribeca Festival is the Tribeca Audio Storytelling Competition. “Tribeca’s audio storytelling program is dedicated entirely to scripted content, with a focus on excellence in writing and performance.”
- Fees: $30-$40.
- Deadlines: The official deadline is January 10. The extended deadline is February 21.
One More Great Podcasting Opportunity
All Hear, The Everything List for Audio Opportunities, is a monthly newsletter that curates and shares an exhaustive list of opportunities for audio creators. I’m not exaggerating. The master list includes grants, education, accelerators, residencies, competitions, and more. Some opportunities are national, others local, so make sure you read the fine print.
What Can Podcast Awards or Competitions Do for Your Show?
We’ve all been exposed to so many glittery, celebrity-filled awards shows that we forget about the behind-the-scenes work of competitions. Nobody ever sees the adjudicators or voters, electricians, or accountants who make the award ceremony possible. That means the work it takes to enter a competition or award program is invisible. But, it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. The process of crafting and sending your application to a competition requires patience and emotional resilience. You should definitely apply to podcast awards and competitions when you can. What matters more is making sure you have a podcast that you’d be proud to compete with, and applying to opportunities helps you build it.
Thinking of applying to any podcast awards or competitions? Tell us all about it in the IndiePod Community.