Public Media Is Having a Moment in Boston

Just when you might have thought podcasting and rich radio storytelling couldn’t get any hotter, along came 2016.

Here’s a short list of exciting developments—and this is just what’s happening here in Boston and Cambridge:

— WBUR and WGBH, rivals since WGBH switched to an all-news-and-talk format in 2010, are both rising in the local ratings. WBUR climbed from 10th in Boston-area audience share in May to 9th in July. WGBH climbed from 14th to 13th. Together the stations claim 6 to 7 percent of the broadcast audience share in Boston—the nation’s single largest cluster of NPR listeners.

— The Public Radio Exchange (PRX) spun off RadioPublic, a public benefit corporation developing new mobile apps for discovering and listening to podcasts and on-demand audio. Former PRX CEO Jake Shapiro is heading the venture, which is looking for beta users.

— PRX, now led by Kerri Hoffman, opened the new Podcast Garage on Western Ave. in Allston. A reborn Jiffy Lube location now owned by Harvard University, the Garage has studios and mixing equipment for both experienced and aspiring podcasters, as well as a community space for coworking and events. I attended the festive grand opening on August 3:

PRX staffers celebrate the opening of the Podcast Garage on August 3, 2016.

PRX staffers celebrate the opening of the Podcast Garage on August 3, 2016.

And I joined a tour of the new facilities, which are gorgeous:

Inside the new studio at PRX's Podcast Garage.

Inside the new studio at PRX's Podcast Garage.

— Radiotopia, the podcast network run by PRX, added a new show called Millennial from Maine-based producer Megan Tan, and conducted a massive “Podquest” competition to find additional shows for the network. More than 1,500 people entered (including me, mostly just for the practice) and PRX chose four finalists.

— WGBH debuted a street-level satellite studio as part of the massive renovation of the Boston Public Library's central library in Copley Square. The plan is to use the 1,000-square-foot remote broadcast studio (which has three robotic TV cameras operated from WGBH’s main studio in Brighton, and will be part of a restaurant called the NewsFeed Cafe) to broadcast live segments of shows such as Boston Public Radio.

The new WGBH satellite studio at the Boston Public Library's NewsFeed Cafe.

The new WGBH satellite studio at the Boston Public Library's NewsFeed Cafe.

— WBUR unveiled its redesigned website in June. The niftiest feature: a constant live player option that streams the station’s shows uninterrupted while you continue to browse the site. Insiders and fans celebrated at a party at Boston’s District Hall in July, where John Davidow, WBUR’s managing director of digital, and Tiffany Campbell, executive editor for digital and leader of the redesign project, gave a tour of the new site.

— The Sonic Soiree, an informal monthly meetup for area audio producers, continued to grow, holding a series of potluck listening parties in Cambridge and Boston. I've made it to about half of them so far this year. Props to writer/radio producer Daniel A. Gross for organizing the series.

— Boston played host to PMDMC 2016, the annual Public Media Development and Marketing Conference. The folks at WGBH, PMDMC, and Current worked together to host a live taping of The Pub, Adam Ragusea’s fantastic podcast about the public media business.

Adam Ragusea (far left) interviews guests Ben Godley (COO of WGBH), Amy Shaw (SVP of Engagement and Content at Nine Network) and Kerri Hoffman (CEO of PRX).

Adam Ragusea (far left) interviews guests Ben Godley (COO of WGBH), Amy Shaw (SVP of Engagement and Content at Nine Network) and Kerri Hoffman (CEO of PRX).

Appropriately enough, the show was about how public media organizations are building public-facing facilities like the Podcast Garage, WBGH’s satellite studio, and the Nine Network's Public Media Commons in St. Louis to increase public outreach and engagement.

I was lucky enough to attend the taping and I’m one of the many voices helping to sing Adam’s theme song at the beginning. It was fascinating to watch Adam perform live. I'm in awe of anyone who's got the voice, smarts, and stage presence to record a great podcast episode in one take.

That said, there was a small glitch when Adam ran out of memory on his SD card halfway through the show (every audio person's worst nightmare). But he deftly covered for it in the podcast version, which came out today. Give it a listen below and subscribe to The Pub on iTunes here.

Wade Roush

10 Museum Way, Cambridge, MA, 02141, United States

Science and technology journalist based in San Francisco.