Today marked the announcement of the shortlists for 2021’s Publisher Podcast Awards. As we said on stage at 2020’s inaugural event, it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be able to bring so many exemplars and champions of the podcasting industry together to celebrate the medium and its practitioners.

Things will be slightly different this year. There isn’t a stage, for one; Covid put paid to our hopes to make 2021’s bigger and louder in person. Instead, we’ll be running the event remotely, using the lessons we’ve learned from fellow events businesses and our own experimentation with livestreaming and audience interaction over the course of lockdown. We’ve put hours into making sure that the remote event is going to be among the best the industry has to offer, and we’re sure it’s going to be a great ceremony – though the stress of stepping onto the stage has been replaced with the panic of hitting the ‘Go Live’ button.

Good as it will be, it can’t replicate some of the buzz and physicality that comes with a live event. It’s not quite the same as getting drunk with your work mates, nor letting go and hollering as a member of your team has to step up into the spotlight to accept the trophy.

Because of that switch to a remote event, none of the Media Voices team felt happy charging for tickets. It’s still a lot of work on our part, but the value proposition felt off, and frankly we weren’t sure that many people feel virtual events of any calibre are worth paying for given how ubiquitous they are this year. The last thing we want to do is take our community for granted. Instead, we’re taking the opportunity to trial a pay what you want (PWYW) ticketing option this year for those who want to support Media Voices and the Publisher Podcast Awards in general.

Pay what you will

Because of the nature of Media Voices we keep a close eye on how publishers are making bank. From hard paywalls to donation models, if it’s been trialled we’ve probably discussed it on the podcast. We’re also extremely keen to practice what we preach when it comes to giving industry advice, so it’s with an eye on some PWYW models that have worked that we’ve decided to try it this year.

Between the Guardian’s expectation-beating open journalism model, the Yorkshire Post’s donation trial and the rapid rise of platforms like Patreon and Ko-Fi, we’re firm advocates of the idea that access isn’t analogous to quality. Hard paywalls and pay-to-access models are evidently working for some titles, but the idea that it’s the only model that works is one we firmly reject. If the content is quality and the mission is sound, we believe that people will support it regardless of exclusivity. Altruism is our big bet for the future of media.

The Publisher Podcast Awards was set up with the deliberate aim to make it open to publishers of all shapes and sizes. Despite recent moves by huge platforms, the podcast is still a deeply inclusive medium. We don’t charge for entry so that smaller, niche publishers have a chance to shine as brightly as their larger counterparts, and last year our judges were delighted to reward some of those podcasts. This year, without the live event, we’re extending that ethos to attendance as well.

At the same time, we want to make sure that the Publisher Podcast Awards themselves are sustainable. To that end, the PWPY trial is a bet that altruism will win out, and that we’ve delivered enough value through the podcast and the awards to date that those who can support us will choose to. We know not everyone will, or can, but it’s our belief that enough of you believe in the industry and our own work enough to kick in, even without any personal reward. It’s a bet on altruism.

Regardless of how the trial goes, we’ll deliver the best possible event our little team can put on this year. Frankly I’m excited to see how it goes. If nothing else, it will provide us with an interesting case study to discuss on the podcast. We’re hopeful, though, that our gamble will pay off, and we’ll be able to put that money towards making 2022’s Awards the biggest, most inclusive and best podcast awards show on the planet.

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