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Hot Docs Podcast Festival Features Nonfiction Storytellers

Fourth year for Toronto podcast event featuring content creators and live podcasts

TORONTO, Ontario — Some of the world’s best podcast creators and thousands of their avid fans will be in Toronto Nov. 6–11 for the 4th annual Hot Docs Podcast Festival.

The recurring event, which is being held at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (named for the late Canadian media mogul Ted Rogers; son of Edward Rogers, who invented the “batteryless” AC-powered AM radio), demonstrates how popular the podcast has become in its short lifetime.

“This year’s festival features live events in which the world’s best podcasts perform live episodes for Toronto’s passionate community of podcast-lovers and a three-day industry conference (the Creators Forum) in which accomplished podcast professionals from across Canada and around the world come together for industry panels and networking events,” said Will Di Novi, the Hot Docs Podcast Festival’s lead programmer.

“Podcasting is, simply put, the hottest medium in nonfiction storytelling right now, with rapidly growing audiences, thrilling new creative developments under way, and huge potential from a business development standpoint.”

The Hot Docs Podcast Festival is structured to meet the needs of podcast creators (“the industry”) and the fans who adore this new medium (“the public”).

“On the industry side, we are offering exciting opportunities to hear the insights of some of the most important experts and decision makers in the international podcast industry — and to do so in an intimate setting where there are real opportunities to meaningfully engage with them and their expertise,” said Di Novi.

“At this year’s Creators Forum, we’re thrilled to be featuring panels, fireside chats and interactive workshops with brilliant folks like Mia Lobel, executive producer at Pushkin Industries (Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast studio); Sarah van Mosel, chief revenue officer at Stitcher; Leslie Merklinger, senior director of audio innovation at CBC; Mimi O’Donnell, executive producer of scripted content at Gimlet Media; David Stern, director of product development at Slate; Kenzi Wilbur, head of original programming at Luminary; and Steve Pratt, co-founder of Pacific Content.”

The public will participate in the Hot Docs Podcast festival by sitting in on a range of live podcast productions.

“We are offering the opportunity to see and hear some of the world’s most exciting audio storytellers live and in the flesh, such as Jon Ronson, Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham (from the New York Times’ Still Processing), former Daily Show correspondent Mo Rocca (presenting his Mobituaries podcast) and Canadian broadcasting legends like Ian Hanomansingh (Uncover), Jesse Brown (Canadaland) and Anna Maria Tremonti (presenting the exclusive world premiere of her new podcast More with Anna Maria Tremonti),” Di Novi told RWI.

The festival expects about 7,000 members of the public to attend this year’s event, plus hundreds of podcast creators and related personnel from around the world. It occurs at a time when podcasting has come into its own; fed by the public’s appetite for long-form nonfiction audio programs such as “Serial,” The New York Times’ “Caliphate” and Canada’s “Missing and Murdered.”

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Such podcasts “do for the audio space what the bingeable masterpieces at studios like HBO, Netflix and Showtime have been doing for prestige television,” said Di Novi.

The paradox is while “we’re seeing all this huge growth at the high-end, macro-level, emerging and mid-career podcasters especially those who work as freelancers or for independent outfits — are still struggling to make a living in the industry and struggling to monetize their independently produced passion projects.”