Inaugural Hot Docs Podcast Festival Hits Toronto

You might have heard the name Adnan Syed bandied about the office water cooler. Or Sarah Koenig. Or Serial (and not the delicious breakfast food). Was he guilty or was there a missing witness? The first episode of this podcast aired October 3, 2014 and brought with it the mainstream break that podcasts needed. Suddenly everyone was interested in this story and began looking for other similar programs.


Not just crime shows either, there was This American Life with that familiar Ira Glass sound, Freakonomics Radio, and just about every news outlet had a podcast that allowed the public to pick the topics they wanted to hear about and listen to them when it was most convenient. These were like radio shows or talk radio that you could listen to in the car, at the gym, public transportation, or anywhere else you could think of. Even if you didn’t have internet service or a radio signal. Podcasts were also very accessible. Apps like Podcasts on iOS, Stitcher, Google Play, iTunes, and many others meant that there was suddenly so much more choice.

Skip ahead just over two years later and we have the inaugural Hot Docs Podcast Festival in Toronto. November 18th-20th saw 12 sessions over 3 days bringing a mix of live podcast shows, Q&As, and even tips and tricks for making your own podcasts.


Making, Supporting, and Marketing Your Show Panel

If you’ve ever wanted to create your own podcast, this session was the perfect panel to attend. Hosted by Camp Tech CEO, Avery Swartz, this hour was jam-packed with tips and tricks to help find success with your podcast. Joining Avery on the stage was JP Davidson, Co-Producer of Risk Takers, Katie Jensen, Producer at CANADALAND, Dan Misener, Head of Audience Development at Pacific Content, and Hannah Sung, Producer at the Globe and Mail. This talented group talked about the ins and outs of how to get a Podcast produced, the mishaps you can encounter, and key marketing strategies you should consider.



The first Hot Docs Podcast Festival was also the Canadian premiere of the Criminal live recording. The Criminal podcast, a part of the Radiotopia podcast network, is hosted by Phoebe Judge and produced by Lauren Spohrer and tells stories about crime. Stories of people who’ve been wronged or done wrong. Phoebe Judge has such a wonderful speaking voice that naturally lends itself to the podcast medium. Covering 6 stories over the course of the show, we learned about The Evening Whirl (a St. Louis crime newspaper that eschews words like allegly in favour of alliterations and puns, the case of a hijacked TV signal, a guy who decided to get back the guy who tried to scam him, a murder in Argentina and the beginning of the use of fingerprints as identification of criminals, The Magic Castle and the story of Soapy Smith, and the lengths some people are forced to go to visit prisoners.


Grown-ups Read Things They Wrote As Kids

Grown-ups Read Things They Wrote As Kids got it’s start as a live, onstage storytelling event back in 2007. Traveling across the country, Canadians from all walks of life share their stories from childhood to the angsty teenage years. Sometimes weird, sometimes touching, usually hilarious, this podcast allows listeners to remember their own younger years and the thoughts and feelings they once had. The live recording consisted of 50% fan favourites and 50% new readers. Some people were gifted readers and the audience waiting with anticipation to hear what came next but all of them were deeply personal and a wonderful way to spend the evening.


Science Vs.

Wendy Zukerman and her podcast, Science Vs., looks at fads, trends and opinions in an attempt to seperate fact from fiction (or even in between if that’s the case). They’ve covered topics like antidepressants, organic food, gun control, fracking, and hypnosis. More importantly, the live show as part of the Hot Docs Podcast Festival covered the most important question of all – what are the health benefits of eating chocolate or drinking coffee and wine. In what would be an otherwise complex conversation, Zukerman and her team have a way of bringing the research to a fun, funny, and interesting level that allows everyone to understand. There was even a question and answer portion at the end that was very illuminating. Also, in case you were wondering, the ideal daily servings are 2 glasses of red wine, 4 cups of coffee, and 25g of chocolate.

 By Kevin Joseph

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