Hernan Lopez talking with Mathilde Piard of Lifekit
RIch Fury/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
The second annual iHeartRadio Podcast Awards last night was a one-hour event, starting at 8 PM Pacific, that honored the best and the brightest in the world of podcasting across a variety of categories. The event was streaming live on YouTube as well as on LiveXLive, the music streaming platform, and audio was carried on iHeart stations across the country.
The show was a significant improvement over last year with no pause breaks, less awkwardness, and no backstage footage of celebrities being chummy with each other. It featured great shows, great stars, and like nearly every podcasting event currently, it tried to explain podcasts to an audience that might not be familiar with how popular they are and used a lot of facts and statistics throughout. “Billions of downloads. Millions of hours of content,” the opening crawl announced.
Will Ferrell opening the show with a smile
Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
Since iHeart has one of the biggest stars in the world signed to a podcasting contract they wasted no time in utilizing him immediately. Will Ferrell took the stage as the broadcast event kicked off with a jean jacket, and a few days of bear growth, and amused the crowd with his now-familiar rambling, seemingly stream of consciousness style delivery. He joked about always wanting to be in podcasting because “its one of the fastest growing mediums in the country with more than half of the people in the United States having listened to one,” and “accidentally” confused Netflix with podcasting. “I remember the thrill when podcasts were delivered in those little envelopes to my house in seven to ten days,” he delivered deadpan.
Aaron Mahnke and Jake Brennan were the first award presenters and started the evening off right by announcing that Man in the Window was the winner in the True Crime category and in a touching moment journalist Paige St. John accepted the award and said it validated the women who made it possible and that it was time for them to speak up.
In between awards, a video montage was shown of various podcasters like Dan Rubenstein of Sports Wars talking about how they made their shows and about the stories they wanted to tell. “I love connecting with people through audio and podcasting has given me that opportunity,” Dan Pashman of The Sporkful said. With no commercial breaks, this made for a very effective transition between people coming on and off stage.
Then, in an odd tone-deaf moment, The Breakfast Club won the Best Pop Culture award and Charlemagne Tha God declared that “As long as we work for iHeart we’ll always win this award.”
Jack O’Brien, the creative director of the iHeart Podcast Network handled the backstage interviews with winners eschewing the more polished and camera-friendly Mario Lopez who they had last year. He was reading off of cards and came off a little of the cuff and wore a jean jacket and an open-collared buttoned shirt which made him look like he just rolled up to the event and frankly, a little unprepared. “It says on my card you’ve won something called a pull-,” “Pulitzer,” Paige St. John corrected him. “Is that how it’s pronounced?” he asked her.
In direct contrast, Hernan Lopez, CEO of Wondery, took the stage to introduce the Innovator Award and as always he looked polished and his speech was crisp and insightful. He announced the winner was NPR’s Lifekit, a show about helping people solve problems in their life on every level.
Another great addition to the show this year was two live mini-podcast onstage interviews where the guests and the host sat at a table in front of microphones. The first was Hernan talking with Mathilde Piard from Lifekit and the second was Neil Strauss, of To Live and Die in LA, presenting the Audible Audio Pioneer Award to Tenderfoot TV represented by Payne Lindsay and Donald Albright. These segments showcased podcasting in its truest, most authentic form.
Conan O’Brien delivering a speech that brought the house down
Rich Fury/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
Other highlights were:
- A special performance by Gavin DeGraw singing his hits “Soldier” and “I Don’t Want to Be.”
- Conan O’Brien accepting the award for Best Comedy Podcast for Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and gave a long Oscar-worthy speech that was funny, full of energy, and thanked everyone that worked on his show. “Good night everybody!” Conan yelled on his way out.
- Aaron Mahnke winning a surprise victory for the Best Overall Male Host award with his trademark genuine sincerity and humbleness. He topped a crowded field which included: Malcolm Gladwell, Roman Mars, and Marc Maron.
In the interest of time, several winners, like Blackout for Best Fiction Podcast, were awarded before the live stream and announced in bunches during breaks between awards.
Two small technical notes: About eight minute before the official broadcast began, someone who I couldn’t identify thanked the guests directly for being the best and brightest in their fields and reminded them that it was a “lightning fast show and I’ll see you at the after party.” Clearly, this was not supposed to be aired. Also, the very end of the stream had some audio glitches that interrupted the final speech.
None of this however, precluded the biggest podcast awards show from delivering the goods with a presentation that was head and shoulders above last year. Until Spotify or Luminary makes their own awards, iHeart has the stage all to themselves and they’re setting the pace for the industry.
For a full list of winners, click here.