“Vibrant podcast country”: Matt Deegan on the 2022 Australian Podcast Awards

• “We want people with different ears, different ideas, different thoughts on the world.”

Earlier this year, Australia officially overtook the U.S as the world’s biggest podcast listening nation, according to data from Edison Research.

In light of Australians turning up the podcast dial, it’s no surprise that this year’s Australian Podcast Awards are shaping up to be one of the biggest yet.

The country’s most prestigious and well-recognised podcast awards, powered by iHeart, will celebrate existing and emerging talent across the podcasting landscape, with the addition of new categories and more inclusivity to recognise a broader range of creators.

Mediaweek met with Australian Podcast Awards director, Matt Deegan, to discuss this year’s awards and the evolving podcast landscape.

Deegan says Australia is a “vibrant podcast country,” with its podcasting roots stemming from its “very competitive radio landscape.”

“When you combine that competitive spirit with an exciting bunch of new creators all across the country, who are creating really good work, it makes it brilliant for listeners.”

Rising podcast popularity

The Australian Podcast Awards allows creators of all experience levels and follower counts to have the chance to be recognised in the world of audio. 

“There can be so many kinds of great creators, and what we have to try to do with the awards is just reflect that great work and champion the great Australian podcasts,” he said.

“There are some shows that may have a few 100 listeners that haven’t quite cut through, and they just need someone to pick it up from that pile and go, “Oh, my God, this is amazing, everyone should listen to this to this podcast.” So that’s what I think we’re most proud of – when the lights can shine on great shows.”

Matt Deegan

According to the latest Infinite Dial study, weekly podcast listening has risen from five hours in 2021 to over seven hours in 2022. Now in its sixth year, Deegan says the awards have evolved over the years to reflect the growing popularity of podcasts.

“I think we continue to see podcast growth, there are new shows happening every week, people are putting together different types of shows, and people are now on their second or third podcasts, they’ve done something with some friends, and then it’s evolved.

“So it’s quite vibrant, and the turnover is greater. And there’s a lot more newness you get compared to other media.”

Expanding the categories

This year, the awards have opened several new categories to reflect the current demand. Among the new additions are Best Parenting, Best Children’s, Best History, Best Educational and The Climate Award.

See also: Australian Podcast Awards returns in 2022 with new categories

The Climate Award is open to specialist shows in any genre, not necessarily climate podcasts.

“It’s for any shows that have done anything interesting on that topic. And we think shining a light on that is a good thing to do.”

Additionally, this year will shed more light on the commercial and sales component of podcasting, lifting the lid on what happens behind the scenes.

“Podcasting is a huge growth market in the advertising community,” Deegan says. “But we think there’s room to talk about what great campaigns advertisers are pulling together with organisations.”

“I think having a space to celebrate that work, as well as the editorial creative work, is important.

There aren’t many places where someone that creates content in their kitchen, as well as the biggest media companies in the world, can come together and compete.”

2021 Australian Podcast Awards

Among the 33 awards categories, which range from Best New Podcast to Podcast of the Year and every genre-based category in between, is the Listeners Choice Award.

Each year, the Listeners Choice Award allows anyone to vote for any podcast regardless of prior nominations. It’s free to enter and vote, with last year having over 45,000 people vote for their favourite podcast.

“The biggest way people listen to podcasts is by personal recommendation. So if someone you trust says, “oh, you should really listen to this podcast,” you know you’re way more likely to listen.

“And so what listener choice does is do that on a massive scale.”

This year the awards will also make it easier for independent BIPOC, Queer and Trans audio creators to enter, thanks to a partnership with the Podcasting Seriously Fund.

“We know that any money can be a barrier to entry. It’s also for voices that have been marginalised in media over the years.

“So we’re looking at ways in which we can redress some of that balance.”

The judging process

Last year, over 90 judges listened to nearly 1,000 submissions to award gold to 29 top podcasts.

To win gold, an entry goes through multiple ears to ensure a fair and accurate result. Then, after multiple listens, rounds and lists, judges meet in person or virtually to come to an agreement.

They sort of battle it out between them to decide the nominees and gold, silver and bronze.”

The judging panel isn’t strictly audio experts. Instead, Deegan says they ensure that each category has a broad mix of people from podcasting and outside of podcasting to give different viewpoints.

“Diversity is really important in our judging panel,” Deegan says. “We want people with different ears, different ideas, different thoughts on the world to kind of throw that into that conversation.

australian podcast awards

As the podcasting landscape continues to evolve, so do the awards. Among an increase in listeners, Deegan says he’s noticed a rise in health and wellbeing podcasting driven by women with strong Instagram followings.

Additionally, there’s been a rise in radio groups making a move to podcasts as well as non-audio media outlets entering the space.

Last year’s winners included Laura Byrne and Brittney Hockley’s Life Uncut, Julia Gillard’s A Podcast of One’s Own and Brooke Boney and Linda Marigliano’s Brooke and Linda’s Dream Club.

Deegan says winners and nominees can benefit significantly from their names associated with the awards.

“For podcasts themselves, we really encourage them to continue to use their nominee status or their winner status, to help them get press coverage, or to do live shows or to just have something that they can point to when trying to grow their audience.”

Submissions for the Australian Podcast Awards close on September 27. The announcement of nominations and the Listeners Choice competition will commence in October. The awards ceremony will be held in November.

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