These are Adweek's podcasts of 2020

With the commuter audience suddenly no longer commuting in the Covid-19 quarantines, many podcasters likely feared the year would be detrimental to the audio industry. And while there was a short-term decline in audiences for professionally hosted shows, the podcast universe also grew significantly as local thought leaders began pouring their energies into audio.

This spirit of innovation and adaptation in the face of adversity is evident in this year's Adweek Podcast of the Year Awards winners. Many of the shows are new to 2020, launched in quarantine or upgraded to cater to an increasingly crowded market.

Here are this year's winners of the Adweek Podcast of the Year Awards, judged from all entries by a jury of professionals with direct podcasting experience:

Agency-hosted Podcast of the Year

Voices of resilience
The shipyard

After organizing a live music festival in 2019 with a focus on mental health issues, the Columbus, Ohio marketing agency The Shipyard was inspired to work with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Ohio State University to create a podcast that this further drives discussions. The show, which began in quarantine and initially focused on a local audience, was hosted by Rick Milenthal, the agency's CEO, and grew into a global audience that shares the agency's passion for breaking down the mental health scars.

Brand podcast of the year

Two winners were honored in this category:

Hypnopolis – a BMW Original Podcast
Jung von Matt, White Horse Music and California Music for BMW

This 2063 science fiction podcast introduces you to a world where criminal cases are judged by an AI and deep sleep is considered a punishment for crime. When a journalist wakes up after a 30-year prison sentence for a crime she did not commit, she sets out to find the real culprit. The BMW brand plays a limited role in the 6-episode season, with an emphasis instead on pushing the boundaries of audio entertainment.

Big brains
The University of Chicago

Universities play an important role in developing the innovations and discoveries that shape our world, but few have found effective ways to convincingly share these stories with the world. With Big Brains, the University of Chicago tells an intriguing way of how their faculty and research projects have approached everything from discovering the remains of a lost society in the Sahara to the science of what drives conspiracy theories.

Creativity Podcast of the Year

Blockbuster: The Story of James Cameron
Epicleff originals

How did James Cameron overcome decades of obstacles on the way to becoming one of Hollywood's most iconic directors? This 10-episode podcast from Los Angeles-based production company Epicleff Media tells Cameron's story from his college dropout and truck driver to his near-catastrophic effort to get the Titanic on screen. The show builds on the success of Blockbusters First Season, which won the Adweek Creativity Podcast of the Year 2019 and this time needs 200% more cast and crew.

Diversity and Inclusion Podcast of the Year

In The Thick
Futuro Media Group and Acast

This podcast, hosted twice a week by Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela, committed to telling you the stories you miss in the mainstream news, was born out of a desire to make coverage of the 2016 presidential election more diverse. Whether you're discussing the debates of this campaign season or asking thought leaders on various topics, the podcast offers an impactful and refreshing perspective amid a media landscape that often feels like a sea of ​​equality.

Entrepreneurship Podcast of the Year

The big failure
ICON Media

What if you bring the vibe of a real crime podcast to a topic like business obstacles? You'll get The Great Fail, a podcast that takes a forensic look at the deaths of iconic brands like Blockbuster, Toys R Us, Zima, and Atari. The show was created, produced and hosted by business consultant Debra Chen. She's grown organically, adding lesser-known stories about unraveled business ventures like the collapse of esports team Echo Fox to her subject.

Innovation Podcast of the Year


With a theme each season, Foundering transforms Bloomberg Technology coverage into a serialized podcast about a major business debacle. The current season is dedicated to the meteoric rise and failed IPO of WeWork, the coworking empire whose seemingly unstoppable dynamic fell to earth in 2019 – when co-founder Adam Neumann ran away with a $ 1.7 billion settlement. The formation grew out of a re-tooling of Bloomberg Technology's previous podcast, Decrypted, in 2020 with the aim of giving the show a stronger focus on innovation and technology.

Interview podcast of the year

The Get Lost Podcast
Souled Outside Exploration Co.

The Get Lost Podcast is said to be "a defiant middle finger to the status quo in the travel publishing world," and features interviews with a wide variety of travelers and experts to inspire you on adventures that "could curse you, bankrupt you, or kill you." "Season two of the show, hosted, produced and edited by Joe Sills, builds on the early promise of the first by adding an original theme song, more haunted openings and a VIP pool of guests including everyone from TV presenters to Archaeologists.

Marketing Podcast of the Year

Lead balloon
Podcamp Media

Telling stories from the trenches of PR disasters, crises and impossible opportunities, Lead Balloon is the passion project of Dusty Weis, a former journalist and PR expert who started Podcamp Media in 2019 to help brands share their stories about To tell podcasts. Describing the show's focus as "PR and marketing disaster stories told by the communications professionals who lived them," Weis finally breathed life into an exciting educational topic that, surprisingly, rarely had a compelling platform before.

Podcast event of the year

Debate: Coronavirus will reshape the world order in China's favor
Intelligence Squared USA

When you think of a “podcast event,” you are likely envisioning a live episode recorded with the hosts on stage – perhaps with celebrity guests, a musical interlude, and some interaction with the audience. With the Covid-19 pandemic stalling live events, most podcasts simply skipped their live tours and other experiences. However, the impartial debate hosts at Intelligence Squared US saw the opportunity to take their debate podcasts into the virtual realm and expand them into global talks, including the one-on-one debate over whether the pandemic will tip the geopolitical chessboard in China favor. The debate drew 200,000 viewers across all platforms of the organization.

Publisher-hosted Podcast of the Year

Go away, sister

This Unbothered branded podcast by Refinery29, which aired for two seasons in 2020, covered many of the most important and polarizing topics of the year in terms of how they have affected the lives of black women in America. While the show often deals with weighty subjects, it does so in a way that is stimulating and refreshingly comprehensible to audiences of women ages 18 to 35. Starting from an IGTV show, Go Off, Sis developed into a podcast in the second year, produced by an all-black, mostly female team.

Best quarantined podcast started

Editor's note: For the 2020 Podcast of the Year Awards, Adweek created a free category for every podcast launched during the quarantine period of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Voices of resilience
The shipyard

As noted above, Voices of Resilience was developed as an extension of Columbus marketing agency The Shipyard, which is continually committed to removing the scars from mental health talks. "Although 2020 was a unique year of stress and unprecedented challenges," says the agency, the quarantine period inspired business leaders "to create a mental health community worldwide through connective storytelling."

Best podcast site or app

The Plot Thickens website
Turner Classic Films

The TCM website for The Plot Thickens is both a rich content hub for existing fans and a well-organized introduction for newbies. It has an impressive amount of content in it without ever feeling overwhelming. The Plot Thickens is TCM's first podcast. In season 1, seven episodes are devoted to the twists and turns and tragedies in the life of director Peter Bogdanovich.

Technology Podcast of the Year

Command line heroes
red hat

In its sixth season, the Red Hat podcast tells the often surprising stories behind the personalities who created some of the world's most famous technologies and software. While the show isn't specifically about Red Hat, an open source enterprise software company, according to a survey of listeners, the show's creators found that 95% recognized Red Hat as the brand behind the podcast.

Thought Leadership Podcast of the Year

Two winners were honored in this category:

Think Google Podcast
Gimlet Media for Google

Gimlets Think With Google Podcast was launched in 2020 and is aimed at professionals in the fields of marketing and advertising. It's a five-episode limited series that covered topics that are both weighty (the potential of the latest machine learning) and entertainingly informative (like the story of the Google Doodle). Although the series was being prepared for release prior to the Covid-19 pandemic taking effect, the podcast team quickly flipped their final episode – in terms of the reality of a modern day CMO – to include perspectives on how the pandemic would reshape the marketing landscape .

Floor 9
IPG Media Lab

Adam Simon and Scott Elchison from Floor 9 analyze the intersection between technology and culture, analyzing news that is important to marketers and inviting experts to join panel discussions on the topic. Now, in its third year, the show has been adjusted in 2020 to be weekly instead of bi-weekly. This allowed for more timely coverage of pandemic-related news and attracted a large pool of C-suite guests. For the holding company IPG and the media agency UM Worldwide, the trade fair has become a popular source of contact with customers and industry colleagues.

TV / Streaming Podcast of the Year

Land of Giants: The Netflix Effect
Vox Media

Recode journalists and presenters Peter Kafka and Rani Molla opened the second season of Land of the Giants: The Netflix Effect with interviews with Netflix managers, employees, talent and even CEO Reed Hastings. This season, the podcast expanded beyond tech listeners to everyday streaming consumers, received year-round sponsorship from the business financial services platform Avalara, and was preparing for a third season.

Podcast Editor of the Year

Annie Avilés
Vice Media Group

Vice's Painkiller podcast on America's fentanyl crisis features many voices in four countries and three languages, creating a rich mix of audio that could be challenging in the editing process. But Avilés, who began her career in Bolivia before becoming an NPR correspondent and eventually long-form podcast editor, is keeping the voices of those living through the crisis authentic and accessible. Colleagues say her role goes well beyond audio splicing: “It helped crystallize a thesis out of a loosely formed clay,” said senior reporter Keegan Hamilton, “and urged us not to just look at where fentanyl came from comes and how it gets into the country. but also the systemic racism and the broken health system at the root of the opioid epidemic. "

Podcast episode of the year

"P line "
California love
LAist studios

California Love, hosted by Walter Thompson-Hernández, Podcast Innovator of the Year 2020 (see below), tells the often overlooked stories that have defined parts of Los Angeles culture. In “P Line”, the show picks up on a popular, albeit risky, form of the social network before the Internet: the Hollywood Party Line. Through fun recreations and memories, the episode brings a largely forgotten experience to life for a new generation of listeners.

Podcast Executive of the Year

Kate Osborn
Vp of audio
Vice Media Group

With a career that began in college community radio, Osborn has grown to become one of the foremost leaders in the audio industry. Osborn focuses on immersion as a key driver of innovation and quality at Vice Audio and wants every audio project to involve listeners in a story and the lives of those who tell it. Her leadership has helped Vice Audio see beyond borders, expand its podcast portfolio through multiple languages, and establish partnerships in areas such as Europe, Latin America, and the Asia-Pacific region.

Podcast presenter of the year

Shapearl Wells
Host someone
Coproduced by Topic Studios, The Intercept, the Invisible Institute and iHeartRadio in association with Tenderfoot TV.

Shapearl Wells is an activist and mother of six and is fully committed to this podcast about the murder of her son Courtney Copeland. Wells decided to work with journalists to take the investigation into their own hands and get an unfiltered look at a grieving black mother. Her storytelling, her closeness to the subject and her authentic frustration show how Wells, as producer Bill Healy says, "is a model of how to speak rigorously and complexly about your own life."

Podcast Innovator of the Year

Two winners were honored in this category:

Walter Thompson-Hernández
Host, California love
LAist studios

Los Angeles stories often focus on Hollywood's fame and glamor, but Thompson-Hernández brings an unfiltered look into the stories of the LA residents he chats with on his first podcast, California Love. Whether right from his family home, riding the streets of Compton, or anywhere else in Los Angeles, Walter's authenticity innovates storytelling in podcasting and gives California Love listeners a much more intimate glimpse into the diverse communities of Southern California. Thompson-Hernández was previously a journalist for the New York Times and recently published the non-fiction book The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America's Urban Heartland.

Jared Gutstadt
Founder and CEO
Audio Up

With the development of audio content that rivals that of video, Jared Gutstadt founded the podcast studio Audio Up Media in 2019. The move came about a decade after Jingle Punks was founded, a media company that it sold to Ole Media Management in 2015. With Audio Up, Gutstadt aims to expand the podcast experience beyond audio programming and become an entertainment company with advertising and marketing offerings. So far, he's launched podcasts with celebrities like Dennis Quaid and Tommy Lee, and Audio Up's Make-up As We Go brings the world of musicals to the podcasting medium with a script series about an emerging country music star.

Gutstadt was also recognized in the Podcast Producer of the Year category.

Podcast Network of the Year

Vox Media Podcast Network
Leaders: Marty Moe, Nishat Kurwa, Liz Nelson, and Hanna Rosin

The Vox Media Podcast Network is already an established force in the audio industry, taking home several of Adweek's podcasts of the year in 2019, including the grand prize for its Recode Decode show. In just one year, the network's downloads have increased 50%, and one of its anchor podcasts, Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway, has expanded to two episodes a week to meet audience and advertiser demand. With shows like Nice Try !, The Ezra Klein Show, The Weeds, and others, the network reports that it has significantly surpassed its 2019 sales figures, and in September the network announced its first-ever branded podcast: Who We Are: A Chronicle of the Racism in America in partnership with Ben & Jerry & # 39; s.

Podcast Producer of the Year

Two winners were honored in this category:

Megan Tan
LAist studios

Combining atmospheric audio and hip-hop beats for the California Love podcast, Tan exemplifies how a producer can enhance and enhance a host's creative expression. With his experiences in The Habitat by Gimlet Media, Planet Money by NPR, and Millennial by Radiotopia, Tan's careful balance between art and technical skill brings listeners to a new level of immersive journalism with California Love (hosted by Walter Thompson-Hernández honored above).

Jared Gutstadt
Audio Up

Above you can find out more about Gutstadt's work, which was also recognized in the Podcast Innovator of the Year category.

2020 Podcast of the Year (Best in Show)

Adweek's best winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 27th on

Don't miss Adweek's "How Brands Find Their Voice With Audio" virtual event on October 27th featuring thought leaders from NPR, Pandora, Refinery29, Headspace and more. Click here to register for this free event.

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