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Radio Ambulante and the Podcast Boom

El Encuentro de la Palabra was a two-week conference at the Tecnópolis Exhibition Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Up until this past Sunday (April 5th), it brought together poets, comic book artists, novelists, journalists, hip hop artists, and more to celebrate the various arts of the spoken, written, and imagined word.

 Radio Ambulante was invited to be a part of an afternoon of talks on “The Boom of the Podcast,” together with representatives from 99% Invisible, Snap Judgment, and This American Life. What an honor it was for us to be included in such a prestigious group!

We presented one of our stories live, that of the Zampelunghe brothers from a small town in Argentina. Ariel Placencia, one of the story’s reporters, was there as my co-presenter, and together we brought to life this story that never fails to move me.

In preparation for this conference, it was interesting to think about how Radio Ambulante fits into this much talked about podcast boom. On the surface, it seems like a phenomenon that’s exclusive to the english-speaking world.

But look a bit deeper and there’s no denying that it is seeping into the way we all consume audio, no matter the language. In a way, Radio Ambulante and its incredible growth serves as proof.

When we launched three years ago, we dared to make a narrative storytelling show for an audience that didn’t know what the heck that was, on a format that’s obviously foreign to people who are used to consuming radio shows on a radio.

Thanks to the backing of 600 or so Kickstarter donors who believed in what at that time was just an idea, we moved forward, and luckily, our audience met us halfway.

Forty or so stories later, we have two prestigious awards under our belt, a team that’s double the size of our original crew, and an average audience of 60,000 listeners per episode. We’ve collaborated with the shows we long to emulate — 99% Invisible, This American Life, and most recently RadioLab. And we count on the generous support of institutions such as the Panta Rhea and Sara and Evan Williams foundations, along with our first ever underwriting sponsors, Mailchimp and Ting.

It’s amazing to see what we have accomplished and to get the chance to share this with the audience at the Encuentro de la Palabra. Argentina is no stranger to the podcast. They have so many shows on the internet already that they have a podcast about podcasts! When I asked if people knew what Serial was, all but one raised their hands.

If at some point our audience wasn’t familiar with our format or our genre, I’m certain it’s a thing of the past, and with 300 million or so Spanish-speakers worldwide, it can only keep growing from here.

If you want to check out our presentation, here is a video:

 

And it was such a hit, that we inspired a hip hop freestyle battle in our bus on our way back to the hotel.

Special thanks to the Argentine rappers El mio soul, Sensei, Chaky, Manutante, Cacha, and Homer who you can hear freestyling on this recording.

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