Brazil’s Podcasting Boom is Just Beginning

Paula Scarpin on what it will take for Brazil’s new wave of podcasting to truly take off

Paula Scarpin (front row, fourth from left) with her team at Radio Piauí

Interest in podcasting is growing around the world–as evidence, we like to point to the first round of the Google Podcasts creator program, for which we received applications from over 100 countries. But something special seems to be happening in Brazil, which saw the highest number of aspiring podcasters apply for the program outside of the U.S. and Canada.

We wanted to learn more about the needs and opportunities for Brazilian podcasters. So we invited Paula Scarpin, the creative director at the recently launched Radio Novelo in Rio de Janeiro and a member of the Google Podcasts creator program advisory committee, to join us in Boston for the creator program bootcamp.

We followed up with Paula to learn more about how she got started in podcasting and how she hopes to see the medium grow in Brazil. The country, Paula tells us, is “finally beginning its podcasting boom.” And she sees a hunger among Brazilians for more Portuguese-language content across all styles and genres.

If you’re a podcaster (or aspiring podcaster) who’s ready to help meet this need, either in Brazil or in another country, region or community where the podcasting industry is ripe for growth, we hope you’ll apply for a spot in the next round of the Google Podcasts creator program. Selected teams will receive intensive training, mentorship and funding to develop their shows.

PRX: Tell us about the podcasting scene in Brazil.

Paula: Brazil is finally beginning its podcast boom, and I couldn’t be more excited. I don’t mean that people weren’t making podcasts before, but what’s new is that they’ve been improving in quality and consistency lately, and I think that has to do with the rise of podcasts made by print journalists. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but podcasts tend to follow the path blazed by broadcast radio, and Brazilian broadcast radio is mainly hard news or mainstream music. That means that the majority of podcasts here reproduce this model: roundtables or interview shows with little or no script or editing. Since print journalists are more used to constructing narratives, they’re the ones who are driving this new, more heavily scripted wave.

Podcasts are already pretty popular among young audiences, and there’s a lot of room to grow. I think we’re still in a phase where the more podcasts there are out there, the better. We don’t have the level of content in Portuguese that could easily sustain a podcast addiction.

What would you recommend as a first step for a burgeoning podcast producer in Brazil?

I recommend listening to A LOT of podcasts from every place on earth, even when you don’t understand a word that’s being said (although many, many shows have transcripts, and Google Translate is there to give you a leg up). I think understanding different audio storytelling styles as you develop your own aesthetic is as fundamental as practicing to develop your own show. The bigger your arsenal of formats and narrative solutions, the more resources you have to translate your story into sound. Don’t give up after ten pilots, because you’re going to make a lot of stuff that you’ll have to toss. And preach the word of podcasting like it’s your gospel.

A live recording of “Foro de Teresina“

Is there a particular podcast style or format you think is likely to become popular?

Since the scene is yet so underdeveloped, I would say that there’s room for everything. Right now, roundtables and interviews are still the most popular, but I’m sure that narrative podcasts will be a hit as soon as they start to circulate. The population of Brazil is huge and diverse–the population was 209.3 million as of 2017–so I really can’t think of a format that wouldn’t find an audience.

What would you like the world to adapt from radio production or storytelling techniques from Brazil?

I think Brazilian radio hosts are experts in connecting with their audiences. I love how genuinely colloquial they are, how they brilliantly bring audiences in to comment on what they’re talking about, how they make people laugh even when things are really dire. It feels like they care a lot. Intimacy and connection are a long standing part of radio–even more so for podcasting–and I think it’ll be really important for Brazilian podcasters to keep that tradition going.

PRX: You’ve recently made the transition from print journalism to audio — why did you make the leap?

Paula: Actually, radio was what brought me to journalism in the first place. My father is a big radio fan and I grew up with a radio in every room at home (sometimes all of them turned on — and tuned to different stations!). But I found a place for the stories I wanted to tell in print, at Revista Piauí, a monthly-magazine dedicated to longform journalism along with fiction and graphic novels, very much inspired by The New Yorker. I spent 12 years there, and I was very happy as a reporter, but radio was never far from my mind. I kept pressing my editors to create a podcast channel for the magazine until they finally gave in.

Paula’s father with his beloved radios

In 2018 we launched three shows: a politics roundtable with two editors and a reporter from the magazine, called Foro de Teresina (“Teresina Forum” — Teresina is the capital of the Brazilian state of Piauí); a feminist interview show about women and the workplace called Maria vai com as outras (“Mary Goes with Other Girls” — an expression used to say that someone’s a crowd-follower); and a 4-week episode series about the hopeless underdogs in the World Cup called Tudo o que você não quer e não precisa saber sobre a Copa (“Everything You Never Needed or Wanted to Know About the World Cup”).

The project was very successful, and now part of the team, myself included, is leaving the magazine to create a new podcast company called Rádio Novelo. My main (ambitious) goal is to make podcasts a success across Brazil, so I want to see them multiply. That’s the idea behind Rádio Novelo: we want to create and help create high-quality podcasts in a myriad of formats for audiences to be inspired by them and start their own shows.

You attended the bootcamp for the Google Podcasts creator program — what stood out for you?

I had never worked with design thinking before — suffice to say that right after I dropped my bags at home, I headed to a stationery store to buy post-its and sharpies. I can’t say I knew what to expect coming in to the experience, but I loved the methodology and it has been really helpful in moving my own projects forward. I wish that more Brazilian podcasters could participate in such a thorough and engaging training program. I love how integrated and committed everyone was, from team members to staff and visitors. I’m excited to see everybody’s progress in June at the final showcase!

Paula at the Google Podcasts creator program bootcamp