How to Pitch a Story to 99% Invisible

Have a story that you think could work for our show? Freelancers have helped make 99% Invisible great, and we are happy to consider your ideas for episodes. We are also happy to work with early-career reporters — or people who work in other mediums, like print and film. If you come to us with a great story, we can provide guidance through the process.

A few suggestions for would-be pitchers:

  • We tend to go for stories that inspire wonder and reveal something surprising about the built world, or about the cities we live in, or about the way the world around us has been designed.
  • We love stories that make people take note of something in the world around them that they never would have thought about before. We tend to *avoid* stories about things that are cool in their own right (example: solar power, green roofs, bike lanes) or pieces that are about someone and their really cool project (we call these Dude With A Project or DWAP stories). We are often looking for stories that reveal the fascinating story behind something that has previously been overlooked.
  • We also do a lot of stories that end up being good vehicles to tell an interesting history. So this story about Ponte Tower is ostensibly about an iconic piece of architecture, but it’s also about the history of apartheid in South Africa, and how that history shaped and was shaped by the built environment. And this story about the design of police uniforms allowed us to talk about the history of policing in the U.S.
  • Our “cardinal rule” is “no cardinals” (i.e. no stories about nature or science; we focus on things built by humans.) We do, however, like stories about the built environment coming in contact with the natural world, and the design that happens at that intersection.
  • When you pitch, you should have a sense of the overall narrative arc for your story: where it will start, who the main characters are, how the narrative will develop over various scenes, and what big ideas the story will explore. These things can change a lot as the editorial process progresses but it’s good if the pitch itself has a basic arc that reflects how the story could unfold.
  • Try to keep pitches to a page or less. Check out these sample pitches to see what a good pitch looks like.

We do read every single pitch. Seriously. If we think it has potential to work for our show, we will get in touch with you, though it may take some time (current turnaround time is 2-3 weeks).

If we like your idea, but think it needs more development before green-lighting it, one of our editors may approve a $25/hour budget for further research. We realize developing a pitch can be time-consuming and we want to fairly compensate reporters for that work.

Ready to take the next step? Send your pitch to us on this submission form.

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