Roman Mars

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Roman Mars
Born Newark, Ohio
Nationality American
Alma mater Bard College at Simon's Rock
Oberlin College
University of Georgia
Occupation Radio producer
Known for 99% Invisible

Roman Mars is the host and producer of 99% Invisible, a KALW radio show and podcast.[1]

He has also contributed to radio programs such as Radiolab and Planet Money.[2][3] Fast Company identified him as one of the hundred most creative people (number 63) of 2013.[4] In and around 2004 he produced a program called Invisible Ink[5] on KALW.

99% Invisible[edit]

Mars and his signature radio show, 99% Invisible, have been credited in the mainstream press as an innovative form of radio production, defining a new movement of independent radio and podcast creators.[6][7][8] In 2016 Mars co-invented asynchronous podcasting with Justin McElroy creating the first episode of Smart Stuff which began in MBMBaM episode 316[9] and was completed in 99% Invisible episode 225.[10]

In March 2015, Mars delivered a talk at the TED conference in Vancouver, BC, entitled "Why city Flags may be the worst-designed thing you've never noticed", revealing the five basic principles of flag design and sparking flag-change efforts across the US and Canada with over 4 million views.[11] The talk inspired the city of Pocatello, Idaho to invite Mars to a conference to redesign their flag, voted the worst city flag in North America and highlighted in the talk.[12] Mars maintains a personal collection of flags.[13]


In partnership with the Knight Foundation and the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), Mars also created the podcast collective 'Radiotopia'. The Public Radio Exchange has hired Mars to curate a radio program called Remix, which is syndicated by at least 14 public radio stations across the US.[14]


Mars is also notable for having successfully used Kickstarter for 99% Invisible, raising over $170,000, making it the highest-funded journalism Kickstarter project ever, and the second highest-funded Kickstarter project across the entire publishing category.[15]

In November 2013, 99% Invisible's season four Kickstarter campaign received 11,693 backers raising over $375,000. The e-mail marketing service MailChimp donated $20,000 once the campaign reached 10,000 backers. The original goal of $150,000 was raised in 92 hours.[16]

2014 Kickstarter for Radiotopia[edit]

Following this success, Mars introduced another Kickstarter campaign to build Season Two of Radiotopia, a collection of seven storytelling podcasts.

  • 99% Invisible
  • Fugitive Waves
  • Love + Radio
  • Radio Diaries
  • Strangers
  • Theory of Everything
  • The Truth

Its original goal was $250,000 which was funded[17] within six days. However, the campaign more than doubled its original target, achieving $620,412 from 21,808 backers by the time the Kickstarter closed on November 15, 2014, making it the most-funded Kickstarter project in the publishing and radio and podcast categories.. The goal was helped by an offer of $25,000 from Hover if the campaign achieved 20,000 backers of any amount from $1 upwards.

As a result Radiotopia reached three stretch goals. Its first was to add three podcasts hosted by women to the collective when the Kickstarter reached $400,000, which happened on November 2, 2014:[18]

  • Criminal
  • The Heart
  • The Allusionist

The second stretch goal was set at $425,000 to host Radiotopia parties throughout 2015 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Dublin, and London, plus another two cities that "create the most noise on Facebook and Twitter".[18] This was achieved within two days on November 4, 2014.[19]

The third stretch goal was set at $500,000 and would allow Radiotopia to provide more content, wage increases and paid internships.[19] This goal was met within five days on November 9, 2014.[20]

The fourth stretch goal, set at $600,000, was to create a pilot development fund to find new, talented producers and hosts not covered by traditional radio.[20] A fourth podcast, Mortified, was also added to the collective, bringing the total number of podcasts to 11. The fourth goal was reached on November 15, 2014.[21]


  1. ^ KALW website. "KALW staff directory", KALW. Retrieved on October 27, 2013.
  2. ^ NPR website. "Planet Money Episode 471", Planet Money. Retrieved on October 27, 2013.
  3. ^ Radiolab website. "RadioLab staff directory", Radiolab. Retrieved on October 27, 2013.
  4. ^ Fast Company Magazine website. "List of most Fast Company's creative people of 2013", Fast Company. Retrieved on October 27, 2013.
  5. ^ PRX website. In 2015, Roman was the host of the AIGA National Conference in New Orleans. "Invisible Ink show listings", Public Radio Exchange
  6. ^ Mother Jones Magazine "Roman Mars on the Secret Allure of Highway Stripes and Manhole Covers", Mother Jones. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  7. ^ Wired Magazine "How 99% Invisible Will Change Public Radio", Wired. Retrieved on June 18, 2014.
  8. ^ The Guardian Newspaper "Roman Mars: public radio maverick", The Guardian. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  9. ^ "MBMBaM 316: Smart Stuff". My Brother, My Brother and Me. Maximum Fun. Retrieved October 11, 2016. 
  10. ^ Mars, Roman. "99% invisible 225: Photo credit: Negatives of the Bauhaus". 99% invisible. 99pi. Retrieved October 11, 2016. 
  11. ^ Lyons, Jenna (September 6, 2015). "Radio host leads charge to change S.F.’s official flag". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  12. ^ McFarland, Cydney (April 15, 2016). "Pocatello starts effort to improve derided city flag". Idaho Statesman. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  13. ^ Rocco, Mo (September 4, 2016). "Some not-so-grand old flags". CBS News Sunday Morning. Retrieved February 4, 2017. 
  14. ^ About Remix Radio "How does Remix get made?", Public Radio Exchange. Retrieved June 18, 2014.
  15. ^ Mediabistro website. "99% Invisible is the most successful funded Kickstarter for public radio journalism", Retrieved on October 27, 2013.
  16. ^ Kickstarter page. "99% Invisible: Season 4- Weekly!", retrieved on August 15, 2014.
  17. ^ "Update #2 Funded!". Kickstarter. October 21, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b "Update #6 Stretch Goal #2: Radiotopia Together". November 9, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  19. ^ a b "Update #7 Stretch goal #3- Level Up". November 4, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b "Update #8 Stretch goal #4- New blood". November 9, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Update #10 We did it!". November 15, 2014. Retrieved December 1, 2014. 

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