The Internet is a buffet.
It boasts a huge spread of information to be read, watched, moved, changed, stored, downloaded, and uploaded. And then there is information to be heard – those soundbites known as “podcasts”. With so much variety, how would you choose what to pile onto your plate?
Usually, we browse. If anything catches our eye – we try it. If we like it, we go back for more, or for similar items. If we don’t, we may not even finish the piece we took to try! With the Internet buffet,
“…consumers can easily find anything they want and will readily flip from one show to the next if they become bored.” (Gay, Bemrose-Fetter, Bracey & Cain, 2007, p. 24)
With this in mind, how would a podcast “chef” ensure his/her customers don’t end up looking like this?
Or like this?
Astronomer Dr. Pamela L. Gay and her associates evaluated a popular online podcast series, Astronomy Cast, and gave this important piece of advice:
“Catching and keeping an audience…requires knowing what your audience wants and providing it.” (Gay et al., 2007, p. 24)
You’ve got to know your audience.
Dr. Gay and her colleagues concluded that the “perfect” Astronomy Cast podcast, based on feedback from their listeners, would
- Be less than one hour,
- Have two hosts,
- Interview scientists,
- Give short news updates,
- Provide information about relevant celestial events,
- Be available in multiple file formats for downloading, and
- Be accompanied by transcripts, links, and lots of images and videos.
I listened to a couple of Astronomy Cast episodes (Orion and Exotic Life). This was my first time listening to a science podcast. I was disappointed. They were too lengthy and a tad boring – despite ticking all the boxes for the abovementioned requirements for “perfection”. The podcasts failed to further excite my interest in Astronomy. To be fair, Dr. Gay’s team found that most Astronomy Cast listeners have been inspired to learn more.
Another podcast popular with Astronomy Cast fans was 60 second science. Call me a member of the Instant Generation, but the idea of one-minute microwave-ready science podcasts appealed to me. (Hey, I’m likely to be their target audience after all!) So I checked out two episodes (Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch and Buckyball Traps Single Water Molecule).
60 second science podcasts were pitched at a more general audience, were newsworthy (I would want to tell people about what I just learnt), and used exciting and relevant sound effects and music (including real-life sounds from the Juno Mission launch). They had no advertisements, and – as the name suggests – were short and sweet. Each episode had only one host, but each was engaging and enthusiastic. In short, I enjoyed 60 second science a lot more than Astronomy Cast.
What I experienced with these two podcast providers shows how the audience plays a big role in determining the style, content, and actual effectiveness of a podcast. Even in our Science and the Media tutorial class today, there were differing opinions on which podcasts we listened to were better. So, Get to know your audience.
Over to you now: What are the most important things that make a podcast worth listening to till the end, and makes you come back for more?
Gay, P. L., Bemrose-Fetter, R., Bracey, G., & Cain, F. (2007). Astronomy Cast: Evaluation of a podcast audience’s content needs and listening habits. CAP, 1(1), 24-29.