What makes a good science podcast?
You are asking the right person, I am subscribed to 20 of them (a few more since I read this paper).
But first, the ideal show, according to listeners of Astronomy Cast (Gay, Bembrose-Fetter, Bracey and Cain, 2007), contains two hosts, includes interviews with real scientists, five-minute news updates and information on events related to the shows topic. While I don’t necessarily have any disagreement with what they have to say here, there are few points on which I really agree with them.
The reasons listeners said they liked Astronomy Cast was because they were “intellectually stimulating” and “not dumbed down”. I like to listen to podcasts that are well outside the areas that I studied because they are more challenging. This is what I like most about the multitude of podcasts that I listen to.
Bear in mind that I have a background in science and most of the respondents to the survey also have a general interest in science (although it is not clear if the podcast inspires people to seek out more science or if they were listening to the podcast because they were interested in science). I am not sure if the same criteria would be held for people without a background in science.
This does raise an interesting point, that the internet provides the opportunity for tailoring information for very niche markets (I use the word market loosely because they are free) and on a global scale, even the smallest markets in relative terms can be fairly big in absolute terms.
Astronomy Cast is listened to by people all over the world, yet the demographics of their viewers were surprisingly similar in terms of level of education, socio-economic status and interests. This makes it even more important for them to learn about their audience because one slip-up that disappoints their listeners could make them loose their entire base.
What about you, have any of you sought out any real niche information in podcasts? What was it and what made you like it?
If you havn’t listened to any podcasts here is an awesome segment from Radiolab to get you started 🙂
The Brain Science Podcast – for all things neuroscience
Rationally Speaking – The intersection of science and philosophy
Gay, P.L., Benrose-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.