Many scientists who are enthusiastic about science communication have jumped on the podcast bandwagon. “Podcasting can be very powerful because it turns dead time into living time,” says Chris Smith, the head behind the Naked Scientists podcast portfolio. For example, one of Smith’s Australian listeners is enjoying The Naked Scientists podcast while dissecting fruit flies; it turned a boring, repetitive activity into something fun.
If you are inspired by starting your own podcast, the science and media pros have a few suggestions on how to make it a success.
You first need to decide if podcasting is the right platform for you. “As a podcast host or YouTuber, you sell yourself as a product,” says Darren Lipomi, professor at the University of California San Diego. He and Darren Lipomi run a podcast called Molecular Podcasting, which deals with professional issues for young scientists in chemistry and related fields. As a podcaster, you speak directly to the audience and have to be comfortable with carrying your voice into the world. If starting your own podcast is too daunting, try working with existing shows first. That way, you can also decide if this is a medium you want to invest your time in.
Know your audience
‘The first question [you] the question is: who is it for? ‘ suggests Smith, who is also a consultant virologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge University and a Fellow in Public Understanding of Science at Cambridge University. ‘Because that then determines everything.’ If you want to talk to materials chemists about the latest research, you will likely be delving into the technical details of studies. But if your podcast is to introduce 12-year-old kids to the wonders of chemistry in everyday life, stick to snappy.
Don’t choose your audience based on just how much money or fame they’ll bring you. “If you start with one goal: ‘I want to be a huge success,’ then of course that will be a certain barrier. But if you get into it because you want to learn how to make podcasts, you think podcasting is fun, that’s a good reason to get into it, ”says Elah Feder, senior producer, podcasts at Science Friday initiative. ‘Do it for yourself first and foremost.’
Find and improve your voice
There are plenty of good science podcasts you can learn from. So try to introduce something new to your audience. “A lot of people try to copy other people. That’s good up to a point, ”says Smith; For example, you might want to see which features of other podcasts appeal to you as a listener the most. “At the same time, don’t try to be someone else because they will always be better than you,” explains Smith.
It helps to get a few friends who fit your intended audience to listen to your episodes before you post them – that can help you refine the tone and content, suggests Feder. “They’ll tell you what’s boring, what’s interesting, what’s confusing, what’s really working for you.”
You may find that you enjoy some aspects of podcasting but not others. Elissia Franklin, chemistry postdoc at the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, USA, has been running the podcast The Research Her for more than two years, in which she breaks down research on health and wellness and promotes the work of black women scientists. ‘[Audio] editing is so exhausting. If you can get someone to do it, it definitely helps you keep going because it’s one less thing to think about that is keeping you from getting the episodes out, ”says Franklin. By outsourcing audio editing to a podcast editor, she can now focus on the more creative aspects of the process that she enjoys, such as connecting with guests and shaping the format of the episodes.
Connect with your audience
There are a variety of podcast hosting services to choose from – as a general rule of thumb, you should go for something that will allow you to get your show out on all the major channels like Spotify, Google Podcasts, and Apple, etc., so that you can get a broad coverage Audience. Lipomi uses Anker.fm because “it is easy to use and automatically publishes on the most popular platforms”.
Then, think about how you can build a relationship with your audience. Social media engagement can seem like extra work, but it can lead to new connections and even collaborations. Michelle Dang, associate producer at Science Vs, a Spotify podcast produced by Gimlet Media, says images of science experiments and videos of animals are very popular with Science Vs. fans on Instagram. “You see a lot of scientists who are active on these platforms,” says Dang with a view to Twitter and Instagram. “So it’s a great way not only to promote the show, but also to promote it [those] other scientists by marking them. ‘ You can also use social media to ask your audience what you want to report on the show. And of course, it’s a great way to get positive feedback from your audience and increase your motivation to keep the project going.