One of the early posts on this blog was about the long tail of skepticism. In that post I talked about how skeptics should be looking for an interesting niche within skepticism, and create projects like blogs and podcasts that cater to that niche. There are several good reasons for this strategy you can read at that post.
I still believe there are many opportunities for online skeptic projects that have not yet been built. In the past on this blog I have successfully exhorted skeptics to get involved online in one way or another. Most notably Susan Gerbic has created an entire blog and Wikipedia project based around the ideas I originally championed here. There are others too.
With that in mind, I’m going to start a series of shorter posts in which I toss out an idea, partially flesh out why it might be useful to skeptics, and encourage skeptics to build it. I’m going to do one per week. It’s called Wishlist Wednesday, and my first idea is the “Skeptic Podcast Sampler”.
In my podcast census last year, we learned that there are over 60 skeptic podcasts, producing over two hours of new audio content for skeptics per day – far more than can be consumed by a single skeptic. I’m still in the process of gathering the data for an annual repeat of that, and it already appears that last year’s post may have been a significant undercount. There have been over 90 skeptic podcasts for at least a year (which are still actively producing episodes) plus another 30 or so that have come and gone.
Which begs the question: how does a new skeptic starting out find the podcasts they might want to listen to on a regular basis? Just finding and sampling one episode of each of the 75+ shows in English would be a significant chore. Because each show is different, you often can’t get a good feel for whether you would like that show prior to listening to it. Personality and style are major factors.
There are also certain episodes of certain podcasts that stand out and are worthy of extra attention. I know I’ve posted on social media a number of times when George Hrab had a particularly outstanding comedy bit on his Geologic Podcast. The podcast I’m involved with, Skepticality, recently introduced several new recurring segments created by well-known skeptics such as Robert Todd Carroll and Bug Girl, and my segment on that program has changed format. But if you had tried Skepticality a long time ago and stopped listening, you wouldn’t know about this. And so on.
Here’s the idea: produce a weekly podcast that tries to find a few of the best bits within the skeptic podcasts for that week, plays clips, and generally gives an overview of what is going on in skeptic podcasting. You’d need a team of skeptics who would divvy up the 75+ active podcasts in English so every episode is listened to by at least one member of the team. (Naturally there will be some overlap on the more popular shows). The team would make notes during the week as to standout moments, top news stories, things that have changed and so on. This could be done over email or even something like Google Docs or Evernote for shared note-taking.
These notes would then be assembled at the end of the week, a few clips from key episodes chosen, and a show edited together, mostly composed of clips. The show could consist of a number of short segments such as:
- Top news stories of the week (as reported by multiple podcasts). Run one clip for each story reflecting the best reporting.
- Scoop of the week – the most interesting news story reported by only one podcast
- Interview of the week – a most outstanding moment in one of the interviews
- New podcast of the week – when a totally new podcast pops up
- New & updated – changes to existing podcasts are reported. New segments, dropped segments, changes in format or hosts, etc.
- Comedy highlight of the week – everyone loves humor
- Classic clip – pull out a clip from an old episode that’s worth a listen
- Outside the box – if a skeptic or skeptic topic appears on a non-skeptic podcast outside your normal list, feature that.
Most of the segments would just be a short spoken intro followed by a clip from the relevant podcast, maybe with a bit of the theme song from that podcast to help smooth over any editing that you have to do. So you wouldn’t have to record much at all, most of the show would be editing. Alternatively you could have two or three hosts who converse a bit in the intros, to explain the choices and so on.
But above all, keep the clips short. You just want to give people a taste, not compete with the original podcasts. Plus you want to keep the overall episode length for this podcast down (perhaps around 30 minutes). If you’re just a sampler, nobody’s going to commit to listening to two hours a week. But an extra 30 minutes to get a taste of all the other podcasts I’m missing is not much to ask.
Although some podcasts are marked as Creative Commons licensed, and therefore can be re-used freely, I would strongly recommend that you ask permission first from every single podcaster. It’s just polite. Early on it may take some time before you have permissions in place from every podcast you wish to have, so that might somewhat limit your choices on clips. But you’ll be better off in the long run by staying on everyone’s good side. Those contacts will also help you promote your new podcast.
And of course because the whole idea here is to draw people into the other shows, make sure you have a good website for the show containing a landing page for each episode’s show notes that contains links to each of the podcasts you are promoting. That way you are giving back to the shows some link love.
Since several of the top shows (e.g. SGU, Skeptic Zone, Geologic) are posted on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, I think you could do well to do the show assembly on Sunday and post it late Sunday or early Monday morning. That way skeptics can start their week with a review of what they might have missed in the previous week.
There you have it. Someone build this so I can subscribe to it!