Lunar and Planetary Institute

Reaching Audiences Through New Media: Lessons
We Are Learning From the International Year of Astronomy


What It Is  
Digital audio or video media files, often presented as an ongoing series, available for download to computers and mobile devices (e.g., MP3 Players) via syndicated software (e.g., ITunes, Yahoo, etc.).

Who’s On It
In February of 2008, albertaJOBcast and BRASSmedia published a white paper based on data synthesized from eMarketer articles and blog posts According to the whitepaper, 18.5 million people listened to podcasts in 2007 and the audience was predicted to increase to 65 million by 2012; 25 million were predicted to listen at least once a week. iTunes accounts for 75% of all downloads, with 63% of their users being male and 37% female. Of the iTunes audience, 29% were 18 to 24 years of age, 14% 25 to 34, 27% 35 to 44, and 23% were 45-54. Half had a household income in excess of $75,000, and over half had a college or graduate degree.

How It Might Be Used
Podcasts can be downloaded and viewed or listened to at the convenience of the audience member. They are great ways to share the stories associated with your project or mission with your audience.  

Getting Around
How to Create Your Own Podcast - A Step-by-Step Tutorial

To download podcasts, go to iTunes and download the software for free; often mobile devices will have their own software for downloading. You can search for topics of interest and download them to your computer or mobile device.

To create podcasts, get in touch with your local computer science department and hire one or two undergraduate majors and have them help. Purchase podcasting software:
Audacity  - a free sound editor
Garageband - for Macs (~$50)
Logitech - good and inexpensive, but lacks professional polish in general
M-AUDIO - for professional quality, go with the Podcast Factory (~$100)
Edirol - really high end, hig definition stereo audio recorder that is portable and includes an 8 Gb removable card (several hundred dollars)

If you are the podcaster:

  • Know that podcasting takes time and planning.  Determine how frequently you want to podcast. Identify, ideally with your team, a number of topics before you start.
  • Bring in interesting, informed people to talk about the project, mission, or topics.
  • Your listeners should be informed about the topic after they have invested the time to listen; you are their resource for information about your project.
  • Have a sense of humor.
  • Place your project in the larger context of “why is this important?”
  • Be consistent. Staying on message means that your project’s science is presented coherently and your listeners will know what to expect from you.
  • Share the process of science and the human face of science.
  • Invest in a squishy wind guard that can be purchased at a local guitar store. This will improve the sound quality by reducing the “pop” of words with “p.”
  • Record each audio component separately and then mix the tracks. This allows you to edit out mistakes more easily.  Note that recording a phone interview over Skype or similar platform, everything is on the same track.
  • Don’t agree with the person with whom you are talking. Limit – and later remove – “verbal ticks” such as “uh huh,” “excellent,” “exactly,” etc.

If you are the interviewee:

  • Be prepared to be mocked
  • Record the interview yourself … don’t agree to the interview unless they allow you to do so.

Once you have your podcast in place, leverage your other social media tools to advertise it. 

Check Out
Astronomy Cast
365 Days of Astronomy

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Last updated
June 22, 2009