Podcasting, Science Journalism and a Tool for Direct Audience Engagement

Podcasting with Acast

Katie Forster reports for The Guardian that producers are hoping to repeat the success of podcast series Serial, with a new wave of podcasts aimed at the reality TV generation.

Acast is a Swedish podcast platform with a UK base led by Ross Adams (formerly an executive with Spotify). Having received an investment of £3.2 million to develop internationally, it is planning expansion and a slew of new audio publications with an audio diary by teenage cancer survivors being first in line, and topics like life in inner city gangs and on remote farms planned for the future. Forster says they are hoping to attract fans of reality TV shows and docudramas. Ross Adams has an interesting theory as to why the podcast format is a good way to tackle sensitive or thought provoking subjects and bring the audience to the heart of a story;

In the first of its projects, three teenagers will use their phones to record their everyday experiences in what Martin calls the “hellish limbo land” of cancer remission. These clips will then be edited together into a series, due to launch early next year. “Voice triggers the imagination in a different way,” said Martin. “Given the sensitivities around this story, I thought it would work well without being intrusive, or focused on [the teens’] appearance.”

A Tool to Help Journalists Understand Science Papers

A tool is being developed at the universities of Columbia and Stanford which might help scientists to make their academic papers more accessible to a non-scientific audience, says Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Lab.

The team who are developing Science Surveyor, want the tool to fit between the worlds of science research and journalism using algorithms to translate science into a format that a journalist from a non scientific background can understand and write about:

Science Surveyor is an algorithm-based method to help science journalists rapidly and effectively characterize the rich literature for any topic they might cover, as a way to inform and assist news judgment and reporting. We see the development of these algorithms as having the potential to greatly improve science news coverage by making it more independent, contextualized and investigative.


GroundSource is a platform that can be used to facilitate communication with a community audience by assigning a phone number to a project which can be used by contributors to text into, or to call and leave a message. Messages and surveys can be sent out and the results received and embedded into websites and stories.

On the face of it the solution sounds quite un-innovative. However, GroundSource founder Andrew Haeg explains how a relatively low tech solution could well be the answer to reaching out to a whole community, rather than only those members of the community who are users of Facebook, or Twitter.

This phone number will become a powerful channel into your newsroom, and your reporting. Unlike social media, everyone can text or call a phone number. And text messages and phone calls are the most ubiquitous form of communication on the planet, ever. It’s the app that’s on everyone’s phones.

A look at the case studies on the GroundSource website shows some interesting applications;

Radio Namlolwe in Kisumu, Kenya has been using GroundSource to collect feedback and messages from their audience. They ask questions over the air and prompt listeners to text in their answers. Cambridge University’s Center for Governance and Human Rights, in partnership with Radio Namlolwe, used GroundSource to survey respondents as part of a pilot of Africa’s Voices – an initiative to enhance citizen-based dialogue, building upon the existing enthusiasm around interactive radio in Africa.