- AN AUDIO STORY WITH THREE ELEMENTS OF SOUND: For my money, there has been no greater use of narrative audio in the last decade than Serial. A branch off of This American Life led by reporter Sarah Koenig, Serial used the traditional elements of TAL (a healthy dose of narration, short bursts of interviews (done by Koenig) that flow into the narrator’s script, and natural audio floating in the background of Koenig’s investigation, that takes her from homes to lawyer’s offices to the woods outside Baltimore), but uses it to tell one story over twelve weeks, investigating the possible false imprisonment of Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999. The various types of audio blend together to form less of a radio show than an audiobook of a true crime novel, despite being episodic, and just as engrossing.
- PODCAST ON TOPIC: Well, there’s really only one answer for this; Star Talk! The podcast led by astrophysicist and star of many television shows Neil deGrasse Tyson is the premiere podcast on things science on the internet, and defining how it functions is sort of difficult as it has a wildly fluctuating structure. It typically follows like this: there is an opening theme tune (Check It Out by the Beastie Boys, because Tyson is awesome), an introduction conversation with a comedian or celebrity guest host, then segments of a long and sprawling interview with various people from the scientific community or current public figures about the science of their jobs (sometimes incorporating natural audio from interviews on location), then a segment called Cosmic Queries where he and the celebrity co-host field questions from the audience. Or it one of those segments. Or two of them. Or sometimes it is just the co-host and Tyson.
- THIS PODCAST IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE: Let’s face it; science is hard sometimes. I’m a big believer in the power of those who are capable of taking the most complicated and obtuse scientific concepts and ground them in a reality that the common person can understand. So I would want something similar to Star Talk, largely interview based, but I’m a big believer in podcasts that “swing wildly”, in the words of a different podcast I’m very fond of, and become more like casual conversations than interviews. So any TINRS podcast would have a guest from the scientific end of the world, people like actual rocket scientists and engineers and program directors from NASA along with, perhaps, professors from major scientific institutions. And I would like to, if I had to divide it into segments, have at least one section of the podcast be talking about things other than rocket science – casual conversation on mutual interests, movies, music, things like that. Like you get to know these people as people, not hardcore scientists. Then a standard interview segment, perhaps interspersed with segments recorded at their place of work to incorporate natural audio (I’m also imagining a segment where the guest tells a story backed by both music and natural audio to enhance the story). Then perhaps moving to a current events segment with a co-host.
Or one of those segments. Or two of them. “Swing wildly.”