(Originally published on Govloop.com as part of its Project of the Week Series.)
This week, GovLooper’s Kate Nielsen and Troy Kitch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) National Ocean Service help us learn about the latest NOAA-NOS news and a wide variety of ocean topics with their new dual podcasts, Making Waves and Diving Deeper. These two mark the National Ocean Services’ first entrance into the world of podcasting.
Troy Kitch is the lead for the Making Waves podcast series which launches every Friday and focuses on highlights and current news events.
Every other week, Kate Nielsen gets us access to the experts to learn about a variety of ocean topics with Diving Deeper, an audio podcast featuring discussions with NOAA National Ocean Service specialists. The current episode answers the question: What is the Integrated Ocean Observing System? Previous episodes have explored eutrophication, marine protected areas, and marine debris.
Q: Why did you start the podcast?
Troy: Like many federal agencies, we’re exploring new ways to present information in recognition of the fact that people access content in a wide variety of ways on a wide variety of platforms these days. A weekly news and information podcast seemed like a good place to start our venture into the social media realm. About the same time that we started the ‘Making Waves’ podcast, we also began twittering (@oceanservice); added several new feeds for our most popular Web content; and created a place on our site for video, images, desktop wallpaper, and games. We then began our second audio podcast, Diving Deeper. So the podcasts are part of a broader outreach effort. Ultimately, we think our podcasts and other products will help us reach new audiences and drive traffic to the National Ocean Service site.
Kate: The National Ocean Service started these podcasts as another way or medium to reach our audience on the site, the general public, regarding ocean topics and questions.
Q: Who are you trying to reach?
Troy: Anyone who will listen! Our target is the general public, so we try to keep it as jargon-free and non-technical as possible.
Kate: The primary audience for this podcast series is the general public.
Q: Why did you choose a podcast format?
Troy: It’s a popular format. While time consuming, an audio podcast is relatively easy to produce.
Kate: There are more and more forms of social media making their way into communications efforts. Audio podcasts were a great way to have National Ocean Service scientists and experts connect with the general public audience.
Q: Have there been any surprises (good or bad) along the way?
Troy: Scripting, recording, and editing a periodic podcast is tough mainly because you have lots of others things to do each week, too. it can be hard to get it done some weeks. Internally coordinating the podcast with the offices/people featured in a given episode is also a challenge. There’s simply not a lot of time to get it done and posted each Friday. The good news is that we’re getting more and more hits on our podcast page and feeds each month.
Kate: This has been a great learning process personally for me. Each episode I interview a new scientist or expert and everyone has individual levels of experience with audio recording. I have really enjoyed working with the great variety of experts from the many different parts of the National Ocean Service. Overall, this has been a great experience.
Q: How have you defined success for this project?
Troy: Well, I’m posting episode 20 of Making Waves this week. So far, success = getting the podcast out on time each week! Now that I’ve established a good workflow, I’ve started adding interviews to the mix in an effort to create ‘NPR-style’ news stories. This adds a whole new dimension of production and coordination difficulty, but it’s fun.
Kate: Success for this project is focused on driving more traffic to the National Ocean Service Web site both on the podcast page (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/podcast.html) as well as to the other new content throughout our site.
Q: Are you getting what you’d hoped out of the podcasts?
Troy: I think so. Our podcasts are still relatively new, so I think it’s important to give them time to mature. Each week, we get better at script writing, recording, and production. Each week, we get a few more listeners.
Kate: It is still early to analyze results for Diving Deeper. Diving Deeper launched on January 26, 2009. We continue to find new ways to market these products to reach an even greater audience. It will be great to analyze our statistics both on volume of hits and general interest across the topic ideas.
Q: For other agencies and entities thinking of doing something similar, do you have any advice?
Kate: Happy to. Developing podcasts is rather time intensive from working up scripting ideas and questions to recording and then editing and developing the final transcript. These are a great final product, but you will need staff dedicated to produce these to ensure new and fresh content on your site. And with any communications effort, tailor the questions and overall tone of the product to the audience you are trying to reach. Good luck!
Troy: For smaller agencies, it may make more sense to start of with one bi-weekly or monthly podcasts (especially while it’s still a new process). Be aware that the time commitment can be steep, especially when adding interviews into the mix.
— While interesting content is obviously important, consistency is just as important so people know what to expect.
— A good way to get content for an audio podcast is to repackage online news stories: some people will read the web story, some people will hear the story in a podcast…and we will end up with a few more people learning about the Ocean Service.
Troy emphasized the importance of having fun with the project. Don’t be afraid to experiment with presentation style, sounds, he noted. Troy said he will soon put together a screencast to help other beginning podcasters, covering the basics as well as production and editing.