June 2008: The World’s Technology Podcast

The World's Technology Podcast is a news and information podcast, “keep[ing] you up to date on all the latest news in global technology”. The content includes a combination of stories that have aired on PRI’s The World as well as some original reporting. One of the expressed on-going missions of the Technology podcast’s host, Clark Boyd, is to add more original content, a venture that has become successful in the most recent podcasts, with the addition of features such as the new monthly Afrigadget interview series. Boyd, the technology reporter for The World, has a personal interest in sharing more lo-tech stories from around the world with the podcast audience and has done much to integrate these pieces in with the usual hi-tech fare.

Boyd contributes much of the original content himself, occasionally repurposing stories he has reported for the parent broadcast. The Technology Podcast will often go deeper into The World's stories, giving excerpts or background that never played on the radio show. While Boyd is clearly a professional broadcast reporter, when he is wearing his “host hat”, Boyd’s tone is conversational and casual. Always welcoming and affable, yet never unprofessional. His introduction to each podcast sounds largely improvised, as if he has just the barest outline of each episode sketched out before him. The result, while often peppered with more “uhs” and pauses than one generally hears from The World, is a rather relaxed and informal introduction to a podcast which frequently features serious and involved technological and scientific stories. He keeps the tone is light, but is never unprofessional.

The wide variety of topics covered makes the Technology Podcast an appealing choice for a similarly diverse audience. While the tone of the podcast’s framework is light, the stories themselves range from serious applications of technology in the world stage, to quirkier examples, such as a recent story about Japanese efforts to launch paper airplanes from the the International Space Station. Fans and regular listeners of PRI’s radio show The World, will recognize the voices of Lisa Mullins, Marco Werman, Boyd himself, and other staples of this long-running show, as well as some of the stories as they are replayed.

Each podcast generally begins with a greeting from Boyd, the podcast number, and a brief rundown of the stories to come. Each show can range in length from fifteen minutes to fifty minutes, depending on the topics covered in the show and whether Boyd is hosting, or if he has a substitute covering for him as he travels — a fairly regular occurrence, it seems. Boyd frequently provides contact information for the podcast and often requests input from listeners, seeking feedback on the podcast itself and ideas for future stories. Boyd also allows listeners the occasional audio peek behind the scenes, as in the time when he recounted his difficulties in recording a particular show after having forgotten to lock the door of the recording booth.

While music is not featured heavily in the podcast, for example it does not have a theme song, Boyd often features snippets of music by a band of his personal choosing, always taking a moment to give the name of the musicians, where they hail from and how he came across them. Music choices generally have some relation to the wider topic of applied technology — a podcast favorite, the Scottish band, Amplifico, for example, gets a fair share of airplay and frequent mentions of its successful efforts to raise money via the web to support their self-produced album.

As with PRI’s The World, the Technology Podcast often refers listeners to websites and resources for further exploration or additional coverage. The podcast’s website, www.theworld.org/technology, serves as a home-base with “online extras”, downloads, a comprehensive archive, photo gallery, and the most recent episode available in audio chapters for review or close-listening. The website also provides multiple ways to subscribe to the podcast and a link to their Technology Podcast’s Facebook group, where listeners can join the some 570 fans in adding Wall posts and messages to the discussion board.

As a spin off of a public radio show, The World’s Technology Podcast does not shy away from seeking donations from listeners. Requests for “giving what you think the show is worth” are by no means as high-pressure as the seasonal pledge drives that are the mainstay of public radio stations. But a gentle once-or-twice per-podcast reminder that listeners can easily make a contribution to the show via PayPal.

This three-year old podcast is still changing, with new features being added regularly. And judging by the frequent “thank you’s” that Clark Boyd offers to listeners who contribute both money and ideas, the Technology Podcast has a solid fan base and significant staying power.End of article

Jennifer Kelley
kelleyj [at] cod [dot] edu