Springer Nature’s flagship Nature Podcast has been a strong competitor in our Awards. The podcast scooped the Best Science & Medical Podcast in 2020, and in 2021, also won the Best Coronavirus Podcast category with Coronapod. Judges described it as “like listening to smart, welcoming friends,” praising its excellent content and truly global scale. Nature Podcast is in the race again this year, shortlisted both for Best Limited Series and Best Science & Medical Podcast.

Peter spoke to Nature’s Senior Multimedia Editor Benjamin Thompson about Coronapod. He talked about planning a dedicated Coronavirus podcast with a team all working from their homes, the importance of maintaining audience’s trust, and keeping coverage of the pandemic going after Coronapod had been folded back into the main podcast.

Here are some highlights, lightly edited for clarity:

How the idea for Coronapod came about

Things shifted fairly drastically, certainly here in the UK, and we started working from home like everybody else did, too, right? We were like, well, this, this really is a huge science story. How can we cover this from a Nature perspective? Because of course, we have science journalists around the world, and we know a lot of people who know a lot of stuff about this. So what can we add that isn’t necessarily being done in the rest of the media?

We put our heads together and said, “Well, from home, what can we do?” We sketched it out and said, we know that that our listeners really enjoy deep dives into a certain topic, because they told us that when we run a survey a couple of years ago. And so we knew there was an appetite for something that really got into a story. And this clearly is – was and is – a massive story.

Within four days, we’d said, “Right, I’m in a basement in Stretham, you’re, you’re at home in your living room,” we wanted to get someone else as well. So in the end, it was me, my colleague, Noah Baker, who’s the Chief Multimedia Editor at Nature, and an Amy Maxmen, who is an amazing senior reporter at nature, and she is based in California. So the three of us, we sat down, and we just started talking. We worked out what was going on at that moment, what was the big science angle at that time, and we just went with it.

Folding the show back into the main Nature podcast

We did [Coronapod] every week, for a while and then things seemed to be maybe changing up a little bit at the time. In our opinion, some of the same stories were coming up. And so we wanted to change focus a little bit.

So what we did was we folded Coronapod back into the main Nature podcast as a separate segment. So just keep it ticking over there, a little bit more cut down. That was 7, 8, 9 minutes long each week. And so we did that for a while.

Coming up towards maybe the back end of [2020] that things changed up again. It seemed like we’re in a new phase, certainly if we think about vaccines, for example, that really was the start of 2021 that things changed a great deal there. So we spun it out back into a separate show again, but just with the discussion parts, talking about things like antibody treatments, and the pros and cons of that; the latest thoughts at the time on COVID and how it might affect people who are pregnant; mRNA vaccines – of course, we know a lot more about them now but what were they? And also one of our colleagues interviewed a lot of researchers to say, what might the future look like with this Coronavirus? We did a little bit of future gazing.

What Benjamin learned from doing Coronapod

I think we were lucky that we’d asked people previously, before all this started, about their thoughts on our original weekly Nature podcast. We got that sense of, this is what people are interested in. That really added a bit of weight to our, let’s spin this out into its own thing. So I think knowing what there’s an appetite for is key.

There may be times in the future where we have to do something like this. I hope the situation isn’t nearly as as awful as clearly it has been. But I think at a pinch, we can absolutely do it.

We are we are in a rather envious position of we have a network of truly world-class science journalists around the world who we can call on. So, in that aspect, we had the people and we knew the story. So we had that to fall back on at the very least. But I think knowing what your audience are into, and what they’re interested in is really useful and certainly gave us a bit of a kickstart.

This year’s Publisher Podcast Award winners will be revealed on April 27th at a live event in London, as well as streamed online. See our tickets page for more details. Entries for next year’s Publisher Podcast Awards will open in September. Think you’ve got what it takes to win an award? Sign up to our mailing list at www.publisherpodcastawards.com

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