APSA members are increasingly hosting and participating in podcasts that reach audiences inside and outside the academy. New Books in Political Science averages 5,000 downloads per week, and is one of the most downloaded podcasts in the New Books Network. APSA staff interviewed the podcast co-hosts about their experiences and advice they have for prospective podcasters or interviewees.
Hosts: Heath Brown, associate professor of public policy at City University of New York, John Jay College and the CUNY Graduate Center, and Lilly Goren, professor of political science and global studies at Carroll University.
How they got started: The podcast, a part of the New Books Network, is a weekly podcast featuring interviews with authors who have, as the podcast’s title suggest, published new books on political science. The network, organized by historian Marshall Poe, features podcast series on books in a wide variety of disciplines. “I got involved a couple years ago when I had a book that was coming out and was interested in engaging in different ways and didn’t have any real outlets,” said Heath Brown. “There weren’t dozens of politically-oriented podcasts at the time, especially any interested in academic research. I had the sense this could be done pretty easily, and there could be an audience for it, not just for the book I was working on but all the other books I knew had been recently released.” Brown recruited Lilly Goren to also serve as a host on the podcast. “Heath was going on paternity leave and said: ‘do you want to fill in for me?” said Goren. “So I went out on my own and got my own blue yeti mic, and started doing it on my own and now I’ve joined the fold.”
On the value of podcasting: “I suspect there’s a lot of cross-disciplinary listening of the podcasts as there is disciplinary. I think that that’s one of the real values of this kind of engagement,” said Brown. “You may not sit down and read a 200 page book outside your field, but sitting down and listening to a 25-minute podcast about a new book in political theory, if you spend very little time in the subfield of political theory, can be a real enhancement to one’s scholarship.”
Goren listens to podcasts while cooking or walking her dog, and said the ability for people to multitask is a bonus for listeners with limited hours in the day. “The New Books Network is really useful and important because it provides an avenue into longer meditations and explorations and can sort of provide scholars and laypeople—my mom likes to listen to me podcast—the opportunity to understand some really sophisticated research,” said Goren. “It may prompt someone to read the book or it may not, but you always get a preview of an author’s argument.”
Advice for future podcasters and podcast guests: “It’s not a format to interrogate, so much as it is to have a conversation about a substantive area the author has committed years of their life researching and writing,” Goren said. “I’m interested in what moved them in that direction, why they were captured by that idea or that area of the research. How does that fit in their broader understanding of the discipline? How does it fit in with the way they teach? I try to make that clear to the interviewee—think of this as a chance to chat about why you’re interested in this particular area.”
Brown says to use the same approach to podcasting and interviews as you would for writing a blog post or tweeting about your research. “Think about your audience, not as much about material. Think about the parts of the material you were drawn to, and the parts that connect to larger conversations. The minutia is in every book, but the minutia is not what’s going to connect to an outside audience or people outside your subfield. We do that all the time! When you teach a class at any level, you’re trying to connect the minutia of your work to something larger,” said Brown.
Recommend it to: A colleague in political science or another discipline, as well as anyone interested in following issues in political science and politics.