My idea for the return of the Vergecast
I miss the Vergecast. On the last episode, they said if anyone had any ideas for how to evolve the project to throw them out there. For clarification, any mention of you, your, you're, etc. are referring to The Verge. So, here goes. (There's a TLDR below if you're on a time crunch).
I'm a senior designer for a large financial company who works with huge divisions to develop marketing strategies for informing, entertaining, or correcting thousands of people. My daily job is planning, writing, drawing, and animating informational material and in my experience, I've found that sticking with a few basic rules helps people learn more, stick around, and not feel like they're wasting time while consuming the product.
1) Quality. Presentationally, The Verge has this down pat. Your crew is bar-none the best on the web. On the Vergecast, the content's quality was what tended to suffer most. You've got some of the best minds and writers in the tech world, and when I was hinging on an experts take on the NSA overreach or the newest drone policies, I'd be frustrated by 2 or 3 co-hosts talking over the person who knew the most. These interruptions hurt the flow and had me aching to hit the skip forward button. Don't get me wrong: I love banter, just not at the expense of the subject at hand.
2) Subject. The Verge famously is dedicated to writing about pretty much everything. It's ADHD subject hopping that makes visiting the website thrilling, but can make listening to a podcast a bit of a challenge. Shows start on tech, take a turn on music, and end on Josh's hair. Finding a way to set the hosts up with a central idea for each episode may help theme each episode as an experience that listeners can anticipate when they hit the play button.
3) Consistency, and the lack thereof. Tone, presentation, timing, and releases are well regulated so the listeners can get into a groove. People want to be surprised and delighted in the most comfortable way possible. Extend The Verge's excellent branding to more than just an intro and outro music clips and find a cadence of topics, hosts or guests that is quickly established so you can get to work subverting expectations. To think outside the box, you need to build the box to begin with.
So, here's the application of some of these ideas:
The Vergecast returns as a weekly podcast that cycles themes from episode to episode. Themes are pulled from the previous weeks news and determine what subject matter experts host or guest on the show. For example: Big news on patents? The following week's Vergecast breaks down the news with the writers, shares updates on what's happened since, and features a discussion about the topic between the hosts and either the writers or knowledgable guests. Sandwich the episode's core content with the casual banter we all know and love, but when we get to the meat of the topic, try to stay on target.
Then, every fourth week of the month (when there is one) the hosts and staff get together for an episode about life, work, hair, suits, beer, and everything else that's important to them. Like I said before, I love the banter in the Vergecast. Building stronger topics into each episode may cut down on that, so dedicating an entire episode to whatever's on the staff's mind would be a fun deviation from previous episodes.
TLDR; Merge This American Life- and Radiolab-style themes and topics with The Verge-style writing, personalities and expertise.
So there's my take. I haven't poured through the forums on this subject, so I could be repeating someone else (albeit poorly). I'm a big fan of The Verge and I've missed the podcast, so I felt compelled to throw something out there.
If you read this whole thing I'll mail you a high-five!