Thursday, March 12, 2015

I like my bacon and Skepticality . . . on the side.

Skepticality was likely the first skeptical podcast to be produced and has managed to stay in production for all but a decade.  The show has undergone far more changes to its format and style than the likely next oldest podcast, the venerable Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe.  Early in the show's history, host, Derek Colanduno, was out with a stroke for a period of time, and then co-host Swoopy took over production and hosting of the show during Derek's convalescence. Swoopy left the show after Derek’s recovery for personal reasons, although she does pop back in from time to time.  The show's format went from a discussion show with Derek and Swoopy with some news segments and interviews and graduated to Swoopy interviewing authors or others involved in skeptical activity.  In the last few years, the show is now a rather innovative set of four or so “podlette” segments followed by Derek interviewing someone.

The latest episode introduced a new format.  From what I could gather, this is not the new format for all shows going forward but more of subset style of episode called “Skepticality on the side.”  I believe the regular podlette and interviews will continue.  I am not sure if it reveals the show has come full circle, gone retro, or taken a step backwards.  The new format is a panel discussion where four skeptics discuss topics of note or at least something they would like to get off their chest.  The panel consisted of Skepticality alums Derek, Susan Gerbic, Tim Farley, and Bob Blaskiewicz, and it seems future panels could include other alums such as Eve Siebert.

King Arthur hosts proto panel discussion podcast
Panel style chat shows generally rise or fall based upon the chemistry of the participants.  Obviously, if one is going to eavesdrop in on a weekly discussion with one’s skeptical ‘friends’, it helps to like the people talking, and beyond that, it just has to work on some level.  It’s why I enjoy the Virtual Skeptics and Skeptics with a K.  Obviously, the skeptical brain power was present in spades for this episode.  Interestingly, it was not just one big arm in arm backslapping agreement panel.  Susan and Tim disagreed in a very civil yet candid discussion on how skeptics might continue to keep up the pressure on psychics and those who claim they can communicate with the dead.  Without getting into details, Susan was pushing for a more forward offensive style that Tim thought might backfire.  It was refreshing to hear.

 In general, I thought the “on the side” episode worked.  Yet, for a show that kicked off skeptical podcasting and has generally been more innovative over the years, producing a panel/roundtable style of podcast does come across as fresh.  This style of podcast is already on the market in spades.  On the other hand, Skepticality has already built up a ready audience receiving the RSS field.  I suspect many others already have other panel type show in their queue.   I am not saying this cannot succeed.  I am just noting that it is a saturated market.  There might be an audience but its an audience already with a lot of choices for this format.   All that being noted, I look forward to listening to the next couple of “on the side” episodes.

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