Science journalist Cara Santa Maria‘s new podcast, Talk Nerdy, recently joined The Midroll. Five years ago she was working on a Ph.D. in clinical neuropsychology when she left the laboratory in order to set out to educate more people. “I discovered that what I love about science is teaching science,” she told me in a phone interview.
“So I started branching out of the classroom and figuring out ways to teach science and talk about science in a really accessible way to people who don’t have an opportunity to take these college courses I was teaching at the time.”
Santa Maria observed that, “as a culture, I think that scientific literacy has taken a back seat.” So she wants to do her part to talk about developments in the sciences, “or even more importantly than that, talk about how to think scientifically and [apply] the process of evidence-based thinking, by using the scientific method in our daily lives.”
She does her work through the media. That section of her C.V. is already impressive. Currently she co-hosts and produces TakePart Live on Pivot TV and is a contributor to TechKnow on Al Jazeera America. Before that she was the Senior Science Correspondent for The Huffington Post.
Santa Maria spelled out why she decided to start her own podcast.
“There are two things about podcasting that really appeal to me,” she outlined. “First, it is long form. You have the opportunity to do things that you don’t necessarily get to do on television or the web, because you’re really trained to speak in soundbites [on those media].”
When working in that short form, “It’s very hard to talk about the way you truly think about things with nuance, because you simply don’t have the time to explain where you’re coming from. So a podcast really allows you to dig deep into the gray areas of life, which I think is an important opportunity.”
The second appealing thing is the freedom podcasting affords her. “It gives me the opportunity to be my own boss and my own producer,” Santa Maria said. “It’s something I do by myself, for myself and for my listeners. Nobody else has any control over the content.”
Before Talk Nerdy, Santa Maria was a regular guest on The Joe Rogan Experience, and made appearances on other podcasts, like Nerdist, Sex Nerd Sandra, Skeptics Guide to the Universe and StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson. But it was Rogan who encouraged her to pick up the mic herself.
“He really kind of pushed me into it, and asked his fans what they think,” she said. “I got so much positive feedback from that interaction that I couldn’t put it off any more. That really motivated me.”
According to Santa Maria, listener engagement is definitely one of the perks of podcasting. “One great thing I’ve noticed about podcasting versus doing television, or even some web series,” she observed, “is that the interaction is much more organic.”
She continued, “If someone writes me an email or message that I think is really insightful, really profound, or maybe corrects me on something that I spoke a little too loosely about… I can address it right there on the air, give that person their due, and thank them publicly for adding such insights to the conversation.”
Santa Maria says that she can, “crowd source ideas for who to have on the podcast.” With all this listener interaction she expects that the show will, “grow and evolve together with my audience.”
She told me, “You have to be true to yourself. But in being true to yourself you find the right audiences and you find that there are a lot of people who are interested in the same things you are interested in.”
Santa Maria decided to add podcast ads to her show because they help her dedicate the necessary resources to do the show well. “It’s going to allow me to be able to support the podcast and keep it going on a regular basis, putting in the amount of time and energy that I’d like to,” she said.
“One thing that’s really exciting to me about podcasting with advertisers through The Midroll is that I have the opportunity to work with the advertisers I think make sense with my brand. I have the opportunity to make sure there’s a lot of synergy with those relationships.”
She said listeners understand that podcasts are free content that take a lot of work to produce, and that an advertisement “allows that content to be free.” Therefore she sees it as a “win-win” for both the listener and the advertiser.