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Redshift/Ontario Science Center podcasts & aggregators

In a post a few days ago I asked, rhetorically, how Ontario Science Center was doing with their weekly podcasts on their RedshiftNow site.

A few hours later, Ken Dickson, from the Ontario Science Center sent me an email with their visitation figures! He has very generously allowed me to share them with you. I also asked him a few follow up questions that reveals more nuanced detail about the figures as well as an insight into the production process of what are very popular museum-style podcasts.

In the month of March, there were 6,655 downloads of the various MP3 files.
In total, since it launched last June, we’ve had 35,264 downloads.

Downloads by month

Downloads by month

All episodes by time

All episodes by time

Last three months by episode

Last three months by episode

Interestingly, OSC reports that the majority of traffic that downloads these reports/podcasts does not come in though their website. Instead 40% comes from iTunes and the rest through XML and other subscriptions. Also, doing a search for the Redshift in Google reveals that the podcasts are quite well linked and appear in other aggregators.

So far in April, Ken reports, “we had 269 visits to the web page about the RedShift Report yet 2,911 downloads of the various episodes”.

Aggregation and smart aggregators are where it is at.

Museums need to be looking seriously at buidling these not just around collection content (many of us do that already – in Australia we have Collections Australia Network formerly AMOL (disclosure – the Powerhouse Museum hosts this)) but around other content as well. The 24hr Museum portal site in the UK – especially their children’s area – is a great example of aggregation – they have very effectively pulled together a ‘best of’ online museum interactives by deep linking to educational games on museum websites.

But their aggregation is manually done – real people, curating the ‘best of’.

In some ways this blog and others like Walker Art Center’s, Ideum’s and many others are also manually curated aggregators of information around museums and particularly web and digital/new media.

So could/should we individually, or collectively build a ‘Google News’ of museums? Is the even possible?

And for those who are wondering how does OSC manage to create a weekly podcast?

You’d have to be really paying attention to get this, but in 2005 the podcast schedule was pretty haphazard. We were playing around. When a question came in and a researcher was available, I’d record one. We changed that for 2006. A bit of background: we’ve got a “current science” space within the Science Centre, and each week one of our researchers is assigned to keep it updated. Nowadays, as part of that “updating”, that same researcher is now also required to record a podcast with me. We meet early in the week, decided between the two of us what it’ll be about, go off and do our research and reconvene later in the week and make the recording.

This integration of new media platform content production into what is very much traditional museum content production seems to have been they key in getting the regularity necessary to make the podcasts a success.

From my earlier post I re-iterate that

podcasts need to be able to have a use value or life outside of the phsyical museum visit – otherwise you are unnecessarily limiting your audience for your podcast to the very small subset of users who happen to be a) internet and podcast savvy, b) own and can operate a mp3 player, and c) actually want to visit your museum – all at once

OSC has managed to create something that through in-cast branding reveals/promotes Redshift and OSC but whose enjoyment is not reliant upon OSC.

Anyone else like to contribute their experiences? Theories?

4 replies on “Redshift/Ontario Science Center podcasts & aggregators”

[…] A friend pointed out an interesting post on Fresh + New about the Ontario Science Centre’s weekly podcasts found on their Redshift Now site. The post explores the numbers (how many downloads) and where visitors are picking up episodes (iTunes and elsewhere). (I’ll try to see about collecting and sharing some of the number’s from our own Vodcasting efforts.) Fresh + New goes on to examine aggregation, and asks whether we should replace our manual efforts with some sort of an automated one… So could/should we individually, or collectively build a ‘Google News’ of museums? Is the even possible? […]


On the subject of aggregators I guess what I was really meaning was smart aggregators – those that automatically curate the news for you – like Google News.

This would require multiple organisations to offer their events/news as RSS etc which would then be aggregated dynamically by a third party site and ranked on the basis, I presume, of links and a relevance algorithm.

There are plenty of manual aggregators.

The point I was (trying to) make with the OSC podcast figures was more that their downloads are in large part a result of other sites pointing to them in clusters of popular science podcasts, or as automatic aggregators like iTunes.

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