Genome BC had an existing podcast that featured ‘dry’ science-based content delivery. The show failed to excite listeners and did not perform well. Genome BC was eager to start from scratch, with a goal to create a new more engaging podcast targeted at a younger, female audience, that would entertain while educating listeners about the potential and impacts of genomics.
Through discovery and strategic workshops, Genome BC and JAR Audio set the creative objective for an uplifting “sciency-y” podcast that would increase reach to new listeners. The project also had a limited budget in terms of reaching audiences through paid media.
“Nice Genes!” highlights stories of how genomics is influencing the world around us while discussing issues that the audience cares about, like fighting climate change and promoting racial justice. The show’s focus is not on investment potential. It’s about how genomic science can help solve the big problems facing humanity.
We therefore strove to take an accessible, issues-driven approach to our science storytelling. We chose a fun “nerdist” as a host. Dr. Kaylee Byers is an experienced podcaster and scientist, and a self-described “rat detective” (Her genomic research focuses on rats and their habitats).
We strove to introduce “active” storytelling models borrowed from documentary. We incorporated “in the field” / “in the lab” sound from the researchers we interviewed. We also had a lot of fun with dramatizing certain sections of episodes to bring the points to life. Layered on top of this was an incredibly dense and nuanced sound design approach, which helped hold audience interest by “switching it up” every few minutes, and leaned into the “theatre of the mind” potential of audio.
The biggest challenge came from how to talk about genomic science. Genomics is a broad-ranging science, difficult to define.People confuse it with genetics. Yes, it incorporates genetics, but so much more and is a truly holistic scientific discipline. We tackled challenges like this head-on by taking the time early in the show to define what genomics really is, and how it impacts our world. Most people have a limited understanding of genomics, which we saw as a great opportunity because we could introduce them to the many surprising ways genomics is changing our world - from health to environment to crime fighting.
We often used a co-hosting format with guest co-hosts with science communicators with special insight to the episode topic. This naturally sets up a Q&A type conversation, where one host can ask the questions that we believe the audience is thinking.
From the start, we knew we wanted to build a diverse and inclusive show. This mandate was an important consideration in the selection of co-hosts and guests. We made sure to discuss how genomics has been received in different cultural communities, depending on their history of colonization and their access to genetic data.
Finally, many episodes delt with environmental issues. We felt we were combatting the audience’s despair and resultant apathy in the face of global warming. We handled this by choosing stories about people “doing science” on constructive projects aimed at mitigating the harms caused by global warming. We also used humour and even terrible puns - okay, especially terrible puns - to keep the tone of the show as upbeat and constructive as possible.
Our measurable objectives for this podcast were: Engagement, Charting Performance, and Local Listenership.
Engagement: Our mean consumption rate for episodes was 85%, far exceeding the industry average of 60%. Over half of the episodes had a consumption rate of 95%. 61% of our listeners are female-identifying (surpassing the industry standard of 48%),. With 46% of listeners aged 25-34, over half of all listeners are below the age of 34.
Charting: “Nice Genes!” surpassed charting expectations. It charted on both Canadian and international Life Science and Science charts. Peak positions include #6 for Canadian Life Sciences, #9 for Australian Life Sciences, #33 for Canadian Science and #63 for US Life Sciences. “Nice Genes!” has remained in the top 100 chart for Canadian Life Sciences since launch, spending numerous weeks in the top 25, and was featured in Apple's 'New and Noteworthy' list.
Local listenership: While listeners from over 80 countries have tuned in to “Nice Genes!”, our top country for listeners is Canada. Over 85% of our listeners are based in Canada, exceeding our goal by 10%.