Sunday morning, 8:30 am--the third full day of the AAAS Meeting--and it's NOVA's turn to step out of the audience and onto the podium. NOVA Senior Science Editor Evan Hadingham (aka my boss) is one of a panel of science communicators here to talk about how they are using a variety of media--everything from shiny new Twitter to those creaky old TV sets--to share stories of scientific discovery with the public.
So, what's NOVA's secret recipe? We aim for bold topics, eye-catching visualizations, and strong stories, says Evan. But what makes our audience actually tune in? That question is getting harder and harder to answer. Once upon a time, we could make pretty good guesses about what would send TV dials (dials!) twirling in our direction (adventures, dinosaurs: check!) but today, we can be caught by happy surprise when shows on difficult, abstract subjects, like What Darwin Never Knew, capture larger audiences.
What gives? The next speaker up, Jane Stevens, offers a possible answer: She says that the very nature of audiences--whether for TV, print, Web, or what--is changing. Instead of the "mass audience," we have the "niche community." Mass audiences take what you give them; niche communities seek out content that aligns with their interests. Mass audiences listen; niche communities talk back.
So, talk back! How can NOVA better harness new media to tell scientists' stories? Are mass audiences really a thing of the past? What do you think?