Podcasts are hard work but worth it, say fact-checkers who’ve produced them

September 9, 2019

It doesn’t matter that podcasts about misinformation take a tremendous amount of time to craft. All the time and manpower involved in planning, interviewing, recording and editing is worth the effort and can even bring in money, say fact-checkers who’ve tried it recently.

“We found it was actually a brilliant way to interact with people, and it got a lot of engagement,” Mevan Babakar, head of automated fact-checking, told the IFCN of Full Fact’s podcast series from 2015. “Podcasts that we’ve done with others still, to this day, get us donations.”

“The Full Fact Podcast” included seven episodes ranging from 17-30 minutes in length, which were posted online throughout the months leading up to England’s 2015 general election.

Will Moy, chief executive of the British fact-checking platform, said that while the podcast was never intended to be permanent, it was such a hit with audiences that the team has “talked about doing one again when we have the capacity.”

“It took about two to three days of someone’s time to organize and script,” and at least one day of a fact-checker’s time, Babakar said.

Full Fact has been featured on podcasts by Wired, hip hop recording artist Scroobius Pip, and Poynter’s very own misinformation podcast, (Mis)informed, which lasted three episodes.

While it’s certainly less time consuming to be featured on someone else’s podcast, it seems that launching your own is both tough and tempting work. For those considering taking it on, two ways of lightening the load are partnering with production companies and beginning with a trial series like Full Fact’s.

Tips from Latin America: Partner with an organization

“It’s a ton of work,” said content director Natalia Leal of Agência Lupa’s recently launched podcast series, Verifica. “(So) we’re doing it with a partner, who makes podcasts for other companies and (splits) the hard work with us.”

Leal chooses the topic of the week, and selects which debunks and articles will be featured on the episode. Colmeia Podcast, a podcast production company, writes the script and then edits Agência Lupa’s recording of it.

Verifica is the first podcast in Brazil to tackle misinformation and fact-checking in Portuguese, and its first season is set to run from August 2019 to February 2020. Weekly episodes running about 20 minutes each will be available on major streaming platforms.

“We’re still looking for some way to monetize this content, but our goal for now is to win the hearts of the audience,” Leal told the IFCN. She said that Verifica’s first two episodes brought in positive reactions from commenters on social media.

Chequeado used the same strategy. It partnered with the podcast production company Posta in Argentina to launch “El Podcast de Chequeado,” which lasted six episodes from September 2018 to January 2018.

Start with a test run before committing long-term

Laura Zommer, director of the Argentinian fact-checking organization, told the IFCN that the motive behind starting with a pilot season was to “explore a new format, see how we felt, see if there were people that were interested, and reach a new audience.”

And “the conclusion was that yes, (podcasts) are worth it.”

Topics from the season included domestic violence, Venezuelan refugees, gun control and the world of online trolls and bots.

Zommer said the podcast will be revived with two episodes Oct. 13 and 20, the dates of the presidential debates. Argentina is set to vote for a new president Oct. 27; the new episodes will include summaries of Chequeado’s live debate fact checks.

While Zommer wasn’t able to tell whether the podcast had helped attract more donations, she did say that anything that helps Chequeado accomplish its mission of accessing a broader audience is worth doing.

The 2019 State of the Fact Checker’s report showed that the large majority of fact-checking organizations surveyed publish their work primarily online, not on television or radio. It seems that podcasts could alter this market in coming years, and allow fact-checkers to engage outside of digital print.

Here’s a list of some other IFCN signatories experimenting with podcasts and video, in case you want to check out their work (in different languages):

Daniela Flamini is a freelancer for the IFCN. She can be reached at Factchecknet@poynter.org.

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the number of podcasts Chequeado has produced.