Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Dawn of the Microcast: Journalism's Future Takes Shape

Editor's Note: You can watch This Week in Space at The first show is set to debut Sunday, Dec. 20.

Despite all the doom and gloom that surrounds journalism today there is a bright future and a big part of it could be something I'm calling the "Microcast."

For background, the big three networks brought us broadcasting (think general interest shows like "60 Minutes", The Cosby Show and Lost). Cable brought us narrowcasting (think Bravo's "Inside the Actor's Studio", "Animal Planet" and CNN.)

Now the Web is bringing us microcasting. A show that delivers specific content to an extremely precise audience.

The show I'm talking about is called This Week in Space hosted by veteran journalist Miles O'Brien. O'Brien. The show is supported by the same crew that turned Space Shuttle launch coverage from obligatory cable news live shots that lasted a few minutes to interesting, in-depth, interactive conversations with space experts and spaceflight fans worldwide that lasts for hours.

The audiences for all of the launch casts are small, totaling about 750,000 people over six launches. But during the last launch cast, more than 200,000 people tuned in from 181 countries. By comparison, the lowest-rated evening newscasts from the big three networks (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric) gets about five million viewers a night. But none of those viewers gets to send Katie a message and ask her a question about a story during the show.

This is an exciting and unsettled time in spaceflight... there are only five missions left for the Space Shuttle, a budget-driven decision that effectively grounds the world's most versatile and successful spacecraft. Commercial entrepreneurs seem on the cusp of both space tourism and cargo delivery service to low earth orbit (LEO).

This Week in Space is different than a company putting up a video on its Website or posting a Podcast. These are top-flight independent journalists doing a show on a topic about which they are passionate. O'Brien has decades of coverage under his belt, including a long stint as CNN's space correspondent, Former CNN Senior Science Producer Kate Tobin is the executive producer here. Veteran journalist David Waters serves as producer, correspondent and post-production manager and's managing editor Steven Young rounds out the team.

The same team that brought us innovative launch coverage is further serving the needs of the audience they've cultivated over the last year or so.

Here's why I think this is going to be both successful and important to the future of journalism. Advertisers crave a reliable, predictable audience. The more precise your target audience is, the better able you are to rely on advertising to keep the program streaming across cyberspace.  Our human spaceflight program has always brought amazing benefits. Wouldn't it be awesome if coverage of the final frontier creates a new frontier for journalism?

With all the talk about a government bail out of journalism, this is as refreshing as it was predictable. If you stay out of people's way, they generally create something of value.

And, in the case of This Week in Space, something pretty cool to watch.

Bill Salvin

If you want to contact the This Week in Space team, you can email them at You can also follow them on Twitter at

1 comment:

  1. I thought microcasting was something that this

    Do you consider this microcasting? Or is it just an aggregation of news?