ABC to lose popular Science Vs podcast as format and presenter snapped up by US outfit

Science VsThe ABC will lose one of its most popular podcasts, Science Vs, after presenter Wendy Zukerman was poached by emerging US podcast service Gimlet.

Science Vs has clocked up more than 1.3m downloads for the ABC and has built a large following in the US, allowing creator and owner Zukerman to turn the part-time podcasting role into a full-time gig in New York

Gimlet was started by award-winning radio journalist Alex Blumberg and produces three advertising supported podcasts, StartUp, Reply All and Mystery Show. Blumberg was also a producer on the highly respected public radio show This American Life.

Science Vs has developed a strong following since Zukerman pitched the idea to the ABC as a freelancer earlier this year. The podcast dissects the latest fads using science as the tool.

Zukerman told Mumbrella the call from Gimlet had come out of the blue.

wendy zuker,man“Science Vs was surging on the US (podcast) charts,” said Zukerman. “Almost two-thirds of our audience was from the US already.”

Science Vs will move from having to share a producer with two other ABC podcasts to Zukerman having a dedicated producer, allowing her the time to investigate topics and work with researchers more extensively.

The show will be supported by advertising with Zukerman doing in-podcast reads, although she said she would have full approval of all ads.

The science journalist-turned radio presenter started working at the ABC little more than year ago, working across a number of areas at the public broadcaster.

The ABC developed the show as part of its efforts to extend digital content and showcase new talent through a program called First Run, offering on-demand content.

Linda Bracken, head of content and digital strategy at ABC Radio, said that the success of Science Vs was proof the move to develop podcasts as a nursery for talent was working.

“The success of this podcast and others in the series, has helped validate the work done in developing our First Run podcasts,” said Bracken.

“ABC Radio continues to use First Run as a pilot project to develop new forms of podcasting across multiple genres, specifically unearthing new and emerging talent and taking Australian voices to the world.  As part of the commissioning process for our First Run series of podcasts, Wendy Zukerman, a freelancer at the time,  came to us with the Science Vs concept, and together we entered into a co-production agreement to develop it into a podcast.

“As part of the agreement Wendy maintained IP for the project. On the back of the podcast’s success Wendy received an offer which was too good to refuse and she heads to the US with our best wishes.”

Along with Science Vs, First Run has also produced a history special, Rum, Rebels and Ratbags, and Confession Booth.

Simon Canning


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