U.S. Energy Department launches its own podcast

Direct Current podcastWe read and write a lot about the podcasting rennaissance, but now there’s further evidence that the audio format has in fact become de rigeur. The U.S. Energy Department launched a show called Direct Current on Monday. The program will focus on the department’s work in helping U.S. residents consume energy. The first episode introduces the “soft costs” of solar panel installation, solar energy’s use in New York, and the history of the department’s creation.

The episode page is a marvel of unabashed wonkiness, a dense education in the history and economics of solar power. In the show itself, the first 90 seconds are devoted to self-conscious explanations of why the Energy Department is podcasting — no explanation is necessary, and the effort serves mainly to cast doubt on the program’s self-confidence. The two hosts throw the microphone over to their boss, who is not entirely comfortable with it as she offers a rationalization of the project.

Well, never mind — many first podcast episodes start with a hiccup. The content is interesting, offering spoken-word storytelling of what would be a dry topic in less careful hands. The production quality is at a high, NPR-ish level, full of variety, short segments, and unobtrusive background music — even if some of the announcing is vocal-fried to a crisp.

A few other government branches have made tentative forays into the podcasting space, but none gained traction. Of course there’s no way to gauge whether this department will be able to continue producing quality episodes. However, when the federal government tries its hand at a new communication platform, it’s certainly a sign of that platform having achieved establishment credibility.

Anna Washenko