Helen Osborne: Welcome to Health Literacy Out Loud. I’m Helen Osborne, President of Health Literacy Consulting, founder of Health Literacy Month and author of the book Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message. I also produce and host this podcast series, Health Literacy Out Loud.
Today, I’m talking with Adam Weiss, who brings years of experience in podcasting, online video and live broadcasting all with a special focus on scientific and medical content.
Adam has hosted, launched or produced podcasts for clients that include the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the American Institute of Physics and the Western Veterinary Conference. One of his early projects was starting the podcast series for Boston’s Museum of Science.
Adam and I met at a PodCamp Conference in 2008. I had long wanted to create some sort of audio program for teaching health professionals about health literacy. But I had no clue how to go about doing this.
Happily, somebody at this conference introduced me to Adam, who was teaching a session about podcast technology. We soon agreed to work together, and have been doing so ever since.
Adam used to live nearby and now is based in Melbourne, Australia.
Adam was my first ever guest on Health Literacy Out Loud. Now 200 episodes later, it seems fitting to interview him again.
Adam Weiss: Thank you, Helen, and congratulations on 200 episodes.
Helen Osborne: We’ve been doing this together. We both can share those congratulations. Thank you. I’m very proud.
Podcasts. I was listening back to our first podcast, and you were explaining what a podcast is and how people might access them and listen. Twelve years later, oh my goodness, podcasts are everywhere.
From your vantage point doing so much in technology, what’s changed over these years?
Adam Weiss: I think one of the biggest changes is that they are everywhere. When we first got started with your podcast, and when I was doing podcasting even before that, you had to explain. You had to convince people that there’s this thing called an internet radio show that’s worth trying out.
Now on every TV show, every radio program, everything, they say, “Check out our podcast for the extended interview. Go online to find out more information.”
It’s something that’s been there the whole time, but people in the last few years are really starting to embrace it. Podcasts have been getting more and more popular even as other options are out there for online media.
Helen Osborne: I want to ask a two-part question. Why do you think podcasts are getting more popular? The second part of that question will be what’s the other media?
Adam Weiss: I think one of the big appeals of podcasts has always been it’s one of the few things you can do while you’re busy with something else. People can use podcasts to learn or be entertained on their commute. They can do it while they’re exercising or walking the dog. It’s very hard to watch a TED Talk on YouTube when you’re walking the dog, but you can very easily listen to a podcast.
I think especially as people are getting busier and having more expectations for their time, this allows you to take something less interesting and make it more interesting by layering a podcast on top of it rather than taking time out of your day to do something like watch a video or read a book.
I think that’s becoming more and more important for people, because first of all, everybody has access to the technology now to do it. You used to need to download a file and load it on to an iPod or other player, and then plan in advance to listen to one of these. But now you can pull out your smartphone and be listening in seconds.
I think the easier accessibility to the actual medium is one of the big things, and then the fact that people are really embracing this.
Ultimately, it’s an extension of radio, and radio has been around well over 100 years now as a major thing that people use for entertainment.
Even though television, movies and online videos have come and would maybe have been seen to supersede something like radio, it didn’t happen. The same thing I think is true of podcasts.
Helen Osborne: I know podcasts resonate with me. I listen to podcasts all the time, even before starting this series. That’s probably why I wanted to do it.
I listen to podcasts on my morning walk. I walk every day. If I don’t have something to listen to, I can’t imagine getting out of bed in some bad weather.
I just want to keep going, and I want to keep listening, so it’s really filled that niche for me and, I think, for others.
I also love having it in my ear and feeling like someone is talking just to me.
Adam Weiss: That is a big difference with audio versus video, too. With most video content, and some other content as well, it feels more like the person is talking at you or is giving you a lecture or some kind of presentation that you’re there to watch.
Audio can be a lot more personal. You’re kind of participating in the conversation. The people that are listening to this right now don’t necessarily think that we’re doing something on stage that they’re attending. It’s more like they’re sitting in the room and listening to us.
I think it is more personal. It is something people feel more of a connection to if it’s something that they enjoy.
That is another big difference between that and, say, watching something that is very clearly whoever is on screen is talking to a mass audience. It doesn’t feel as much like there’s a mass audience for a podcast. It sounds like we’re talking to you, the listener.
Helen Osborne: That’s the feeling I get, and I certainly try to convey that in these podcasts. I tell guests that it’s just like listeners get to listen in on a really neat conversation you and I are having.
I feel that my questions sometimes, I’m just asking what the listeners might be asking. I really try to build on that sense of personalization and informality whilst also covering key topics. I’m not minimizing those at all.
Adam Weiss: I think it’s a perfect medium for you talking about health literacy, because it is something that is very personal. It’s about conversations and communication, so having people be more comfortable listening to that is really important, more than just watching a series of webinars, which is really not this personal experience you get from listening to these conversations.
Helen Osborne: Before I leave the point, I wanted to ask the other part of that question, which is what else is out there for technology and different kinds of media? You mentioned videos and YouTube, but what else is out there?
Adam Weiss: Certainly video is one of the main things that people do online when they’re sitting at their computer or when they’re looking at their smartphone. But even now beyond that, there’s a lot more experience with VR and AR, augmented reality. These are things that people can use to mix online media with the real world.
There are even audio virtual reality and augmented reality apps out there now that are allowing you to mix audio into the real world as much as you would mix visuals.
I think that the lines are starting to blur between some of these different things.
A podcast as its own thing may not be around in 10 years as in, “Oh, I’m going to go to this particular podcast place.” iTunes doesn’t actually exist anymore technically because now it’s just the Apple Podcasts section. I’m not going to go and find “a” podcast. I’m going to go and find some piece of audio media that I want to listen to.
Things become easier to access. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re using an iPod that you’ve downloaded mp3 files to or you’re just tapping a link on the screen of your smartphone, or smart watch at this point.
I think these things will evolve to overlap some, but they will always have the particular benefits of the individual media.
People will always want to read something for the benefits that you get from reading, which certainly allows you to absorb more, go back and look at things again or highlight.
Video is really visually compelling and it’s great for explaining concepts that are hard to understand that diagrams, graphs and images can help.
Audio is wonderful, as I said, for layering on top of other things, but also for the more intimate, personal connection.
I think that as those things evolve, they may interweave a little bit more, but they won’t go away.
Helen Osborne: I think of what I do. We have the audio files. All 200 of them are available for free, and I tend to keep them that way. But for many of them, there is also a written transcript.
That’s partly because it’s the right thing to do for people who can’t hear or don’t like to listen. But is also is a way of printing it out for people who prefer to read, highlight or take little snippets of it. So, I’m using a few of those modalities.
I know over the years some people have said to me, “Why don’t you do videos? Why don’t you do YouTube? Why don’t you do this, that or the next thing?” Sometimes I’ve tried it, but I’ve been hesitant and scared off because I’m not comfortable with all that schmancy technology.
You taught me how to do podcasts, and I got that. I can pretty well problem-solve anything that goes wrong. But it’s going to that higher level. It seems to take a lot more money and skill than I’m comfortable with.
Adam Weiss: Absolutely. Right now, my main business for the last 10 years or so has actually been making videos, and making videos primarily for tech products. We work for Netflix, Microsoft, Oracle and all these places. This is complicated stuff to do. It’s the reason that people hire people.
It is possible to start your own podcast. You need a little bit of equipment, some skills and a bit of technology, like a computer.
But the problem, in a sense, with video is that people need to be able to hear you, too. You need to do all the work of the audio plus making the visuals both look good and be compelling. It’s layering a lot of other pieces on tops of that.
And that equipment is a lot more expensive. You can’t just buy a $100 or less microphone, which is all you really need to get started with a podcast, when a decent camera that’s going to make you look okay and give you a useable video file is at least many hundreds of dollars, but more realistically, to get something good is thousands of dollars.
There’s a much different barrier to entry and level of complexity. You’ve got to get the sound right in either case. You’re just adding two or three layers on top of that to try to do video.
Helen Osborne: I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. Probably now is a good time to add your URL so people know what your company name is. But then let’s move into the other half of this, which is about health literacy. We’ve got the technology and the teaching, and we also have what’s happening in health literacy.
What’s your company name?
Adam Weiss: We’re App Demo Videos, and the website is www.AppDemoVideos.com. We’ve done a lot of videos for a variety of big, everyday-name companies. Some of them are actually in the healthcare field as well, so we’ve done work for doctors.
I know we’re recording things a little bit out of sync, so this podcast is being recorded kind of at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re doing some work right now on electronic health records, symptom tracking and those kinds of things.
We still are doing things in health even though the majority of the projects we do are more videos for productivity apps or how to use a new feature on Netflix and those kinds of things.
Helen Osborne: Adam, our worlds have intersected through these podcasts for the last 12 years. Until this interview right now, you have listened to all 199 of them. Have you learned anything about health literacy along the way?
Adam Weiss: Definitely. I’ve learned a lot about health literacy.
Helen Osborne: Share.
Adam Weiss: In fact, I think that I’ve become a big advocate to people that I know for the simple things, like taking a notepaper to the doctor or recording the conversation with the doctor if the doctor is willing to do that.
My mom went through some health issues that she was having a lot of doctor’s appointments. Sometimes I could go there with her, but sometimes I was here in Australia and she was in Pennsylvania. I said, “Make sure that we schedule it for a time that you can have somebody there with you. If it’s me on speakerphone, that’s great. If you can bring someone with you . . .”
It’s not because you don’t think you can understand it, but because it’s much easier for two people to ask better questions and absorb the information than it is for one, especially if one of them is in a stressful situation where someone is telling you that you need to have some kind of surgery and the other person is just there to help.
I tell a lot of people that I know, whether they’re relatives, friends or anybody else, that you need to really advocate for yourself and do what you need to come out of any interaction with a healthcare professional comfortable. Ask a lot of questions. Make sure that you understand.
I think the teach-back method that you’ve talked about many times, you tell people to do that to the doctor, to say, “Do I understand this?”
These are simple things that I think you talk about. You’ve probably talked about each one of those things maybe a dozen times on different podcasts.
Helen Osborne: Yes, I have.
Adam Weiss: They’re all things that I tell people all the time.
Then the other stuff that you’ve talked about that’s more specific, certainly I’ve learned a lot from. I haven’t necessarily had a chance to use it, but in most of those cases, I certainly have been able to use many of the things and share that knowledge with other people that I wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t involved in this.
Helen Osborne: I’m just tickled hearing that because you’re a young, healthy guy. You probably don’t go to healthcare all that often. But the fact that you’re taking those lessons and applying them and talking about teach-back, go for it.
I’m thinking about what this learning curve was like for me with health literacy and with podcasting.
Podcasting, obviously, I felt clueless in the beginning. You taught me what I needed to do.
Health literacy started a few years before I started podcasting, but even at that time, people started maybe hearing the term. Maybe those of us who were interested heard the term, but the great big world didn’t hear about it.
We had a learning curve, too, and a way to get the word out there to others about what health literacy is and why it matters.
I hoped, and still do, that this podcast series is a tool that others can use to help raise awareness, get people on board and do even as you do, teach some lessons, that practical how-to stuff we all need to know, whether we need to know it as a provider, public health, patient or family member.
That’s what I hope to accomplish in this, and it’s neat to hear you teaching back some of what you’ve learned.
Adam Weiss: I think that’s one of the things that’s really valuable about podcasts that are available to the public.
Even though you’ve designed this podcast to be primarily for providers and people within the industry, I’m sure you have a lot of people that listen to either many episodes or an individual episode that’s of their personal interest that don’t have anything to do with healthcare. They just want to learn about that particular thing. I know that’s true with a lot of podcasts I’ve been involved in.
Even when I was hosting the podcast for the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which was designed for cancer researchers and doctors, we always tried to make the content accessible because it’s something that people really need to learn about.
If someone themselves have been going through something having to do with cancer or has a relative or friend doing it, they’re going to look for whatever information is available out there. So, making sure that the information that you put out is accessible to everybody is very important.
Ultimately, that’s really beneficial to the doctors and other healthcare providers as well. I’m sure that there are a lot of people who listen to medical podcasts who are doctors or healthcare providers, but they’re not listening in their particular field. Having that complicated term re-explained very briefly helps them and doesn’t hurt anybody else.
Making sure that people understand what it is you’re talking about, whatever the topic, is really fundamental, even if it’s really designed for experts. If it’s available online, people will find it, and you really want it to be understandable for almost everyone.
Helen Osborne: And people worldwide too.
Adam Weiss: Absolutely, yes.
Helen Osborne: It knows no bounds in that way. When I choose guests and topics, I am thinking of professionals, but I’m expanding the boundaries all the time. For example, a recent podcast was about how laundromats are bringing in literacy programs. It’s like, “That’s cool. That’s never something I had thought about before.”
We only have a few minutes left, Adam, and I just want to leave listeners perhaps with some tips, hints or lessons learned that both of us have come to terms with over these 200 podcasts and 12 years of working together.
I’ll take it from the top. I learned that it’s okay to take a risk. It’s okay to try something new.
I was clueless about podcasts. I just had an inkling of what I wanted to do. I went to this conference that was so out of my element. I still remember it. But it worked. Not all of those kinds of ideas worked, but I stretched, I believed in it and I found the right person, you, to help make that happen.
That’s one of my tips and lessons learned to all the listeners. If you have a passion about something, an inkling or something, find a way to at least try it. It may not be successful the first time, and I’ve made many goofs along the way, but maybe you’ll come out with something surprisingly good and very satisfying at the end.
How about you?
Adam Weiss: I think that one lesson that comes out of this is actually how well you’ve done having been someone at the beginning who was not as comfortable with the technology side of things. You hadn’t learned a lot about interviewing at that point either.
Helen Osborne: I knew nothing about it. I’m a clinician.
Adam Weiss: But you’re good at communication, so it’s having a communicator learn to be a good interviewer and ultimately learn to not worry too much about the technology.
One of the big advantages of this kind of medium is that it’s really not that complicated once you get the pieces in the right order and know how to plug them in and turn them on. You just do it 200 times and look what happens.
Helen Osborne: I still have some of the settings you told me. “Don’t change this” is one. You set me up with the simplest recorder that has an on button that turns red. I didn’t want that fancy stuff like you have. Just tell me how to do it and I’ll follow directions.
Adam Weiss: Exactly. You’re an example when I give talks to people about podcasts and other media. I talk about you, saying that you’ve been very successful and it’s been a valuable thing to your business, your growth as an author and as an expert in your field.
You learned not to stress about the tech side and just make something good. That’s something that people can do.
It’s something that is pretty unique in audio in that you can experiment. You can try it and you don’t have to worry about the visual aspects. You don’t have to worry about a lot of different complicated pieces that people might think of, like, “Oh, I’m going to start to try to be on YouTube,” or something.
You just try it. Record with what you’ve got and see what happens, and you can make something cool.
That’s what you did, and you’ve been doing it for 12 years now. It’s been successful and it’s something that has brought benefits to you and to all of your listeners.
Helen Osborne: Thanks. You’re a big part of this journey.
My last lessons learned I want to share with listeners is just you’ll make your goofs. I made so many goofs. It might sound easy, what we’re doing, but there was certainly a learning curve there.
Really, find ways to assess success and then celebrate your accomplishments.
Podcasts are all free, so I’m not making money off of these things. In fact, they cost me. But what are some of the successes there? I have met the most amazing guests, I have learned about topics that I was curious about and just wanted to learn more and I am feeling more confident of the technology and so proud of having seen this through 200 times with more to go.
My initial goal was to try it for six months, and if it doesn’t work, give it up, so I am celebrating the success.
I thank all the listeners. This couldn’t happen without you.
Adam, you are integral to all the success and the team that makes Health Literacy Out Loud happen. I thank you for that.
I also want to just let folks know that you and I have done a little side work over the years. When you lived nearby, we used to give presentations about podcasting from very different perspectives, yours from technology and me from using it in business.
We did write a podcasting guide then. If people want to email, or I’ll have a link, I’ll tell them how to get that. It’s a few years old, but kind of the basics of what we both learned.
You have your website, the work you’re doing now, www.AppDemoVideos.com.
Of course, listeners, keep going to www.HealthLiteracyOutLoud.com and tell everybody about why health literacy matters.
Thank you, Adam, for all you’ve done. I look forward to keep working with you. Thank for you being a guest for the second time on Health Literacy Out Loud.
Adam Weiss: Thanks for having me, Helen.
Helen Osborne: As we just heard from Adam Weiss, it’s important to communicate health messages and all kinds of messages in so many ways. My passion, and his where he’s helping me, is with podcasts, which is really appreciating listening and the spoken word, a simple way of communicating the intimacy and caring of what healthcare and health literacy is all about.
For help clearly communicating your health message, take a look at my book, Health Literacy from A to Z. You might be especially interested in Chapter 33 that is specifically about audio podcasts.
Health Literacy Out Loud podcasts come out every few weeks. You can get all the episodes automatically, for free, by subscribing at www.HealthLiteracyOutLoud.com, or find us on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeartRadio, RadioPublic, Stitcher and probably other places where you might find podcast apps.
Please help spread the word about Health Literacy Out Loud. Together, let’s let the whole world know why health literacy matters.
Until next time, I’m Helen Osborne.