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“There should be more objectivity where you’re looking at both sides of an issue and there’s just not enough of that.” Journalist and Podcast Host of Foundry’s ‘Today in Tech,’ Keith Shaw joins Account Director Vanja Lakic to speak about his career as a journalist and podcast host and his thoughts on the future of podcasts.

From how to start a podcast, AI in journalism to the lack of objectivity when exploring topics, Keith offers his expertise in the latest episode of Cogcast.

Transcript for podcast

Vanja Lakic 0:05 

Hi everyone, welcome to Cogcast Cognito's podcast where we speak with reporters and media pros in the latest happenings in the world of journalism and PR. I'm your host Vanya Lakic.


Today, I have a special guest with me who knows a lot about podcasts because he's a podcast host himself. We'll hear from Keith Shaw, who's the host of today in tech, a podcast that's affiliated with computer worlds where he hosts some of the brightest tech luminaries discussing the latest news and trends and technology. Keith has worked at a number of newsrooms as a journalist in New York, Florida and Massachusetts. Today, we're lucky to have Keith tell us about his experience as a podcast host, what tech topics are currently most discussed and how he thinks podcasts will evolve as journalism continues to change. Keith, welcome, and thank you so much for being with us.


Keith Shaw 0:58 

Yeah, thanks for having me on the show.


Vanja Lakic 1:00 

Keith for the individuals and companies may be looking to start their own podcast, can you start off by telling us what that involves? Like how do you get buy-in from management? And how do you get started?


Keith Shaw 1:11 

I think we were lucky because I came in with an existing podcast that they had already started. So I didn't have to get buy-in from management, as you know, others might need. I think the first thing is they have a good idea. You know, what do you want to talk about? And can you sustain that for multiple episodes? Week after week after week, I remember I tried to start a podcast with my daughter, it was a really good idea and we did one episode and then we were like, 'well, we don't have any other ideas.' That's one of those things. If you can sustain that for multiple episodes where we keep going on, I think that we'll get buy-in from management. But yeah, it starts with the idea. And then it starts and then from there. Do you have the time to do it? Is basically my answer there.


Vanja Lakic 1:55 

Yeah, no, that's a great point about sustaining it and you do a podcast episode almost every day. So how do you decide on on your podcast topics and how do you find guests?


Keith Shaw 2:08 

So I do two to three a week, I don't actually do it every day. We decided when we when we were going to relaunch the podcast that we could generate two to three in a week. But then since then, we've now done 150 episodes of the new format. And we've split it between two different types of podcast shows. One is a Weekly News RoundUp. And so that is where we have a guest co host come in and we do four weeks stents with the guest co-hosts and we take the news of the week and we pick four to five topics to kind of riff off of. So that's easier to do, because that's just reading the news that week, finding out what's interesting and then kind of doing the podcasts from there. Those those pretty much run themselves as long as you've got a good guest co-host and can also feed off of me and have a good rapport with me. The other ones are the individual interview episodes and those are probably the ones that you and your viewers are probably more familiar with. That's where we get a guest to come in and just kind of talk for about 45 minutes amount of specific topic. So I get those in many different ways. Sometimes there's news that's going on and I want to dig deeper in the topic. And either I get pitches from, from PR folks who pitch me an expert that they have, or on occasions, I've gone to help a reporter out and have done a generic blanket pitch and then I get 300 responses and I have to go through all of the responses to find out which ones are real and which ones are not. So that's a little bit of extra work. But the types of experts I get on some of these, some of those harrow pitches are outstanding. For example, we I was looking at the most recent ones we did were on social media addiction. And again, I posted experts on it and got, I got some university professors, I've got some political psychologists, I got a lawyer who was an expert on this multi-district lawsuit that's currently going on. So once I had that list, I was like, I could do four or five of these different episodes in different angles. And so we just completed our last one there. If I can't think of the someone to get on the show, that's where I'll use those types of services. But from the pitches from the PR folks, I normally the pitches are about, they want to talk to me about a product or a, you know, or the company that they represent. And I get them to sort of turn it around and say if you want to be on Today in Tech, talk to me about a thought leadership role and the topic of that and it looks at news and see if you can bounce off of the news idea and do it that way. So - because we're not allowed necessarily to give the guests pitches or promos about their company. We have other series that do that. It's our Demo Series where they can come in Demo their product. So that's probably the best way, the best way I find all of the topics. Just again, I'm reading a lot of news and you know, ideas just pop into my head, sometimes.


Vanja Lakic 5:11 

You're full of them. What has been your most fun podcast episodes that you've kind of recorded the last couple months?


Keith Shaw 5:22 

You know, since when, when we I was fortunate that when I started this, and when we did the reboot, that Generative AI was just starting to take off. And so there's been so many different Generative AI topics we've discussed, I think the most fun I've had would would would have been the panel we did about whether the singularity was going to happen soon after all of the big Generative AI companies came out and we're like, oh, we're getting closer and closer to realizing the singularity and the matrix and, you know, terminators, and all that kind of stuff. But I was able to get some really good guests on that show and we had a really good kind of conversation. In fact, after I did that episode, I've used them again on other episodes. So that's nice when you get a good guest and they, they gel with you, you can bring them back and you know that you don't have to kind of prep them for the podcast again, they know kind of what's going on. Really, you know, other favorites, I talked to the chief futurist at Deloitte, he was talking about his predictions for the year. So prediction type episodes are always fun, because you can kind of speculate and just kind of talk about some of the topics. Again, good guests are what make me happy. So I don't want to kind of cheap out and go. Oh you know, the most fun is the next episode that I'm going to do. But it's true. And I love talking to a lot of these experts and have good conversations with them.


Vanja Lakic 6:47 

You've spoken with your guests a lot about AI and where that's going next. So I'll put you in the hot seat a bit. I'm curious, what do you make of all of current happenings around AI? Are we reaching peak AI? Is it just hype? What do you think?


Keith Shaw 7:02 

It's one of those topics where it's not like other topics that have been hyped up as much as before. If we were going to talk about this two years ago, when we were talking about blockchain, or if we were talking about data analytics, and all those other kind of hyped technologies, this one really does have a lot more legs than I think other topics did. Because Generative AI is going to be touching all sorts of different industries, and all sorts of different kind of modes, like, you know, there's AI, Generative AI for marketing, there's Generative AI for writing, there's Generative AI for art creation, there's accuracy parts of it, there's coding, there's a lot of other topics that you can hit on. So I don't think we're going to hit we're not hitting peak yet, other than the people that always are in the journalism world where you see a bunch of hype, and then everyone's like, well, it's time to now not pop that bubble, so we're going to do stories about 'Have we reached peak AI yet?', I've been guilty of that as well. I've done the whole 'Are we headed towards that trough of disillusionment?' and now I'm in the second wave of seeing those types of stories. But every time you see that, then a company comes out with something new. And then all of a sudden, you're talking about all of this stuff again, like last week, our big stories was this Suno AI, Song generating AI that can write a song and then two minutes on just based on a text prompt, and the results are amazing. But then that then leads you to discussions of 'Well, is it gonna get rid of songwriters? Is it gonna get rid of song creation?', and you know, all those, and then you start generating more episodes and more articles around that. So I don't think we're at the part where people are gonna get sick of it. It's just finding the new angles and then talking about it. Because again, then you get, you get the stories, and then you talk about that for a little bit and then you find stories where people are making mistakes with it. So then you do stories about that. So it is a cycle of constant topic ideas, I guess.


Vanja Lakic 8:54 

Is there anything that kind of stuck out to you from something that an episode guest has said to you recently?


Keith Shaw 9:03 

Anything that's really stuck out to me? I'm probably not, you know, I think all the episodes that we do are, are, are fun for me to do. I call some - sometimes I call the shows my online therapy sessions, because I get to talk about technology and what I like about technology and what I don't like about technology. And I think at that point, it's just fun to do. Like the best part of my job is when I'm recording the the episodes, to be honest, it's it's that's what I really enjoy. And I get like, I like asking questions. I don't like answering questions, I guess.


Vanja Lakic 9:35 

Well, it always looks like and sounds like you're having fun when you're interviewing guests. So it comes through. If we shift gears just a little bit to talk about, like how AI is maybe impacting journalism and what the future of podcasting looks like, as sort of one medium in journalism, what would you say?


Keith Shaw 9:57 

Well, there's a lot of hand wringing going on about the use of AI in journalism, there was the initial wave where there were companies that were trying to basically write news stories. Based, using AI. There was a lot of discussions about well, it doesn't do a good job in writing a summary, depending on the type of article. Yeah, I mean, it does. It does do a good job of writing a summary of some news events, but then you don't get that extra flavor of a good quote that, you know, a reporter can get from someone. I also don't feel like the creativity is there where you get a good writer, they can do those those things really well. On the podcast side I haven't seen kind of AI podcast personas yet. One of my strengths as an interviewer is the ability to hear a question, or have a discussion and not just jump to my next question, but then ask a follow up from that. And I don't think AI is quick enough yet to have that insight to ask the next question. And really, listen, it's mine, I haven't seen anything where, because again, if you're going to clone me, as either a video or an audio, you still have to have the text that generates it to make it sound like things. So I think from the future of podcasts, I think they're safe for a while. But you know, knowing how fast the industry moves, who knows?


Vanja Lakic 11:17 

Podcasts of course, took off several years ago and have become very popular with almost every publication now having a podcast of their own. And businesses have caught on as well with many of them like Cognito starting their own. Do you think we're reaching podcasts fatique and what kind of future do you think podcasts have in journalism?


Keith Shaw 11:38 

Yeah, I mean, podcasts when they came out, they're all about the listening to them on your iPod. I mean, that's where the term came out. And then, with the rise of video and YouTube than we used to everybody started adding videos. So then you had to call them either video podcasts, I still think people are confused sometimes about what a podcast is. But also, what I've discovered is that people watch and listen, depending on what they're doing. Like I, we've, we post our podcasts on YouTube so I'm just assuming that everybody is watching my podcast on a computer browser, or they're watching it on their TV and then, you know, I get surprised when someone's like, oh, no, I listened to your podcast through Spotify or Apple when I'm on my run. And that's when I get my, that's when I hear your show. Or you connected on my commute home, you know, it's a 45 minute drive. So that's when I listened to your podcast. I was like, Okay, I don't necessarily think that there's one correct way to listen to a podcast or watching podcast. I always amazed that they have those, there are people that do three hour podcasts. I don't know if people are paying attention during those or if they just have it on in the background. What you know, our director, he has it on his car all the time. And he listens, you know, for both, you know, both sides of his commute. But then he he's got to finish them at some point because there three hours long and I don't know, it's weird. I, I've told myself, I never wanted to do a three hour podcast like, five minutes to an hour, sometimes I get to an hour if we have a really good topic.


Vanja Lakic 13:10 



Keith Shaw 13:11 

I don't think people are having podcasts fatigue, I think just depends on what you're willing to listen to what you're interested in if the host is good. I mean, again, that's that's part of my my issue is that some is just trying to get an audience to, to listen and watch one of our podcasts because I think once they do, then they see that we're professionals and we're good at what we do. It's just getting that initial click or the view.


Vanja Lakic 13:37 

Who have been one podcast guest who you are really trying to get on your show?


Keith Shaw 13:43 

I am not a celebrity worship person. I think there's a lot of people that tell me oh, you should get Elon Musk on the show, or you should get so and so some tech celebrity and it's like, I don't really, I don't know, I've never been a person that that's been obsessed with tech celebrity or even just regular celebrities. It's they're just people to me, I don't necessarily have a kind of a, someone I'd like to to interview. Because sometimes I get annoyed by technology. So someone was like, 'Well, what if you could interview Bill Gates?' I go 'I'd probably punch him' cause who knows I'm just annoyed by Windows. So I don't know if I would be able, if I have a great celebrity guest wish list. I I just like talking to people that have things to say and interesting ideas and topics and where we can have a conversation about things like the interview I did with the lawyer who was suing the big tech social media companies. She's a brilliant mind. I mean, she's got she's a lawyer, and she was very good on the podcast and, you know, made some arguments that were amazing. And you know, I just had a great conversation with her. But then, you know, I met a book author who writes about how to get employees to or how to get bosses to become better bosses. And, you know, again had a great conversation with him. So I think if you're dynamic, and you're interesting, those are the types of people I want on my show.


Vanja Lakic 15:07 

Right, good answer. Well, in the spirit of not making this three hours long, we're gonna wrap up here soon. Is there anything else that kind of sticks out to you, either as a podcast host or in the tech world that you think the audience should know?


Keith Shaw 15:22 

Wow, that's a really good open-ended question to end on. I think there was a question you were going to offer me about under discussed. And, like, what is not discussed in mainstream tech journalism, I think there is a lot of celebrity chasing that goes on. And I think that there's a lot of people that want to be friends with the guests. I do a little bit of that. But I also, when I, when I do my tech news roundup episodes, I think I get a little bit bolder, where I like to challenge some of the ideas that are going on, the biggest example I saw was, we've done several episodes about how the world was chasing electric vehicles. And we saw in the real world, and we saw people that we had people that were telling us, you know, on the air, that the infrastructure wasn't ready for electric vehicles. And we kept questioning why the world wasn't going to hybrids, for example, or we would talk about autonomous vehicles and some of the accidents that they've had. And so it feels like there's a tendency to just kind of chase whatever the hot topic is, and then not really getting to the next level and going why is this a good idea? Or is this a good idea? And if you if you challenge it, then sometimes commenters will be like, 'Oh, well, you're just you just hate Elon Musk.' And I'm like, Well, no, you know, we're trying to bring that forward. I think there should be more of that. And, and there should be more objectivity, where you're looking at both sides of an issue. And there's just not enough of that there's, the world is now polarized on one side or the other. It doesn't matter if it's politics, or even just tack like you either love Elon Musk or hate Elon Musk. It's like, well, why can't you do both? Like, why can't you just question, but also appreciate some of the stuff he does and things like that. So I try to keep my my podcasts down the middle when those issues kind of come up.


Keith Shaw 17:09 



Keith Shaw 17:10 

A long way of saying nothing.


Vanja Lakic 17:14 

And with that statement, you're upholding the high standards of journalism.


Keith Shaw 17:19 

I'm an old school journalist. That's what I learned when I went to school was try to be as objective as possible and don't fall in love one side or the other. Unfortunately, I think that's gone away. I think you get more views if you have a strong opinion about something and then don't waver for it. Because again, those are the people that are looking for those types of opinions. I think the days of an objective, look at both sides of it are going away.


Vanja Lakic 17:43 

Well, Keith, thank you so much for being on our show. This is very insightful, and we're very lucky to have you. No problem.


Keith Shaw 17:49 

Thank you for having me.