The mobile friendly nature of podcasts has made them a favourite for on-the-go news updates, and with so many news organisations now producing their own, there's a growing need to experiment with format and tone to reach new listeners.

Tell Me Something I Don't Know, the new podcast developed by The New York Times and Stephen J. Dubner, creator of Freakonomics, has approached the medium in a new and innovative way by mixing factual journalism with entertaining conversation.

It aims to engage audiences with information that doesn't always feature on the daily news agenda or come up in day-to-day conversations, such as an unheralded technological breakthrough or a new line of important research.

"The podcast is journalism disguised as a game show," explained Alison Hockenberry, executive producer of the series.

"It is about having a really entertaining, engaging, smart conversation, where everyone leaves having had a good time and a little bit more informed."

The first series of the podcast started up on 6 November – it will feature a total of six episodes, with one published once a week.

It is about becoming part of the conversation, asking questions and building on common knowledgeAlison Hockenberry, Tell Me Something I Don't Know

The format is simple: members of a live studio audience present an IDK (I don't know), something that other people might not know, to a panel of celebrities and experts who question them to find out more.

At the end of the hour-long episode, they present prizes to the best IDK of the episode, based on how interesting the fact is.

Listeners can then experience the conversation through the podcast, which is recorded as live, as if they were present in the room.

"It's meant to sound like the best dinner party you've ever been to, where the conversation could go anywhere, with information about current events to hearing about someone's personal experiences," she said.

"We have a real-time human fact-checker on stage who tries to give additional related information or context.

"While the presentations are funny, most of them are meaty and meaningful – it's not a trivia show, you really learn things that are worth knowing."

An audience member presents their IDK to host Stephen J. Dubner and panelists. Image: Lucy Sutton

Each show has different panellists and separate themes that prompt the conversation topics. This means that each episode can be listened to as a stand-alone podcast, without audiences having to listen to each week in order, Hockenberry explained.

"It is about becoming part of the conversation, asking questions and building on common knowledge – we are celebrating the fact that everyone has something meaningful or fascinating to tell us," she said.

"Learning new things that you haven't heard about is fun, and we are having fun doing it.

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