Then Serial was released.
The investigative journalism podcast, which debuted in 2014 and explored the murder of a Baltimore-area high school student, became a nationwide sensation. The first season garnered more than 68 million downloads in its first year. For many, Serial served as an introduction to the medium.
As more students became interested in creating their own, JHU's Digital Media Center began catering to the wave of aspiring podcasters. The audio studio was converted into a podcasting space, and specialty podcast kits were assembled for rental.
Now the Digital Media Center hosts regular workshops and courses in podcast production, including a Podcast Bootcamp during Intersession. Freedman said the accelerated course is a convenient way to give students the tools they need to start recording podcasts on their own.
"Students want to try new and exciting things during Intersession," Freedman said. "We thought the idea of a bootcamp was the best way to utilize student time."
In the four-day course, students pitch a podcast idea, create an audio introduction, and record and edit a full episode. Kyle Stine, who who designed and teaches the academic portion of the class, said because of the brief timeframe of the bootcamp, students are encouraged to come up with a high concept that can be summed up in a single sentence and executed quickly.
Amanda Yuen, a first-year international studies and anthropology major, decided on a podcast idea that can practically be summed up by its name—12 Voices. In each episode, Yuen would ask 12 different people the same question and see how they each respond. For her Intersession project, she's asking people to tell her about their first kiss.
"I'm an anthropology major, so I wanted to see the ways podcasts can interact with that," Yuen said. "I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I was curious about trying to do one myself."
Podcast Recommendations from Joan Freedman
Current Fave: The Thread by OZY
News site OZY hosts a historical version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Each season takes listeners on a journey between two disparate topics, with each episode leading into the premise of the next. Freedman recommends season one's From Lennon to Lenin. In it, the assassination of John Lennon is connected to Vladimir Lenin, with a brief detour through The Catcher in the Rye.
Hidden Gem: Ear Hustle
The first podcast to be created entirely within a prison, Ear Hustle is a non-fiction podcast about life in San Quentin State Prison. The show is produced by two inmates, Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, as well as by volunteer artist Nigel Poor. Freedman said the show is a perfect example of podcasting as an equalizing media force, supporting perspectives that are often marginalized.
Your First Podcast: This American Life
Freedman said This American Life is an ideal introduction to the form. The show began as a radio program in 1998 and began offering a podcast feed in 2006. Episodes combine journalism, essays, and fiction into a collection of just about everything the medium has to offer.