Stony Brook Southampton is launching the country’s first certificate program in podcasting as the storytelling form’s popularity swells, representatives said.
Up to a dozen students will be accepted into the yearlong Audio Podcast Fellows program and will each “walk away with their own pilot of their own podcast,” said program director Kathleen Russo, who is a producer of Alec Baldwin’s WNYC show, “Here’s The Thing.”
“It dawned on us that this is something we could develop as another career opportunity,” Russo said. “There’s so many podcasts out there, but there’s a lack of trained producers, editors and writers.”
While many schools have classes in podcasting, Stony Brook’s program would be the first to focus completely on the form, which typically has a more creative format and style than traditional radio shows, representatives said.
Students will be taught in their first semester this fall by visiting faculty, including Ophira Eisenberg, host of NPR’s “Ask Me Another” podcast; Catherine Burns, the artistic director of “The Moth” podcast; and WNYC staff. In the second semester, students will develop their own podcast ideas and pilots while working in the field, likely in internships that will be customized to each of their interests, Russo said.
Parts of pilot episodes will be played on the air of Connecticut-based WSHU-FM Public Radio, which has a bureau near Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus. All completed student podcasts will be available for download on WSHU’s website.
Tom Kuser, WSHU’s program director, said the station wants to help people with different backgrounds learn the public radio approach to storytelling.
“It’s coming from a new generation, and while the bottom line might be the same, they’re going to come at it with their own way of thinking, which is informed by a whole different set of experiences and circumstances,” said Kuser, who is also the local host of NPR’s “Morning Edition.”
The program launches as podcasts have grown in popularity. Approximately 67 million people listen to podcasts once a month, more than double the number in 2008, according to a 2017 consumer report from Edison Research and Triton Digital. Of 42 million weekly listeners, people tune into five podcasts a week on average.
Todd Cochrane, chief executive of podcast media company RawVoice/Blubrry, said the form has “matured enough” to merit a dedicated certificate program. He estimated advertisers spend at least $200 million a year on podcast ads.
But Cochrane said he had mixed feelings about the program because podcasts develop by people doing them over time, not by studying them.
“You have to find your voice, and the only way to do that is to produce a program,” he said.
Russo said the program will be “an experiment” in its first year and give students hands-on podcasting experience.
Robert Reeves, associate provost for the school’s graduate arts program, said Southampton “wants to provide an opportunity for voices to emerge.”
“The future of podcasting will come from a place we don’t know,” he said. “It’ll come from someone who has an idea.”
The podcast program
Program details, according to program representatives:
Applications due: June 2018
Program starts: August 2018
Eligibility: Requirements are open to get a diverse range of applicants
Tuition: About $8,000 a year
- David Rakoff Studio on Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus
- The Center for Creative Writing and Film in Manhattan
Applications opened this month. See more information at stonybrook.edu/podcastfellows