To Podcast or Not to Podcast: That's an Easy Question

One of my favorite things about Chapman is registering for classes. I know, it sounds weird! But, there are so many courses offered every semester that sound too fun to be real classes. A Science class that looks at the sociological impact of Disney? A course on fashion that focuses on sustainability? These are just a couple that have intrigued me over the years, but there is one in particular that I am so excited to be taking in the fall. The hidden gem I’m talking about is a class all about Podcasting.

50% of all U.S. homes are podcast fans.

Podcasting is extremely trendy right now, and according to a 2020 survey, 50% of all U.S. homes are podcast fans. Chapman is capitalizing on this trend and giving students the opportunity to gain experience in the medium through classes offered in several different departments, but the one I’m interested in is within the Center for CCI. CCI 304 Creative Industries in Practice is a course that can change to feature different emphases, and this fall section one of the course will be concentrating on Podcasting. This particular course is unique because students not only get to contribute episodes to an official Chapman podcast, but they get to make one of their own as well.

Ryan Haley, who will be teaching the course this coming fall for the second time, has been podcasting for almost ten years -- since podcasts started, as he affectionately puts it. Haley, who prior to teaching podcasting as a course through CCI, ran several workshops through Wilkinson college for staff and faculty who were interested in starting podcasts. Those workshops were co-hosted and designed with Haley’s long time podcasting partner, and Chapman University alum, Michael Gravagno. When designing the course in CCI, Haley consulted with Gravagno to help him design a curriculum that highlighted not only what podcasts are and how to make them, but why they’re important.

Ryan Haley, who will be teaching the course this coming fall, has been podcasting for almost ten years.

“The important thing seems like it would be: you have a basement, you have microphone and you’re into some niche thing and that’s sort of the long and short of it,” Haley said. “But in coming into the class I realized that podcasts do say a lot about where we are with media. Talking about the popularity of podcasts and how anyone can do it sort of explains how media is today in a microcosm.”

The course begins by looking back at radio, which Haley swears some of his students had never heard of before, and showing its evolution into podcasts. While on radio only a select few people had a voice, podcasting opens the game to anyone.

Haley says, “There are downsides such as millions of mediocre podcasts, but that’s not a big deal compared to all of the people that have a voice now that wouldn’t have if it was still radio.”

After understanding how podcasts disrupted the industry, students learn how to distinguish themselves. While that is the hardest part about the medium, Haley gets to know his student and what they’re interested in. From there they can explore similar podcasts to see what’s working, and more importantly what the students can do differently to stand out and spotlight their unique voice or perspective.

A unique aspect of the course is that students are able to contribute their own segments to Chapman CCI’s Catalyst Podcast, a show now in its fourth season that explores the intersections of the creative and cultural industries by talking to individuals who work within them. Through the show’s evolution the guiding question seems to remain: Is this a show that creatives can listen to and gain insight from, and can those who don’t necessarily think they fall into a creative or cultural industry find that the impact and intersections of CCI are actually farther reaching than they realized?

Students are able to contribute their own segments to Chapman CCI’s Catalyst Podcast.

“The topic can sound a little lofty, a little highbrow when you just hear what the show’s about,” Hayley says, “but I think what’s special about our student version of Catalyst is that you can talk about these lofty topics in a grounded way and make it more fun and conversational.”

For the first episode of season four, students conduct an interview with Karen, a sandwich artist who works in the Caf.

“Everyone loves Karen. I think that she’s the most popular person on campus,” Haley said. “But, the reason we put that one first is to give everyone the idea that art is what you make of it. There aren’t specific rules of being an artist. You can find art anywhere and I think CCI is great for that. It doesn’t teach you what art is, it teaches you how there’s a lot of awesome ways to think about all of the art that is around us.”

The class focuses on cultivating interview skills, being in front of a mic, learning hardware and software involved in podcasting, and editing. The class is also constantly evolving, just as the industry itself is, and Haley explains that in the future the class will also concentrate on content creation and marketing. There were twenty-two successful podcast launches by the end of the first semester the course was offered, all of which are now available on itunes, but Haley hopes that promoting the marketing aspect of the industry will draw in a stronger listenership earlier on in the process.

Listen to the students' podcast and Catalyst podcast, all of which are now available on itunes

Haley’s favorite aspect of the course is that podcasts foster connections.

“Podcasting does a good job of showing that you are not alone. There is an audience and you’re not the only person that likes this thing that it sometimes feels like you might be,” he said. “Everyone has these likes or passions that they don’t share about with anyone that they know. Not every friend group can cover every one of the things you’re into, so now with the hit of one button you now have a new friend group that you can listen to every week.”

Haley is excited to be teaching CCI 304 again this fall and urges anyone interested to sign up even if they don’t have any experience. If you’re interested in listening to the content that the class has produced so far, check out the first episode on our Explore page and look out for the rest of the episodes dropping on the Chapman CCI page. And if you’re curious to hear what I sound like outside of these blog posts stay tuned for my episode next semester.

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