Noam Chomsky doing an interview on the “Harvard EdCast” with host Matt Weber. The “Harvard EdCast” is a weekly series of podcasts that features 15- to 20-minute conversations with thought leaders in education.

Jill Anderson/Harvard Graduate School of Education

Nation & World

The state of the podcast

5 min read

An earlier Internet technology roars back to prominence

When students walk across the Yard with earbuds in, they could be listening to music or talking on the phone. But nowadays, there’s a good chance they’re listening to a podcast.

What listeners may not know is that podcasts started right here at Harvard in 2003.

Daniel Jones is a digital media producer at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and works with the center’s podcast, Radio Berkman. He spoke about two previous fellows at the center, Christopher Lydon and Dave Winer, and how they essentially created the first podcast.

“What they did together was figure out: ‘Hey, we can tweak the code of RSS to recognize audio,’” Jones said. “With that seemingly simple act, they made audio subscribe-able.”

Podcasts are particularly popular now, especially since the success of the “Serial” podcast series last year, Jones noted. While many people were listening and subscribing to podcasts before that, “Serial” proved you could have a blockbuster — with subscribers tuning in with the same intensity with which they’d listen to a Taylor Swift album, he added.

“Audio is more intimate than almost any other medium … it’s being whispered in your ear,” Jones said. “In fact, it asks a lot of you. Your brain has to build the entire set of the story, and picture what the characters look like, so you never really just zone out.”

Podcasts are so popular, in fact, that the Berkman Center will host a HUBweek event called “State of the Podcast” on Oct. 6. Panelists will include Lydon, a radio host at WBUR, Jake Shapiro, the founder of Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and some local podcasters.

“It will be an amazing conversation about the past, present, and future of podcasting … and how cool that we’re doing it at Harvard — the birthplace of the podcast,” Jones said.

The podcast scene remains strong at Harvard. With more than 50 audio collections hosted on the University’s SoundCloud and iTunes U channels, there is something for everyone. Check out the list below to learn about some of the new, tried and true, and refreshed podcasts being created across Harvard.

“Disruptive” | Wyss Institute

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering use nature’s design principles to develop bio-inspired materials and devices that may transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. In this podcast series, Terrence McNally speaks with institute researchers, exploring what motivates them and how they envision the future as it faces disruptive technologies.

Disruptive | Wyss Institute

“One-on-One: Harvard Chan Faculty and Students Collaborate to Address Public Health Challenges” | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

A series highlighting the collaborative work being done by faculty and students at the School.

One-on-One: Harvard Chan Faculty and Students Collaborate to Address Public Health Challenges

“PolicyCast” | Harvard Kennedy School

A weekly podcast on public policy, politics, and global issues hosted by Matt Cadwallader and featuring leading voices from Harvard Kennedy School and beyond. As of this fall, The Boston Globe also will be featuring some of the interviews.

PolicyCast | Harvard Kennedy School

“Talking Machines” | Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

“Talking Machines” is a podcast about machine learning, hosted by Katherine Gorman and Ryan Adams, assistant professor of computer science at the Harvard Paulson School. There are conversations with experts in the field, insightful discussions about the latest research, and useful answers to listeners’ questions.

Talking Machines

“Press Publish” | Nieman Journalism Lab

Relaunched in August, “Press Publish” is a weekly conversation with the people building the future of news: journalists, technologists, entrepreneurs, and more. Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab, hosts the series.

Press Publish | Nieman Lab

“Cold Call” | Harvard Business School

“Cold Call” distills the Business School’s legendary case studies into podcast form. Hosted by Brian Kenny, the podcast airs every two weeks and features HBS faculty discussing cases they’ve written and the lessons they impart.

Cold Call | Harvard Business School

“Harvard Medical Labcast” | Harvard Medical School

HMS scientists tackle a variety of important questions, ranging from how your neurons work to which genes play a role in particular diseases. “Labcast” gives listeners the scoop on some of this work, providing context and highlighting the latest trends in medical education and biomedical research.

Harvard Medical Labcast

“Harvard EdCast” | Graduate School of Education

The “Harvard EdCast” is a weekly series of podcasts that features 15- to 20-minute conversations with thought leaders in education. Hosted by Matt Weber, “Harvard EdCast” is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.

Harvard EdCast | Harvard Graduate School of Education

“State of the Podcast, 2015” will be held in Wasserstein Hall, Milstein East B, on Oct. 6 at noon. RSVP is required for anyone attending. The event will be webcast live.