Imagine yourself — or, perhaps, you and your friends — as hosts of your own podcast. What would you talk about?
Maybe you’d tell a story, perhaps about a childhood memory, an experience that changed your life, or a bad romance. Or maybe you’d rather interview guests about a topic you’re exploring, whether a news-related issue like gun violence or gender roles, or a hobby, passion or concern of your own? Or, maybe you’d just like to have a conversation — about pop culture, sports, food, fashion, technology, politics, or, if you’re stuck, any of these 1,000-plus topics we’ve rounded up to inspire you.
In Our Second Annual Podcast Challenge, we invite teenagers to submit original work, of five minutes or less, by May 21 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. Our favorites will then be featured on The Learning Network.
While you might think of The New York Times as a newspaper, it also happens to be the host of one of the most downloaded podcasts of 2018, “The Daily.” The Times also produces a variety of regular and special edition podcasts, like the “Modern Love” podcast, in which a celebrity reads an essay about love and relationships, and “Still Processing,” where listeners “step inside the confession booth” of two Times culture writers.
The submission form, along with all the contest rules and details you’ll need, are below. But before you go any further, we want to call your attention to two useful resources:
• The winning podcasts from last year’s contest;
• Our podcasting lesson plan with advice about storytelling, interviewing, planning, recording and editing. As the popularity of podcasting has grown, producing them, via smartphone voice recorders and free audio editing software, has gotten easier than ever. We explain how.
So think about what you can offer the world, and then submit your work via our form below.
We can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
1. Limit your podcast to five minutes or less. Our judges will not listen to podcasts longer than five minutes. Check the length of your audio file and make sure it is no longer than 5:00.
2. Use your limited time well. Your podcast must include a beginning, middle and end to produce a complete listening experience. Beginnings often draw the listener in or provide context. Endings often offer a summary, raise a question or act as a teaser for the next segment. That said, your submission can be an excerpt from a longer podcast, as long as you demonstrate thoughtfulness about how you are using time. An end can be a hard “end” of a podcast, but it can also be the end of a segment, or even the end of an introduction within a longer episode.
One more thing: Try not to do too much in your short podcast. Often the most rewarding podcasts are ones that dive into a specific issue or story. For example, in each episode of “The Daily” the host Michael Barbaro interviews guests about one specific news story and makes sure to link that story to larger themes.
3. Use any podcast format or genre. Popular podcast formats include, but are not limited to, interviews, conversations, nonfiction storytelling and fiction storytelling. Popular podcast genres include, but are not limited to, comedy, true crime, news documentary, history, radio theater and sports.
4. Create your podcast by yourself or with a group. If you are working as a team, just remember to submit all your names when you post your entry. But please submit only one podcast per student. If you’re submitting as part of a team, you should not also submit as an individual.
5. Be original and use appropriate language. You have freedom to create an original and creative podcast. However, be careful not to use obscene or offensive language that would be inappropriate for an audience of Times listeners.
6. Be sure to use non-copyrighted sound effects or music, with some exceptions. You cannot use copyrighted sound effects or music for the sole purpose of making your podcast sound better. Instead, you can find royalty-free music and sound effects on Bensound or Freesound, or by doing a web search for royalty-free files. Or you can use audio editing software to create your own music or sound effects.
However, there are limited fair use exceptions when you can legally use copyrighted work, such as when you are critiquing a song or reporting on a film. Read more about those exceptions if you think your use of copyrighted material does not infringe on copyright protections.
7. Upload your podcast to a third-party site so our judges can listen. Choose a host for your podcast. Many free options exist, such as SoundCloud (by far the most popular host used in last year’s contest), Buzzsprout, Podomatic and Spreaker. Make sure the privacy settings are set to public, so our judges can listen.
8. Provide a short written summary as part of your submission. Your summary will help us quickly understand what happens during your podcast.
9. All entries must be submitted by May 21 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern using the contest form above. If you have questions about the contest, feel free to post them in the comments section, and we’ll respond to you there.
10. New for 2019: Our eligible age ranges have changed slightly in response to new data-protection rules in the European Union. Students in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom must be between 13 to 19 years old to participate. However, if you are submitting from anywhere else in the world, you must be between 16 to 19 years old, or use our form, below, to submit to us a parent or guardian’s specific permission. Please see The New York Times’s terms of service for more details.
Also, the children and stepchildren of New York Times employees, or teenagers who live in the same household as a Times employee, are not eligible to enter this contest.
11. We will use this rubric (PDF) to judge entries, and the winning podcasts will be featured on The Learning Network.
12. Follow these instructions if you need proof that you entered this contest. When you press “Submit” on the form above, you should see the words “Thank you for your submission.” You should also receive an email from “NYTimes.com” with the subject heading “Thank you for your submission to our Student Podcast Contest.” If you see an error message after you press “Submit,” then try again. If you are having trouble with the form, or if you don’t receive a confirmation email after waiting longer than an hour, email us at LNFeedback@nytimes.com.
A Quick Guide to Creating a Podcast
Step 1: Listen to podcasts. Become familiar with different formats and genres. Figure out which podcasts you like best.
Step 2: Figure out what you want to do in your podcast. Do you want to entertain listeners or provide information, or both? If you’re looking for inspiration, skim our 1,000-plus prompt list to find a topic that interests you.
Step 3: Create a podcast plan or outline. Here’s a form (PDF) to help you.
Step 4: Make sound recordings. Whether you tell a story, have a conversation or interview people, you’ll need to create recordings. If you want original music or sound effects, you’ll need to create those recordings as well.
Step 5: Gather other sound files. Will you be including other sound effects, music or media clips? Find those files, but make sure you are not violating any copyright laws.
Step 6: Use audio editing software to edit your podcast. We have a whole section about the basics of audio editing in our related lesson plan.
Step 7: Make sure your podcast has a beginning, middle and end. While we’re not saying what those sections have to be or how long they should last, we want you to make sure your podcast is a complete listening experience. Be thoughtful about how you want to do that.
Step 8: Upload your podcast to a third-party hosting service. In our submission form, you’ll provide us with the link to your podcast that has already been uploaded to the web. Make sure the permissions on your podcast are public and not private, so our judges can listen.
The steps above, however, are only a brief guide to help you get started. Our podcasting lesson plan, and the related resources included within it, provide a much more detailed resource.
Looking for more challenges like this? We run contests for teenagers all year. Here is our calendar.