The Pub #41: Marketplace’s Ben Johnson and his unusual new podcast, Codebreaker

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Johnson (Photo: Mike Shane Photography)

Johnson (Photo: Mike Shane Photography)

Everybody has a new podcast these days, but Marketplace Tech host Ben Brock Johnson is launching a show that does something quite novel with the medium, and it’s inspired by premium scripted television series on Netflix and HBO.

“I think making things bingeable, at least to me, is something that television has really done right,” Johnson told me on The Pub. So the first season of Johnson’s new podcast about technology and society, Codebreaker, will be available for download in its entirety starting November 4. [UPDATE: Marketplace has rescheduled the launch for Nov. 11.]

But there’s a catch. To access the next episode, listeners will have to solve a puzzle embedded in the previous episode. New installments will post for general consumption every week and can be downloaded like any other podcast, but anyone who wants to binge all at once will have to break the code.

This week on The Pub, Johnson debuts some of Codebreaker for the first time in public, anywhere. Also:

  • What shotgun microphones have in common with time machines, and why I think they are overused by public radio reporters.
  • Listeners to The Pub share some of the crazy, stupid and/or threatening negative feedback they’ve received, featuring stories from Bullseye, Louisville Public Media, WFYI, KUT, Marketplace, WESA, St. Louis Public Radio and more.

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at; and you can contact Current generally at or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

  • Mark Pugner

    If you get this excited over a Canadian election, I’m not sure if you will be able to handle it when Bernie is elected next year. Millennials are going to flip out when that happens.

    • Adam Ragusea

      I’ll flip out for anyone who pledges to increase funding for public media, good hair or no.

      • Mark Pugner

        Keep preaching for journalists to admit their bias. No one can ever be completely objective.

    • Aaron Read

      It’s interesting watching the parallels of Millennials to Bernie against how X’ers were with Bill Clinton. An awful lot of them were reeeeeally excited that Bill Clinton was gonna change the world and make a zillion Progressive dreams become instant reality after “twelve horrid years of Reagan”. Yeah. Not a good precedent, really.