What is a podcast?
In the simplest terms, a podcast is like a radio show that you can listen to whenever you like. Like YouTube or your TV catch up services, the content is available for whenever you would like to listen, rather than having to tune in at a specific time like live radio.
Unlike radio programmes that have to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, podcasts are able to focus on creating content specific to their target audience. As the requirements to produce a podcast are minimal, there is a vast range of podcasts out there ranging from general pop culture to something as specific as pens and pen accessories (no really! https://www.penaddict.com/) With all this variety, it’s quite likely that your favourite topic will be covered by some, or even a lot of, podcasts. If it isn’t, perhaps you might even be sitting on the next big podcast hit!
Having read the above or having only a passing knowledge of podcasts, you might now worry about the quality of podcasts. Whilst to some extent this is a reasonable concern, there are a few important mitigating factors:
- Firstly, no one wants to make a terrible sounding podcast and most podcasters either improve their craft as they go or pay a professional to produce the podcast for them. Unless the podcast is serialised and you need to listen to them in order to follow them, it is worth checking out the latest episode of a podcast as it is the one most likely to be the highest quality.
- Even when it’s bad, it’s not that bad! Even cheap microphones are pretty good these days and often the problem with hobbyist podcasts is that there is external noise on the recording. But look at it this way, think about a time you were talking to a friend about something you enjoy (that was not in a recording studio). There may have been other people having a conversation nearby, a pet made a noise or a car passed. Did you break off the conversation saying ‘I can’t enjoy this conversation, the acoustics are terrible!’ or did you not really notice because you were enjoying the conversation?
- A lot of podcasts are either professionally produced or are produced by very talented amateurs. Large broadcasting corporations like the BBC have a vast range of podcast content that is superbly produced in professional studios. Even people at the hobbyist level can make very professional productions with a good microphone and basic software.
How do I listen to a Podcast?
Listening to podcasts is simple if you have access to the internet, you just need to find a podcast host or application (app) that suits you. Almost all podcasts are free, though some will have bonus content or extra episodes for people who wish to financially support a show through a means such as Patreon, and most are available on many different apps.
The most common way to listen to podcasts on a computer is via iTunes/Apple Podcasts. If iTunes is not already installed on your computer, you can find it here. Once you’ve discovered a podcast you enjoy, you can click on the play icon that appears when you hover the mouse over the episode number to the left of the episode title to listen to it straight away, or click ‘Get’ to the left of the episode description to download it to your iTunes library to listen to later. If you find you enjoy the show you can click the “Subscribe” button, so that new episodes are automatically download to your library.
If you don’t want to use use iTunes, then there are lots of other ways of listening. Most podcasts will either have a streaming player on their website or host page, which will normally also allow you to download the podcast to listen to offline or transfer to an mp3 player. There are also various podcast platforms such as Stitcher, AudioBoom, Mixcloud and Acast,which allow you to listen directly from their sites, search for podcasts you may enjoy and subscribe to them. Many also have apps that you can use to listen on your tablet or Smartphone…
Listening on the go…
If you want to listen to podcasts using your smartphone or tablet, there are plenty of options. iPhone or iPad users will already have the Apple Podcast app, which works along the same lines as iTunes, or you can download free podcasting apps such as Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Acast and many more. Just search “Podcast” in the Play Store app or Apple app store.
There are lots of free and paid for podcast apps available for both iOS and Android, with a smaller selection available for Windows phones. The free apps are perfectly good for listening to your favourite podcasts with the paid for apps usually removing advertising or providing more functionality. We have provided a list of some of the available apps and the bottom of the page.
Rate and Review!
Most podcast programmes and apps have the facility to both view other ratings and reviews of a show as well as leave one yourself. These can be a valuable tool in narrowing down the potential podcasts you would like to listen to and will often give you a good idea of what the show is like. You can also help other people look for shows they might enjoy by leaving a review yourself.
Do think twice though if you are planning on leaving a negative review. If it is simply because the podcast wasn’t what you were expecting or is not something you are interested in, then do consider just not leaving a review. There are plenty of podcasts out there and just because you didn’t like it doesn’t mean no one else does and a negative review could prevent new listeners tuning in. If you have an issue with the quality, it is likely that they already know and are working to fix it, but this sort of constructive criticism is best sent directly to the hosts or producers. It would be hard to say how many podcasts were skipped due to bad reviews stating poor quality long after the quality had been improved, but I suspect there are a few.
Pocket casts – win/and/ios – $4
Overcast – ios only – free (with adds) – $10 (ad free)
Stitcher – and/ios – free
Castro – ios – free
Spotify – android/ios – free (with adds) – subscription (add free) – Limited podcast catalogue
icatcher – ios – $3
Downcast – ios – $3
Podcast republic – android – free
player fm – android – free
Podcast addict – android – free
BeyondPod – android – $7
DoggCatcher – android – $3
CastBox – ios/android – free
Good luck and enjoy your new source of entertainment!