What’s a podcast?

Still don’t know what a podcast is?
Don’t worry, no judgement here. I often find myself chatting with people and noticing that my reference to a podcast leaves them with a puzzled expression on their face. A lot of people have never heard a podcast before, so here is some helpful information, and some videos (courtesy of Wondery.com).

What’s a podcast?

I like to describe podcasts as being similar to short, radio-like programs. Many are like talk radio shows, although only some are news- or politically-focused. Other podcasts tell stories, sometimes fiction, sometimes very real. They might have a host who interviews guests or have actors who perform a story.

Podcasts are broken out into episodes, which are usually released weekly (or on some defined schedule). Episodes vary in length; some are 15 minutes and others are an hour or more.

There are also “video podcasts”, which are short episodes of video content, but when people refer to podcasts, they’re usually talking about audio-only programs. I don’t watch many video podcasts, since I prefer to listen to shows while doing housework or driving – tasks for which audio only is best.

Why should I listen to podcasts?

Podcasts can be educational, controversial, entertaining, or inspirational, just like TV, movies, music, or reading a blog or favorite website. There are podcasts on religion, fitness, pop culture (think Harry Potter fans or people who watch The Americans), learning Spanish, saving money…you name it, and there’s probably a podcast about it!

Who has time for this?

Pretty much everyone! Seriously, it’s so easy to find time to squeeze in a podcast (or 7) every day. This video pretty much says it all:

Do podcasts cost money?

The majority of podcasts are FREE to listen to! Advertisers usually cover a podcaster’s costs.

Most websites or apps for listening to podcasts are free, although there are some apps that require a subscription purchase. Some podcast companies or organizations offer paid membership programs to listeners, giving them special content and other cool benefits. Podcasts produced by entrepreneurs and nonprofits might ask for donations to keep things running.

How do I find podcasts?

There are tons of different apps, media players, and websites that host podcast episodes (see below). Here’s a quick Wondery.com video about finding and listening to podcasts via the Podcasts app on Apple iOS.

Do I have to use iTunes? (or “I’m not an Apple user…”)

Nope! Like I said, podcasts are hosted all over the internet. Many of the links in my blog posts go right to the podcast’s website, where they often host all of the episodes and you can stream them right from your internet browser.

I mentioned before that 99% of podcast episodes are free, and so are most apps. The player/app that I prefer and use on my iPhone and iPad is Pocket Casts, which is costs $3.99. You can download it for iOS by clicking this here (this is my affiliate link, which means that if you purchase the app on iTunes, I earn a little money – thanks!)

Here are some other well-known apps and media players that you can use to listen to podcasts:

Overcast  |  SoundCloud  |  Spotify Mobile App*  |   PodcastAddict App  |   Stitcher  |   Earwolf

*You can connect your Spotify mobile app to your Spotify desktop app via Bluetooth and use your desktop speakers, but the Spotify desktop app does not provide access to podcasts, so you have to be listening on your phone’s mobile app first.

Who makes podcasts?

The podcast industry has exploded since 2011, and podcasts are being produced and recorded by people from all walks of life.

Some podcasts are super professional; they’re recorded in a studio, edited by skilled technicians, and include advertisements or corporate sponsorships. Others are more ameture, recorded and edited by people who have a story to tell and who do all the recording and editing out of their homes.

Lots of bloggers host podcasts so that they can connect with their blog readers in a new way. Actor Alec Baldwin has been hosting a podcast called Here’s The Thing since 2011. He interviews other celebrities and people he finds interesting, and records the conversations. (It’s quite entertaining and often educational!)

The folks at National Public Radio (NPR) produce dozens of podcasts, some of which are born out of the organization’s existing radio programs, and others that they created because they had interesting stories to tell. Other podcasting companies include Panoply, Radiotopia, Gimlet, and WNYC Studios, all of which are constantly rolling out new podcasts on a variety of topics.

But Wait, There’s More!

I hope that the information on this page has helped you learn what all the podcast “fuss” is about. Just like checking my inbox or Facebook feed every morning, I truly enjoy opening my podcast apps to see what new episodes await me. Here are a few lists that can help you find your very first podcast:

My Favorite Podcasts Lists