Getting Started with Podcasts: Understanding, subscribing, & listening

Getting Started with Podcasts: Understanding, subscribing, & listening

Over the past year, podcasts have been experiencing a renaissance as an increased number of users tune in. Even more people are looking to join the chorus to create and share their own content online.

This post is the first in a series in which I’ll detail everything you’ll need to know about podcasting, and identify ways for you to get started sharing your own content. I think you could…and should be producing and sharing your own podcasts online. First let us focus on the definitions, tools, and materials you’ll need to start listening and connecting.

What is a podcast?

A podcast is a form of digital media consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, digital radio, or reading materials subscribed to and downloaded automatically through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. Wow, that’s a mouthful. Let’s make it a bit easier to understand.

Most of us have experiences with watching television, and needing to be there at a certain date and time to tune in for the show. With the advent of the digital video recorder, you could set it to record the content and watch it at your leisure. This process is known as time shifting. As mobile technologies become more ubiquitous, you can now save this content on your device and watch it wherever, whenever you’d like. You can download the audio or video of that favorite show and watch or listen during your commute, at the gym, or during lunch. The end result is a podcast that consists of streaming or saving content to your computer or device to consume when and where you’d like. The remainder of this post will focus on audio podcasts.

Why would you want to listen to a podcast?

Podcasts are essentially magazines for your ears. They include the latest and greatest information that is delivered to your digital doorstep. You can choose from a world of content that is entertaining, educational, funny, interesting, and provocative. You can learn, gain new perspectives, all during your in-between time. Best of all, podcasts are free.

Additionally, due to advances in technology and access, anyone with a computer, webcam, mic, and Internet connection can create and share their content. This provides opportunities for podcasts focusing on niche markets. This allows for a plethora of voices on diverse topics an opportunity to find and connect with their audience.

How do I listen to a podcast?

To subscribe and listen to a podcast, you’ll need what is known as a podcast aggregator, or podcatcher.

You can use a number of websites and tools to find and subscribe to a podcast. When you subscribe to a podcast, it means that you’re following the RSS feed for the podcast in the same manner that you would follow a website using a tool like Feedly. The podcatcher will identify the feed for the specific podcast, and allow you to automatically download the podcast to your computer when new content is available. After you download it…you can then watch/listen and delete when you’re finished.

I prefer to listen to all of my podcasts on my mobile phone. A tablet would work as well, but I always carry my phone with me. I use an app to find, subscribe, and play the audio content on my mobile phone.

My app of choice is Pocket Casts. It’s a pay app that syncs across devices and allows you to backup your settings. This is helpful if/when you listen across devices. I also love PocketCasts as it will allow you speed up the podcast. I traditionally listen at 1.5 times the normal speed of the podcast. PocketCasts is available on iOS (iPhone/iPad), Android, and the web.

I’ve also tested out, and recommend Overcast on the iPad and iPhone. This podcatcher offers many of the same features as PocketCasts.

Recently, Spotify and Google Play Music announced that they would start integrating podcasts into their library. If you already subscribe to these services, it means that you’ll soon be able to find, sync, and listen to this content across your devices using a service you already use.

As you get started with a new app, I recommend finding video tutorials on YouTube to help you learn how to get around the interface.

What podcasts should I listen to?

Once you download and install one of the apps above on your device, you’ll want to subscribe and then download a couple episodes of a podcast to enjoy. The apps will typically guide you as you get started to identify themes and shows that you might like. Review the video below to see what this looks like in PocketCasts.

Alternatively, if you hear about a podcast that interests you, search for it in the app and subscribe from there. There is already a ton of great content available online. You can learn more about lifehacksbusinessculture, or tech. One of the possible reasons why podcasting is experiencing a renaissance is because of the Serial podcast. You might start there or identify some other great content from 2015.

I’ll receive podcast recommendations from colleagues and test it out for a couple of episodes. There are several podcasts that I subscribe and religiously listen to each episode. I recommend Hardcore History with Dan Carlin, The Tim Ferriss Show, This Week in Digital Education, and This Week in Google. These shows (and many more) keep me informed, motivated, and thinking during my commute, workouts, and downtime.

What is next?

This first post sets the stage for understanding, subscribing, and listening to podcasts. In the next series of posts we’ll break down the steps involved as you consider, create, and contribute your content online. 

 

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Also published on Medium.

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