I’m excited for you. There’s a lot to discover in the world of podcasts—lots of amazing work being done by a diverse group of people with fascinating backgrounds, passions, and approaches. It’s a rich and quickly evolving medium.
Good on you for seeking information to learn out what all the fuss is about.
Simplest Possible Podcast How-To
1. Download a podcast app (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows)
2. Subscribe to a show (type ‘Let’s Know Things’ or ‘Song Exploder’ or ‘BBC World News’)
3. Listen to that show (and click ‘subscribe’ to get future episodes in your app automatically)
What is a podcast?
A podcast is kind of like a radio program, but you can listen to it on-demand, like the shows on Netflix.
Most podcasts are free, but some are subscription-only, or can be listened to without advertisements if you buy a membership or become a patron for that show or its network.
But in general you can subscribe to a particular show (for free) and have your podcast app automatically download new episodes from it as they become available (also for free).
Podcasts come in all shapes, sizes, and genres. You can find fiction and nonfiction, news programs and talk radio segments, 2-minute updates and 5-hour epics, and highly produced documentary series alongside shows in which a couple of friends talk into a microphone about things they enjoy.
Some shows release new episodes every day, some are weekly, some are monthly, and some are even less frequent than that. Release schedules vary greatly from show to show, and some shows are limited-run: they’re meant to last for perhaps ten episodes, or twelve, or five, or fifty, and then they’re done.
There’s a somewhat complicated explanation as to how all the technology works, but all you really need to know to enjoys podcasts is that you download an app, subscribe to a show through that app, and you’ll be able to access new and previous episodes of that show whenever you like.
How do I listen to podcasts?
You can listen online via a web-based player (like the one on this page).
You can listen via streaming services like Spotify.
But the most common way to listen to podcasts is via ‘podcatcher’ apps (often just called podcast apps, these days) which allow you to subscribe to shows you enjoy, listen to all previous episodes of that show, and be notified when a new episode is available.
The default podcast apps on most smartphones are Podcasts for iOS, and Google Podcasts for Android. You can also listen on your Windows or Mac computer by opening iTunes and navigating to the Podcasts section.
But even the most basic podcasting app will allow you to subscribe to shows and listen however you like. And most of these apps, like podcasts, are completely free. Don’t worry about finding the optimal app when you’re getting started: use whichever is simplest to find and open, and decide on a favorite later.
Okay, but what’s the very first thing I should do to get started?
If you’re using your computer, download or open iTunes, and navigate to ‘Podcasts’ from the dropdown at the top of the screen that says things like ‘Music’ and ‘TV Shows.’
Once you’ve opened one of these apps, either click on a podcast show that looks interesting to you, or click on the search bar or search icon to look for a show or topic (‘Let’s Know Things,’ for instance, or ‘news’). This will pull up the in-app page for that show, or a list of shows that fit that category, or a particular show plus a list of other, similar shows.
Click on a show to listen to the most recent episode, and/or click ‘subscribe,’ which will add that show to your list of subscriptions—which means you’ll automatically get new episodes of that show as they’re released.
From there, I’d recommend clicking around, grazing broadly on different shows of different genres, and slowly building out your subscription library. Try not to overdo it, but don’t be afraid to expose yourself to new things.
What shows should I listen to as I’m getting started?
Some shows I love include 99% Invisible, Song Exploder, Hidden Brain, The Inquiry, Hardcore History, Reply All, 50 Things That Made the Modern Economy, The Minimalists, and Science VS. But there are just an incredible number of good shows out there right now.
If you have any questions along the way, or can’t figure something out, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at email@example.com. I’m happy to tell you what I can 🙂