What are podcasts and how do I listen to them?


What are podcasts and how do I listen to them? As someone who has hosted a podcast since 2014 and been listening to them for many years before that, it’s easy for me to forget that this medium isn’t as mainstream as I sometimes think. I hope this short post will demystify podcasts for you and open up a huge new stream of entertainment, information and inspiration.

So, what are podcasts?

In short – a podcast is just a radio show and, in fact, many mainstream broadcasters lke NPR and The BBC distribute their regular shows as podcasts after they’ve been broadcast live. Think of it as ‘on demand radio’ – you can listen to your favourite content anytime you like. It’s episodic, usually themed, audio content you can listen to on the web, your smartphone or any other device you choose.

They’re almost always free and come in a variety of styles from Audio Drama, How-To Shows and Lifestyle, to Science, Comedy, Music, Current Affairs and True Crime.

Okay . . . so how do I get them? Is it complicated?

Short answer . . . NO! I think the main reason podcasts haven’t quite made it all the way in to the mainstream consciousness is the name. It can put people off. It sounds a bit ‘techy’ and suggests you need to be ‘good with computers’ – right?

Forget all that. Like everything these days . . . there’s an app for that. Or, in the case of podcasts, there’s LOADS of apps for that. The best and most convenient way to get podcasts is via your phone and it doesn’t matter what kind of smart phone you have, there is an app that makes it easy to get hold of podcasts. For iPhone and Apple devices, there’s the standard Apple Podcasts app that should be pre-loaded on your device. But there’s also tons of other providers that work on both Apple and non-Apple phones. I recommend Overcast, but Stitcher is also a popular app for Android phones.

Right. I’ve got the app. Now what?

Just search for podcasts! If you know the title – like Joined Up Writing (ahem) – type it in and the show will pop up. But you can also search by genre, broadcaster or even the name of your favourite actor, writer or artist – the chances are, they’ve been interviewed at least once on someone’s podcast.

The most important bit . . . SUBSCRIBE

The word ‘subscribe’ can also put people off. They assume it involves some kind of payment. But with podcasts, almost every single one – anything worth listening to, anyway – will be FREE. Subscribing to the show just means that every time a new show is released, you’ll be notified and can download the show to your phone or computer. You can stream it through your Alexa, Sonos or Google Home speakers, or maybe you like listening in your car, as I do. If you get tired of the show, just unsubscribe. Easy!

I guarantee once you’re bitten by the podcast bug, you will be addicted. No matter how niche your interest or passion, there will definitely be a podcast on the subject. I listen to them everywhere – while exercising, driving to work, in the kitchen.

I want more!!

Once you’ve downloaded your app and subscribed to Joined Up Writing (!) you may want to find more listening recommendations. Author, Niki Mackay wrote a great post recently and you can also find more suggestions from me here and here.

So, has that answered all your questions? Are you now ready to dive into the world of podcasting? Maybe you are already a recent convert and have some more show recommendations? Let me know in the comments below and shout up if you have any more questions. Happy listening!


About Wayne

Editor and Soundman for MGL Media (@mglmedia) and currently completing debut novel 'Safe Hands'. Love Writing and hosting The Joined Up Writing Podcast. Follow @MrKelly2u or @jupodcast on Twitter and say hello.
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