The Beginner's Guide to Podcasts
To get something out of the way up front, this is not a post about how to create your own podcast.
That being said, I want to share something with you: I am addicted to podcasts. I can't don't listen to music anymore, and the background noise of my work has drastically changed ever since I discovered the wealth of knowledge a perspective that the podcast medium has made available.
The problem is that a lot of people still don't really understand what a podcast is, and why it would be of interest, so that's what I wanted to talk about here.
What is a Podcast?
Think of it like a radio program that lives on your mobile device (or web browser), and that you can listen to whenever you want. I think that's the best way to describe it. The range of content is amazing, and there is new stuff coming out every single day. You can listen to anything from "This American Life", produced by Chicago Public radio, to a couple guys talking over Skype about comic books.
The coolest thing about it to me, is that anyone can create a podcast, so there is nearly a 100% chance that the one quirky and weird thing that you, as a listener, are interested in, has at least one podcast where it is discussed. So the broad spectrum of topics is covered, but the narrower band of topics that a lot of people are interested in are covered really well, with high production values that rival and even outstrip a traditional radio show.
OK, So Where Do I Start?
All you need is a podcast application for your mobile device, or in lieu of a mobile device, add a podcast feed to your favorite RSS catcher, or just bookmark the podcast website you like.
In terms of mobile applications, if you're on Android good luck. I had no luck finding a podcast application that was very good on Android, but there might be something new since I last checked, so you'll just have to do some sampling. On iOS it becomes much simpler, as there is even a built-in podcast app that is decent. If you want something better, I would pick up Overcast because it has a really nice interface, and even a web browser interface so you can pick up where you left off on your computer.
I could recommend endless podcasts, and you still might not like the ones that I do. Still, here are a few that I listen to regularly:
- Hardcore History
- This American Life
- Accidental Tech Podcast
- The Incomparable
- 99% Invisible
- You Are Not So Smart
The list goes on and on, but really, if you want to find some on your own that you might enjoy, I would look at one of the many podcast networks that now exist. Check out 5by5.tv, radiotopia.fm, relay.fm, wbez.org, npr.org, and that's just to get you started.
Another easy way to find high quality podcasts is to check out the iTunes top rated podcasts or, if you hate iTunes, some podcast applications have built-in discovery features to help you find something you will like.
Help, I Have Too Many Podcasts and Not Enough Time!
Keep calm. I've been there.
I tend to go through phases where I have way too many podcasts to listen to that I could never keep up, and then phases where I blow through all of the podcasts in my feed and just need something new to listen to.
Here's my advice: unsubscribe from something. Keep the shows that you find yourself looking forward to every single week, and push pause on the ones that you just kind of listen to for the information but doesn't really capture you. It doesn't mean you have to drop it all together, just take a break, and come back when you have some more time.
I'm Still Not Convinced.
That's fine too! I'm not saying that everyone should listen to podcasts, and I'm not even saying that everyone would enjoy listening to podcasts. What I want to really drive home here is that I think there is a lot of content out there that more people would enjoy listening to, and that most people just need a place to start, to jump in and find out what they like.
Once you've started, it's hard to stop.