A Guide to Podcasts

Perhaps you’ve heard of a podcast before, but never understood the hows and whys of podcasting and what use they might be to you. You’re missing out on a great learning and informational tool! When I Have Time’s A Guide To…will explain quickly and simply how you can get started listening to podcasts today!

  • What is a Podcast?
  • Why are Podcasts better than Radio or Websites?
  • What Do I Need to Listen to Podcasts?
  • Start Listening to Podcasts Now!

What is a Podcast?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need an Apple iPod to listen to podcasts. Of course, the name “podcast” definitely recalls the Apple ipod, but podcasts can be played directly on the internet, downloaded to your computer or mp3 player. Some also call podcasts “netcasts” so as to further distance themselves from the misconception you need an mp3 player to listen to them.

At the heart of a podcast is the notion that you can subscribe to the series and your access to the information can even be automated through automatic downloads of new episodes.

Podcasts are not only audio. They can include video, too, and video podcasts are quickly gaining popularity as mp3 players are including high-quality screens that can display video.

Why are Podcasts better than Radio or Websites?

The spoken word will never go out of style, and to hear the inflection and the passion of some of these podcasters and their guests will invigorate you as you listen.

  • Podcasts are Great Learning Tools

The great thing about podcast creation and distribution costs is that since they can go further for the money specialized podcasts are readily available and interesting. Want to learn about cooking? There’s a podcast for that. What about renewable energy? There’s a podcast for that, too. Combine the possibility of using video as well, and you have a visual and audio tool that can’t be beat and gives complete control to the listener.

Single subject podcasts can deepen your knowledge quickly. The great thing about reviewing podcast episode summaries or archives is that you can choose which subjects and topics are most important to you. You’re not limited to downloading just the latest episode, nor do you have to subscribe to every podcast you find – you can just access the information that interests you.

  • Control the Information Flow to Maximize Comprehension

Start and Stop when you Want. Go back, Listen better the second time. How many times have you been listening to something when the phone rang, a noisy car goes by, or a friend stops by to ask a question? With a traditional radio program, that information is lost forever. With a podcast, you can pause, go back, even save the episode for another time when you’re in a quieter environment.

Just like the experience of recording TV shows has given the power to the viewer to pause, stop or fast-forward, podcasts give you the same control and most importantly, give you the opportunity to make sure you really understand something or listen to it twice!

  • Portable – Listen Online, Offline, or Inline…skating!

The great thing about podcasts is that you completely control when and where you listen to them. In the car, on the bus, while you’re cleaning the bathroom, you can have your podcasts mobile and and accessible. Even around the house, if you have to run around cleaning or doing errands, turn on your mp3 player and stick it in your pocket as you move around. They can give you energy and keep you informed at the same time! Listen to podcasts while working on the computer, too!

  • Subscribing can Save You Time

Being able to subscribe to podcasts means that when new episodes are ready, it will be pushed to you. You will be notified, or simply hitting “Refresh” in your podcast manager may download any new episodes of podcasts you’re subscribed to.

  • An Integrated Experience: from Podcast to Website, and Back

Most popular podcasts will have their own websites or pages with further information and relevant links for each of their podcasts. So don’t think of podcasts as an isolated listening experience: it’s a fully integrated experience that can peak your interest and take you from subject to subject with links for further informario

What Do I Need to Listen to Podcasts?

You need a mp3 player, a media player software, and/or a computer. The computer can function as just a means of transferring the podcasts to your player, or it can also serve as a playing device using a media player software on your computer, or through streaming the podcast directly from your web browser. When you’re at home or in the office, use the computer to play all of your downloaded podcasts and to keep them organized between the mp3 player and the computer.

Apple iPod. If you have an Apple ipod, you’ve got both the mp3 player as well as the software iTunes to find, download and manage your podcasts. I’ve had a good experience with the Apple iTunes podcast directory, as it’s easy to navigate and understand, though it’s quite slow (the entire Apple iTunes Store is, really). You can also filter out video podcasts by looking just at the audio podcast section. There are more details how it works on the podcast section on the Apple website.

Listening on an Mp3 Player. A mp3 player can play both audio and video podcasts, depending on its capabilities. The basic mechanism is downloading the podcast files, and transferring them to your mp3 player. To transfer the files to your mp3 player you may have to use the player’s software or it may be as simple as dragging and dropping the files onto the player. Consult your manual for your mp3 player for more details.

Listening on Your Computer. If you don’t have an mp3 player, or you just prefer to listen to the podcasts directly on your computer, you can do it several ways. Many podcasts have a dedicated website and will allow you to stream (listen) to the podcasts directly through the web browser. So, you don’t need to install anything!

If you’d prefer a slightly more sophisticated and efficient way to track and listen to your podcast subscriptions, download software and install it on your computer.

Some free podcast playback software:

  • iTunes by Apple – the most well-known music player for Mac and PCs, you can browse their podcast directory and subscribe all from within iTunes. There’s a Podcasts app as well for the iPhone.
  • Stitcher – an alternative to iTunes.
  • Juice, the cross-platform podcast receiver, is a free download from Sourceforge.net (a wonderful and huge repository of open source software). The FAQ explain how to subscribe to podcasts with Juice.
  • Miro, free, open source internet tv and video player.
  • VLC: a free, open source media player. It is not able to manage your podcast subscriptions and download new episodes automatically, but it can play downloaded podcasts or stream podcast episodes.
  • Other podcast software: for Windows: NimiqiPodder.NET, Doppler, jPodder; for Mac: iPodderX

Start Listening to Podcasts Now!

Here’s a quick introduction to {5 Free Podcasts I can’t Live Without}, but there are also many Podcast Directories worth noting:

Further Podcast Resources

Image by: saimens

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Director of Product Marketing @ HubSpot. Early hire @ Automattic / WordPress.com. Founder World Nutella Day. MBA Alumni Advisory Board @ Santa Clara University.

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