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Don't Be a Podcast Outcast: What's a Podcast and Why You Should Listen

Updated: Jul 5, 2019

Unless you've been stuck on mute for the past 15 years; you've heard about the growing popularity of podcasts. Since its inception in 2004, the podcast has connected audio content creators (known as podcasters) and listeners across the globe. Consisting of episodes that are regularly released, a podcast is a series of content (e.g. interviews, lessons, reviews, discussions) focused on a particular topic, theme, or genre. On most podcast platforms, listeners can choose to subscribe to a particular podcast and receive updates when new episodes are published.

The term "podcast" is portmanteau of POD (portable on demand) and CAST (to transmit)*. While podcasts exclusively refer to audio files, if a creator shares videos using the same episodic format as podcasts; the videos are called video podcasts, vodcasts or vlogs Listening to podcasts at home or on the go is easy and free, typically. The hardest part is choosing which podcast to listen to first. All you need is an internet connected device (e.g. computer, phone, tablet, smart device, etc.) All podcasts are free, and many are accessible from several platforms/apps. Here's how you can start listening to podcasts right now:

Listening to Podcasts Online

Some websites have podcast players embedded in their website that do not require a membership to listen. Accessing these podcasts is easy from any desktop or mobile browser (e.g. Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.).

Here's how to listen to a podcast from the web:

  1. Visit the website that has a podcast (i.e. The Write Podcast)

  2. Choose an episode you want to listen to.

  3. Turn up your volume and hit play.

Listening to Podcasts on your Phone or Smart Device (Phone, Tablet, Smart Device, etc.)

You can listen to a podcast on the go with an app or through your mobile browser, but for the best experience and the ability to pick up where you left off you'll want to download an app to use across all of your devices (including virtual assistant, connect cars, and wearables). You may find that some podcasts you're interested in are available across multiple platforms (or apps), while others are exclusive to one platform. I've included the most accessible (multiple platforms/devices) and widely used apps below that should cover most, if not all, of the podcasts you're interested in (please feel free to comment with more). Let's break down the top podcast apps to use for both iOS and Android to help you find the perfect podcast player for you:

  • Apple Podcasts (iOS)- This is a no-brainer for iTunes fans. Apple Podcasts is the default iTunes podcast app for Apple products ( iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, computer, and Apple TV) and seamlessly integrates with Siri. It's free on the app store, if not preinstalled on your device already. The Apple Podcasts app is a great option with no extra setup steps for those in the Apple ecosystem. Check out Apple Podcasts on the App Store.

  • Google Podcasts (Android)- Not an iPhone user? Google Podcasts is the Android equivalent to Apple Podcasts. Users can subscribe and listen to podcasts powered by Google Play Music. All Google Podcasts are free and don’t need a Google Play Music. Google Home users will appreciate the effortless Google Assistant integration allowing you to find and play podcasts with your voice. Find the Google Podcasts on Google Play.

  • Spotify (Any Device)- Known primarily for it's digital music service, Spotify also offers a growing selection of podcasts at no additional fee (view options). Spotify Free includes unlimited access to both music and podcasts. However, if you want to download and listen to content offline and find ads annoying, go with their premium subscription which also comes with Hulu. Access Spotify on: Mac OS X, Windows, iOS, Android (Google Play | Amazon) Windows Phone, Linux, Windows Mobile, Chromebook, Playstation, and a slew of smart speakers and assistants (e.g. Google or Alexa), wearables, and car audio consoles, and Smart TVs (view the full list). Visit Spotify to learn more.

  • Stitcher (any Device)- With a tagline like, "Welcome to the Spoken World," it's not surprising to see more and more podcasts jumping on the Stitcher bandwagon. Stitcher offers easy access to over 100,000 Podcasts, News, and Public Radio- for free. With a laser focus on all things "spoken" Stitcher enthusiasts can listen to Stitcher in their car with Apple's CarPlay or Google's Android Auto, or on the Stitcher app available for iPhone, iPad, Android and Alexa. For early and exclusive access to content and adfree listening; users can upgrade their membership to premium (see details). Visit Stitcher to learn more.

  • SoundCloud (Any Device)- Looking for access to both amature and professional podcasts? SoundCloud is for you! SoundCloud is the largest open audio platform powered by a collective community of creators and listeners. While not the most popular for podcasts alone, soundcloud is the go-to platform for creators to upload their content and share it with the world; meaning the variety of ametuer and professional podcasts continues to grow by the minute. Plus if you decide to become a podcaster yourself, their platform is super user-friendly. Soundcloud also offers web-embed capabilities for creators, making it a common plugin for music and podcast features on websites. The free SoundCloud membership is free and offers access to millions of songs and podcasts. For those wanting an adfree experience, check out SoundCloud Go+ which lets you listen offline without ads. Soundcloud platforms include online, iOS, Android, Sonos, Chromecast, and Xbox One. Visit SoundCloud to learn more.

Amazon Prime Member?: Did you know that your Amazon Prime Membership gives you access to exclusive content and Audible-produced podcasts through Audible Channels? You don't need an Audible subscription to download the app and access Audible Channels including with your Amazon Prime membership? Check out the Audible App or click here to learn more.

While this article features a mere fraction of the podcast apps available today; I hope you've found it helpful in queueing up your first episode. Stay tuned for more articles featuring podcast recommendations for writers, poets, and creatives on or on Offbeat Poetry on Medium. Happy listening!

*According to the first mainstream use of the term "podcast" can be traced to a 2004 Ben Hammersly article, Audible Revolution, published in The Guardian that included the terms "iPod" and "Broadcast".

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