Podcasts #1 - You Should Try Them!
This article is about what podcasts are, how you can get started with them, and why you should care in the first place. I'll try to briefly tell you what I've learned about podcasts in general since I first came across them, as well as share just a bit of my personal experiences of listening to podcasts. I'm writing this because I kinda fell in love with them, and I'm hoping that you will too, if you give them a chance.
Allow me a quick elaboration on my previous sentence. I'm writing this article because I think podcasts are awesome. There are many other types of digital entertainment I consume (mainly TV shows and games, and I've been through my share of both), but podcasts took my world by a bit of a storm. They've been around for years before I ever heard about them, and they're getting better, more diverse and more easily accessible by the day. It’s a quickly growing field, and it’s a great time to get into it.
What's a podcast?
Podcasts are basically radio shows that live on the internet, and as such, they're very, very diverse. While I just called them radio shows, some come with video too. Some are daily, some are weekly, and some don't even schedules. Some can be listened to live, some only after publication. Some are heavily edited, some aren't at all. Some are grouped into seasons, some are just a long list of episodes. Some are 15 minutes long, some are 2 hours. Some cover news, some are documentaries, some have set topics of discussion, some are music, and some are just a couple people talking about whatever comes to their minds.
All this diversity means that there’s almost certainly gonna be something for you out there amongst the tens of thousands of available podcasts, if you just take a look.
Living on the internet comes with a lot of upsides. Most podcasts can be downloaded and listened to for free (a significant advantage over most other forms of entertainment). You can have them with you anytime and on any device you want that's able to play audio, and if you use a dedicated app, you can also keep your devices conveniently in sync, so that you can pick up right where you left off on any of them.
When to listen
It's not that hard to find the time to listen to podcasts (and/or audiobooks, for that matter). Most people seem to listen to them while travelling - be it sitting on public transportation or driving - because commuting and running errands are things that most of us have to do all the time anyway, and you might as well be entertained while you're at it. Other potential times include doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, or playing video games. Any time when your ears are free and your mind isn't really occupied by anything else is an opportunity to listen.
The podcasts that I listen to average about an hour and a half in length, but you can listen to them in pieces, most of them don't have to be listened to in one sitting (I guess this is up to personal preference though). I picked up podcasts as a way to fill my metro rides every day to and from school. They took the place of music, which I just had on as background noise at that point. Later, as I was listening to more and more podcasts, I moved on to also listening to them while playing games, but more on that in another article.
How to listen
iTunes has been a prominent place for podcasts for a long time, and it seems to be holding its ground as iTunes ratings are still one of the determining metrics for a podcast's success. So if you happen to be already using it, it's a good place to start listening (you don't have to log into an account on iTunes for this, which is a definite plus).
It's not at all the sole place for podcasts anymore though. Whatever platform you're on, there’s gonna be a wide selection of podcast apps (occasionally called podcatchers) for you to choose from. The most popular free ones should be good enough to get you started. You can also just listen to episodes in the players on the podcasts' websites (I've yet to come across a podcast that doesn't have one).
My first way of listening to podcasts was downloading them from their website to my phone and playing them with an audiobook player app, any actual podcast app you find ought to be better than that. My current way of listening is Pocket Casts (available for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, and it also has a web player). It's a paid app though, so you might wanna look at it later down the road.
How to find podcasts
The first thing you should do is see if people you already follow have podcasts. Many people are involved in them, it's worth checking if any of your favourites are. Maybe you’ve already heard that they’re doing them, but you were hesitant to check them out. Now is as good a time as any.
You can also look at the featured and trending podcasts in whatever app you choose, there’s a lot to be discovered there too. If you don’t feel like installing an app for your first try, here are the sites of some of the largest and trending podcast networks that you can take a look at for a start.
If you don't feel like browsing, here are some of the tech-related podcasts that I really like, if you're into that sort of thing. These are fairly Apple-centric, but as the hosts are users of their products, they are quite critical of them (no pun intended).
Here are some more recommendations of things that I'm listening to that are more for general audiences (as in not as tech related as the previous ones).
And finally, here are a couple of the most popular shows in general, for which I can't personally vouch for, but heard many good things about.
It's up to you now
If you got this far in this article, then hopefully I made podcasts sound interesting enough for you to try. I only have a limited experience and narrow view of all that's out there, so it's up to you to discover all the great podcasts that will suit your interests. If you can find the time when your ears are unoccupied by other things and you don't have to pay much attention to whatever you're doing, they're definitely worth the try.
This is not the end, but it is the beginning
There are a couple more articles on this topic coming, where I'll tell you more about the games I play while listening to podcasts, as well as my personal history with them in more detail. Stay tuned for those.