Podcasts Are Like On-Demand Radio

Have you heard of podcasts, but don’t really understand what they are or how to listen to them? If so, this article gives you an overview of podcasts. My next article will give you step-by-step instructions on subscribing to and listening to podcasts on your iPhone and Mac. For what it’s worth, the word Podcast is a portmanteau of iPod and broadcast created by a BBC journalist in 2004, when Apple’s iPod was having its heyday.

What Is A Podcast?

A podcast is either episodic recorded or live audio that can be listened to, on a computer or mobile device such as an iPad, iPhone or iPod. That’s it! It is nothing fancy. It is not a complex term. In a oversimplification, you could substitute the words radio show or recording of a radio show in place of the word podcast. Since 2004, the concept of podcasts has been expanded to include images, video and electronic slide shows. If you’d like to learn about this check out the Computer Language’s definition of Podcast.

Who Makes Podcasts, Where Do You Find Them And How Do You Get Them?

Anybody with a computer and microphone can make a podcast since it is just recored audio that is distributed via the Internet. Many podcasts are made by professional journalists and are actually recordings of shows that can be heard on FM or AM radio. That said, some podcasts are not made by professionals journalists so the production quality of podcast varies considerably. If you have a niche hobby there’s likely a podcast made by some of your fellow enthusiasts. On a whim, I just performed Google searches for philatelist podcast and growing roses podcast and I found podcasts on both topics. I also commonly learn about podcasts by talking with friends or by listening to a radio show that I enjoy and they’ll promote their own podcast and other podcasts that they like.

There are generally three ways to get Podcasts.

  1. Podcasts can listened to directly from a web site like Overcast or Stitcher which provide access to hundreds of podcasts. Or you could go directly to a website for a particular show, such as This American Life.
  2. Podcasts can be downloaded manually from a web site to be listened to at a later date.
  3. Podcasts can downloaded automatically by subscribing to a podcast using a podcatcher application like iTunes on your Mac or using the Overcast or Stitcher apps on your iPhone or iPad. Your iPhone or iPad already has Apple’s Podcasts app which could be used but I prefer Overcast. We will look at using Overcast more closely in next week’s article.

Even though podcasts have been around for more than a decade, I find that many people aren’t familiar with them and don’t really understand what they are. They also don’t know how easy it is to find them and listen to them. I hope this article helps to demystify things a bit.

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