How To: Listening to Podcasts.

One of the nice things about podcasting nowadays is that it’s an evergrowing medium, with many ways to listen to shows and numerous shows about all sorts of topics coming out all the time. However, all of that can also be incredibly overwhelming, especially for someone who is just starting out with podcasts. Where do you start? How do you listen? What apps should you use and how on earth do you use them?!?

Here are some tips on how to start listening to podcasts. At the moment, these tips are primarily focused on Apple Podcasts and people with iPhones as that is what I (Andrea) am most comfortable with and use every day.

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One: Pick a podcasting smartphone app or streaming service.

One common barrier between someone who’s interested in podcasts and them starting to listen is the technology. There are plenty of people who just aren’t good with technology, which prevents them from listening to different shows.

Listening to podcasts will require you have some understanding of technology and it might take some time to get used to a site or app. The good news is that there are plenty of podcasting apps or streaming sites to choose from. You might have to do a trial and error to find one you like but finding one to get accustomed to and start with can help get your foot in the water. You don’t have to stick with the first one that you find or the one you start with but having one to get used to can help make things a little less overwhelming at the beginning.

The following are some apps and sites you can listen to podcasts on. If you want some information about different apps, Jordan McMahon wrote a beginner’s guide to podcasts for Wired in 2017 and includes more information about some of the most popular podcasting apps.

  • Apple Podcasts [free, available on iOS*]
    • This is the default, preinstalled podcast app on iPhones and iPads. Some folks are not fans of Apple Podcasts but it is an option f you have an Apple product.
  • Google Play Music [free, avaliable on Android]
  • RadioPublic  [free, available on iOS* and Android]
  • Stitcher [free, available on iOS* and Android]
  • Spotify [free, available on iOS* and Android]
    • Also available for your computer
  • Spreaker [free, available on iOS* and Android]
  • Overcast [free, available on iOS*]
  • PodBean [free, available on iOS* and Android]
  • Pocket Casts [$3.99, iOS* and Android]

*iOS refers to the operating system used on Apple phones (iPhones) or iPads.

NPR Related Apps

Many of the popular NPR shows can be found on these apps but there is an NPR specific app called NPR One. This app allows you to download and listen to shows/programs at your own convenience after they’re released or stream live radio from your phone. NPR One is free and available on most smartphones Similarly, This American Life actually has its own app too. While you can find the last four episodes on other apps like Apple Podcasts and Stitcher, the This American Life app allows you to download and listen to all 650+ episodes of the show. It’s $2.99 and available on most smartphones. If you’re a fan of This American Life, the cost of the app is worth it so you can have access to all the episodes!

You’ll be able to find these apps in the App Store on your iPhone or iPad or in the Google Play Store.

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Two: Think about what kinds of shows you want to listen to

If you like NPR programming, there are a plethora of NPR shows available as podcasts that you can listen to if you missed the live version on the radio. Additionally, there are fictional shows, creative nonfiction, game shows, interviews, and so much more. If you like creative nonfiction, shows like This American Life, The Moth, and Terrible, Thanks For Asking tell real stories. If you like fictional audio dramas, Limetown, Welcome to Night Vale, and The Bright Sessions are all great shows to start with!

To find different shows, apps and streaming services, like the ones above, all have a search function available in the app and might even have ‘Browse’ or ‘Featured’ section. With the ‘search’ function, you’ll be able to look for shows by name or topic! You can also try searching for specific people, like if they’ve done an interview podcast. To the right, there’s a screenshot of the Apple Podcasts home screen and where to find the ‘Browse’ and ‘Search’ functions.

However, there are other ways to look for shows. One is to talk to people who also listen to podcasts for their recommendations, as people who love this medium often have some favorite shows! Another way is to read podcasting blogs like:

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Three: Download An Episode or Show And Start Listening!

It can be overwhelming to start listening to podcasts, especially if you’re not very familiar with technology. However, if you want to at least try to listen, remember that it will take some time to get used to any podcasting app or website. Spending a little time on a regular basis in your chosen app can only help you become familiar with it!

For Apple Podcasts, if you want to listen to shows without Wi-Fi, you’ll need to add and download episodes. When you find an episode you want to listen to later, click the plus sign right next to the title twice to add it to your own library and then download it. You can see what both those steps look like to the left.

Other apps should also have the ability to download episodes and shows. Each app and phone will have a different interface but there are other online guides to help folks with different kinds of phones and apps. You can find some of those guides at the end of this post.

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Four: Subscribing and Changing Podcast Settings on Apple Products

If there are any shows you like and want to continue listening to, you can subscribe to the show in most apps and have the new episodes automatically downloaded when they’re released. The image to the right is a screenshot of the ‘subscribe’ button for a show in Apple Podcasts.

If you have an iPhone, you can change some settings for Apple Products. Go to Settings, scroll about halfway down, and click on Podcasts. There, you’ll be able to change settings like only downloading shows when you’re connected to Wi-Fi, deleting episodes that you’ve already listened to, or if you want continuous playback on or off.

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Guides

If you need more help or have something other than an Apple product or Apple Podcasts, the good news about the internet is that there are many resources on how to figure out how to listen to podcasts. If you are a visual learner, there are many tutorial videos on YouTube to help you start listening to podcasts. If reading is an easier way for you to learn, here are some quick guides/articles:

Do you have any questions about listening to podcasts that weren’t addressed here? Let me know in the comments!

Author: Andrea Merrill

My name is Andrea Merrill and I created Animals of the Pacific Northwest and '...Wherever You Get Your Podcasts', where I write about animals, both domesticated and wild, and podcasts respectively.

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