You can find podcasts covering nearly every area of interest including life stories, sports, business, politics, spiritualism and lots of other topics. Handily, you can access and listen to podcasts from a number of devices and platforms (directories).
Choose your Device(s)
The device(s) you choose will depend in part on where you like to do your listening. Your computer is great if you will be stationary and has the advantage that other people in the room will be likely to tell that you are engaged so will refrain from interruptions. However playing on your computer will preclude you from walking around your home/office or out and about.
Listening on your smartphone gives you the advantage of mobility. You can use Wifi or your data allowance to stream your program, just as you can listen to music.
What’s the difference between streaming and downloading programs? Streaming is watching a program online either live or on demand. Downloading is saving the program to your device temporarily and watching it when you’re not connected to the internet.
Listening to a podcast will use on average 25MB data per hour or about 13MB for a 30-minute show. You will use up about the same amount of data whether you download the show to listen to directly from your device or stream it (play it from source). However you can avoid using data altogether by ensuring your WiFi is on when streaming or downloading. Once an episode is downloaded to your device, you can listen to it without WiFi nor using data.
Choose a Platform
Occasionally you’ll come across a podcast that is exclusive to a single platform. One example is The Michelle Obama Podcast, which is exclusive to Spotify, so you won’t find it on any other platform. In these exceptional cases the hosting platform may sponsor the podcaster with either production support (eg providing recording and editorial support), paying a fee to the podcaster or both. However this is the exception and most podcasts are available on a wide range of platforms because the creators are interested in reaching as many listeners as possible. What this means is that you can choose your preferred platform or directory and remain confident you’ll be able to access a very wide variety of podcasts.
Choosing one go-to platform will make it easier for you to take up where you have left off in the series as the platform will show you where you are in a sequence, which are as yet un-played and how many minutes remaining of any to which you’ve partially-listened.
How to Find a Podcast
Open your platform of choice (see below a list of some of the major ones). Find the Search bar. Normally this will be at the very bottom or very top. Look for the magnifying glass. Select it and start typing the name of the podcaster (speaker) or name of the podcast (program). Options should start to come up below, and you can click on the one you’re after.
Nearly all podcasts are now free. If the one you’re after is not, don’t worry, you won’t be caught out nor charged without several confirmation steps first required to purchase it. It will show the (one-time subscription) cost and include a clearly-marked “Buy/Purchase” button. On the iPhone purchases then need to be confirmed again, for example by double-clicking on the side button.
If you can’t find the podcast you’re after on the platform, it may just be a matter of the search functionality being not robust enough and you’ve got a misspelling. You can go out of the platform and open your search engine browser (eg Chrome, Edge, Explorer, etc) and search there for the podcast. For example “Michelle Obama Podcast” or “Squiggly Careers Podcast”. You will then be able to see the exact name, which you can copy and paste into your podcast platform search bar. If it still doesn’t come up, it’s probably not available on your platform. The result from your browser search should lead you to the information where it is available, and you can choose to go to that platform to listen.
Alternatively, you may prefer to browse to see what might catch your fancy. Most directories will helpfully divide shows by genre (eg Comedy, News, Health, Sports) and popularity (eg Top 20, trending).
I often discover podcasts if a guest I have enjoyed on a show to which I already subscribe mentions they also have a regular podcast, in which case I search on their name on my preferred directory.
How to Subscribe to a Podcast
Once you find a podcast you like, bring up the series (not a specific episode) by selecting on the podcast’s image/icon in the platform search results.
Then you should see a prominent “Subscribe” button.
Major Podcast Platforms
Here are the most used platforms in which to find and play podcasts (2020 figures, source: Chartable):
Apple Podcast (over 60% of all downloads are from this directory, available for iphone, ipad or Apple Watch but not standard Mac computers). On your iPhone this normally comes as a pre-installed app. Look for a purple icon like this:
- Spotify (11% of all downloads). You may already have this installed if you listen to music.
- Castbox (4%)
- PodcastAddict (3%)
- Overcast (2%)
- Stitcher (2%)
- Google Podcasts (1%)
- iHeartRadio (1%)
Almost 11% of downloads are done elsewhere (not via a platform), mostly directly from the web browser/search results.
You can easily adjust the volume of the show as you would music or videos on your chosen device. On a computer, the quickest way is to find the volume up/down buttons on the keyboard.
Alternatively you can bring up the volume control on the screen. If not on your lower bar, look for the inverted “V” usually in the lower right corner; click on it to bring up hidden icons and look for the speaker icon. Select it and slide your volume left or right accordingly with your mouse (or touchscreen).
Many ear buds, including official Apple buds (that come as standard with your iPhone) will include a quick access volume control on one of the cords about 5 inches below the bud. Click on upper part for volume up and lower part for down. On your smartphone you can also adjust volume as you normally would with the buttons on the side of the phone or with a slider on the app.
Many podcast platforms also include the option to fast forward 30 seconds and rewind 15 seconds. This is ever so convenient if you prefer to skip the ads. You can click multiple times in succession, too. If you find you forwarded too much, simply click rewind to go back 15 seconds at a time until you are where you want. This button is also very helpful when you’ve had an unplanned interruption as you won’t have to scramble to find the “stop/pause” button as you can simply click “rewind” one or more times once you manage to pause.
Some platforms additionally include an option to play at half speed, 1 ½ or double speed. Look for the icon shown as “1x” (ie normal speed). Tapping repeatedly will bring you through the options. If you find the narrator is suddenly talking at hyper speed or like she’s drunk, you’ve probably inadvertently tapped this icon and you can easily put things to right by tapping it again until “1x” shows. See yellow circled area (example shown as appears on Apple Podcasts)
Advanced Listening: How to Find and Make Other Customisations
This will vary by player platform. Normally you will find a number of ways you can customise how you interact with each podcast series to which you subscribe by selecting the series then selecting “Settings” or the 3 horizontal dots as shown in yellow squared area above. Options you will be able to customise may include:
- Sort “Un-played” or All Episodes newest to oldest or vice versa
- # of Un-played episodes kept
- Manually or Automatically download new episodes
- Manually or automatically delete played episodes when completed or 24h after completion (don’t worry you can always search for them if you want to retrieve)
- Delete Podcast
- Download an episode (to store on your device)
- Upload/Share an episode.
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