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What is a podcast? And how to listen to one

What is a Podcast?

Ask Google what a podcast is and you will be told:

a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

Ostensibly, a podcast is like an on-demand radio show, with each podcast covering a variety of topics from Politics to Arthurian Legends…there really is a podcast for everyone. Some podcasts are one-offs whilst others form part of a regular series, much like TV shows.

I listen to podcasts whilst I’m driving. I listen to podcasts when I’m working at my computer. I listen to podcasts whilst I’m doing housework and I used to listen to podcasts at the gym (I ditched the gym but kept up with the podcasts!). And because of the vast array of subject areas now covered by podcast producers, as a listener, you can practically curate a customised radio station based on topics that appeal purely to your interests.

Thanks to the pause button there’s no need to sit outside work, clocking in late, whilst you wait for the end of the feature – you can simply dip in and out of the podcast as and when is convenient. What’s not to love? Did I mention that they’re free, too?!

How can I listen to a Podcast?

As long as you have access to the internet, you can listen to podcasts anywhere. And if you are going somewhere without an internet connection, you can download the podcast and listen to it later.

When I’m out and about, I will use my iPhone to listen to podcasts. Personally, I use the iPhone Podcasts App, but there are other mobile management tools available. Overcast comes highly recommended for Apple’s iOS and Pocket Casts for Android. Simply download these Apps to your smartphone and use the software’s own features to search for and listen to your podcasts. For the desktop, try iTunes or gpodder or if you’re sharing a computer, go for a web-based option such as ShortOrange or Player FM. Some tools allow you to speed up the podcast, cutting out any prolonged silences. You can also choose to subscribe to certain shows or series.

Where can I find good Podcasts?

Now you know how to listen, you just need to find a podcast that appeals to you. There are so many out there, many of which will be featured or recommended on your management tool. However, there are also some great recommendations online and in magazines. I keep a copy of Stylist Magazine’s guide in my bedside table and a friend also sent me this link to the Guardian’s recommended podcasts. iTunes boasts a fantastic podcast directory. Anybody can record a podcast – qualities will vary – but as a result of that, you will find podcasts covering all subject areas, from spin-off radio shows to social media tips and advice.

Happy podcast-hunting! To start you on your podcast journey, try some of the following for size:

Let us know your podcast recommendations on Twitter @RatherInventive – let’s spread the good word!