What is a Podcast? (and how to listen to one!)

Have you ever wondered what a Podcast is or how to listen to one? Let’s answer “What is a podcast?” and explore ways to get the most out of your listening experience.

What is a Podcast?

A Podcast is an audio form of media. If we think of a radio show as live audio entertainment, Podcasts can be considered the “streaming” version of audio entertainment. Much like video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu allow consumers to watch TV shows and movies on-demand, Podcasts are recorded or streamed audio entertainment that users can listen to on-demand.

How do Podcasts Work?

The Podcasts themselves are produced and recorded, frequently on high-quality audio equipment, and then edited into episodes. Any recorded audio files (generally one file per episode) are then published to the internet, using a protocol called an RSS Feed. Consumers then use Podcast Apps to discover, download, subscribe to, and listen to them.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You don’t need to know anything about RSS to listen to podcasts, but if you’re curious you can learn more at rss.com.

What kinds of Podcasts are out there?

The subject of a Podcast can encompass anything that people want to talk about. Here are some example categories:

  • True Crime
  • History
  • News & Current Events
  • Health & Wellness
  • Comedy
  • Arts
  • TV & Film
  • Technology
  • and many, many more

Many shows have a consistent podcast host(s), who will be the voice every episode. They can then either talk solo or among themselves about a subject, they can bring on guests and do interviews, or they can do a “variety show” where some episodes are short solo shows and others are long interviews. Other shows are more of a story-telling podcast where a cast of characters will rotate through as the story unfolds.

Some podcast episodes are as short as 5-10 minutes, while others can be as long as three hours.

Are Audio Books the same as Podcasts?

Audio Books are oral readings of a written text. They tend to be much longer than Podcasts, sometimes upwards of 20 hours! In general, Podcast apps are expecting smaller audio files and shorter-form content, so Audio Books tend to be in a category of their own. Audible, an Amazon-owned company, has an app designed for the listening of audio books, and it has become a popular podcasting app as well.

Do Podcasts cost money?

There are many free podcasts out there. It is very easy to listen without spending money. Many podcasts subsidize free episodes by running advertisements or doing branded partnerships. Sometimes a podcast is under a paid contract to be exclusively published to one Podcast App, for example if a podcast is “Spotify-Exclusive” it will only be available on the Spotify podcast app.

It is possible to pay for specific content by subscribing to premium content. By paying for a subscription, either for a single Podcast or for a network of podcasts (also called a Podcast Channel), listeners can gain access to subscriber-only episodes and content. Many times subscribers will also get access to episodes earlier than the general public, and those episodes won’t contain any ads. It’s very common to hear “early and ad free” when free podcasts advertise their subscriber benefits.

How Do I Listen?

A Podcast app or player is needed to listen to Podcasts. Podcasts apps are specialized RSS Feed readers. Some examples of popular Podcast apps are:

  • Apple Podcasts, which comes included with Apple products like iPhones, iPads, and Mac laptops
  • YouTube Music is Google’s Podcast app (Google Podcasts used to be its own app, but they have consolidated audio experiences)
  • Audible is Amazon’s app for Audio Books and Podcasts
  • Spotify is an app originally created for music streaming that is now a popular Podcasting app too

Other examples include Pocket Casts, Podcast Addict (for Android), and Overcast (for iPhone)

What features do Podcast apps offer?

Most apps will have some basic functionality like browsing and discovering new podcasts by search terms or by category, or subscribing to podcasts and being notified when new episodes are released. Some apps may have specialized or differentiating features, such as the ability to:

  • Control the speed at which the episode plays, faster or slower, at various intervals like 1.5x speed
  • Easily connect to an external device, like headphones or smart speakers, to play the audio
  • “Trim silences” or auto-skip over long pauses to save extra seconds when listening
  • View a text transcript of the episode while listening

As you listen more, you may discover which features are the most important to your listening experience, and that may lead you to seek out a Podcast App that gives you the best experience. The only way to know is by starting to listen!

If you have questions about Podcasts, or our services in general, just call or email. We’re happy to assist you! Feel free to use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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