To know me is to know that I LOVE podcasts. Ever since I learned they existed, podcasts have become my go-to listening preference, over music even. I have learned a ton, been entertained a ton and have had my eyes opened to things that I would have otherwise not known existed. If you’re intrigued by podcasts, but don’t have a clue what they are, how to access them or where to start, this is the article for you. We’ll cover the basics, give you a few suggestions and send you on your way to explore the wonderful world of podcasts.

What is a Podcast?

By definition, a podcast is “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.” In layman’s terms, that means podcasts are like TV series, but without the visual. There are vodcasts (video podcasts), but I’ll save that article for another time.

Podcast topics run the gamut — there are fiction and non-fiction, arts and education, comedy and drama, religion, technology, sports and everything else you could possibly find of interest. In short, there is absolutely a podcast you will love. I guarantee it. And finding it is part of the fun!

How Do I Listen to a Podcast?

Podcasts are accessible by whatever device you use to get online — phone, computer, tablet, etc. — and there are several ways to access them. Many podcasts have their own websites, from which you can stream the episodes. For example, Serial, a wildly popular podcast that launched several years ago, can be heard on its website, serialpodcast.com, or you can subscribe to it on Spotify, or you can download an app specifically designed for listening to podcasts and listen to it that way.

If you want to download a podcast listening app, know that some are free while others cost a few bucks and come with some bells and whistles. On iOS products, the Podcasts app comes pre-loaded, but there are alternative options such as Overcast, Downcast and Pod Wrangler, which is oft touted as a great option for podcast beginners.

How Do I Find and Start Playing a Podcast?

Once you have downloaded your listening app, it’s time to start perusing your options to see what podcasts strike your fancy. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to walk you through the podcast discovery process using Apple’s native Podcasts app.

Step 1:

Find and open the Podcasts app. The icon looks like the one shown below. Tap on it to open.

How do I listen to podcasts?

This is what Apple Podcasts app icon looks like. Find that on your Apple device.

Step 2:

When you open the Podcasts app, if you have never used it before, you will be brought to the “Featured” page, where you can peruse the top selections Apple offers, or you can head down the rabbit hole by tapping on “Categories.”

When you open the Podcasts app, you'll land on the "Featured" page, where you can see the latest options.

When you open the Podcasts app, you’ll land on the “Featured” page, where you can see the latest options.

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How to listen to podcasts.

Explore the vast library of podcasts available by clicking the “Categories” link in the top left of the “Featured” page.

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How to listen to a podcast.

From family-friendly options to comedy, religion and more, there’s a smorgasbord for your ears just waiting to be heard!

Step 3:

Select your category, and you’ll be shown a new menu with podcasts found just in that category. For this example, I selected “Arts” from the category list. Then I selected This American Life. Once you select a podcast, you’ll be able to peruse the ratings and reviews, read a description of the show and scroll through the episodes. At this point, you can either sample an episode or two, or you can commit by subscribing to the show. I clicked “Subscribe” because I want to hear every new episode of This American Life.

How to listen to a podcast

For this example, I selected “Arts.”

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How to listen to a podcast

After tapping “Arts,” I was brought to a landing page, which shows a variety of options and then some. Be sure to select “See All” within each section to see all of the options available.

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How to listen to a podcast

For this example, I selected This American Life, one of my favorites!

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How to listen to a podcast

When I clicked on This American Life, it brought me to this landing page, which features show details, reviews, an episode history and related shows that may appeal to me since I enjoy This American Life. When you are ready to subscribe, simply tap “Subscribe,” and the podcast will show up in the “My Podcasts” section at the bottom.

Final Thoughts

That’s pretty much it! From that point forward, when you open your Podcasts app, you can click on “My Podcasts,” and any podcasts to which you are subscribed will show up in there. In the screenshot below, you’ll see five podcasts to which I’m subscribed. The day of the week under each is when the latest episode was uploaded. The number on the right side is the number of unplayed episodes I still have to listen to. Clearly I have some catching up to do, which I will do in my car, or while walking the greenway, or perhaps while I’m making dinner …

How to listen to podcasts

“My Podcasts” is where you’ll find all of your subscriptions. Edit them as you wish, removing some you’ve fallen out of love with and adding new ones you discover along the way.

Perhaps what I love most about podcasts is the fact that it’s a constantly evolving medium to explore so many different things — new podcasts are being added all the time, and you can subscribe or unsubscribe any time you want. If you don’t finish a complete episode, the next time you tap on the podcast episode it will let you pick up right where you left off. It’s convenient, free and entertaining listening — all at the tip of your fingers! Enjoy!

Still hungry for more podcast info? Here is a great resource from Apple that can further educate you on the topic. 

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