What is a podcast?
The best way of describing a podcast is to think of it as internet radio that is available on demand.
Unlike conventional radio however, podcasts are not exclusively produced by large media companies. In fact, many of the most popular podcasts were started by enthusiastic amateurs and this informal, anything-goes vibe still epitomises the guiding ethos behind podcasting.
Whereas radio stations must appeal to broad demographics to attract advertising revenue or fulfil other licencing requirements, podcasts do not. They are often much narrower in scope and appeal to more specialist interests. From true crime to social media marketing via carp fishing, there will be a podcast and a community of listeners devoted to it. All podcasting requires is an idea, a microphone and a desire to share and communicate with like-minded people around the world.
Podcasting in numbers
The world of podcasting is big; as of June 2019, there were estimated to be over 750,000 podcasts and over 30 million individual episodes. 70% of people listen to podcasts on smart phones with the other 30% tuning in via tablets and desktop computers. As for where people listen, 50% say that they listen at home, while the other 50% is made up of those on the move, and those who are able to listen at work. Like radio, the appeal of the podcast is the ability to listen while you are doing other things, but unlike radio the choice and the timing of the programme is up to you.
How to listen to a podcast
Smart phone apps for podcasting
Podcasts are streamed over the internet and accessed using a podcast player. On your smartphone, this player will be an app that will either be included by default, or available in your phone’s app store. There are lots of different players available but because most podcasts are available on most players, choosing the right player for you is largely about finding what works best on your device, and has functionality that you like and find easy to use.
Popular players include Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Overcast, Pocket cast, Castro, Podchaser, Castbox and TuneIn. Alternatively, existing premium Spotify users can take advantage of the updated library that clearly separates music from podcasts.
Subscribe to a podcast
One you have downloaded your podcast player app you can express your interest in a specific podcast by subscribing to it. This means that you will be alerted to new episodes and (depending on your individual settings) have these new episodes automatically download to your phone.
How to listen on smartphone
The following instruction videos show how you can install a podcast app on your smartphone and subscribe to Sharing things.
- Video: Sharing things Apple
- This video demonstrates how to download an app and subscribe to the Sharing things podcast if you are an Apple iPhone user.
- Video: Sharing things Android smartphone
- This video demonstrates how to download an app and subscribe to the Sharing things podcast if you are an Android smartphone user.
Listening via your smartphone
You can listen using headphones or link your phone to another device via docking facilities, audio output wires or Bluetooth; a wire free method that uses radio waves. Many newer radios and in-car music systems include Bluetooth as standard, and standalone Bluetooth speakers are also available. Bluetooth allows you to listen to your smartphone without using earphones and so your favourite podcasts can be enjoyed out loud, either at home or in the car.
Listening via your desktop computer
You can also listen on your tablet or desktop computer without downloading any extra software, as most podcasts are streamed online. For example, all podcasts produced by the BBC are streamed from the BBC Sounds website and the Sharing things podcast is available on a dedicated streaming website provided by Buzzsprout, our podcast host.
Subscribe to a podcast using a computer
If you want to manage your podcasts using a computer, you can also use a tablet or desktop version of a podcast app. There are lots of different options available including Apple Music, Spotify, Sticher or Grover Podcast, depending on what works best with your operating system.
If you are curious about the content of a podcast but don't want to commit to downloading software immediately, you can always check out the transcript. This American Life, a weekly public radio program and podcast, has been transcribing its podcasts for nearly five years. They have developed an attractive and accessible format that divides the content into chapters and clearly differentiates between discussion and scene setting.
Sharing things has transcripts available for all episodes.