How to download and listen to podcasts

How-to-download-and-listen-to-podcasts By Tess McCabe

As someone who has worked solo for much of my career, listening to podcasts as I go about my day have become a big part of my life. There are a few podcasts that I listen to regularly, and often times when I have found myself alone for 8 or more hours a day, their hosts have become like virtual studio mates. (There was a running joke when I was pregnant with my son that once born he would recognise Ira Glass' voice more readily than my husband's!)

My definition of a podcast is essentially an online radio program. Sometimes, actual broadcast radio programs will archive episodes online for listeners to access at any time. Other times, a podcast is only available online and not broadcast via any other media. These are usually pretty niche in their topic, and unless it's the focus of the show they rarely take breaks to play music. The podcast hosts are often just regular folk with something interesting to share (i.e. without any professional broadcast experience!).

Earlier this year, with my friend and fellow creative mum Emma Clark, I started a podcast: The New Normal. On each episode, we interview a guest about their experiences as parents, and try to glean how they make family life work while also maintaining a career or a business (and some semblance of a social life).

Probably the number one question Emma and I have been asked since starting our podcast is: How do I listen to it? Or indeed, any podcast?

So this post is a quick answer to that question. Disclaimer: I'm not the most up to date person when it comes to internet and mobile technology. I know slightly more than the basics, but don't expect this blog post to explain every available option to you with up-to-the-minute advances in podcast-listening-options. I know what I know, and hopefully it's enough to get you started!

I personally listen to podcasts in two ways. On my computer when I'm working there, or via my iPhone when I'm away from my desk.

Mobile phone listening

I have an iPhone 4, and the easiest way I find to listen to podcasts is through the Podcasts app. This app is free to download from the App Store, and after searching for the name of the podcast or finding one that looks interesting through the categories, I simply hit 'subscribe'. Every time a new episode of that podcast is released, the badge will tell you, and you can find and listen to past episodes as well. (Android users - check out this article for tips on getting podcasts onto your phone.) From there, hit play and away you go.

The Podcast app on an iPhone

From the Podcasts app you can also download episodes directly to your phone, which is handy if you'll be (gasp!) without an internet signal for a while.

A word of warning though: most podcasts accessed via the Podcast app method use your 3G or 4G internet data allowance to stream the episode live (or to download the full episode). Thus constant podcast listening can chew through your data pretty quickly!

To avoid this, I'll often download episodes at home while my phone is connected to wifi, or download them via my computer as mp3 files and transfer them to my phone like I would with music. Which leads me to...

Desktop listening

I truly despise iTunes. I find it to be so user-unfriendly, but maybe that's just me (see non-tech-head disclaimer above). So generally when I'm listening to podcasts online from my computer, I do so by going directly to the podcaster's website. Plus, I figure this helps the podcaster to know how much website traffic/listeners they have and where they are coming from - something iTunes lacks!

Most podcaster's websites allow you to stream an episode live via an inbuilt 'player' on their web page. Here's an example of our website and the inbuilt player where you can listen directly. Remember though, if your internet connection drops out, or you accidentally close that browser window - there goes the episode!

You can usually play a podcast online through a built-in player on their website.

Luckily, most of these players also have an option to download the podcast episode in full as an .mp3. If you download the episode in this way direct to your computer, that file can be played at any time (e.g. through your iTunes music library or other mp3 player). Our own CWC podcasts use this method so Members can listen to interviews and past event recordings.

Finding podcasts to listen to

What I like about podcasts is that I can really hone in on what interests me as a listener. When I'm feeling in the mood for creative business tips and interviews with my favourite bloggers and small business owners, I listen to Grace Bonney from Design*Sponge's show After the Jump, or Jess Lively's The Lively Show. I also like interviews with interesting people from all walks about their lives, and both Conversations with Richard Fidler and WTF with Marc Maron pump these out regularly. Radio journalism on quirky and interesting topics is also a favourite - for these I head over to RadioLabThis American Life, or their new spin-off, Serial. And who doesn't love discussing (in a passive listener way) the challenges of parenting, marriage and relationships? For these topics I like Totally Married, Death Sex and Money, and The Longest Shortest Time.

In terms of finding new shows to listen too, there are a few radio stations that put most of their shows online in podcast form, like our own ABC and WNYC in the US. On Stitcher you can search by category. Most of the podcasts I've found and love I have discovered via blog posts listing people's favourite finds - I bookmarked these posts by Kyla Roma and Cup of Jo (read the comments!) and revisit them when I'm on the hunt for something new.

In a nutshell, that's how I access podcasts and listen to them regularly. What's your method? And what are your favourite shows? Tell us via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!

Next week I'll explain how we produce The New Normal if you're thinking of starting your own podcast!