I belong to a very specific demographic—people born before 1985. We are officially referred to as Gen X; the ones that know what life is like both with the Internet and without. And because I’m not a digital native, sometimes when the latest niche product surfaces, I can often find myself in a technology quagmire: caught somewhere between the savvy high-tech millennials and the confounded low-tech baby boomers. 

Take podcasts for instance. When these began to rise in popularity, I was engaged enough to want to find out more, but I wasn’t sure where to look or how to use them. And I was way too embarrassed to ask anyone. I mean, doesn’t everyone know about podcasts? Well, no!

So, if like me, you’re a Gen X (or even a with-it Baby Boomer) longing to join the scores of people tuned into podcasts but have no clue where to start, this blog is for you—A Beginner’s Guide to Listening to Podcasts. 

Although, enter at your own risk. I’m now a podcast addict. And because there are so many good ones available, there’s every chance you’re going to get hooked too. 

What is a podcast?

A podcast is a radio show on the Internet. They’re generally recorded, which means you can download them and listen any time you want. 

And unlike music, the best part about podcasts is they’re FREE to subscribe!  

What are podcasts about?

There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts available on virtually every topic imaginable—politics and culture, true crime, interviews with celebrities, serial dramas and comedy galore. 

What do I need to listen to podcasts?

Okay, let’s keep this simple. You really only need one thing to listen to podcasts—access to the Internet! 

You can listen to podcasts using a computer—macOS and Windows—by delving into the iTunes, which is the largest podcast directory in the world. You can also download a podcast directly from its website, either using the web browser on your computer or phone. 

But let’s face it; manually downloading podcasts from a website is not for regular podcast listeners, which I’m assuming you’re on track to becoming. The most efficient way to listen to podcasts is to use a podcast app on your phone…because generally the whole idea is an easy listening experience on the go.

What is a podcast app?

A podcast app is a platform that makes downloading podcasts onto iOS and Android phones easy. The best part is these phones already come with a preinstalled app—an iOS phone comes with the Apple Podcasts app, which also syncs with users’ iTunes accounts, and an Android phone comes with the Google Play Music app. Both apps have a comprehensive library of podcasts. 

There are other third-party podcast apps available for listening to podcasts, which are generally cheap (or even free) and have great features. But for now, I recommend sticking to the apps already on your phone. If, down the track, you are consuming podcasts like nobody’s business, you’ll probably start noticing features you wish you had in a podcast app—that’s when it’s time to check out other options.

How do I navigate my podcast app? 

Rather than reinvent the wheel, there is plenty of information already on the Internet that clearly explains how to navigate both the Apple Podcasts app on iOS and the Google Play Music app on Android. Click on the links to learn how to find podcasts, download and play a podcast, subscribe and unsubscribe to shows (remember, subscribing is FREE).

How can I find podcasts? 

There are many ways to find podcasts. For instance; every app has a section filled with recommended shows you can browse, and sample, before subscribing; friends are also a good source for recommendations; and podcast shows themselves often refer listeners to other great shows. 

It’s also worth having a look at publications such as BuzzFeed, Vulture, The Atlantic, and The New York Times, which frequently compile lists of their favourite podcasts. 

What podcasts do I enjoy?

Like everyone else, I devoured Serial and S-Town; if you want quality podcasting this is a good place to start. I’ve also recently enjoyed The Dream and The Dropout.

Being a writer, a lot of podcasts I listen to focus on writing. I can recommend, On Writing, The First Time, The Garret, The Writer’s Voice and Magic and Mayhem, just to name a few.

In my research, other listeners recommended Gadget Lab, Fresh Air, Longform, This American Life, On The Media, All Songs Considered, 99 Percent Invisible, Heavyweight and Reply All

But these are only just the tip of the iceberg. Now that you’re better armed, go forth and discover, and definitely invest in a decent set of headphones.