Listening to Podcasts

Back in the day I listened to, created, and participated in podcasts.

Then I took a break for about a decade.

So much has changed and there’s a lot of great stuff out there to listen to. I’m going to try and help you get hooked into (or add to) these audio broadcasts.

So What’s A Podcast?

Let’s just make sure we’re starting from the same corner of the Internet. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines a podcast as:

a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet

So what happens is an audio file is created and stored (usually in a MP3 format) then put online. The thing that separates a one-off audio file from a podcast is that podcasts are a series of audio files that one can subscribe to (more on that soon). The name ‘podcast’ comes from, as best as I can tell, ‘pod’ taken from Apple’s successful iPod (released in 2001 and the first/easiest way to take your audio files on the go) and ‘cast’ from the word ‘broadcast’.

Several podcasts are simply an Internet-ready, downloadable version of a radio program (think separate talk radio programs). Most are created to circumvent the radio waves and go straight to the Internet.

So How Do I Get Podcasts?

I decided that before I get to what podcasts are good and/or available, I’d first talk about how to get them into a podcast delivery device (our tastes may vary!).

I’d wage that 99% of internet-inclined people have a copy of iTunes. It’s a great start because it’s cross-platform and ubiquitous (i.e., available on any computer device you own). If you have iTunes, open up the iTunes store and find the ‘podcast’ menu. From there you can subscribe to whatever you want as a one-stop-shop. iTunes will manage all updates for you (remember that a podcast is a series of updated audio files). This is great because you can stay updated on your computer, iPod, iPhone, etc. and it’s all through one program — iTunes.

If you have devices such as a smart phone or tablet, there are apps for that. Choose wisely — there’s many for iOS (iPhone/iPod/iPad/iWhatever) and Android).

Currently my favorite podcast app is ‘Downcast‘. It allows me to make many customized playlists but it currently doesn’t have anything available outside of iOS (so it only syncs to my iPhone and iPad, not my PC laptop or even the web).

BTW, if you’re putting your podcast episodes on a portable device like an iPhone, iPad, Android, etc, that device has a hole for a headphone input. You can also check in your car to see if you have an auxiliary input hole that matches your headphone plug (3.5mm). If so, get something like this extension from Belkin so you can pipe the audio from your device through your car speakers (I use this every day to listen while driving). For long term, you might consider a charger to keep the battery fresh (see: this USB car charger and charging cable for iPhone 5.

So What Podcasts Are Out There?

No matter what program or app you’re using you should be able to find most, if not all, podcasts available. One reason I recommend starting with iTunes is that their podcast store is probably the largest catalog available. If you’re using an app instead of iTunes, they often provide a list of the top subscribed podcasts as well. Or if you stumble upon a podcast online, you can usually manually add it to your app directly. So go browse and enjoy!

Following are the podcasts I’m currently subscribed to and enjoying (note: although I’m providing links to websites, you can simply search for the titles in your podcast player of choice):

Podcast That Explain or Teach

  • Stuff You Should Know – This is by far my favorite. They tackle a topic, usually in the format of ‘how ___ works’. They are smart and funny so you learn and are entertained at the same time!
  • StarTalk Radio – Hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and it’s all about space and the cosmos.
  • Hello Internet – These hosts are the very knowledgeable and intelligent YouTube personalities CGP Grey and Brady Haran. They talk about (and sometimes debate) everything interesting (and sometimes relevant).
  • NPR: Planet Money Podcsat – “…Imagine you could call up a friend and say, “Meet me at the bar and tell me what’s going on with the economy.” Now imagine that’s actually a fun evening. That’s what we’re going for at Planet Money.”
  • Stuff To Blow Your Mind – More learning as you dive deep into a random but interesting topic.
  • Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know – Would you like to uncover conspiracy theories?
  • Stuff You Missed in History Class – Explore important and interesting moments in history that your teacher probably never told you.
  • DecodeDC – Do you care about the politics in Washington, DC? I don’t blame you if you don’t anymore. But would you like to know what’s really going on?
  • BrainStuff – There’s this group of people who work at HowStuffWorks.com and they try to explain, well, stuff.
  • A Way With Words – “…language examined through history, culture, and family…about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well. They settle disputes, play word quizzes, and discuss language news and controversies.

Podcasts That Connect The Dots
These are some of my favorites. They typically start with something kinda random, follow the trail, connect the dots, and end up somewhere very interestingly unexpected

  • 99% Invisible – “…a tiny radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world…”
  • Freakanomics Radio – “…the podcast that explores the hidden side of everything…”
  • NPR: Ted Radio Hour Podcast – “…based on talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections…”
  • Radiolab – “…a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience…”

Podcasts That Are More Personal To Me

  • The Alton Browncast – If you’ve ever cooked and you don’t know Alton Brown then get it together, man!
  • The Nerdist – Warning: NSFW! Comedian/Entertainer Chris Hardwick hosts everyone on this talk-show.
  • TigerNet Talk – I love my Alma Mater (from the Latin ‘alma’ meaning ‘nourishing’ and ‘mater’ meaning ‘mother’). And I love Clemson football!
  • The Walking Dead Cast – I love “The Walking Dead” on AMC and this is the best podcast I’ve found reviewing each episode.
  • Daily Radio Program with Charles Stanley – I remember the first few years when I got serious about my faith and I began listening to a radio station that played various sermons. One always stood out and it was from this preacher from Atlanta. Can’t always go 100% with him because I’ve done my homework and I know where he’s coming from. I’m currently catching up with him because I think he’s right most of the time, theologically speaking. And he motivates me.
  • Star Wars Minute – if you want to uber-geek on Star Wars, here’s your podcast. I’m currently catching up. They watch just one minute of the Star Wars movie and talk about it for 10-15 minutes. Uber-geeks might find new nuggets in here but everyone else will be at least entertained re-living the franchise one minute at a time.
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