July 31, 2018
September 20, 2018


While tens of millions of podcasts are being downloaded every week, most Americans have yet to even start listening.  According to a new Edison Research survey:

37% don’t really understand what a podcast is

48% aren’t sure how to listen to a podcast, and

65% say there are so many podcasts to choose from that they don’t know where to start!

It’s time to fix all that.  Right here.  Right now.

First, let’s settle on a simple definition: What is a podcast?  A podcast is a program in digital format that can be downloaded or streamed over the Internet.  Think of podcasts the way you think of TV shows you record onto your DVR.  Essentially, you’re capturing an audio program – and then playing it on YOUR schedule.  Except with audio podcasts, you’re not tied to a screen.  You can download podcasts to your phone, or your tablet or your computer and play them back while you commute to work.  Or exercise.  Or anytime, anywhere you’d like some company and some entertainment or mental stimulation.

If downloading sounds like too much trouble, there are thousands of titles you can stream in real time from any connected device.  Online destinations like The iTunes Store and Stitcher serve as online libraries, where you can browse titles and then listen instantly or download for later use.

Beyond the hundreds of shows created specifically for podcast, many radio and TV programs are repackaged for consumption as podcasts.  So if you miss your favorite morning radio show, you can download it during the day and then listen on your way home from work that night.

With so many choices, it’s easy to understand why some might feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of podcasts and just avoid the whole genre.  But those folks are missing out on some great original content, giving up instead of finding a simple way to find some great titles that they’d love.

Start by finding a podcast that will engage, entertain and excite you.  Open your favorite search engine and type in the name of something or someone that you love; then add the word “podcast.”

Pick your favorite celebrities (Gwyneth Paltrow, Alec Baldwin, Oprah, Alan Alda, Anna Faris) and then type the word “podcast” to find links to their shows or podcasts on which they’ve been interviewed.

Pick your favorite interests (travel, food, wine, dating, gaming) and then type the word “podcast” to find links to podcasts that will interest you.

Pick your favorite TV shows (60 Minutes, Real Housewives, Game of Thrones) or just type in “TV podcast” for interesting titles like “Best Episode Ever” and “TV Crimes” for a broader view format.

Just for fun, I typed five random phrases into a search engine followed by the word “podcast.”

  • Pet Hamster Podcast
  • I’m Afraid Podcast
  • Cool Trombone Podcast
  • Dangerous Fashion Podcast
  • Higher Power Podcast

One turned out to be the name of an actual podcast.  Three others suggested a handful of podcasts featuring my keywords.  Only “Pet Hamster” came up short for a direct podcast link.

The point is, YES there’s an incredible variety of podcasts available and YES the choices can be overwhelming.  If that’s the case, you might want to steer clear of the megasites that serve as one-click portals to hundreds of podcasts, the first time you search for a title.  Instead, search directly for your favorite things, or people, or something that you’re curious about.  Then listen to three or four different podcasts over the next week and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

For fun, slip in a game show podcast like NPR’s “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!” or a comedy podcast like “Comedy Bang Bang” or a wild card like “The Joe Rogan Experience” which could be intellectually stimulating one week and sophmorically silly the next.  Everything you need to get connected is right there in your hand.

ESSENTIAL TIP: You’ll want to download and stream podcasts over a WiFi network to avoid using data from your monthly, cellular plan.  Many podcasts listeners learn this the hard way, triggering the unpleasant surprise of overrage fees before they switch to WiFi.  But once you’ve downloaded a podcast to your device, you can play it back – just like a song you’ve saved to a playlist – without incurring any additional data usage.

Remarkably, 80% of the respondents in that recent Edison Research survey reported that they don’t have a podcast app on their phone, despite the fact that virtually every smartphone sold today comes with pre-installed software for just that purpose.

Of the four platforms of radio (AM/FM, Podcasts, Satellite and Streaming), Podcasting is the fastest-growing and, perhaps, the one with the most upside potential, for both listeners and advertisers.  And just as fear and avoidance over how to program a DVR quickly passed, those same barriers to podcasts will diminish and disappear as content expands and attracts an ever-widening audience.

So go find a great podcast and enjoy yourself.  The world and all of its problems will still be here when you get back.