How to Download, Listen & Subscribe to Podcasts

how to listen to podcasts

Do you listen to podcasts? A growing number of people do. According to a recent survey, 46 million Americans over the age of 12 have listened to a podcast in the last month. That’s 17% of the population, (aged 12 and over). Personally, I am not surprised. I love listening to podcasts. It is a great way to expand your knowledge of the world, grow your PLN, or just be entertained for a while. So, if you have never listened to a podcast before, keep reading and discover how you can get started today.

A podcast is like an internet radio (or TV) show. It is an episodic collection of audio (or video) files that you can subscribe to for free, and get new content delivered to to your device as soon as it is available. If you have ever subscribed to blogs in Feedly or Google Reader, it is much the same idea. In fact, they share a common technology – the RSS feed.

There are a number of different ways to access the podcasts that you are most interested in, but you will likely listen on either your computer or a mobile device. Here’s how to set up your podcasts on a computer or a mobile device.

How to Listen to Podcasts on a Computer

The largest library of podcasts is curated by Apple and can be found in iTunes. You can download iTunes for a Mac or a PC and use this software as a way to subscribe, listen and rate the shows that you want to hear. You can search for specific shows, or browse through the store by category, new and noteworthy, featured collections and more. When you find the podcast you want to listen to, you are only a few quick clicks away from subscribing.

The instructions for how to find and subscribe to podcasts are slightly different depending on whether you are using iTunes on a Mac or a PC, so here are a couple of links that include step-by-step instructions for each device.

itunes podcast store

If you are not a fan of iTunes, there are other ways you can get to your favorite podcasts on a computer. Websites like Stitcher, Podbay and Tunein have an online directory of podcasts that you can search, listen to, and subscribe to without ever needing to open iTunes. This is particularly useful for computers that don’t have iTunes installed, or for devices like Chromebooks where you can’t install iTunes at all.

How to Listen to Podcasts on a Smartphone on Tablet

Many people like to take their podcasts with them wherever they go, so a smartphone or a tablet is an ideal device to play them on. There are many podcast players that are available for both iOS and Android. When you add one of these apps to your phone or tablet, you can search for, and subscribe to, any podcast that you are interested in listening to. The convenience of having podcasts on your mobile device is that you can listen to them at any time, whether you are driving to work, cleaning the basement, out for a run, or sitting on an airplane.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can use Apple’s free Podcasts app to find and listen to your favorite shows. It comes pre-installed on new iOS devices, so you may already have it. However, there are lots of other great apps too. The one that I use and  recommend to iOS users is the Overcast: Podcast Player. This free app is extremely reliable and includes some unique features like Smart Speed, Voice Boost and Smarter Playlists. It also has a companion Apple Watch app. Other great podcast apps for iPhones and iPads include Downcast or Pocket Casts.

Overcast for iPad

For Android users, Google has announced that it will soon be integrating podcasts into the Google Play Music service. This is likely a response to the growing number of podcast listeners and/or Apple’s dominance in the podcast market. However, if you don’t subscribe to Google Play Music, there are a number of great podcast apps like DoggCatcher, Pocket Casts, or Podcast & Radio Addict. All of these will serve you well.

If you find yourself switching between your iPad and an Android phone, or an iPhone and an Android tablet, you will be glad to know that there are a number of cross platform podcast apps  that work on iOS, Android and even the web. The aforementioned Stitcher, Podbay and TuneIn work on multiple devices, as does SoundCloud.

Downloading vs. Subscribing to Podcasts

Once you have your podcast player picked out, it is time to search for some new shows to listen to. You can do that with a keyword search in the app of your choice, or you can look for the podcast collections that most app developers include in their podcast app. Either way, when you find something that peaks your interest you will have the option to download episodes or subscribe.

What’s the difference? Subscribing to a show means that you will be automatically get new episodes of that podcast pushed to your podcast player as soon as they are released. If you download an episode, you are choosing to listen only to that one episode and you won’t get any future episodes unless you revisit that show and download future episodes manually.

Which is best? If you find a show that you like, subscribe to it. That way you will always get the latest and greatest episodes without having to do anything else on your computer, phone or tablet. If you prefer to pick and choose your episodes or just want to try out one episode from a show you might be interested in, then you can download episodes as you find them. However, if in doubt, subscribing is often the best thing to do, if for no other reason than podcasts are all free, and if you find that you don’t like a show, you can always delete it from your feed.

Podcast Collections

How to Find the Right Podcast for You

There really is something for everyone when it comes to podcast programs. No matter what your interests are, you will very likely find something that will appeal to you. A good place to start is with some of the larger podcast networks. A podcast network is a collection of podcasts that are often around a similar theme or genre. Educators, for instance, could well find a lot of relevant podcasts on the BAM! Radio Network. Examples of other podcast networks include:

Many of the podcasts that I listen to are not part of a network. Podcasts like Hello Internet, The Moth, and the Accidental Tech Podcast are all independently produced, but you can access these in the same way you would any other podcast.

If you don’t know if the podcast you want to listen to even exists, you can do a keyword search inside of iTunes or in the podcast app of your choice. Simply type your keywords into the search bar and browse through the results. Need some inspiration? iTunes, and many podcasting apps, include collections of podcasts that are sorted by themes, popularity, release date and more. With new shows being created all the time, this can be a great way to discover new and noteworthy podcasts. Educators might want to check out the #PodcastPD hashtag on Twitter for more suggestions. You might also want to try the podcast I do with Mindy Cairney – The Edtech Take Out.

What Are You Listening To?

Do you have a favorite podcast that you can’t live without? What shows do you recommend to new podcast listeners? Do you have your own podcast? Feel free to share your podcast stories below.

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