During the holidays last year, a friend’s Facebook post caught my attention. She mentioned that she was addicted to the Serial Podcast, and many of her Facebook friends commented on how they were addicted, too. I figured it must be something good if so many people were talking about it, so I decided I needed to figure out what a “Serial Podcast” was. I had listened to maybe one podcast episode before this, and I still didn’t fully understand a) what a podcast was and b) how the heck to listen to one.
After a bit of research, I managed to download a podcast app on my phone and then upload the Serial Podcast episodes. Fortunately, we were visiting family for the holidays, so I had a little extra time on my hands to start binge listening and was able to finish all 12 episodes within just a couple of weeks. Thus began my own obsession with podcasts.
I primarily access podcast episodes on my smartphone and am able to listen at my own convenience. I listen while driving to and from work, running errands, exercising, or traveling on a road trip or plane ride.
I often find myself referencing stories or information that I’ve learned from a podcast in casual conversation; and more often than not, people tell me that they don’t listen to podcasts and feel a little confused about how to access them. I enjoy podcasts so much that I want to help others understand how to take advantage of this free world of awesome entertainment. Consider this my Christmas present to all of you. You’re welcome.
What exactly IS a podcast?
Per the dictionary (yes, I still reference it), it is “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.”
How do you listen to them?
Now, I’m not going to claim that I am a “techie” of any sort – so I’m going to reference some experts. I should mention that if I could figure this out, so can you! I have an iPhone, so that is the platform I use; however, podcasts can be accessed from Android devices, as well as desktop computers (not quite as convenient as a mobile device, but it works!). Here is a GREAT VIDEO that was created by the folks that do the Serial Podcast, explaining the easy steps you can take to listen. Basically, if you have Internet access, you can make podcasts a reality in your life, too.
Which ones should I listen to?
The options are limitless, but I do have some favorites I’d like to recommend. Here are my top five:
- Serial Podcast (of course) – Serial tells one true story that follows a plot and real characters over the course of a season. Only one season is available at this point and includes 12 episodes. Devoted listeners are all waiting on pins and needles for Season 2 to roll out, which is expected to be any day now.
- Radiolab – Per their website, “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” New episodes are released several times a month. I swear, it makes me feel smarter just listening to this podcast, and at this stage in my mushy-brained life, it always feels good to learn something new!
- This American Life – This is actually a weekly public radio show that can be accessed in a variety of ways from their website. Their website even includes a list of favorite episodes, which would be a good place to start! Each episode has a theme and usually tells several short (true) stories related to the theme.
- Criminal – If you love Serial (see #1), you’ll probably like Criminal, too. It’s different from Serial in that every episode is a stand-alone story and is only about 20-minutes long. It’s essentially a podcast that solely focuses on crime, and includes “stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” Sounds juicy, right?
- Mystery Show – This one is very different from the others on my list, but it cracks me up. It feels a little indulgent when I listen to it, kind of like reading a celebrity magazine. There are sadly only 6 episodes as it only just got its start this past year. Basically, it’s about a woman who wants to help real people solve real mysteries – no matter how silly or bizarre they might be.
There are many lists of podcast faves that exist online, and this one does a nice job, including quite a few that I’ve heard of and that you might also enjoy.
I recognize that time is precious and is always limited, but I promise that podcasts can be easily incorporated into busy schedules, just like mine. I encourage you to find your headphones, pick a podcast with a topic that interests you, and try listening to at least one in the near future.