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.
Great post! I’ve always wondered what all the hype was about, and this explains it. I’ll definitely be checking some out!
I started out listening to Serial, too, and am now a huge Podcast fan. My latest fav is @themoth podcast, which showcases funny, sad, smart, sassy and happy short stories and slams from people around the country. I also like listening to Sixty Minutes and 48 Hours on my drive into work.
Thanks for the tip – I didn’t know that I could listen to those tv shows via podcast! I just subscribed to both. And, when I pulled up 48 hours, it suggested once called “This is Actually Happening” that caught my attention. Going to have to check that out, too. In all my spare time! Ha!
I LOVED serial!!! I am a big fan of a podcast called the Popcast – a funny duo talking all things pop culture. Definitely PG, most of the time family friendly with occasional slips (which I appreciate for my morning commutes, I’ll be honest). Always funny, always educational!! I also love Off Camera with Sam Jones. GREAT interviews.
Thanks Megan! Just added Popcast!
Big fan of The Moth storytelling podcasts as well. NPR just launched this site of curated podcasts as well: http://earbud.fm/.
This is amazing, Lily! Thanks for this resource. I’m going to share it out with the Facebook post as well!!
Death, Sex, & Money is suuuuper interesting. Probably my fav right now 🙂
I’ve just started on this one, Hannah! Liking it a lot!
This is just what I needed! –To be introduced to podcasts in general– then to be shown how to connect and listen- and then be motivated to actually listen. Thanks.
Awesome! Feel free to reach out with any questions! I hope you are successful in making it work for you!
I loved Serial. I can’t wait to check some of these other ones out. I also enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons and Trail Runner Nation and Endurance Planet (but that’s because I love trail running!).
Thanks for the suggestions, Melissa! I’ll have to share the running ones with my husband. 🙂