Getting started with podcasts

Lynn Wright / 11 November 2015

Podcasts open up a world of free, varied and interesting audio to listen to on your computer, smartphone or audio player.

What is a podcast?

Podcasts are audio – and sometimes video – programmes that are freely available on the internet. Think of them as similar to recorded radio shows that you can download onto a computer, smartphone, tablet or iPod and listen to whenever you like.

What are podcasts about?

There are podcasts on on every topic imaginable, offering an almost endless library of entertaining and informative content. Anyone can create a podcast, from professional broadcasters such as the BBC to people at home talking about a subject they love.

Podcasts typically come as a series. Many are recorded episodes of popular radio and television shows, broadcast performances and other events. Others feature original content created specifically for the podcast.

What’s so good about podcasts?

Podcasts are all about ease and convenience. A great alternative to radio, you can listen to exactly what you want, when you want. Essentially, podcasts let you create your own radio station focused entirely on the subjects that interest you, without having to wait for a particular radio show to begin.

What do they cost?

The majority of podcasts are free to listen to, though some include paid-for advertising, much like commercial radio stations.

What do I need to listen to a podcast?

You can download and play a podcast on any internet-connected computer or device such as a smartphone. On a computer, simply click on the podcast file in your web browser to play, or play it through software such as iTunes.

On a smartphone or tablet you can use an app to listen to a podcast. The Podcast app on Apple’s iPhone, for example, lets you find, subscribe to, download and play podcasts from a wide range of categories all in one place. Android users have lots of apps for podcast listening including Stitcher, DoggCatcher and Podcast Addict.

If you don’t have a smartphone or iPod Touch, you can browse and download podcasts through Apple iTunes on your computer – click the Podcast tab of the iTunes Store – and then transfer them to your mp3 player.

How do I subscribe?

Instead of downloading each episode of a podcast series individually, you can subscribe to a podcast. That way, each time a new episode is released it will automatically download ready for you to listen to when you want.

To subscribe to a podcast, click Subscribe on the podcast webpage, in iTunes or your chosen podcast app.

Suggested podcasts

There is a vast array of podcasts available but here are a few recommendations:

The RHS Gardening Podcast

Offers seasonal advice, inspiration and practical solutions to gardening problems.

Related: Read more - best vegetables for fresh winter produce

Woman’s Hour

Episodes from the popular BBC Radio 4 programme that offer a female perspective of life.

Thinking Allowed

Radio 4’s weekly panel discussion on the big topics of the moment.

Cook the Perfect…

Top chefs share their secrets for perfect home-cooked dishes.

Related: Read about our christmas dinner planner


The first season of this investigative series about a real-life murder case proved highly addictive. All episodes are available to download with a second series due this year.

A History of the World in 100 objects

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, charts humanity’s evolution through man-made objects.


Explores fascinating questions about life and the universe including why the sky is blue and how chocolate may save the planet.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.