What is a podcast?

Lynn Wright / 24 January 2019

Getting started with podcasts is easy, and as podcasts open up a world of free, varied and interesting audio to listen to on your computer, smartphone or audio player, it's certainly worth doing!



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 is streaming music?

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.

Podcasting for beginners

Grumpy Old Women writer Judith Holder is launching 'Older and Wider', a new podcast with Jenny Eclair; here she explains how she got involved in podcasting – and why podcasts are something everyone can enjoy…

I’m the sort of person who regularly has to bribe a young person to sort out my IT problems. I have a Canadian email address not because I live in or have even been to Canada, but because I managed to get one by mistake about 10 years ago. I stumble on, falling down technical rabbit holes that someone else has to help me escape, but on the whole I move with the times.

However, despite everyone raving about podcasts, podcast-land was - until a few weeks ago - an unexplored part of the forest as far as I was concerned. For a long time Radio 4 hit the spot as a harmless diversion from daily life, but then Brexit happened. Like everyone else, I now have a chronic case of Brexit fatigue, and can no longer stand to be in the same room as The Today Programme without wanting to slap its ankles. Really hard. Like it might leave a mark.

I find the National Conversation (as it’s now called) utterly exhausting and embarrassingly argumentative. I needed an alternative. Something that is bespoke, exactly what I fancy when cooking / driving / in the bath / doing my pilates on the floor / eating supper.

Then someone showed me the podcast app on my phone; with one click, up popped hundreds of compilations of some of my favourite radio shows over the years, with some really interesting content that I had missed. The Reith Lectures, some great introductions to classical music, and my current favourite Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place in which she talks in depth to celebrities about their (and indeed, all of our) search for that nebulous state after which her show is named.

The great thing about podcasts is that they are not over produced, so Fearne Cotton talking to Russell Brand ran for 40 minutes or so and was fascinating. 

You can flit about as you do, or you can stay and luxuriate. You can even follow some fabulously addictive storylines in the fiction glade of the podcast forest. All life is there, on tap… ready to listen to at a click; the Archers Omnibus notwithstanding I am now in charge of my own listening destiny. 

So when Jenny Eclair asked me if I’d be interested in doing a podcast with her, all of a sudden I was motivated. Excited even. So that’s exactly what we did. We set up a podcast together called Older and Wider – see what we did there? - which is basically the two of us being both of these things. We’ve included our thoughts on everything from Madonna’s new bottom, why we loved The Favourite, and how at the age of 63 we have suddenly learnt how to cook basmati rice without it looking like wallpaper paste. Think two women talking over a virtual garden wall, exchanging the joys and otherwise of being in your late middle age… because we can. And no one is stopping us. 

Like most podcasts, our podcast is free and dead easy to download, or whatever it is you do to get a podcast. Just press the purple icon on your phone screen and start searching. Start with ours, obviously.

It’s easy. It has to be, as I have managed to do it. 

Download Judith and Jenny's podcast Older and Wider today: DOWNLOAD PODCAST

A mug featuring Jenny Eclair and Judith Holder's podcast Older and Wider as a design

What do podcasts 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:

Older and Wider Podcast

By Jenny Eclair & Judith Holder, this podcast offers insight, gossip and general news from the menopausal front and beyond. A podcast worth getting your ears syringed for.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast

The RHS Gardening Podcast

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

https://www.rhs.org.uk/about-the-rhs/publications/podcasts

Woman’s Hour

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007qlvb/episodes/player

Thinking Allowed

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qy05

Cook the Perfect…

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02nrwmn/episodes/downloads

Serial

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.

http://serialpodcast.org

A History of the World in 100 objects

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

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00nrtd2/episodes/downloads

Radiolab

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

http://www.radiolab.org






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