Podcasts are everywhere, these days, and there are so many topics to choose from. In recent years the quality has risen dramatically, as the podcasting space has grown up. Many people still can’t quite figure out how to listen to podcasts, though.
That’s where we come in! Here we look at the different ways you can listen to a podcast, from smartphone to smart speaker, and everything in between.
And if you’re at the very beginning of your journey, be sure to bookmark the other posts in our Listener’s Guide to Podcasting series!
‘How to Listen to Podcasts’ was initially written in 2019. We update this post periodically to reflect changes in technology, our recommendations, and because we’re always learning new things!
This post also contains affiliate links to some products and services we think you’ll find interesting. We may earn a small commission should you choose to buy through them, though never at any extra cost to yourself.
How to Listen to Podcasts Vs Podcast Episodes
A quick bit of clarity on this one, as the terms can seem ambiguous. Technically speaking, “a podcast” is the entire collection of episodes. But, many people refer to those individual episodes as “podcasts”.
Bottom line? It doesn’t really matter what you call them, and it certainly won’t change how to listen to them. The only slight qualifier is that, by subscribing to or ‘following’ a podcast, you’re going to get all future episodes delivered to you automatically. If you just hit play on one individual podcast episode, though, that won’t happen.
How to Listen to a Podcast on your Smartphone
The most convenient way to listen to a podcast, long term, is through your smartphone. Practically every device on the market has at least one way to listen, and most phones have many! So, if you have a smartphone in your pocket, you already have an ideal podcast listening platform right there.
iPhone/iOS Podcast Apps
If you’ve got an iPhone, then you have a head-start, because iOS comes with a podcast app built-in. Just look around your apps for one called Apple Podcasts (or swipe down and search for it). It’s a great app for the average listener, allowing you to search the directory, find new shows and subscribe easily. Then, you just have to fire up the app each time you want to listen, and pick an episode for the day!
Android Podcast Apps
Android users have their own podcasting app built-in – Google Podcasts – but it’s far more limited than Apple’s offering. It’s fine for getting started, but you might want to download Pocketcasts or Castbox further down the line. Or, if you already use Spotify for music, you can get your podcasts on there, too.
Again, you can see our full guide to Android Podcast Apps right here.
Headphones for Podcast Listening
Of course, if you’re listening on your smartphone, you’ll need a set of headphones if you ever plan to leave the house.
Most new smartphones come with a decent set of earbuds, so that’s a good start. It’s pretty handy having controls on the cable, too, to start and stop the show, as you’re listening. Then you won’t miss anything when you pull your earbuds out to talk to the friend you bump into in the street.
To get even more from your favourite shows, it can be worth upgrading to a better set of headphones than your standard earbuds. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune to get a great set, either. You can read about our favourite headphones here. Over-ear headphones are ideal if you’d like to listen to some immersive audio drama, ASMR, or Binaural Beats, too.
How to Listen to Podcasts on Your Computer
Listening on your smartphone is definitely the most convenient, long term, because of how mobile it is. But, technically, the easiest and most obvious way to listen to a podcast is to play it directly through your computer.
The downside is that you’re stuck to your desk, but sometimes that’s OK. This can also be a great way to find new shows and get a taster before you subscribe on your phone.
How does it work? Nearly every podcast has a play function directly on their episode pages. Navigate to the podcast page, look for the play button, and listen.
Similarly, you can play any show right inside one of the directory apps on your computer. The most popular examples are iTunes and Spotify. If you have either app on your computer, then navigate to the podcast section, browse around and hit play.
Even better, if you use the Spotify app to listen on your phone, then the subscription carries right over to that platform. Seamless! Sadly, iTunes and Apple Podcasts don’t tie up the same way.
YouTube is another popular place for podcast listening. A lot of creators upload video or static image versions of their episodes there. YouTube has also made moves recently to become more of an officially-recognised podcast platform.
As long as you have speakers or headphones connected up, listening to podcasts on your computer will work a treat. You can find a great range of speakers on Amazon that’ll suit just about any budget.
Of course, long term, the disadvantage is that you can be stuck sitting in front of your computer, which can be a bit of a chore when it’s an hour-long show. With that said, you can play the podcast through your Bluetooth headphones or PC speakers while doing something else around the house. In this instance, this method can be quick and reliable.
How to Listen to Podcasts in the Car
The car is one of the most common places to listen to a podcast, according to the latest podcast stats. It makes sense – it was always a big radio listening space, and podcasting is the new radio.
But, how do you listen to a podcast in the car?
The first option is via Bluetooth connection. Most modern cars are set up to connect to your phone so that you can make hands-free calls. That same connection can also play audio from your phone. So, connect via Bluetooth as normal, and then play something from your podcast app. Does it play over the speakers? Great!
No Bluetooth? Go Old-School-Cable
If that doesn’t work, then an even more common car feature is an ‘aux in’ or a ‘line in’ port. It looks just like a headphone jack, and all you need is something like this 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable to connect your phone to your car. Most modern cars also come with a USB jack, too, and you can use this to plug your phone in.
How to Listen to Podcasts on Alexa or a Smart Speaker
You can’t have missed the smart speaker craze, powered by some of the biggest companies in the world. Google has the Google Home, Amazon has the Echo and more are being announced every month.
Any Bluetooth speaker will allow you to play from your smartphone, so both the Home and the Echo can play that way. But, the Echo, in particular, is great in that it ties in with TuneIn Radio and Spotify.
Tell your Echo, “Alexa, play The Tim Ferriss Show on TuneIn” or “Alexa, play Podcraft on Spotify”, and the Echo will automatically play the latest episode. It’s so easy!
How Do I Subscribe to or Follow a Podcast?
Subscribing or ‘following’ is where the power of podcasting really kicks in. When you subscribe or follow, shows start automatically coming to you. Next time you load up your app, the latest episodes are all there, ready to listen to. It’s amazing!
If you’re listening on your computer, then the easiest way to subscribe is through the iTunes app, or the Spotify app. Both are available for Mac or PC.
If you’re on your smartphone, then simply use your mobile listening app (our favourites here)! The Apple Podcasts app on iPhone allows you to subscribe, super easy, and the other types of phones have similar apps.
It’s worth pointing out, to clear up any confusion, that Apple recently swapped the term “subscribe” with “follow” because they added premium content to their directory. Now, they use the term “subscribe” for shows that you’re paying for, whereas you “follow” a podcast there for its free content.
A few other podcast apps are still using the term “subscribe” but most, including Spotify, are now using “follow”.
Is Google Play Music a Podcasts App?
This is a question we hear a lot when it comes to how to listen to podcasts. The short answer is No. In fact, Google Play Music was killed off altogether in 2020 to be replaced by YouTube music.
It’s understandable that there’s still some confusion around Google Play Music, though. Many moons ago, Google announced that podcasts were coming to the app. This seemed exciting at the time, but it flopped badly and never even made it out of the US.
Then, before Google Play Music was officially retired, Google Podcasts came onto the scene, which is a different app entirely. But it’s easy to see why some might still confuse one for the other!
How to Find Podcasts to Listen To
There are over a million podcasts out there today. So where do you even start when you’re looking for something new?
A couple of years ago, we ran a podcast discovery survey. Our aim was to find out more about how people found new podcasts to listen to.
It turns out, the most common way of browsing for new content is to use the search function in your listening app of choice. The easiest way to find podcasts to listen to is to type in a keyword or two. For example, “how to build muscle”, “learn Spanish”, or “gardening”.
Most podcast listening platforms have homepages or featured sections with charts. Typically, these will list some of the most popular podcasts out there right now. You can also browse the types of podcasts by category on many apps, so it’s easier to find your new favourite podcast, even if they don’t have a particularly searchable podcast name.
You can also find podcasts to listen to by asking others – people who you know have similar tastes or interests. This might be friends you know in real life or people in online communities.
Or, you can use a little-known online search tool called “Google” to find your next podcasting binge. A lot of your results here are likely to come in the form of roundups and recommendations. This can be great for downloading a few episodes of established podcasts with decent-sized back catalogues.
How to Watch a Podcast
Podcasts are primarily audio, but one of the most popular places for podcast consumption these days is YouTube. An increasing number of podcasters are uploading visual versions of their episodes onto this video platform.
So you can watch a podcast if it’s also being published somewhere like YouTube or Vimeo. Some shows film their episodes as they record them, but for others, their video will simply be a static image (usually their cover art) with the episode audio playing. Or, an audiogram with a dynamic waveform.
You can also watch a podcast if the host live-streams their episodes on platforms such as Facebook or Twitch. Here’s a deeper dive on how to watch a podcast if you prefer video over audio.
How to Delete Podcasts
Most podcast listening happens within smartphone-based listening apps. These apps are designed to delete podcast episodes once you’ve listened to them, but they also make it easy to delete them without having hit play.
You can also easily delete entire podcast series if you decide you don’t really like them. With episodes and full podcasts alike, it’s usually just a case of swiping left on them, and a ‘delete’ icon will pop up.
If you download podcast episodes on your computer, then you’ll need to find the files and delete them manually. This is a lot less common in 2023, though. Use a dedicated listening app, and you’ll never see or handle the actual files themselves.
Here’s a deeper dive into how to delete podcasts.
Two Great Tools To Help You Find Podcasts
Mad about True Crime podcasts but struggle to find the best ones? Or maybe you’re big on audio drama and on the hunt for your next epic adventure. Whatever podcast genre floats your boat, there are a couple of novel tools out there designed to solve the problem of how to new content. They’re both created by Rephonic.
- The Podcast Audience Graph lets you look up any podcast to see the other shows its listeners also enjoy.
- Discover New Podcasts lets you enter a list of podcasts you enjoy, and spits out some recommendations based on them.
Use these tools, and even the most obscure and innovative podcast subjects can be discovered quickly and easily.
Podcast Roundups: The Search for New Stories
We also have our own listener corner podcast directory, which is designed for busy people looking for their next top listen. That means we curate the top 5 to 10 podcasts in a variety of categories so that you can find the best comedy podcasts or the best sports podcasts. Also, be sure to check out our roundups on the Best Space Podcasts, Best Podcasts for Kids, Best Fiction Podcasts, Best Movie Podcasts, and Best Health Podcasts, depending on what sort of stuff you’re after!
Finally, now that you know how easy it is to listen to podcasts, you might be shocked at how easy it is to make your own. Bookmark our free step-by-step guide, below, and come back to it once you’ve been inspired by your new favourite listens…
Still wondering, what is a podcast?