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 a Podcast, though.
That's where we come in! Here we look at the different ways that you can listen to a podcast, from smartphone to smart speaker, and everything in between.
Read more of our Listener's Guide to Podcasting.
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 you.
iPhone 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!
Alternative apps on iOS include Pocketcasts and Spotify, but you can see our full guide to Apple Podcast Apps here.
Android Podcast Apps
Android users have their own podcasting app built in – Google Podcasts – but it's far more limited than Apple's offering, and I wouldn't recommend it right now.
Instead, download Pocketcasts, or Castbox and start listening right away. 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. 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 a stop the show, as you're listening. Then you wont 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, and you can read about our favourite headphones here.
How to Listen to a Podcast 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. And 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.
As long as you have speakers or headphones connected up, this method of listening to a podcast works a treat. You can find a great range of computer speakers on Amazon that'll suit just about any budget.
Of course, long term, the disadvantage is that you're stuck sitting in front of your computer, which can be a bit of a chore when it's an hour-long show. But, if it's a short episode, or you can play the podcast through your PC speakers while doing something else around the house, then it can be a quick and reliable.
How to Listen to a Podcast in the Car
The car is the most common place 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? First 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
Next, 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.
As a last resort, some people use radio devices to basically broadcast your phone’s output on a particular frequency, then you can tune into that on your car radio. Or, remember those tape deck connectors for the really old school?
How to Listen to a Podcast on 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 with 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 a Podcast?
Subscribing is where the power of podcasting really kicks in. When you subscribe, 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 easily, and the other types of phone have similar apps.
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?
We ran a survey recently about podcast discovery. We wanted 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 search your listening app of choice. We're going to talk more about these apps in a minute. The bottom line though, is that some of them have charts or featured sections, but 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”.
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.
We have our own podcast directory, which is designed for busy people. That means it curates the top 5 to 10 podcasts in a variety of categories, so you can find the best comedy podcasts or the best sports podcasts. We've written a few roundups too, which might help you find podcasts to listen to. Check out 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!
Still wondering, what is a podcast?