Podcasts have become an essential element of the digital landscape — and you should be a part of it.
Podcasting has exploded into the forefront of the digital age, with a presence in entertainment, education, business, and more. Despite this, it has proven to be one of the least accessible forms of content on the internet. Finding episodes on your device is not nearly as simple as searching for a specific video on a website like YouTube and pressing ‘play.’ And with so much content to choose from, finding what you actually want to listen to can feel more daunting than the labors of Hercules.
Most popular platforms to listen to podcasts
So, where’s the best place to start? If you’re looking for an introduction to this dynamic emerging form of internet radio, check out our breakdown article, 'What is a Podcast?' Otherwise, read on for information on the best options for content consumption.
How to get started listening to podcasts
Depending on what device you prefer to use, there is a myriad of ways to listen to podcasts. At the end of 2018, Apple Podcasts was the king of the hill in terms of sheer listeners. For context, the next most popular platform, Spotify, had only carved out 19% of the listener base.
Despite what the statistics say, what is most popular might not be the best choice for you. When approaching a relatively new medium like podcasts, it’s important to understand what platform will work best with your lifestyle.
3 common ways to listen to podcasts on Mac and PC
If you want to listen to podcasts on your computer, you’re in luck! Computer users, be they on Mac or PC, have the best options available to them when it comes to consuming podcasts. Not only can you find the specific web pages hosted by some of the larger shows, but you also have access to some of the most powerful tools for finding and organizing
iTunes is one of the oldest platforms for podcasts on the market. In many ways, iTunes can be credited for the current renaissance of podcasts we are experiencing after Apple’s 2005 decision to bequeath podcasts their own section in on the platform. This decision ushered podcasts into the mainstream and opened a market of millions of listeners for content creators to explore.
But does this storied past mean iTunes is right for you? The platform has a lot going for it: basically, every device can run it and its library is comprehensive and easy to navigate. Additionally, it has the best free-to-use model of any of its competitors. However, it is woefully lacking in meaningful playback controls and only gives you the bare bones in terms of tailoring your listening experience.
TIP: Apple has recently announced an upcoming update for iTunes’ podcast functionality with an improved look and more features to enhance the overall user experience
Spotify has become one of the more recent leaders in the podcasting scene. The company announced a plan to spend up to $500 million towards exclusive content, improved discovery features, and tools for creators. When combined with their excellent music streaming service and availability across all platforms — not to mention a feature that allows you to instantly change your audio playback from one device to another — it’s pretty apparent that Spotify is trying to position itself as the de-facto software for all audio content. Furthermore, their software boasts an excellent user experience across every platform and gives you full control over playback. You can use it free with some ad interruption or pay $9.99/mo for a premium subscription that also includes access to their music streaming service.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, they are still relatively new to the podcasting space and as such, their library is fairly limited. However, it’s not too hard to request that they add your favorite shows to their platform.
While home to a much smaller listener base than either Spotify or iTunes, Stitcher has nevertheless managed to set itself apart as an important player on the podcasting market. One of its unique features is that it allows you to find specific episodes and organize them into custom playlists, unlike the majority of other platforms that only organizes content by topic.
Of course, with all these excellent options, PC and Mac users do have the rather large drawback of not being able to listen on-the-go. These devices might appeal to people who either don’t have a device capable of playing podcasts on the go or want to really spend some quality time practicing active listening to their favorite shows at home.
How to listen to podcasts on iPhone
Originally, the iPod was Apple’s flagship product for portable audio playback and came to define an entire generation of music and podcast lovers. The iPhone has since had incredible success in taking up that crown, continuing to be one of the easiest-to-use (and best looking) options for media consumption in a phone on the market.
One of the things that makes this platform so accessible for new podcast listeners, in particular, is that every iPhone comes pre-loaded with the Apple Podcasts app. While this platform lacks some of the more specialized features of third-party applications, it’s a breeze to navigate, has a huge content library to pursue, and is an excellent tool for finding new podcasts to try with its curated suggestions. Plus, it’s completely free!
You really can’t go wrong with Apple Podcasts as your gateway into the world of podcasting. If you’re looking for something with more features, then you can find other great apps like Pocket Casts and Overcast through a simple search on the App Store.
How to listen to podcasts on Android
While Android devices have a similarly wide range of apps to choose from, the lack of a default option does add an additional hurdle when it comes to jumping into podcasts for the first time. If you’re looking for an easy place to start, Google Podcasts is one of the most commonly used free applications on Android devices. It has a similar level of functionality to Apple Podcasts and is a great way to start consuming content on the go.
However, one of the more popular options for Android is Pocket Casts. Despite the fact it has a $3.99 price tag with no free features, the listening experience this application provides is second to none. With customizable themes, variable playback speed, and the ability to synch playback times from other devices, it gives you unparalleled control over your shows.
What series is right for you?
With so many podcasts available for users of all kinds of platforms, it can be a little daunting to start the journey to find a series or episode that resonates with you. After all, episodes can be anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour long, and nothing is worse than feeling as though you’ve wasted your time when you were doing something that was supposed to be restful and enriching.
If you’re completely new to podcasts, the best place to start is with a quick google search of popular podcasts. While not everyone is going to love the same things, most of these podcasts have a few things in common: high production values, phenomenal storytellers, and downright fascinating premises. At the very least, you can be sure you’ll be engaged by the best of the best.
Another way to find podcasts is to look for shows on topics you’re already passionate about or that are produced by notable individuals who you find inspiring. No matter how niche your interests are, chances are other people feel strongly about the same thing and someone has been talking about it.
The device you choose to listen with will greatly alter your approach to podcasts. Computers are generally better for active listening around the house and have a plethora of options for finding and organizing content.
The mobility provided by smartphones allows for podcasts to enhance the quiet moments of life that fall in between the events that demand our full attention. In any event, you should feel empowered to try any number of different shows and platforms until you find the best fit for you. After all, the power is in your hands!
Interested in starting your own series? Check out our podcasting 101 guide for all the information you need to get started!
Piper is a former content associate at G2. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, they graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in Sociology. Their interests include podcasts, rock climbing, and understanding how people form systems of knowledge in the digital age. (they/them/theirs)