Podcasts: What You Can Learn From Them and How to Find the Best Ones

Chances are, you already listen to music, TV, or books. So you’d probably enjoy hearing something different — the equivalent of talk radio on almost any subject —  through podcasts.

And you can do that while walking, driving, or in the background of your daily activities at home or work.

What are Podcasts?

Podcasts are a series of recorded audio episodes, generally focused on a particular subject or theme, such as sports, finances, or starting a business. You can download individual episodes or subscribe to a show with an app on your phone or other devices, and listen on your headphones, in the car or through speakers.

If you’re not familiar with the term “podcast,” it was coined by journalist Ben Hammersley, writing for the Guardian in February 2004. “Podcast” is a portmanteau word, which means a word blending the sounds and meanings of two others — in this case, iPod and broadcast.

The technology for podcasts had been available prior to that, but its popularity exploded in June 2005 when Apple added podcasting to its iTunes software and built a directory of podcasts in its iTunes Store.

Format

Here is what you can expect to hear on a podcast:

  • An advertisement from a sponsor (as most podcasts are free)
  • An introduction from the podcast host (anything from industry highlights to what’s happening in the host’s personal or professional life)
  • An interview between the host and an expert on the topic being discussed (sometimes the host provides all of the information in a podcast, but the interview format is more common)
  • An episode that lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour

Many podcasters post new episodes weekly.

How to Choose a Podcast

Just like books or videos, you can find podcasts on almost any subject.

You can search for great podcasts on your smartphone, and download them from there. I prefer to search for them on my computer since I work faster that way, and once I’ve found some options, go to my phone and download the podcasts.

My topic choice depends on what’s going on at the time. The other day, for instance, I was brainstorming video marketing ideas, so I researched and downloaded a podcast on video marketing. Often I have questions about writing, so I listen to writing podcasts.

After doing some research, you’ll likely find a number of podcasts on a topic you’re interested in. At that point you’ll want to do the following:

  • View the list of available episodes and see if any pique your interest. For example, one weekly podcast episode might include an interview with a female entrepreneur who made her first million before thirty. Another week it might be with an expert in building a brand.
  • Listen to one of the episodes to see if you like the host’s voice. Seriously! I personally am affected by voice  — some I like, some I don’t. So even though I’ve found great podcasts, if I’m not comfortable with the voice, I won’t listen to them. Make sure you enjoy listening to the podcaster before downloading episodes or subscribing.

When you’re ready, download individual episodes or subscribe to a podcast.

Tips for a Great Podcast Experience

You have some options that can make listening more enjoyable. These include:

Speed – If you get bored easily like I do, consider speeding up your podcast. On my iPhone, I have the option of listening to the podcast as is, or 1.5 times as fast, or twice as fast (or slower, if that’s what you prefer.) I always listen to podcasts at 1.5 times the speed at a minimum.

Skip – Most podcasts start with an introduction. It usually includes an advertisement from a sponsor of the show and information about the industry or what’s going on in the podcaster’s life. While some people may enjoy that, I generally don’t. There’s an option on my iPhone to skip some of the podcast (similar to how you can skip through a video).

Volume – This will vary, depending on the day and where you’re listening. At the gym, you might keep the volume lower. If you’re walking outside, near traffic or lawn mowing, you might need to increase the volume. Or you might want to change it throughout the podcast.

Five – I have a five-minute rule for most of the content I’m interested in (books, TV shows, podcasts, videos). I’ll give anything five minutes (I’m not very patient). Based on that experience, I choose whether to continue listening/reading/watching. You can do the same thing for each podcast episode. If you don’t love it, move on.

Favorites

I’ve been asked what podcasts I enjoy, and here they are:

The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn is a bestselling author of fiction and also writes non-fiction for authors. She has had a podcast for over 10 years! I love her voice (she’s English and has a great laugh.) She interviews writing experts and sometimes offers her own tips in her weekly podcasts.

Goal Digger Podcast – Jenna Kutcher is a marketer and social media influencer. She interviews experts on many subjects, generally about marketing and launching or running a business. All her interviews are with women experts, except for a recent one, with Tony Robbins.

BizChix Podcast – Natalie Eckdahl, a business strategist and high-performance coach, hosts a podcast where she interviews other female entrepreneurs on topics such as how to get more clients, working with a ghostwriter, as well as time and financial management.

I generally listen to business podcasts, but, as I mentioned, there are podcasts on every conceivable topic. If you’re looking for other types of subjects, here is a good list of podcasts for women.

What are some of your favorite podcasts? Please share your thoughts in the comments section, below.

 

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