Unless you’ve been living under a virtual rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard the term ‘podcast’ thrown around quite a bit. But if you’re one of the people who still don’t quite know what a podcast is or how to access them, fear not -- you’re not alone. According to the latest statistics, 44% of the population in the US have listened to a podcast at some point. While that’s a pretty large percentage, there’s still a majority of people who have never delved into the world of podcasts.
But podcast listeners have been steadily increasing and the number of regular listeners has been growing as well. The percentage of people who listen to one or more podcasts on a regular basis was just over 10% in 2013. In 2018, that number has swelled to almost 30% and continues to grow, meaning people are liking what they are hearing.
So, just what is a podcast?
The origin of the term itself goes way back to 2004 -- it was coined in a Guardian newspaper article about the new this medium that had begun to appear. The “pod” is taken from the iPod device that was all the rage back then and the “cast” is borrowed from “broadcast”.
Technically defined, a podcast is “a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically”. That takes care of the technical definition, but still may not answer the question of just WHAT a podcast is.
The easiest way to think of a podcast would be a recurring radio show that is ‘on-demand’.In other words, you can listen to it on your schedule and aren’t burdened by having to listen at a certain time. Not only that, but podcasts also generally have their entire library of episodes available to download and listen to, so you’re not hindered by any sort of schedule -- if you find a podcast that you can like, you can binge on as many episodes as you want or listen to them in any order.
Because pretty much anyone with a microphone and an internet connection can produce a podcast, there is no limit to the subject matter out there. Podcasts don’t tend to be driven by advertising revenue (although some podcasts certainly do feature sponsors or advertisers) so they are able to focus on specific audiences and generally aren’t worried about appealing to a broad demographic in ways that conventional media may be. Looking for a podcast about cooking catnip pastries for your cat? There’s probably a podcast out there about the subject.
It should be noted of course that just because the origin of the name comes from Apple, that doesn’t mean that podcasts can only be accessed by Apple devices or digital media devices. Any smart phone, computer, digital media device or even specialized Assistive Technology devices such audio book players can access podcasts these days. Digital Assistants such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo can play podcasts and most of the streaming music services such as Spotify and Google Music also now have access to massive podcast libraries.
Podcasts Sound Cool! How Do I Get Started?
If you’re looking to use your Smartphone or tablet to listen to podcasts on, the logical first step is to find a podcast app to use. There are literally dozens of these to choose from and there are both free and paid versions. Of course, for those people with visual or other types of impairments who may need something accessible, we have a few recommendations. We should note that while some of these options are free, some you’ll have to plunk down a few dollars for.
If you’re on iOS, the built-in Podcast app is already very good and highly accessible. However, if you're looking for some options that are also fairly accessible, you could try the following:
Of course, these are just a few. Feel free to explore on your own as well, and by all means if you find something that we haven’t listed here, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be sure to add it to the list.
If you’re looking to listen to listen on a computer, most podcasts have their own dedicated websites that you can visit and have embedded mp3s of each other their episodes. If you’re looking for a good starting point and/or directories of podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, AudioBoom, Mixcloud, or Acast are all good places to start.
Once you’ve chosen your podcast app of choice,it’s just all about exploring and finding Podcasts to subscribe to. Subscribing to a podcast is usually as easy as the click of a button, and that means that the app will alert you when any news episodes are available to listen to.Most apps will allow you to search for topics and will suggest podcasts for you or, if you know the specific name of the podcast, you can search for it that way as well.
If you’re looking for a few disability or assistive technology related podcasts to start off with, well we can help with that. Here’s just a few of our favorite podcasts around here:
And that’s it. All that’s left now is to get those earbuds in and start exploring!