Podcasts 101: What They Are, How To Listen And What’s Popular

Although traditional radio is increasingly on the decline, that doesn’t mean that audio entertainment is completely out. In fact, podcasts are more popular than ever. If you’re not quite sure what a podcast is, but you’ve been too afraid to admit it, it’s not as complicated as you think!

“A podcast is simply a piece of audio, a story, or an interview, or a documentary series that you can download and listen to whenever you want,” Chris Bannon, chief content officer at Stitcher, one of the world’s most popular podcast apps, told The List. (Both Stitcher and The List are owned by The E.W. Scripps Company, which also owns Simplemost.)

How To Listen

Unlike traditional radio, the great thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them on your own schedule. Much like on-demand television, you can queue up an episode of a podcast at any time. You can hop onto your computer and play the podcast right from its website, or if you’d rather listen on the go, you can use an app. Whether you want to listen while you exercise, while you clean the house or virtually anywhere else you go, podcasts can come with you.

Podcast apps like Stitcher are free and available for both Apple and Android devices, and also work with the Amazon Echo & Sonos. Other podcast-listening apps and platforms include iTunes, Spotify and PodBean. Although they each work a bit differently, they all have similar features.

Once you download the app, it’s easy to browse in order to find podcasts that may be of interest to you. For example, when you download Stitcher, from the home screen, you can search by topics, such as news and current events, classics, comedy and true crime.

Another option is to search by greatest hits, which will show you some of the most classic podcasts:

Top shows gives you a selection of the most popular podcasts on the app:

You can also use the search function to search a podcast based on title, host or keyword:

Once you choose a podcast, you can choose the episode you want to listen to, as well as save the podcast to your favorites:

What’s Popular

Podcasts offer a little something for everyone. Whether you’re into true crime, comedy or politics, there’s a podcast for that.

“Right now I think there’s never been more variety in what’s popular in podcasting,” Bannon said. “Joe Rogan, a talk show host and comedian, has had a show in the top ten pretty much since the dawn of podcasting. People like Conan O’Brien have gotten into podcasting in a big way.”

In 2014, the podcast “Serial” gripped listeners with its fascinating account of the 1999 murder of high schooler Hae Min Lee. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was convicted of her murder in her 2000 and sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years, but he continues to maintain his innocence to this day. There have been two subsequent seasons of “Serial,” each focused on interesting true crime cases.

Courtesy Serial

In addition to comedy and true crime, some other popular podcasts in other genres include The Daily, based on the day’s reporting from The New York Times; Radiolab, which explores complex scientific and philosophical concepts in an accessible and fun way; Planet Money, which breaks down the economy; and The Last Podcast on the Left, which delves into all things horror.

Are you ready to dive into podcasts?