How to Listen

This is only a rough introduction, but it should help you get started!

  1. Have a way to listen. Most podcasts are MP3 files, although some are distributed in other formats. As long as you have a way to play them, you’re set.
    • Listen on your computer. Your Mac or PC probably already has a program installed that can handle MP3s, and you can always download free applications off the web. Because of the strong links between podcasting and the popularity of the iPod, a lot of people use iTunes to manage their MP3s (there are versions for both Mac and Windows machines). Winamp is another popular program for Windows users.
    • Listen on your MP3 player. Most podcast fans take their favorite shows on the road with portable digital music players, like the Apple iPod, or MP3 players from Creative, iRiver, or Rio. Each of these devices come with software that help you manage your MP3 files.
  2. Find podcasts you want to hear. Chances are you heard about a specific show when you decided to look into podcasting, so start there first. If you want to search for or browse other podcasts, there are many review and directory sites out there. PodcastAlley.com and Podcast.net are two decent starting places. Even this early in the game, the range of shows can be dizzying. You can start with shows that are ranked highly or mentioned frequently and wander from there.
  3. Download the shows and listen to them. This is where it gets interesting. In nearly all cases, podcast websites will have a prominent link with each posted show that you can click to manually download the MP3 to your computer. When you first get started, this is a perfectly reasonable way to get content.

    But the real genius of podcasting is their integration with RSS — basically, a technology that allows you to subscribe to a podcast, setting your computer to automatically check for and download new shows as they’re posted, and moving them to your MP3 player. The most common podcast client is iTunes, which is made by Apple but works on Windows as well as Macs. Another free option is Juice, which is free and also available for several platforms.

    Most podcasts sites will feature a prominent link to their subscription feeds. (Many of them will even have links specifically for iTunes users, who can subscribe with one click.) These are often labeled “RSS” or “XML” or “POD,” usually using bright orange graphic buttons. Just copy the link (click and hold on a Mac, or right click on a PC), and paste it into your podcast client. Voila! You’re subscribed.

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