Podcasts: Customized Radio for on the Go

podcast earphones
With the growing number of people using smartphones, tablets, as well as other mobile devices, discovery of podcasts and listenership continues to riseNote 1. Podcasts are digital recordings, which tend to be episodic, available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or a mobile device. A key element to a podcast is its RSS feed, which basically means listeners can subscribe to a podcast and automatically receive new episodes as they become available. (Note: While podcasts can be downloaded and subscribed to, individual episodes can simply be streamed from one’s computer or mobile device with an Internet connection.)

If you wish to subscribe to a podcast, in order to have new episodes delivered to your device or computer, you will need a podcasting application software called a “podcatcher.” Podcatchers not only allow you to play your podcasts, but they automatically download (or “catch”) new episodes, as well as let you manage your subscriptions. It is very likely your smartphone or tablet already has a podcatcher app available (e.g., the Podcasts app on iOS devices), or you can easily (and freely) acquire a podcatcher app (e.g., Stitcher Radio, Podcast Addict) from your device’s store. If you would like to “catch” your podcast’s newest episodes to your desktop, there are freely available podcatchers, such as iTunes or Juice, from which to choose.

Sometimes people think that podcasts are just another way to distribute music. They are, however, much more than that. Podcasts can be talk shows, news programs, videos of “do-it-yourself” demonstrations, educational talks, recordings from storytelling venues, panel discussions, literature/poetry readings, etc. Podcasts can be produced in video format (often referred to as a “vodcast”), but the audio format is more commonly distributed by organizations, companies, and individuals. There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts readily (and freely) available for you to discover.

To find podcasts to suit your interests, take a look at web-based podcast directories, such as iPodder or Podcasts.com. Also, some podcatchers, such as iTunes and Stitcher Radio, have built-in search features, allowing users to do keyword searches or browse podcasts by topics.

Downloading individual episodes gives you the ability to create a customized radio show specific to your liking. There are about ten podcasts that I listen to regularly. I download individual episodes and listen to them while I clean, workout, cook dinner, and before I go to sleep. With the files downloaded to my smartphone, I can listen to them whenever and wherever I want. To give you an idea of what is out there in the world of podcasts, as well as a sneak peek inside my personal radio repertoire, below are five podcasts representing diverse content readily available for your listening pleasure:

The Book Riot Podcast
Produced by Jeff O’Neil, Rebecca Schinsky and Bookriot.com
What kind of librarian would I be if I did not include a podcast about books? The Book Riot Podcast is a weekly podcast about all things books. Hosts Jeff O’Neil and Rebecca Schinsky discuss new releases and award winning books, but they also cover topics surrounding the book world. Discussions have touched upon how technology is changing how we read, America’s most literate cities, and the role public libraries play as community centers.

The Dinner Party Download
Produced by American Public Media.
Recently recommended to me by a colleague, The Dinner Party Download is the newest addition to my podcast rotation. The podcast’s title says it all. Each episode revolves around a “dinner party” agenda. For example, the episode starts out with a silly icebreaker joke. Then the conversation moves to “small talk,” a quick review of important recent events. During “cocktails,” the hosts bring in a bartender to create a drink related to the historical event, which has an anniversary occurring around the time of the episode’s broadcasting. A “guest of honor” (e.g., an author, filmmaker, actor, etc.) makes an appearance for an interview with the hosts, Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam. An author may share an excerpt from an upcoming book or new release during the “time to eavesdrop” portion of the dinner party. The “main course” consists of an overview of a current food trend....and so on. It is highly entertaining and educational. I have yet to use any of my new found knowledge at an actual dinner party, but I am ready when the time comes!

Manager Tools
Produced by Manager Tools, LLC
No time or money to attend professional development workshops? There is quite a variety of career-specific, as well as general professional development, resources available for listeners' consumption. For example, Manager Tools produces a weekly podcast, focusing on helping people develop leadership and management skills for more productive organizations and businesses. Each episode gives practical applications to an issue, such as communication, workflow, team building, and many more scenarios, encountered in the workplace. This treasure trove of “how tos” for organizations won the Podcast Award for Business in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2012. (Yes, there is an annual awards for podcasts. See The Podcast Awards’ website for past nominees and winners.)

Produced by Sara Koeing, Julie Snyder, Dana Chivvis, and Emily Condon in collaboration with WBEZ, Chicago Public Media
The Serial podcast's first season examines the sequence of events from the day of the crime in question to the court hearing that led up to Adnan Syed’s conviction of first degree murder. A spin-off of Ira Glass’ This American LifeSerial took me, my friends, and millions of others by storm. Each week, I could not wait to hear what was uncovered from “forgotten” witnesses to DNA tests to new findings (e.g., non-existent payphones). The creators’ unique re-telling of the story, surrounding that fateful day, made history by becoming the first podcast to receive a Peabody for its excellence in broadcasting. Serial followers, myself included, are on the edge of our seats, waiting for its second season, scheduled to broadcast this coming fall.

Welcome to Night Vale
Produced by Commonplace Books
Think of the surrealism of the 1990's television show, Twin Peaks, mashed up with an old-time radio drama, such as The Shadow, and you have the podcast Welcome to Night Vale. This modern day radio drama with a comedic twist “broadcasts” each episode in the form of a fictional town’s local news program. Newscasts report on the town’s bizarre happenings and the peculiar habits of its townspeople, creating a unique storytelling experience.

Start with my suggestions, or you can discover your own. What are you listening to???
Note 10 Vogt, Nancy. (2015, April 29). Podcasting: Fact Sheet. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from Podcasting Fact Sheet: Pew Research Center. (Back)

-Anna Van S.


Popular posts from this blog

Ocean-in-a-Bottle Craft for Kids

Neil Gaiman Ruined My Life

The Discipline of Gratitude