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What is podcasting, and how does it work? - Tall Tales Skip to main content

Over the last few years, podcasting popularity has grown. With millions of people around the world listening to podcasts every day. Podcast topics vary from those focusing on a niche interest (people who love pens & stationary). To those that offer a wider appeal. Many of Time Magazines’ 100 most influential people have set up podcasts focusing on their area of expertise.

The potential power of podcasting is endless. Yet, for many people, the world of podcasting remains uncharted territory. If you have clicked into this article, it is likely you are one of these people. But fear not because in no time you’ll know exactly what a podcast is, and who knows? Not far from now you might even find yourself your own favourite podcasts, podcasters, and podcast networks.

Introduction to podcasting

The exact description of what podcasting is can vary from person to person depending on who you ask. The word podcast itself is quite a recent addition to our 21st-century vocab, it is a portmanteau of the two terms ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’. It was only coined in the year 2004. Despite the name, podcasts are readily available for access from a range of devices, and not solely from iPhones or iPods. 

In short, a podcast is essentially an audio-based media product that is different from the radio or television. Podcast episodes differ from television because there is no visual media source. And from the radio, because users don’t have to ‘tune in’ to a live show to listen. Instead, podcasting is a way of distributing audio files via the internet. A podcast is simply an audio file uploaded by a podcaster or a podcast producer, available for anyone with an internet connection to access and download. 

Generally, podcasts are created in a series format, with a recurring host who discusses or educates their listeners on a specific range of topics over several episodes. A listener who enjoys a particular podcast is capable of subscribing to that podcast to be notified when new podcasts are released and stay up to date with every new podcast uploaded in the series. Some podcasts are independent, others exist as a part of the bigger picture that is a podcast network. 

Podcast networks

A podcast network is a collection of podcasts connected by a similar theme, genre, partnership, or ownership. The result of this connection is that podcasts within a podcast network tend to share their listener base. Due to this, podcast networks are great for cross-promotion amongst the different podcasts. Podcasting networks can provide listeners with a user-friendly means of accessing the world of podcasting simplifying the process by having only one contact. But they still provide the opportunity to discover multiple podcasts. Podcast networks will group related podcasts according to similar topics. Some podcast networks contain podcasts of diverse topics or themes and offering listeners a chance to diversify their interests. Podcast networks are a great tool for both podcasters and podcast listeners alike.

What should I expect when listening to a podcast?

Podcasting topics range from intriguing, bizarre and entertaining to simple and informative. There is no pre-determined length, format, style, production level, or process when it comes to podcasts. There are few rules when it comes to creating or listening to a podcast. Discussion and content within a podcast can range from carefully scripted to completely improvised. Sometimes a podcast series may consist solely of in the moment conversations between a host and a guest, and sometimes podcasts combine elaborate and artistic sound production with thematic concerns ranging from scientific research to slice-of-life journalism to immerse the listener in the podcast experience. Many podcast series’ provide associated websites with links and show notes, guest biographies, transcripts, additional resources, commentary, and even a community forum dedicated to discussing the show’s content.

The uses of podcasting

One of the main uses of podcasts is as a source of entertainment. Much like other modern media such as watching television, or listening to the radio, a podcast provides listeners with a simple and effective way to spend time doing something they enjoy. 

Podcasts can also be a way to escape from the rush of everyday life for many people. Today, the average human has an attention span of just over 8 seconds, far shorter than the average attention span of 15 seconds recorded in the year 2000. With our minds constantly moving, we can find ourselves, now more than ever, looking for a break from all of the noise around us. In this sense, podcasting provides an outlet for people to passively listen and engage with interesting stories and ideas, while also getting a break from the intensity of a busy day. 

Most essentially, podcasts are a vessel for distributing information and discussing current issues. Podcasts have cemented their importance in modern society.

In an era where there is so much information available to us. It is hard to break down and understand what we are reading or seeing. This is where podcasts become a powerful tool in effectively educating their audiences. An array of educational material and novel information is made accessible to people through podcasts.

Podcasting and Education

There are many uses for podcasts in educational environments such as the classroom. They can be used to convey instructional information from the teacher or trainer, motivational stories, and auditory case studies. It has been observed that many college and school students use podcasts to further their education in their own time. Sometimes students may use podcasts to give themselves a rundown on a specific topic before they engage with it in the teaching environment, and in some cases, students use podcasts after a class as a means of reinforcing any information learned from the comfort of their own homes. 

We are only scratching the surface of the potential use for podcasts, and listeners can and will continue to enjoy podcasts for a variety of different reasons as the years go on.

How are podcasts made?

The beauty of podcasting is that it is relatively cheap and easy to produce your podcast series, and the podcast can consist of any topic that interests you. With podcasting popularity increasing by the day, more and more creators are taking the helm and setting up podcasts. 

The essentials for making a podcast are a host (or hosts), recording equipment, and a topic to be discussed. Recording a podcast series is relatively simple from there. Firstly, the podcaster needs to think of podcast ideas. The simplest way to make a podcast is to think of a podcast idea or topic that interests you. When the podcaster has an idea in mind for the content they want to produce, careful planning is required. The creator needs to think about their target audience and brand their podcast accordingly. The podcaster needs to come up with an appropriate name and an appropriate range of topics to do this. From here the podcaster needs to think of what style of podcast they want to record and source the appropriate equipment for recording and editing. 

When all of these pieces of the puzzle are fit together the podcaster can start recording their podcast and release it for the world to enjoy.

How do I access podcasts?

The first question on many people’s minds when they hear the term podcast is “do I need an iPod to access podcasts”. The answer to this is of course no, podcasts are accessible from a vast array of online resources, and streaming services.

The three most simple ways to access podcasts are: 

  • Online via a web browser,
  • On an iPhone or iPad
  • On an Android device.

Accessing podcasts on a website

Using a web browser accessing a podcast is as simple as finding a website that has podcasts that you’re interested in, searching for a podcast episode you wish to listen to, and clicking play. 

Accessing podcasts on an iPhone

When iPhones are purchased, they come with an app titled ‘Podcasts’ which should already be pre-downloaded. 

Accessing podcasts on an Android device

On an Android device, the Google podcasts app needs to be downloaded from the play store app.

Spotify can also be used on both apple and android devices to listen to podcasts. 

So, should I start listening to podcasts?

The short answer to this question is yes! As a listener the cost of consumption is low and the value of enjoyment is high!

Podcasts provide a key advantage over watching television, in that they don’t require visual attention, and so they can be listened to while multitasking. This also comes in handy for people who find their eyes strained from too much screen time. The great thing about podcasts is that they provide an entertaining alternative to visual media. 

Podcasts are often independent or created by individuals with a passion for the topics their podcast episodes revolve around. Because of this listening to podcasts provides listeners with some unique insights into interesting topics and issues. Without all of the bias of mainstream media. 

There are so many positives to listening to podcasts, we could list them all day. But that would be a waste of valuable listening time. Instead, you need to venture into the world of podcasting. Find podcasts on topics that excite you, or better yet, start a podcast on a topic you’re passionate about!

At Tall Tales Podcasts, we look after your entire podcast needs. From recording and post production to artwork and distribution. Email Hello@TallTales.ie to get started.

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Cassie Delaney

Cassie Delaney

A media professional with more than ten years experience of producing, editing and distributing media for Ireland's leading brands. My primary passion is producing high quality content and growing audiences. My work has been recognised by The Media Awards, The Digiday Awards and The Content Marketing Awards. In 2018, I was listed as one of The Sunday Business Post's Top 30 Under 30.