A beginner’s guide to becoming a true podcast listener
As I was editing some of my older blog posts, I realized that I missed something pretty darn obvious and very important. I talk about and reference podcasts so much in my posts, yet I never even bothered talking about how this weird habit of “podcast listening” actually works. Personally, I’ve been listening to them since 2009 but only became an “addict” around 2015. If you're already a regular podcast listener, the following “guide” will probably sound a bit patronizing and insulting to your intelligence. The thing is, after doing some research and finding some statistics about the industry, I realized it was quite necessary to put this post together:
- From what I gather, it seems like podcasting only began in 2004, a mere 13 years ago. Even though that seems like a century ago in terms of our personal lives, it’s absolutely nothing from the industry perspective. Think of it of like this: Facebook is only 13 years old as well!
- Despite its stratospheric growth, especially in the States, the podcast audience still only consists of +/- 57 million people in America. Fair enough, this number in itself is extremely impressive and continues to show fantastic growth, but if you think about the number of people that, for example, listen to music, watch TV, use social media, or do other such conventional activities, it seems like absolute peanuts. Plus, this figure is only for the American population; I imagine the figure is much lower in other countries (particularly non-English speaking ones) that haven’t adopted the practice as enthusiastically. From my experience living abroad, this definitely seems to be the case although I couldn’t find any data to confirm this.
- Regular podcast listeners are growing strongly but also still have a way to go. In 2016, approximately 21% of Americans aged 12 and older listened to podcasts at least once per month while 13% listened at least once per week. Again, the year-on-year growth is fantastic but there still remain so many ears untouched.
This all suggests that although podcasting has grown exponentially (and continues to do so) over the years, it remains more of a nerdy/geeky niche instead of a mainstream activity like watching Netflix or HBO. That said, I have high hopes that podcasts will one day become as mainstream as Facebook, Twitter, and iPhones and even be used for classroom teaching. But I should probably put all this wishful thinking and statistical tinkering aside; let’s get started with the important stuff!
Where, when, and how
The following is a pretty exhaustive list of options and suggestions because I understand that every person’s life is different so not every option will be applicable. In my case, I have more time on my hands because I’m a student but the point here is to give a basic sketch of the available opportunities in your day-to-day life where you can give podcasts a try. Just find something that works for you and your lifestyle and... do it!
Tip 1: Identify mundane, repetitive tasks in your daily life. I’m thinking of activities like doing your laundry, cooking meals, doing the dishes, cleaning up your room/apartment, and, if you live alone, while you're eating meals. These relatively mindless tasks can all be easily done on auto-pilot meaning that you have ample brain capacity available to listen to an episode or two while you’re busy.
Tip 2: Rethink the way you go from place to place every day. This is a basically an addendum to step 1, but still very important because it’s how I manage listen to the majority of my podcasts. Depending on your lifestyle and where you live, you either drive, cycle, walk, or use public transport at least daily to get from your home to some other place. Maybe you listen to (shitty?) radio on your travels, admire the splendor of Mother Nature, or daydream about being a Master of the Elements while you’re on your way to work/school. The perfect time, then, to add something intellectually stimulating to the daily commute!
Tip 3: Make exercise more interesting. The obvious prerequisite to this is, well, to exercise in the first place. No, I’m not saying you need to become some senseless bodybuilder or strive to be like those obnoxious twats at the gym that enjoy letting everyone know how loud they can be while they're lifting weights. A gentle evening jog or a weekly visit to the gym to do some light exercise is fine by me. That said, I understand if you prefer to listen to music while you’re exercising – I often do so as well – but why not switch it up once in a while with a podcast episode while you're working out?
Tip 4: Music. Following up from the last point, are you a heavy music listener? Try to substitute some time (20, 30 minutes?) you spend listening to music for a podcast episode. Unless you just can't stop...
For the lads: Gaming. This only works with the more casual, conversational podcasts instead of the very educational and/or deep podcasts because the latter forces your brain to multitask too hard. But I do enjoy putting on a chill podcast when I’m gaming and casually unwinding at the end of a day. This also depends on the type of game you play i.e. heavy on dialogue and intricate storyline or just mindless hack-and-slash.
Bonus tip: Listen to a variety of podcasts in different categories just as you would listen to different genres of music or watch different types of movies. Don’t just listen to career advice pods, try some about relationship/dating and lifestyle too. You never know: you can discover the coolest things in the most unexpected places.
Finally, I should give a little warning before you go off into this brave new world. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but don’t listen to podcasts while doing mentally-demanding work. Really, that type of multitasking is horribly inefficient and not very good for your brain. If you’re gonna do this type of work, you should probably just listen to some chill music or nothing at all.
Software: The means to an end
I think it’s safe to assume that all of you, dear readers, own a smartphone. Given this mind-blowing assumption, I can give you some practical advice for podcast consumption whether you own an iOS device or an Android advice. Let’s start with the easier one: our benevolent overlords at Apple.
It’s pretty obvious to see why the podcast experience is more streamlined with Apple products: they were the first to properly integrate them into their business and made the most effort to make the experience pleasant for both the users and producers. All you do is download the free Podcast app from the App Store and search for whichever station you like. You can synch them across devices and/or access them via iTunes. Honestly, that’s all there is to it. The embedded links explain everything as well.
If, on the other hand, you use an Android device, it’s a bit more of an adventure but still relatively doable. Although it took them some time, the hipster wizards at Google finally caught wind of the growing popularity of podcasts and incorporated them into Google Play Music. Unfortunately, they’ve only done this for their American and Canadian consumers so far, but I’m hopeful for the future. If you don’t live in these countries, you should just install an app (duh). The most popular podcast apps, roughly in order, are Stitcher, Soundcloud, Tunein, and Podcast and Radio Addict. Try some of them, see which one you like most, and start listening!
That’s a wrap folks!
To close this little guide of mine off, I would like to give you one parting word of advice: patience. When you start listening to a new podcast, give it at least 5-10 episodes before you make a final judgment on whether it’s worth your time or not. I thought that one of my favorite podcasts, The Fizzle Show, was terrible and completely not for me when I started listening to it. But with time, it grew on me and I started getting their inside jokes (It's so hot in the Asana!) and quirky personalities. And the rest, as they say, is history. Just like with meeting new people, first impressions can be awfully deceiving so be slow to judgment.
And if you do find one you like, leave them a review on their page. Be a good citizen, help them out. Leaving reviews helps them so much, so please just grant them that little act of kindness. But above all, enjoy the podcasts you listen to!
Through a miraculous stroke of coincidence, March happens to be the month of spreading podcast awareness! Use the hashtag #trypod on Twitter to spread the word! I know, it's a little less noble than cancer awareness initiatives, but hey I'm not the guy in charge.
Thanks to Edison Research for the statistics.
See you, Space Cowboy.