Ever get frustrated when you lose your favourite radio station and have to scan for a new one on your road trip? And sometimes you’re only ever left with static. Maybe that playlist you created is sounding a little tired and worn out, and you just need something new. That’s where podcasts can come in handy and there’s one for just about every listener on about any topic. Our digital editor Leigh Hermon breaks down step-by-step how to listen to a podcast and offers up her suggestions for some great listening on your next road trip.
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What is a podcast?
Podcasts are downloadable radio or audio shows that you can listen to on your smart device. You can choose to stream (this can be costly) or download an episode to listen to later. You can pretty much find a podcast about anything these days including the economy, current affairs, history and comedy. Remember the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Well there’s a podcast all about the show called Buffering the Vampire Slayer. Muse Stories dedicates an entire episode to the history of gnomes while the Dental Hacks is purely for dentists and their profession. So like I said, a podcast for everyone on everything.
How to listen
For iPhone users, you’ll find a podcast app preloaded on your phone and ready to use.
- Look for a purple icon with a white microphone surrounded by two white circles. Tap on it and let your journey into the world of podcasts begin.
- At the bottom of the app, you’ll find four different tabs: Listen Now, Library, Browse and Search. If you’re new to the world of podcasts, you probably won’t find anything under the first two tabs, so tap Browse.
- This will take you to Apple’s recommended shows. You’ll be able to browse through the most popular shows, featured as well as different categories.
- Once you come across a show you like, you can start downloading episodes to your device. To download an episode, click the purple plus button to the right of an episode; it should change into a cloud. This means it’s been added to your library, but you have to tap the cloud in order to download the episode. The cloud will change to a purple square surrounded by a grey circle that shows the progress of your download. As soon as it’s downloaded the square will disappear. And that’s all there is to it.
- To view your downloads, tap Listen Now at the bottom left of your screen.
Some Android phones might come with a preloaded app to download and stream podcasts. If your smart device doesn’t have one then we recommend you download the Podcast Republic app for free from the Google Play Store.
- Once you’ve downloaded the Podcast Republic app, open it up.
- Tap the Featured tab and it will take you to recommended and popular shows. You can also browse categories by selecting the Category tab on the far right of the screen at the top. What are you in the mood for?
- Once you see a show you might like, tap on it. This will take you to the show’s page where you can read descriptions about each episode. Tap an episode to view it. The app will then bring up the option of either viewing the episode or playing it. I suggest keeping this setting on the default of viewing the episode only.
- If you want to start streaming the episode immediately, tap the blue play button on the left hand side. If you’d rather download and listen to it later, then you can tap the downward pointing arrow to the right of the play button.
- To view the episodes you’ve downloaded, tap Downloads on the bottom right side of your screen.
If you really like what you’re listening to, you can click the Subscribe button and the app will automatically download new episodes for you.
How much does it cost?
Depending on your preferences, the podcast apps are free. Podcast Republic does allow you to turn off in-app adverts, but for a fee. Podcasts are by and large free to download. They are funded through advertising, while others like Sam Harris will ask you to contribute to his podcast in whatever way you can. Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History is mostly available to download for free, but there are some series that come with a price tag. His Wrath of the Khans, Thor’s Angels and Logical Insanity are available for download for $1.99 each.
So everything is pretty much free, except for the data you use to download episodes. Both Apple Podcasts and Podcast Republic have settings that allow you to download podcasts when you are connected to WiFi. Double check your settings on the app. Unless you are connected to uncapped WiFi 24/7, I suggest downloading your shows on a WiFi network first (whether that’s at home or at the office) so that you can play it later. If you opt to stream, you run the risk of using your mobile data which can make for an alarming cellphone bill at the end of the month.
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Our favourite podcasts
For the listener who needs the latest news
Missed the news bulletin? There’s need to wait for another hour or half hour to go by Need to get your dose of news from around the world? Try the Global News Podcast from the BBC World Service. If you’re looking to keep it a little closer to home, then sign up for The Best of Breakfast with Bongani Bingwa.
For the listener who needs to know about the economy
The Economist: The week ahead takes a look at upcoming events and how they might shape our world. These are short episodes at 24 minutes each. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxed, you should give NPR’s Planet Money a try. Some of the episodes might seem more focused on the American economy, but sometimes a lot of their decisions affect the world’s economies. Each episode is not more than half an hour NPR’s journalists do their best to explain the economy in an easy-to-digest kind of way. There are episodes on phosphorus mining in Morocco, the first ever lottery and call centre scams.
For the listener who loves a bit of true crime
Serial is pretty much the podcast that captivated listeners from around the world and may have brought podcasts to the fore when it landed on the scene in 2014. You would sometimes hear people saying, ‘Have you listened to Serial yet? No? Then you simply have to.’ I’m not a huge true crime fan, but the first season gripped me and had me asking all the way through did Adnan Syed do it? Try not to Google this one; go ahead and listen to the first season.
Untold: The Daniel Morgan Murder is another true crime podcast I can highly recommend. It digs deep to uncover police corruption and conspiracy and at the heart of it is the unsolved murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan.
For the listener looking for a laugh
Undoubtedly one of my favourite podcasts is My Dad Wrote a Porno – bear with me. Jamie Morton found out that his dad had written his own erotic literature called Belinda Blinked and was selling it as an ebook on Amazon. Each week, Jamie sits down with his two friends Alice Levine and James Copper to read a chapter from his dad’s book. It is as cringeworthy as it sounds, but hysterical – it’ll definitely keep you entertained during a long drive. Just a disclaimer, this is a podcast for adults as there is explicit language. So maybe don’t play it while the kids are in the car.
Everyone pretty much has a podcast these days including actress Anna Faris. Unqualified is a fun podcast that gives listeners the chance to phone in and ask Anna and her guests for – as the podcast is aptly named – unqualified relationship advice from Hollywood.
For listeners who don’t want to be interrupted
One of the best things about podcasts is that they allow interviewers the space to conduct long form interviews with guests and they don’t have to stop the flow of a great conversation for an ad break. You can spend 40 minutes to three hours listening to an unhurried conversation between two people. The podcast that saw me leave radio behind was The Gareth Cliff Show on Cliffcentral.com. You can choose to listen to Gareth’s three-hour show that for the most part keeps a similar format from his days on 5fm; the only difference the last hour is designated to interviews with guests. If you’re only interested in this last hour of the show then I suggest you subscribe to Gareth’s Guests on your podcast app. You’ll find interviews with the likes of Pieter-Dirk Uys, the late Ahmed Kathrada and singer PJ Powers to name a few.
Some consider comedian Joe Rogan to be the pioneer of these long form podcast interviews. His podcast the Joe Rogan Experience is an eclectic mix of health, politics, mixed martial arts and comedy, and can be as long as an hour and a half to three hours. You’ll find interviews with film director Guy Ritchie, mentalist Derren Brown and nutrition expert Dr Rhonda Patrick. Once again there might be some explicit content that might not be for sensitive ears.
For listeners who want to learn something new
Author Malcolm Gladwell has a gripping podcast called Revisionist History. Each of his episodes focuses on a moment in time and how it can be viewed differently given what we know today. Watch out. You may find yourself binging all three seasons during one car trip.
No Such Thing As A Fish is a podcast from the team of researchers who are responsible for the weird and wonderful trivia from the British panel TV show QI. Dubbed the QI Elves, these researches have to present the most interesting thing they have learnt this week.
I mentioned Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History above and it’s a fantastic collection of historical podcasts. Find The Celtic Holocaust, The Destroyer of Worlds and Kings of Kings amongst his free podcasts.
Words Leigh Hermon
A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.