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What Is A Podcast And How Do They Work?

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How would you describe a podcast to someone who has never heard of them before?

That was a question that was recently asked in a Facebook Group I’m apart of.

Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, the answers varied a bit…

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Even though the way people describe what a podcast is varies, the answers tend to overlap in these areas:

  • Free
  • On-demand
  • Niche
  • Talk radio

I thought this answer summed it up well:

It’s all of your favorite blogs, shows, and topics (some you didn’t even know you’d enjoy!) wrapped up in a huge hub of recordings (Apple Podcasts, etc) that you can explore, download and listen to on your own time. In the car, at work, at home, working out, anywhere. If you can Google it, there’s probably a Podcast about it!

The dictionary definition of a podcast is:

A digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.

The term Podcast is actually a portmanteau of iPod and Broadcast.

Podcasting started as mostly an independent way for individuals to get their message out there and build a community of people with similar interests.

That still exists, but today there are podcasts from:

  • individuals
  • companies (large and small)
  • radio networks (like NPR)
  • TV networks (CNN, Fox, ESPN, etc.)
  • new podcast-only networks (Gimlet is a great example)
  • comedians
  • storytellers (Lore comes to mind)
  • churches (Red Rocks Church is amazing)

and a whole lot more…

There isn’t a pre-determined length, format, style, production level, or anything else.

Podcasts can be broken up into “seasons” like a TV show (Serial is probably the most famous example of this, but my new favorite is Business Wars by Wondery), or be episodic and ongoing.

A weekly release for new episodes is common, but there are daily podcasts, weekly podcasts, and really any cadence (or lack thereof) the creator desires.

Put simply, a podcast is a series of episodes.

These episodes are audio files that are likely stored with a podcast hosting company.

Another great thing about podcasts is that you can subscribe to them, which makes it easy to get notified (via your favorite podcast app) when new episodes come out.

What’s exciting about podcasting is that it is relatively easy and cheap to produce your own show. And the popularity of podcasts is growing by the day.

You don’t need to rely on radio stations for recording and broadcasting – and you can talk about anything that interests you.

Want to start your own podcast? Check out our guide on how to start a podcast and this podcast starter kit guide for some basic gear recommendations and start recording!

And here are the other answers to the question of how do you describe a podcast:

Audio on demand.

Online on-demand pre-recorded talk radio show where you can find someone talking about most subjects under the sun. A lot of times the hosts (and guests) are everyday people sharing their expertise and experiences.

Radio for your phone.

Free, online talk show on any topic you can imagine.

It’s a way to have audio content for specific subjects delivered to a device so it’s easy to access.

It’s downloadable niche talk radio.

A pre-recorded radio show that is essentially on-demand on a multitude of platforms for consumption. It’s something that can either be vague or very specific in one’s interests.

It’s like Netflix for audio.

Downloadable radio on every subject imaginable!

Audio entertainment anywhere, anytime, about anything.

Audio discussions about any subject you can think of and you can listen to them anytime that works for you.

Downloadable talk radio – but you ultimately choose the topics that you want to listen to.

On-demand audio recording focused on a specific theme or story, usually updated frequently.

Audio books for blogs.

An audio version of a blog that you can listen to anywhere

An audio show that you usually can’t find on the normal radio because it serves a niche, meaning really interesting to YOU.

The equivalent of self publishing your book. It allows everyday people with great ideas to publish their ideas or thoughts in an audio format for others to enjoy with out having to go through traditional media like radio.


Article By Ross Winn

Ross Winn is the founder of Podcast Insights, the industry-leading podcast education site. He has helped thousands of people start and grow a podcast and loves to test out new gear and software.
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Learn How To Start A Podcast

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