How to listen to podcasts

Let's file this under things that may seem obvious but aren't. Not everyone knows where to find, and how to access, podcasts. Maybe the newer versions of iTunes threw you for a loop (it did me), or perhaps you adamantly refuse to join the cult of Mac. Either way, I've had to walk enough people through how I listen to podcasts that I figured a quick explanation might be warranted.

Let's start with how I do it. I listen to podcasts exclusively through my iPhone. I'm either bopping along with my earbuds jacked in, pretending my phone is this decade's version of the '80s boombox and rocking the 'cast out loud, or with my phone sitting in the cup holder of whatever vehicle I'm driving. I listen to 90% of the podcasts I follow during my 2-3 hour (RT) commute or while driving to one of my many out of town meetings or field visits. Needless to say, I probably have quite a bit more time than the average person to listen to podcasts.

Step 1: Podcast app

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Download the Podcasts app from the App Store. To find it, I just searched for 'podcasts', and it was the first to come up. You want the one put out by Apple. I'm sure there are others that will also work, but I like this one.

Step 2: Searching for podcasts

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Using an app like Podcasts will allow you to subscribe and keep track of all of the various things you'd like to listen to. To add your favorite podcasts, click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen to search for the various feeds. Type in something like, oh I don't know, 'thats what she read' and hit the search button. Click on the image under podcasts toward the bottom of the screen, and it will direct you to basic information about the feed, an episode list, and a button to subscribe (upper third of the screen). Click subscribe.

Step 3: Adding episodes

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Once you've subscribed to a podcast, you can listen and manage that feed by clicking 'My Podcasts' at the bottom of the screen. The feed you just subscribed to should be listed alongside the other podcasts you dig. When you first subscribe to a new feed, you'll find the app adds only the most recent episode to your list. To add more, click on 'Add Old Episodes' for a full list of available episodes. Simply select all the ones you're interested in by touching them and clicking 'Add' when done. When you're done listening to an episode, you can clear it by swiping to the left across it and selecting delete.

Step 4: Listening to episodes

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You have a couple of options when listening to a podcast episode. If you're like me, you don't really have a desire to download a lot of data to your phone or may not be near a wifi connection to download a longer podcast. I like the ability to stream episodes right from the app and listen this way almost exclusively. Just click on the title of the episode and press play once you see a screen similar to the one on the left. Depending on your settings, you may have to verify that you wish to stream this episode over your cell network.

To download an episode, click on the little cloud with the down arrow. I'll load up on a few episodes this way if I'm traveling to a more remote location or am headed on a long flight. Be wary of your episode settings. I turned off the auto-download feature to preserve data.

That's the gist of how I manage all of the podcasts I listen to. It just so happens that a new episode of That's What She Read is live for your listening pleasure. It's one of our dinner club episodes, and our guests include Scarlet, Randi, and Steven!

If you've got an Android phone or are just looking for an alternative app, you can download Stitcher. Once you sign up, you can browse stations or type in the name of the podcast in the search bar. Click the name of the podcast to pull up a description and other details. Add it to an existing (or create a new) playlist by selecting the + symbol near the top. You can find this and other podcasts you add by selecting 'My Stations'. Unlike the Podcasts app, it will add almost all of the available episodes to your playlist, and the episodes are all streaming. To listen, click on the episode title you want to play.

There are, of course, other apps for listening. This post lists a few. Road test a couple and figure out which one works best for you. You can also stream podcasts directly from their website. I use Podbean for each of my podcasts, and you can download or listen directly from the respective podcast webpages.

Don't forget to subscribe to That's What She Read if you're into books and the reading life, and of course, we're chatting all things Gilmore Girls every other Friday on Friday Night Dinner!