A Beginner’s Guide to Podcasts

by Crystal Paradis-Catanzaro
What the heck is a podcast — and should I be listening to them?

I freaking love podcasts. Some might say that I have a problem listening to my own inner thoughts (or maybe I’m ripping that off from Glen Weldon), and those people would be right, but you know what? Falling asleep listening to a podcast seems slightly less unhealthy than falling asleep to a visual show on a glowing screen, so I call it progress.

Of course, I don’t just listen to them at night — I also use them as blackmail to get myself to do my laundry and dishes and cleaning. And anytime I’m driving, I’ll turn one on, but as my commute by car is about 2 minutes, I don’t spend much time in a 4-wheeled vehicle.

What IS a podcast?

You could say a podcast is any audio file uploaded to the internet through which you can subscribe or listen to episodes online or on your internet-connected mobile device. You can find them through iTunes under Podcasts, or on Stitcher, SoundCloud, or just as regular ol’ MP3s streamed or downloaded off of a web page.

Personally, I consider podcasts and radio shows to be somewhat different, even though many radio shows are available to listened to later AS a podcast, but some consider anything delivered through the medium of a podcast to be a podcast, and who can really argue with that? Maybe we’ll come up with a linguistic differentiator between the form and the distribution method (and if you know of one, please comment and let me know!).

Radio Show Podcasts:

This American Life

1460251_10152076614106337_1352038743_nThis one tops most lists out there in terms of listenership, and might be the most listened to podcast (radio show). Different themes each week, varying topics, brought to you by reporters from around the country and tied together with Ira Glass, who, in spite of his questionable views on Shakespeare, is a great radio voice. Try this episode: No Place Like Home.




1017646_10151566569503423_1336923975_nThis is likely the fave around the Vital office — Getman and Ridley are big fans. I like the show and find it very interesting, but the editing/overlapping you either love or hate, and sometimes I don’t love it. But I still listen to it off and on, and you should check it out because you might really love it. Check out: What’s Left When You’re Right?


Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me

1236560_10152181235524992_1552146753_nThe first radio show I really started listening to super regularly, before I got into podcasts and was just excited to find episodes online.

A fun roundup of weekly news and trivia with a panel of comedians, and topped off with a fun interview with a person of note. Check out this recent episode with the delightful Tim Gunn.


Web Podcasts:

Pop Culture Happy Hour

539740_399602240051248_303661113_nMy very first favorite podcast, and the “gateway drug” that got me super INTO podcasts. I’ve probably already mentioned it to you several dozen times if we hang out ever. The team is fun, witty, and smart, and I have discovered many things based on their recommendations in the “What’s Making us Happy This Week” ending segment. I’d start with this episode from awhile back, celebrating their 3rd anniversary, and when the original four (Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, and Trey Graham (Trey with an “e” and Graham like the cracker!)) were still all on the show (Trey left the show a while back; sad times). Then, if you dig it, listen to recent ones and then go backwards to the first episode and then forwards all the way through them all again until you hit present day. Not that I did that. Or am starting to do that a second time…


Call Your Girlfriend

Call Your Girlfriend podcast

Ann Friedman, who was my “gateway drug” into email newsletters, co-hosts this podcast with her bestie, Aminatou Sow. Ann and Amina chat about all things we lady besties talk about — what’s going on in feminist news, what’s going on in pop culture, what people are saying about women and the way we talk and what’s going on with periods. That’s right, they have a segment called “This week in menstruation” where they talk openly about all things period — from the latest period accoutrement to raising awareness about how to help keep periods from stopping girls in Africa from accessing education. It’s good stuff. I, like, recommend it. Start with this episode from the beginning of the year for a great well-rounded sampling of common topics.


Another Round

another round podcastThis one came across my radar with their interview of Hillary Clinton (which, by the way, is probably my favorite interview with Secretary Clinton that I’ve ever heard). Tracy and Heben are fun to listen to as they talk about anything at all — and they also happen to be talking about a lot of feminist topics and issues on race and gender, which is all right up my alley. The podcast is produced by BuzzFeed, and also includes some helpful segments for people looking for jobs or just want to understand Kanye better (for which you should also check out Call Your Girlfriend).


One Part Podcast w/ Jessica Murnane

one part podcastThis podcast came into my life through a series of synchronicities that is pretty unbelievable… so I won’t get into that. But. She’s got a great podcast, and often tackles subjects that I was JUST thinking about that week — misophonia, nutrition on a busy schedule, etc. She’s also got a great blog with easy-to-make recipes. She usually asks her guests to share things that they’ve found cool that week, and a recipe that they like or have been wanting to try. Everything about the vibe of this podcast is about doing small things — everything in moderation — that improve your life, instead of striving for unreasonable perfection. Sound good? You’ll love this podcast.

You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes

302388_158048400956482_1647542050_nI actually discovered this one by searching “Dane Cook” because I was curious one day what ever happened to that guy, and found an interview with Pete Holmes, who sounded vaguely familiar but whose Comedy Central show I hadn’t seen. I got hooked after hearing a few more episodes and enjoying his segments talking about meditation, spirituality and healthy eating — and ability to truly enjoy hearing differing views on all of those things — which set it apart from other comedy podcasts. Check out that Dane Cook episode because it’s SUPER interesting.

WTF with Marc Maron

269570_224650387567814_5039027_nThere’s a reason this is one of the most popular podcasts out there. He gets really interesting guests, and they talk for a long time. There is, as evidenced by the podcast title, some harsh language, so if that’s not your deal, you probably won’t like this one. But lots of interesting stories with very interesting people. Check out his interview with Allie Brosh (of Hyperbole and a Half), which is now back in the archives that can only be accessed with a premium subscription, but it’s worth a trial to check it out.

The above recommendations are mostly in the comedy, feminism and pop culture genres, as that tends to be my area of interest, but there are podcasts about everything. For example, when I was doing some research on a new client recently, I decided to search for them through iTunes under podcasts to see what I could find. The company name, MegaFood, brought up several podcast episodes where nutritionists talked about the method of making MegaFood supplements, or interviews with their product marketer about ingredients and quality, etc., and there you have it — I was able to continue my client research even after I was too tired to read words.

Do it.

So yes, you should listen to Podcasts, but remember — keep trying new ones ’til you find ones you really like, and it’s never to early to give up on a podcast. Sometimes I’ll search for a person (author, actor, director, etc.) that I am into just to hear more interviews and will only make it 30 seconds into 7/10 of the search results. Because there ARE so many out there, they are not all for everyone. But that also means that there are likely a whole bunch of them that you will really like. Much like the blogging explosion, the internet has made it so easy for anyone to create a podcast that there are podcasts out there that you’d swear were made JUST for you.

And so, to wrap up the post, I’ll link to some totally random yet somewhat delightful podcasts:

What podcasts do you listen to? What radio shows? Or do you not consider them separate types of media? Please let me know in the comments. I’m ALWAYS looking for new ones to listen to.

The next frontier for my podcast forays is into the field of marketing. While I work in marketing and there are a TON of marketing podcasts, almost all of the marketing podcasts I’ve come across have been pretty lame — until recently, that is!

Stay tuned for my next post on podcasts, where I review some of the best podcasts for marketers (and if you know of any good marketing podcasts, please let me know).