Podcasts made easy

In reality I’m running with the dog. In real life, I’m quietly eating lunch. I’m sitting on the metro, trying to ignore the obnoxiously drunk 21-year-olds. In reality I’m suffering through another day of monotonous work.

In my head, however, I’m having a conversation with a man who forged multiple documents, which would have connected JFK with the mob and proved his love affair with Marilyn Monroe. In my head, I’m the size of a molecule of oxygen and flowing through a gigantic ear while our tour guide points out the integral anatomy of hearing. I’m sitting in a room with my favorite vegan chef as she reads me a short story by Mark Twain.

I am a podcast enthusiast and it gives me the ability to travel to the ends of the earth, to the insides of organs, and into conversations with the most captivating people. Most importantly, I can do all this while cleaning the house in my sweatpants.

A podcast is like a radio program that is put into MP3 format, and you can download it to your computer or MP3 player. To be clear, Apple products (like iPods and iTunes) are not necessary to listen to podcasts. However, all of my experience is with these products, and I will use them as examples here.

Podcast Made Easy
  1. To become a podcast listener, the first step is having the tools: an MP3 player or smart phone and software (like iTunes). My first iPod was an iPod nano, it was silver, and I thought it was hot shit because it could fit in any pocket. Now I use my iPhone or iPod Shuffle. The software is used as a platform for updating and downloading new episodes.

  2. Next you will need to find podcasts that interest you. Most programs are displayed in the iTunes Store Podcast tab. (Open iTunes, select the iTunes store on the left side of the application, click on Podcasts at the top of the store, peruse.) Once you have located a program you wish to download and listen to regularly, click “Subscribe.” Most programs have new episodes on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and this step is the key to having this updated without any effort on your part.

  3. Update your MP3 player. When you open iTunes on your computer and plug in your MP3 player, the podcasts which you have subscribed to will be updated automatically! If they do not, you may want to check your settings by selecting your device on the left side of the screen. From there you will see the overview of your MP3 player (what type of product, the version, options, etc.). At the top of the screen, select Podcasts and you will be directed to a screen that shows which, if any, podcasts will be uploaded onto your MP3 player. Ensure the “Sync Podcasts” option at the top is checked!
For iPhone users, you can access the uploaded podcast episodes by opening the iPod application and clicking on “More” on the bottom right. From there you will see an option for accessing your podcasts. (See Photo 1)

Photo 1

When you have listened to an episode, you will have to plug your MP3 player into your computer, delete the old episodes, and upload new ones. You can set up your account to have them deleted automatically when you sync your MP3 player by opening the Podcast menu, clicking on “Settings” at the bottom, and changing the “Episodes to keep:” to “All Unplayed Episodes.” Otherwise, old episodes will have to be deleted manually. You will know a program has been listened to because the blue dot on the left will disappear (See Photo 2). 
Photo 2

If you are feeling daunted by the amount of podcasts to choose from, let me make some suggestions.
  1. RadioLab (WNYC) --Hosts Jad Abumrod and Robert Krulwish introduce a science subject matter and then explore it with sound. It was with them that I traveled to the innards of an ear.
  2. Culturetopia (NPR) -- Half of the episodes are a round up of the week’s best arts and culture stories. From this podcast I learned about Florence and the Machine and have expanded my musical knowledge. The other half of the episodes are Pop Culture Happy Hour, a panel of NPR’s wittiest culture fanatics. Their areas of expertise include comic books, movies and reality TV (among others).
  3. WTF with Marc Maron (Independent) -- Maron is a stand-up comedian, and although I’ve never had an interest in stand-up comedy, he tells a different story about this art. He puts his emotions right there in your ear, as he conducts interviews with people in the field and other entertainers. He draws out some incredible story about their life. Oh yeah, and he’s hilarious!
  4. Selected Shorts (PRI) -- Another public radio program that features short stories read on stage by actors (including Alec Baldwin!).
  5. Onion Radio News (Independent) -- This program is less than a minute and offers a ludicrous news story. For example, “Balloon Delivery Man Forced To Take Bus.” Who wouldn’t love having this visual inserted into your daily commute? 
Oh, I haven’t mentioned it yet but all of this content is FREE!

Additional podcast recommendations
Discovery News Audio Podcast

About the author
Maggie Bailey (@scientistmaggie)
"I’m the girl at the party having cuddle time with the host’s dog, while blabbing about lichen hunting and my love of lentils. I gravitate towards science and interject conversations with life’s lessons."