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What Is A Podcast? The Basics Explained

header graphic that explains in visual format "what is a podcast"

If you’re like most people, you’ve heard the term “podcast” but never really understood what it is.

That’s what we’re diving into today.

We’ll define podcasting and explain how it works so that you can decide if this medium is right for you and your website.

By the time you finish reading this post, you’ll have a good understanding of what podcasts are and how they can benefit your online presence.

So, what is a podcast?

What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is an audio file that you can download and listen to on your computer or mobile device.

Podcasts are usually episodic, meaning they are released as part of a series, and new episodes are typically released on a regular schedule (weekly, monthly, etc.).

Podcasts can be scripted and edited like traditional radio shows, or they can be recorded in a more informal, conversational style.

Podcasts are typically between 15 and 60 minutes long, although some can be much shorter or longer.

Podcast players include iTunes, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast.

How Does a Podcast Work?

Podcasts are usually distributed through RSS feeds.

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a web feed that allows users to subscribe to a website or podcast and receive new content as it gets published.

New episodes will automatically download to your devices when you subscribe to a podcast RSS feed.

Podcast vs Podcast Episode

What’s the difference between a podcast and a podcast episode?

  • A podcast is the entire series of audio episodes that make up a show.
  • A single episode of a podcast is one audio file within that show.

By subscribing to a podcast, you can automatically download new episodes.

Are Podcasts Audio or Video?

Podcasts are typically audio-only, although some may include video components.

Audio podcasts are more common because they’re easier to produce and don’t require expensive equipment or editing software.

Video podcasts tend to be less common because they require more effort to produce and are less accessible to viewers.

For example, you can’t watch a video podcast while driving.

What Is the Purpose of a Podcast?

Podcasts exist for education and entertainment.

People who enjoy talking about their interests often create podcasts.

While podcasts are available in nearly every niche you can think of, they are especially popular in the following niches:

  • True crime
  • Comedy
  • Politics
  • Self-help
  • Sports

You can use podcasts to promote something else, such as a book launch or a speaking event, or, you can create them as a fun way to share content.

Podcasts vs Other Media

Podcasts are a new form of media, and as such, there are both similarities and differences between them.

See how a podcast compares to other forms of media.

What’s the Difference Between a Podcast and an Audio File?

While there are many similarities between a podcast and an audio file, some big things set the two apart.

The main differences are as follows:

[pros title=”Podcasts”]

  • A podcast is a digital audio file typically available for download from a website or through a subscription service.
  • Podcasts are usually episodic, which means they get released in series.
  • Podcasts often include additional features, such as show notes, images, and links.
  • You can access podcasts through a podcast app, such as iTunes, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.
  • Podcasts are usually free to listen to.
  • [/pros][cons title=”Audio Files”]

  • Audio files are digital files that contain sound.
  • Audio files are usually stand-alone recordings.
  • Audio files typically do not have these extras.
  • Audio files can be downloaded from a website or found in a file-sharing program, like Dropbox.
  • Audio files may be free or paid, depending on the source.
  • [/cons]

    What’s the Difference Between a Podcast and a Radio Show?

    You may think that podcasts and radio are the same.

    After all, they both involve people talking, right?


    Podcasts and radio are two completely different mediums.

    [pros title=”Similarities”]

  • Podcasts and radio shows have a lot in common.
  • Both can be accessed via various devices and can be free or paid.
  • They both involve people speaking on microphones about various topics.
  • [/pros][cons title=”Differences”]

  • Radio shows are typically broadcasted live, while podcasts are pre-recorded.
  • Podcasts provide a much wider range of topics and styles than radio shows.
  • Listeners can listen to podcasts at any time, while radio shows have specific air times.
  • [/cons]

    Are Podcasts Free?

    Yes, podcasts are free.

    You can access many of them from various podcast apps on your phone or computer, and the only cost is your internet connection.

    Some podcasters may ask you to subscribe to their shows, but this won’t cost anything.

    Streaming Services Subscription Costs

    Some streaming services, such as Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio, offer ad-free versions of their apps for a monthly subscription fee.

    While this is not required to listen to podcasts, it gives users access to additional features, like unlimited skips and no commercials while playing music.

    Did you know?

    There are a wide variety of Spotify ad options available on the platform.

    If you’re an advertiser looking for brand exposure, or a blogger looking to grow your audience, these are a very valuable tool to consider.

    Podcast Subscriptions Costs

    Some podcasters ask for a small fee to access their content on their website or within an app like Patreon or Podbean.

    You can support a show by choosing one of three different tiers, each with a different level of service.

    This way, people can choose the amount they want to spend on a particular podcast.

    How Do Podcasts Make Money?

    Podcasts can make money in several ways.

    The most common way is through advertising and subscriptions.

    header graphic that explains in visual format "what is a podcast"


    Podcasts can generate revenue through advertising.

    Advertisers will pay to have their products or services featured on a show.

    A podcaster will typically read a short ad at the beginning or end of an episode or play a mid-roll ad during the show.


    Some podcasts offer paid subscriptions.

    Listeners can pay a monthly or annual fee to access exclusive content, such as:

    • Bonus episodes
    • Ad-free episodes
    • Early access to new episodes

    What Can Podcasts Be About?

    Podcasts can be about any topic imaginable and there is something for everyone.

    Sometimes it can be daunting to choose the best podcasts to start listening to.

    Here’s a list of popular podcast topics to narrow down your options.

    1. Stories

    These podcasts are about fictional stories or real-life experiences.

    Shows like The Black Tapes and Limetown are examples of story-based podcasts.

    2. News

    News podcasts keep you up-to-date on current events.

    They often feature interviews with experts on various topics.

    Popular news podcasts include NPR’s Up First and The Daily.

    3. Life Improvement

    Podcasts in this genre offer advice on everything from relationships to careers.

    They often feature interviews with people who are experts in their field.

    4. Crime

    Crime podcasts usually focus on real-life crimes and investigations.

    They often feature interviews with law enforcement officials, witnesses, and family members of the victims.

    They are some of my favorite types of podcasts.

    5. Comedy

    Comedy podcasts are, as you might expect, all about making you laugh.

    They often feature interviews with comedians and other entertainers.

    Some popular comedy podcasts include WTF with Marc Maron and Comedy Bang! Bang!.

    6. Health and Wellness

    Health and wellness podcasts focus on topics like mental health, fitness, and nutrition.

    They often feature interviews with doctors and other experts.

    An example of a popular health and wellness podcast is The Anxiety Guy Podcast.

    Examples of Popular Podcasts

    There are also a ton of great podcasts out there.

    Some of my favorite podcasts include:

    • The Joe Rogan Experience: This podcast covers various topics, including politics, philosophy, comedy, and more.
    • The Daily: The Daily is a news podcast from The New York Times. It’s released every weekday and covers the day’s biggest stories in 20 minutes or less.
    • Crime Junkie: Crime Junkie is a podcast about true crime. I especially love this podcast because I’m a huge fan of crime shows and books.
    • Serial: Serial is a podcast about true crime. It follows one story for an entire season, giving listeners a deep dive into the case.
    • Planet Money: Planet Money is a podcast about the economy, covering everything from the stock market to what’s going on with the Federal Reserve.
    • Stuff You Should Know: Stuff You Should Know is a podcast about, well, stuff you should know! The hosts cover a wide range of topics, from history to science, and everything in between.

    How to Listen to Podcasts

    There are a few different ways to listen to podcasts.

    The most popular methods are through podcast apps on your smartphone or streaming episodes online.

    • Apple Podcasts: Apple podcasts is the default podcast app for iPhone users and one of the most common platforms.
    • Spotify: Spotify is a music streaming platform that also offers podcasts. You can listen to podcasts through the app or website.
    • Google Podcast: Google podcast is a new platform available both on the Google app and website.
    • Stitcher: Stitcher is a popular podcast app available for both iPhone and Android users.
    • Tune In: Tune In is an online radio platform that also offers podcasts. You can listen to Tune In on the website or mobile app.

    How To Start a Podcast

    vector graphic showing everything that somebody thinking "what do I need to start a podcast" needs to start one

    This is a great way to share your passions and stories. Here’s what you need to know about getting started.

    1. Figure Out Your Niche

    The first step is to figure out what your podcast will be about.

    As we mentioned before, podcasts can be about any topic.

    So take some time to brainstorm ideas and narrow down your focus.

    2. Pick a Host

    After you’ve decided on a topic, it’s time to pick a host.

    A podcast host is a person who leads the show and guides the conversation.

    If you’re doing a solo podcast, you’ll be the host.

    But if you’re doing a co-hosted podcast, you’ll need to decide who will take on this role.

    3. Choose a Name

    Now it’s time to choose a name for your podcast.

    This is usually the show’s name, but it can also be the host’s name or the topic.

    For example, if your podcast is about true crime, you might choose a name like “Crime Junkie”.

    4. Choose a Show Format

    Your show format is the structure of your podcast.

    This includes how often you’ll release new episodes, what kind of segments you’ll include, and the length of episodes.

    5. Get Professional Recording Equipment

    If you want your podcast to sound professional, you’ll need to invest in quality recording equipment.

    This can be anything from a simple USB microphone to a more complex setup with multiple microphones and mixers.

    6. Record Your First Show

    Now it’s time to record your first show!

    This is where all your hard work comes together.

    Make sure you have a clear introduction, an engaging format, and an exciting topic.

    7. Find a Hosting Platform

    You’ll need to find a podcast hosting platform to publish your podcast.

    The platform is where your episodes will live.

    Do some research to find the best hosting platform for your needs.

    8. Publish and Go!

    Now it’s time to publish your first episode.

    Once you hit publish, your podcast will be available for listening.

    From there, it’s up to you to keep releasing new episodes and growing your audience.

    Final Thoughts

    What is a podcast? Podcasts are audio programs people use to share their interests, stories, and ideas.

    They’re easy to create, and there are many different ways to listen to them.

    If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, use the tips in this article to get started.

    If you’re looking for something to listen to, there are thousands of great options.

    So get listening!