How to Receive and Listen to Podcasts

One of my readers just asked me:

“I am not technical, have a Mac and an iPod and I would like to listen to Podcasts, try them out. Is there a step by step explanation that I can access that will walk me through how to get set up?”

Here are the basics…

A podcast episode is nothing more than an MP3 audio file that you download from the internet. Once you download the file, you can either listen to it on your computer or transfer it to an MP3 player to listen on the go.

The only things you absolutely need to listen to podcasts are a broadband internet connection and a computer. Don’t bother with this if you use dialup net access, unless the shows you wish to download are very small files (say 2MB or less).


You have two options for downloading a podcast:

  1. Direct download: This page lists recently posted podcasts. It’s very bare-bones, but it’s a good place to start. Go there and pick a show from that list which intrigues you. Find the link to that MP3 file on the right-hand side of the list. (It’ll be a number followed by MB, for megabytes.) Click-and-hold (or right-click) that link. When the menu pops up, instruct your computer to save the target of that link to your computer. The file will then download. If you wish to listen to the show on your MP3 player, transfer the file manually to that device.

    This strategy will suffice the first time or two that you want to listen to a podcast, just to get a sense of what the shows are like. However, if you want to listen to a variety of shows regularly, this labor-intensive method will quickly get tedious. In that case, you’ll want to move up to…

  2. Subscribe for automatic downloads using podcatcher software. All true podcasts are distributed by webfeed. (What’s a webfeed?) Podcatcher software is very similar to a feed reader. (What’s a feed reader?) – it stores all your podcast subscriptions (a list of feeds) and checks them periodically for new shows (attached MP3 files).

    First, select and install a podcatcher application – I recommend Doppler or iPodder, which are available for all major platforms and are free. Whenever a new episode is posted, your podcatcher will see the new MP3 file and automatically download it to your computer or MP3 player. This is a time-saver.

    After you’ve got a podcatcher installed, find a podcast show you wish to subscribe to. Here’s a popular podcast directory. Browse there to find a show that sounds interesting. In each show’s listing, you’ll find a link to its feed. Copy the feed address (URL) and paste that into your podcatcher using the add feed function. Then, tell your podcatcher to check (or update) your feeds. The software will automatically download the most recent episode of that show.

    Then, connect your MP3 player to your computer and transfer the file there. You can automate this transfer with some podcatchers and MP3 players – read the FAQ for your preferred podcatcher for details. Once your podcast is loaded onto your MP3 player, take your show(s) and go!

That should be enough to get anyone started, I think. Enjoy!

2 thoughts on How to Receive and Listen to Podcasts

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  1. Thank you for this simple and straightforward explanation. I’ve had difficulty explaining how to “listen” to podcasts with folks I introduce the topic to. Now, all I have to do is send them to Contentious.