What Is A Podcast And How To Listen To It


Until a few years ago I didn't even know what it was. Today I couldn't do without it. I realized that, even if it's a growing phenomenon, there aren't many people who really know the answer to the question What a podcast is? Before the arrival of the internet, this technology did not exist, while today an ecosystem is being created that sees many players involved.

Therefore, there begins to be a need to clarify and give the podcast a meaning, tell its story and its development. I'll tell you about it in this article.

What is a podcast: the definition

Let's start with the meaning of podcast. The term podcast was born in 2004 from the combination of two words iPod - which literally means “pod” or “capsule” - and Broadcast - which indicates the massive diffusion of a radio broadcast. It is the journalist of the "Guardian" Ben Hammersley to use it for the first time in an article dedicated to the evolution of listening on demand to radio broadcasts following the introduction on the market of the mp3 player from Apple.

The development of RSS ( Really Simple Syndication ) technology, one of the most popular formats for the distribution of content via the web, together with the new iPod device gives rise to the spread of a new audio content format. From here we understand how much Apple has been instrumental in the development of podcasts. It is in fact the first to create a dedicated section within iTunes.

However, this does not explain what a podcast is. To give a more complete definition of the podcast we can say that it is unpublished native audio content usable via the internet through a computer or an mp3 device.

On the other hand, we can say what a podcast is not :

  • A deferred radio broadcast, as it would not be unpublished;
  • The transformation of a video into audio, because it is not native;
  • An audiobook, because the content is born with a different purpose.

The characteristics of the podcast can be summarized as follows:

  • Asynchronous: the production and listening of the audio take place at different times, so not as it happens with the radio.
  • Offline: the audio can be downloaded on your devices and can be used at other times
  • On-demand: it is the listener who decides when to listen and listen to the content again

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The history of the podcast

After explaining what a podcast is, I want to mention its history which is in itself interesting and marked by decisive moments.

At the beginning of the 2000s, following the two great technological innovations, iPod and RSS feed , it was mainly radio broadcasters who put some programming programs online for delayed listening. Alongside these replicas, the first experiments of mostly journalistic editorial productions appear, demonstrating the public's first interest in on-demand content.

The real turning point came in 2014 with the release of A True Crime Podcast Series which tells a story that took place in the United States in 1999. The episodic story, expertly created with a mix of voices, sounds, music, and stories rekindled the attention on this new medium, the podcast.

The episodes are so captivating as to trigger that bulimic desire to immediately listen to the next ones, typical of TV series. This is in fact the first podcast series to create a boom in ratings and launch the phenomenon, although still mostly limited to Apple users.

Spotify will think about it in 2018 to help expand the listening market for Android users. After the acquisition of Gimlet Media and Parcast, it is actually a player in a rapidly expanding market.

But the podcast has never been as popular as in recent months. The statistics released by Voxnest at the end of 2019 already showed a strong increase in audiences compared to the previous 12 months but the trend continued to grow double-digit in 2022 with a +40% compared to last 3 years (source Nielsen).

How to listen to podcasts

The first thing I recommend to anyone who wants to start podcasting is to be a listener. It seems obvious, but it is not. Listening to podcasts helps you get to know the tool, and understand what works and what doesn't.

How do you listen to a podcast? It's very simple: all you need is a smartphone and a pair of headphones. This is the best way to use it when and where you want. Collection and distribution platforms welcome RSS feeds uploaded by creators and make audio content available for listening.

On IOS devices there is natively the Apple Podcast application from which you can access free content by selecting the podcast name or category, listen to them online or download them for offline use. To follow the updates you can subscribe to your favorite series, but only this app allows you to review its content.

On Android, Spotify acts as the main listening platform. You can search for the podcast from the same search engine as the music and put it in a playlist along with your favorite artists. Here, too, the "follow" function allows you to receive the news published by podcasters.

Among the free players, Google Podcasts is also positioning itself with a dedicated app for listening, but there are many other smaller podcast distribution platforms with a similar catalog. The difference is made by the contents created exclusively for the reference platform, a bit like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video do for TV.

Listening platforms aren't the only sources for listening to podcasts. Thanks to vocal search you can ask smart speakers to let you listen to your favorite podcast. Just launch the action command on your device to activate the playback of the episodes.

Not all podcast content is free though. There are companies such as Audible or Storytel that provide subscription-based access for listening. The mode guarantees high-level and exclusive content.
This does not mean that many quality productions, professional or otherwise, are available for free. The choice is yours and the desire to discover them.


New technologies have made it possible to listen to podcasts on demand and on the move on their personal devices: this is the key to the success of this media.

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