Podcasts and Writers

Podcasts and Writers

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By George T. Parker

A long time ago…so long ago that most of you won’t remember it…I sent Writers Forum members a survey that asked about podcast listening habits. I had intended to follow-up the survey with an ‘in-depth’ look at podcasting and the benefits of listening to writing podcasts. It was an ambitious project, let me tell you!

That went nowhere.

I’ve decided that instead of a Grand Overview in one article, I’ll talk a little bit about podcasts and what they are, and then in the future, I’ll post short reviews of podcasts I think you might find interesting as writers.

First, let’s look at what podcasts even are. I think The Podcast Host gives us the simplest definition: “a podcast is an audio programme, just like Talk Radio, but you subscribe to it on your smartphone and listen to it whenever you like.”

A podcast is just like a talk radio program, with one important difference. If you miss the traditional radio broadcast, you are out of luck. You missed the show. Some radio shows will archive their programs and make them available online, but they are not necessarily podcasts. If you have to go to their website to listen to the shows, it’s not a podcast. You have to be able to subscribe to the program and have episodes downloaded to your smartphone or other device for it to be a ‘podcast.’

This might seem like a small difference, but it is huge. One of the reasons that people gave in the survey for not listening to podcasts was that ‘they don’t have time.’ Well, there really is no such thing as ‘having the time’ to listen to podcasts. You can listen to them whenever might be convenient to you, and you do not have to dedicate exclusive time to listen to a podcast. In fact, most of my listening time is when I’m doing something else, like driving to town and back. I have forty-five minutes in each direction in which all I’m doing is driving. That’s a perfect time for podcast listening. I have also been known to listen while I’m cooking dinner. Or doing other household chores. This makes podcasts very portable and very easy to work into your schedule.

Podcasts come in a wide variety of episode lengths. Some are only five minutes long. Some are more than an hour. And there is everything in between. You might think, “But I don’t have an hour to listen to a podcast.” This is where the portability and convenience magic happens. Listen to as much of the episode as you want and walk away from it. When you come back to that episode, it will automatically pick up where you left off. I listen to several long podcasts that way. If the subject matter is compelling enough, I will come back and listen to a 75-minute podcast in three pieces.

Where do you find podcasts?

The two Big Boys in the podcast hosting world are probably Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Let’s work with Google Podcasts. Click on that link. If you already have a Gmail account, you are already signed up with Google Podcasts. You can search for any category or title you like. Search for ‘writing’. Go ahead. I’ll wait…

Were you overwhelmed by the choices? That’s okay. There is a lot out there. And you know what? It’s all free. Yep. It doesn’t cost you anything to sample podcasts and find ones you like. You can search for any category you might be interested in. Try ‘mystery writing.’ ‘E-publishing.’ ‘Writing plays.’ Try searching for the names of authors you like. Have fun with it!

When you find podcasts that you like and would like to hear more from, don’t forget to click the ‘subscribe’ button that will be somewhere on the podcast’s page. That’s important! When you subscribe, you will never have to search for that podcast again. New episodes will automatically be saved to your queue for you to listen to at your convenience.

Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts might be the biggest players in the podcast world, but there are many others. You can listen to podcasts through Spotify, which you might already use for listening to music. I actually have a podcast (about the California Conservation Corps, not writing) that I base on Podbean. Since I already had an account there, I use the Podbean player for listening to all of my podcasts.

So that is the quick and simple introduction to podcasts. I would love to leave you with a great sample of a short podcast that is definitely worthwhile. And it will demonstrate one more way to find and listen to podcasts.

Tracy K. Smith was the 2017 Poet Laureate of the United States. Ms. Smith currently has a podcast called The Slowdown. If you follow that link, you will go to her website for the show. On that page, you can see links to click to ‘Listen on Apple Podcasts’ or ‘Listen on Google Podcasts.’ Click on either of those links to open the program in either of those players. Once there, you can subscribe to the podcast and never miss an episode. Look farther down on The Slowdown’s page, and you can see an option to sign up for e-mails. Yes! You can get Ms. Smith’s podcast delivered right to your email every morning.

So what is The Slowdown about? Each weekday, Ms. Smith delivers a five-minute podcast with a commentary from her, and a poem reading. A very mellow, relaxing start to the day, I think. Yes, I do subscribe to this podcast.

Give it a listen! Let us know what you think of The Slowdown, or of podcasts in general, in the comments. What podcasts on writing to you listen to? Let us know.


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