The Pleasure and Power of Podcasts

On the back of yesterday’s big announcement, it seemed logical to take a step back from my own podcast and talk about how they factor into my everyday life. As a commuter, podcasts play a big role in my continuing self-education. When it comes to learning any new subject, one of my first steps is always to check out the best podcasts out there (and you’d be surprised how few niches are without a decent podcast at this point). When starting in on something new, I seek out those who can help me learn a subject from scratch as well as those who can help me stay on top of the latest developments in the space. For example, an Apple junky might start with the Mac Power Users podcast, an amazing way to get better at using your Mac while also listening to something like The Bro Show which is a better way to stay on top of the latest Apple related news.

You’d Be Surprised

It’s possible you assume that all podcasts are crap. That they are things being done by strange people on shoestring budgets. Sometimes you’re right; oftentimes you’re wrong. There are really smart people who don’t enjoy writing and are too lazy to edit videos together that gravitate to this medium. If you turn over the right rocks, you can easily find either entertainment or enlightenment. From hilarious shows like lonelysandwich, scottsimpson, and hotdogsladies’ You Look Nice Today or Marc Maron’s WTF to educational podcasts like Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels Podcast or Patrick Rhone’s Enough, there’s quality programming for all kinds of interests.

Managing And Finding Podcasts

The problem with podcasts? Apple’s own options for tools for staying on top of the latest episodes aren’t the greatest (i.e. they suck). While they excel at helping you find new shows, having to use iTunes on a Mac to load new episodes onto your device (or manually finding them in them in the iOS store) is frustrating enough to make you abandon podcasts altogether. Thankfully, the universe, or more specifically the team at at Vemedio, has a solution: Instacast. Instacast is a universal iOS app (meaning it runs on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch) and is available for $1.99 in the app store. While the app has some glaring omissions (e.g. no sharing options or the inability to listen to a single episode without subscribing to a podcast) it solves many of your podcasting woes. And many of its omissions are apparently being addressed in an upcoming 2.0 update. Instacast allows you to find and subscribe to new podcasts. It lets you stream episodes, which is great for longer episodes when you do not have access to Wi-Fi, but allows allows you to save episodes on the device (thus allowing me to listen on the subway). It’s also built around the show notes which are something I tend to both enjoy and use heavily (especially considering it allows you to send show notes or links to Instapaper).

Where To Get Started?

Well, both iTunes and Instacast offer excellent discovery tools and you’ll often find some serious quality at the top of the list. Gabe over at Macdrifter recently offered up his favorites. And here are a few of my required listening podcasts:

Self-Improvement/Personal Development

Geeky

News

Marketing

Entertainment

It’s easy to get overwhelmed or overloaded, so skip episodes that aren’t relevant to you. As you will quickly see, some podcasts make this easy and keep each episode contained, where others require a bit more dedication. If you’re yet to give podcasts a try, all I can tell you is that they’ve become a key piece of both my continuing education and my entertainment. If you tried, but found things to be frustrating, give Instacast a shot; it’s well worth the $2. If you have no interest whatsoever, well… why did you read this far?

Are you a fellow podcast listener? What’s in your queue and why?

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