What is a podcast?

It’s a question I get asked a lot, usually just after they ask me what I do. And I guess we all know someone who doesn’t know or doesn’t understand what a podcast is, and more importantly, how to listen to it. So with that in mind, I think it’s important that we have a simple, accurate definition of what a podcast is, so we can quickly educate anyone we meet that doesn’t have a clue.

I start by typing the question into google:

“Podcast: a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new instalments of which can be received by subscribers automatically.”

Ok I started to fall asleep reading that one. God help any noobs.

Let’s ask Siri. I mean, she should be able to do it, after all like podcasts, she is also an Apple creation, but all Siri does is take you to the Wikipedia definition, which is:

“A podcast is an episodic series of digital audio files which a user can download and listen to. It is often available for subscription, so that new episodes are rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb meh meh meh meh blurrrrrrhhhhhhhh.”

This isn’t really helping. It’s all a bit dull. And not really engaging for someone who doesn’t know.

Yet suddenly I’m worried that whatever I say might be equally dull. So, rather than just get my opinion I asked a whole bunch of podcasty people I know to see how they handle that question and hopefully find a more interesting and easier explanation.

And here’s what they said when I asked them “What is a podcast?”:

Abbie Allen (currently working on her first podcast)

“It’s where people can tell their stories in their own way, whether it’s through information, interviews or story segments.”

Hayley Ellis  (Get Happy podcast @gethappypod)

“It’s like a really good episode of a radio show. But without the music and you can sometimes  learn stuff that caters to what you find interesting. A good podcast is like listening to conversation with a friend.”

Sophie Shapter (Shadow podcast)

I think a podcast is just a nugget of on demand audio about pretty much whatever topic you want that you can listen to whenever and wherever you like!

Jim Salveson (On The Left Side the Alternative Football Show @ontheleftside)

“If we’re talking name then the “cast” part is relevant too. If radio is a BROADcast, working on mass appeal and trying to gather audience then maybe we should call podcast NARROWcast able to focus on niche topics and smaller audiences (or seemingly small audiences, globally these have the potential to be bigger than any UK radio station!)”

Emma Gascoigne (The Jolly Good Show @jollygoodshow)

“I used to go picking peas when I was young (stay with me…). When you peel the pea pod you get these amazing great tasting little peas. That’s how I like to think of podcasting. You take the pod to reveal these perfectly formed, great tasting (!) audio files.  In a nut(shell), podcasts are all about bite sized audio. You pick what you want and can devour them at your pleasure.”

Mick Tully @Micksmartialart

“A podcast is simply a way for people like me to talk about what I love doing, with people that also love doing it. And anybody else who loves it can listen in.”

Chris Huskins (The ‘How To Podcast’ Podcast @abruptaudio)

“Podcasts are doing the same to radio that Netflix did to TV… There are shows specific to your interests that are bigger, better and far more interesting than whatever is on the radio at the time you switch on… You can listen to what you want, when you want, about whatever topic you love…. That is podcasting, that is its brilliance!”

All I’d add to that is if you want to make one, it’s whatever you want it to be. And if you’re a listener, it’s pretty much whatever you want to listen to. All you need is access to the internet, and some working ears.

I started this column hoping to finish with a new concise definition, but maybe podcasting is more than what just one guy can describe.

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Thinking of podcasting? Check out our podcast all about podcasting, it’s a bit like inception but makes starting a podcast simple and doesn’t have Leonardo Di-Caprio in it. Listen in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Soundcloud.