How to Download and Subscribe to Podcasts

woman listening to podcast on headpones
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There's a huge world of hilarious, fascinating, thought-provoking, silly and—best of all, free — audio programs in the iTunes Store and on the iPhone. These programs, called podcasts, offer a virtually endless library of quality listening. All you need is to learn how to get and use them.

What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is an audio program, like a radio show, posted to the internet to download and listen to using iTunes or your iOS device. Podcasts vary in their level of professional production. Some podcasts are downloadable versions of professional radio programs like NPR's Fresh Air, while others are produced by just a person or two, like Karina Longworth's You Must Remember This. In fact, anyone with some basic audio tools can make and distribute their own podcast.

What Are Podcasts About?

Practically anything. There are podcasts about practically any subject people are passionate about — from sports to comic books, from literature to relationships to movies.

Do You Buy Podcasts?

Not usually. Unlike music, most podcasts are free to download and listen to. Some podcasts offer paid versions that include bonus features. Marc Maron's WTF, for instance, offers the 60 most recent episodes for free; if you want access to the other 800+ episodes in the archive and listen without ads you pay a small, yearly subscription. Dan Savage's Savage Love is always free, but an annual subscription gives you access to episodes that are twice as long and cuts ads. If you find a podcast you love, you may be able to support it and get bonuses too.

Finding and Downloading Podcasts in iTunes

The largest podcast directory in the world is in the iTunes Store. To find and download podcasts, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the iTunes program on your desktop or laptop computer.
  2. Select Podcasts from the drop-down menu in the top left corner.
  3. Click the Store menu at the top center of the window.
  4. This is the front page of the podcasts section of iTunes. You can search for shows by name or topic here in the same way you would search for other iTunes content. You can also browse the recommendations on the front page, select the All Categories drop-down on the right to filter by topic, or browse the charts and features.
  5. Once you've found a podcast you're interested in, click it.
  6. On the podcast's page, you'll see information about it and a list of all available episodes. To stream the episode, click the play button to the left of the episode. To download an episode, click the Get button on the right.
  7. Once the episode has downloaded, click the Library button at the top center and then double-click the episode you want to listen to.

How to Subscribe to Podcasts in iTunes

If you want to get every new episode of a podcast when it comes out, subscribe to it using iTunes or an app on your iPhone. With a subscription, each new episode is automatically downloaded as it's released. Subscribe by following these steps:

  1. Follow the first 5 steps in the last section.
  2. On the podcasts page, click the Subscribe button beneath its cover art.
  3. In the pop-up window, click Subscribe to confirm the subscription.
  4. Click the Library menu and click on the podcast you just subscribed to.
  5. Click on the gear icon in the top right corner to control settings like how many episodes to download at a time and whether you should auto-delete played episodes.
  6. Click the Feed button and you'll see a list of all episodes available for download.

How to Delete Podcasts in iTunes

You can keep episodes after you've listened to them, but if you prefer to delete the files, here's how:

  1. In the Library section of iTunes, find the episode you want to delete.
  2. Single click the episode.
  3. Right-click and select Delete From Library or hit the Delete button on the keyboard.
  4. In the pop-up window, click Delete to confirm the deletion.

How to Unsubscribe to Podcasts in iTunes

If you decide you no longer want to get every episode of a podcast, you can unsubscribe from it in this way:

  1. In the Library section of iTunes, click on the series you want to unsubscribe from.
  2. Right-click on the podcast in the list on the left, or click the three-dot icon in the top right corner, and click Unsubscribe Podcast.

Finding and Downloading Podcasts in the Apple Podcasts App

If you get your podcasts via iTunes, you can sync episodes to iPhone or iPod touch. You might prefer to skip iTunes completely and get episodes delivered right to your device. Apple includes a Podcasts app pre-installed with the iOS that lets you do this. To use it to get podcasts, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the app to open it.
  2. Tap Browse.
  3. Tap the Featured, Top Charts, All Categories, Featured Providers, or Search buttons.
  4. Browse or search through the app for a podcast you're interested in (this is the same selection of shows as you'll find using iTunes).
  5. When you find a show you're interested in, tap it.
  6. On this screen, you'll see a list of available episodes. To download one, tap the + icon, then tap the download icon (the cloud with the down arrow).
  7. Once the episode is added, tap Library, find the show name, tap it, and you'll see the episode you downloaded, ready for listening.

How to Subscribe and Unsubscribe to Podcasts in the Apple Podcasts App

To subscribe to a podcast in the Podcasts app:

  1. Follow the first 5 steps in the instructions above.
  2. Tap the Subscribe button.
  3. In the Library menu, tap the show, tap the three-dot icon, and then tap Settings to control when episodes are downloaded, how many are stored at once, and more.
  4. To unsubscribe, tap the podcast to view the detail page. Then tap the three-dot icon it and tap Unsubscribe.

How to Delete Podcasts in the Apple Podcasts App

To delete an episode in the Podcasts app:

  1. Go to Library.
  2. Find the episode you want to delete and swipe right to left across it.
  3. A Delete button appears; tap it.

Great Third-Party Podcast Apps

While Apple's podcasts app comes with every iOS device, there are lots of third-party podcast apps with other features that you may prefer. Once you've gotten your toes wet in podcasting, here are some apps you may want to check out:

Podcasts You Might Enjoy

Interested in podcasts but not sure where to start? Here are some suggestions for popular shows in different categories. Start with these and you'll be off to a good start.