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 available in the iTunes Store. These programs, better known as podcasts, provide a practically endless library of quality listening. All you need to do is learn how to get and use them. 

What Is a Podcast?

A podcast is an audio program, like a radio show, that is posted to the Internet for you to download and listen to using iTunes or your iPhone/iPod.

 

Podcasts vary in their level of professional production. Some podcasts are downloadable versions of professional radio programs like NPR's Fresh Air or ESPN's Mike and Mike, while others are produced by just a person or two, like Julie Klausner's How Was Your Week. In fact, anyone with some basic audio recording tools can make their own podcast and distribute it far and wide.

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 cars to movies. 

Do You Buy Podcasts?

Not usually. Unlike music, most podcasts are free to download, listen to, and keep from the iTunes Store. Some podcasts, though, do offer paid versions that deliver bonus features. Marc Maron's WTF, for instance, offers the 50 most recent episodes for free; if you want access to the other 400+ episodes in the archive, you pay $7.99/year.

Dan Savage's Savage Love is always free, but an annual subscription gives you access to episodes that are twice as long. If you find a podcast you love, you may be able to support it and get bonuses too.

Finding and Subscribing to Podcasts

If you want to get every new episode of a podcast when it comes out, you can subscribe to it using iTunes or an app on your iPhone.

With a subscription, you'll get each new episode, automatically downloaded to you, as they're released.

Finding and Downloading Podcasts at the iTunes Store

Perhaps the largest directory of podcasts in the world exists in the iTunes Store. So, if you want to find a new show, or subscribe to one you already enjoy, iTunes is the place to go.

To find and download podcasts, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the iTunes program on your desktop or laptop computer
  2. Click the iTunes Store button
  3. In the iTunes Store, click the Music menu in the right-hand column and then select Podcasts for the drop down beneath it
  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 anything else iniTunes. You can also browse the recommendations on the front page, select the Categories drop-down on the right to filter by topic, or click into the charts and features
  5. Once you've found a podcast you're interested in, click on it
  6. On the podcast's page, you'll see information about it and a list of all the episodes available. 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
  1. Once the episode has downloaded, click the My Podcasts menu and double click the episode you want to listen to.

Subscribing to Podcasts

If you like a podcast so much you want to get every episode, subscribe to it 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. Now, each new episode of the show will automatically download to your computer
  4. Click the My Podcasts menu and click on the podcast you just subscribed to
  5. Click on the gear icon at the top to control settings like how many episodes to download at a time and whether you should auto-delete played episodes
  1. Click the Feed button on the right and you'll see a list of all episodes available for download.

Deleting Podcasts

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

  1. In the My Podcasts section of iTunes, find the episode you want to delete
  2. Single click the episode
  3. Right click and select Delete Download or hit the Delete button on the keyboard.

Unsubscribing to Podcasts

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 My Podcasts section of iTunes, click on the series you want to unsubscribe from
  2. Right click on the podcast in the list on the left and select Unsubscribe Podcast or click the gear icon and move the Subscribed toggle to Off

Finding and Downloading Podcasts in the Podcasts App

If you get your podcasts via iTunes, you can sync episodes to iPhone or iPod touch, but you might prefer to skip iTunes and get episodes delivered right to your device. Apple includes a Podcasts app built into the iOS that lets you do this.

You don't need to download Apple's Podcasts app; it comes with every iPhone and iPod touch. To use it to get podcasts, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the app to open it
  2. Tap the FeaturedTop Charts, or Search buttons
  3. 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)
  4. When you find a show you're interested in, tap it
  5. On this screen, you'll see a list of available episodes. To download one, tap the download icon (the cloud with the down arrow). You can also stream it by tapping the name of the episode
  6. Once the episode is downloaded, tap My Podcasts, find the show name, tap it, and you'll see the episode you downloaded, ready for listening.

Subscribing and Unsubscribing to Podcasts

To subscribe to a podcast in the Podcasts app:

  1. Follow the first 4 steps in the instructions above
  2. Tap the Subscribe button. For podcasts you're subscribed to, in My Podcasts you can tap the show and then tap Settings to control when episodes are downloaded, how many are stored at once, and more
  3. If you change your mind, come back to this screen and you'll find the Subscribe button has changed to Unsubscribe. Tap it and each episode will no longer be automatically delivered to your device.

Deleting Podcasts

To delete an episode in the Podcasts app:

  1. Go to My Podcasts
  2. Find the episode you want to download and swipe right to left across it
  3. Delete button appears; Tap it
  4. To delete an entire podcast, go to the main My Podcasts screen and perform the same swipe and tap.

Third-Party Podcast Apps

While Apple's podcasts app comes with every iPhone and iPod touch, 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:

Podcast Suggestions

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.