What is a podcast and where can I find the best ones to listen to?

A step-by-step guide to joining the seven million Britons listening to on-demand audio each week

Bryony Gordon, seen here interviewing Mel B, is host of The Telegraph's award-winning Mad World podcast
Bryony Gordon, seen here interviewing Mel B, is host of The Telegraph's award-winning Mad World podcast

What is a podcast?

A podcast is an audio show, usually spread across a series of episodes, which can be downloaded from the Internet and listened to on a computer, mobile phone or tablet. 

Who makes them?

Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can make and freely distribute podcasts, meaning that in the early days of podcasting, it was largely an amateur concern – the Internet’s answer to CB radio. However, in recent years dozens of major broadcasters, magazines and news organisations, including The Telegraph, have rolled out large-scale podcast operations of their own.

Are they free?

Yes, almost entirely. Some podcast producers charge for access to their archives or bonus content, but it’s the exception rather than the rule.

If they’re free, why am I always being asked to “subscribe”?

The word “subscribe” is being used in a different way to how you might subscribe to the Telegraph. In podcast lingo it simply means that your mobile phone or tablet will automatically load the latest episode of a show for you for free.

How can I find podcasts?

If you've got a mobile phone or tablet, the easiest way to find and listen to podcasts is through a dedicated podcasting app. 

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can use the Apple Podcasts app to listen to podcasts. It should be already downloaded onto your device, so have a look for an icon that looks like this: 

Click on the app and go to the Search page. You can find this by clicking on the magnifying glass on the bottom right of the page. 

Once on the Search page, simply type in the name of the podcast you are looking for, hit enter, and then select the podcast from the results.

Once you’ve clicked on the podcast, you should see a list of episodes. Click on the one you would like to play. If you would like to subscribe to the podcast, so that you never miss an episode, you should see a purple “Subscribe” button at the top of the page. 

If you have an Android mobile phone or tablet, you’ll need to download an app like Google Podcasts. Search ‘Google Podcasts’ in the Play Store app or click on this link on your phone, then install the app, which should have this logo:

From then on, the instructions are very similar to Apple Podcasts. Click on the Search bar, type in the name of the podcast you wish to find, click on the show and you’ll be taken to the Homepage. On the Homepage you will be able to click “Subscribe” at the top of the page. 

If you have a Spotify account, you’ll be pleased to know that you can listen to podcasts on there too. Search the name of the podcast, click on the podcast’s homepage and then click “Follow” at the top of the page to be notified of new episodes on your home screen. Follow, in this case, means the same as “Subscribe”. 

Dozens of other podcast apps are available too. Pocket Casts is another popular podcast app, and is available for iOS, Android and Windows Phone. 

If you’d rather listen on a computer, a quick Google search of the podcast title will usually bring up a web page where you can listen. For Telegraph podcasts, we have a page on our website for each one of our podcasts, and we also upload them all onto our YouTube channel

How do I rate and review podcasts? 

Rating podcasts you enjoy is a great way to support your favourite shows.

If you listen on an iPhone or iPad, the easiest way to review a podcast is to find the show on Apple Podcasts, click on it, scroll down, and you should see a section called “Ratings and Reviews”. Click on the “Write a Review” button. Click on that and you’ll see you can rate a show out of five, and then write a short review with a title. Then click send, and you’re all done! 

Other podcast apps also have a review function, such as Podchaser, Stitcher and Castbox. 

What should I start listening to? 

The Telegraph’s own selection of podcasts of course! If you’re interested in politics, try Chopper’s Politics, our weekly interview show hosted by our chief political correspondent, Christopher Hope. If you’re a fan of our opinion pages, you might like Planet Normal, featuring columnists, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, who weigh in on the week’s news from a distinctly “down to earth” perspective, or perhaps you’re a football fan, in which case Audio Football Club is the show for you. We have something for everyone, including series on coronavirus, mental health and travel, as well as documentaries on the Trump-Russia saga and the uncovering of the MPs’ Expenses scandal.

Explore our wide range of shows here.