What is a Podcast?

In the last few years podcasts have become more popular than avocado toast (and that’s saying something). Listener rates continue to climb every year with research showing that there are over 800,000 podcasts online to date.

Last updated on: 
July 13, 2021

What is a Podcast?

We see them talked about, raved about, celebrities coming out with new ones constantly, but what is a podcast? 

At the most basic level a podcast is a lot like the radio except it’s not live. Rather, it’s a series of pre-recorded audio episodes that have some sort of similar format, topic, or focus that ties them all together. Also, unlike the radio, podcasts are on-demand. You can listen on your own time, whether that be whenever boredom strikes, if you’re among the majority, whenever you’re at home or in transit.

What is a podcast

Podcast Format 

When asking the question, what is a podcast, most of us would all say it’s an audio-based medium (which it is) but video podcasts do exist.

Although the most commonly consumed format of podcasts is a purely audio based route, we’ve seen specific podcasters really grow through a video format, The Joe Rogan Experience being just one example of that. Video podcasts tend to perform best when it’s a more casual conversation or interview-style format. We see this most often in podcasts hosted by comedians or longer-form shows that bring on famous guests. 

But as we stated, a purely audio-based podcast is the most popular consumption format. When you’re consuming a podcast on the different listening platforms, you’re most likely listening to either an MP3 or WAV audio file. An MP3 audio file compresses the content to reduce the file size. One drawback of MP3 files is that once it’s been compressed, you can never uncompress it and during compression, you’ll lose some of your content’s original data. On the other hand, WAV formats are uncompressed meaning you won’t lose any of your content’s original data. Yet, WAV formats are much larger and you may experience some issues with uploading a file of its size to distribution platforms. 


How to Listen to Podcasts 

There are numerous ways of consuming podcasts and they all revolve around your preferred listening platform. There are many podcast apps that exist today for you to use. Each of them have their own pros and cons, but it all boils down to how you prefer to listen. 

Some of the most popular podcast listening apps are: 

Spotify 

Spotify has really built a name for themselves in the podcast world, especially starting in 2019 after they acquired Gimlet, a podcast studio that creates original content such as Heavyweight, StartUp and The Pitch. For many, Spotify is their preferred listening platform since they can also consume their favorite music all in one place. 

Not only is podcast listening free on Spotify, but they also continue to roll out features that make your listening experience even more positive. Some of them include markng finished episodes as played, giving you the ability to create podcast playlists, showing your favorite podcasts on your home feed, and more. 

Apple Podcasts 

The next one is Apple Podcasts. If you aren’t “in the know” when it comes to podcast listening platforms, Apple and Spotify have been battling for the biggest percentage of market share for years. Apple still tends to come out on top but Spotify isn’t far off. 

Apple is the automatic podcast listening platform that any iOS user will have on their device. It allows you to follow your favorite shows, notifies you when new episodes have been released, and also has the famous podcast charts that share the latest and top podcasts that you should be tuning in to. The app is free for anyone with an Apple product! 

Google Podcasts 

Google Podcasts is another popular listening app, although it doesn’t reach nearly the same volume of listeners as Spotify and Apple. Overall, Google isn’t as intuitive or podcast user-friendly as some of the other apps out there. Yet, you will see many Android users using Podcast Addict as their podcast listening app. 

Podcast Addict has a great search function and organizes your podcasts quite seamlessly, allowing you to subscribe to your favorite shows. 

Castbox 

The last app that we’ll talk about is Castbox. Similar to Podcast Addict, it’s a company that’s sole focus is on podcasts. Because of this, it provides great user experiences for listeners. 

Anyone can download Castbox for free and listen to some of their favorite podcasts. It also has a great search function for you to be able to find some new shows to try out. 


what is a podcast

Podcast Topics 

When thinking about what is a podcast, we often will also question some of the topics that are involved in creating a show. Podcast topics can range from broad topics like the Freakonomics Radio podcast where the hosts discuss wide-ranging socioeconomic issues for a general audience, to very niche topics like the Weird Sisters Harry Potter Reread Podcast where two sisters re-read the Harry Potter series and record their discussions. No matter what you’re into, there’s a podcast out there covering a topic you would enjoy. That’s one of the joys of podcasting, they can be about anything and everything. 

Most podcasts release new episodes every single week to continue building their audience, so listeners can look forward to new content and connect with their favorite hosts regularly. Alternatively, we've seen podcasters release episodes daily (most popular in news shows such as The Daily), bi-weekly, or monthly. We've definitely seen podcasts that release episodes more frequently perform best since as we said, it keeps you top of mind for listeners and constantly connecting with them. But with that being said, make sure you don't overwhelm your listeners with content. If you have a show that's 60 minutes long, releasing everyday may be a little too much.


Popular Podcasts 

There are countless popular podcasts out there, but some of the biggest names you should know about in podcasting are: 

this american life

This American Life 

Description

This American Life is a weekly public radio show, heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations. Another 2.5 million people download the weekly podcast. It is hosted by Ira Glass, produced in collaboration with Chicago Public Media, delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards.

serial podcast

Serial 

Description

Serial is a podcast from Serial Productions, a New York Times company, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial unfolds one story - a true story - over the course of a whole season. The show follows the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Sarah won't know what happens at the end of the story until she gets there, not long before you get there with her.

stuff you should know

Stuff You Should Know 

Description 

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

99 invisible

99% Invisible 

Description

Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we've just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars.


The Rise of Podcasts 

The reason podcasts have become wildly popular is because they help keep listeners entertained while doing mundane tasks like brushing their cat or doing the dishes, and they make the commute to the job a little more bearable (or lack of commute currently with a global pandemic). In the age of productivity, absorbing as much valuable content as possible in a short span of time is a necessity, and podcasts fit perfectly into that picture. People can simply pop their earbuds in and get transported into a conversation about a topic they deem interesting, or get their daily dose of inspiration. There's something out there for everyone.

One of the most appealing aspects of podcasts is how easily anyone can create their own. It’s a democratic form of media, and you don’t have to be a big media giant to create one. Although large media companies have now developed their own podcasts, the market is still open to amateurs. 

Creating a podcast doesn’t have to require a lot of money or work, which is a relief to most people. Learning how to start a podcast and edit one doesn’t have to be difficult, as it doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge. An added bonus - the actual podcast equipment required can easily be purchased inexpensively online.

If you do require professional help, there are marketplaces that can connect you with freelancers to hire. Including audio engineers to assist with podcast editing or even graphic designers to assist with album cover art or logo design.

Some podcast shows have formats that are more organic, with a few people just having conversations about a specific topic, while others are more prepared by using professional editing and sound effects. These more professional ones also usually have branding.

The format of the show can be interview style with a host interviewing a guest. Alternatively, it can be hosted by a single host who performs their content like a monologue. A podcast can also have multiple hosts discussing a topic together.

Overall, a podcast is an easy way to share your content and views with the world. Whether it’s to use as a form of content marketing for your business or just an individual passion project, keep reading the Quill blog to learn more!

Platform
Price
Pro’s
Con's
Anchor

Free

  • Easy to use
  • Automatically distributes your podcast to major platforms.
  • Embed media player.
  • Great if podcasting is a
    side hobby
  • Very basic editing
  • Since it’s a free tool, you don’t have full control over the monetization of your podcast.
  • Not the right platform for people taking podcasting seriously
Buzzsprout

Free for 2 hours of content per month

$12 for 3 hours per month

$18+ for 6 hours and up

  • Very user-friendly
  • Caters to both long term and beginner podcasters
  • Advanced analytics
  • Easy distribution of your episodes
  • They measure their size requirements to hours not megabytes
  • Bonus: get a free $20 Amazon gift card when you sign up for any paid hosting plan!
  • Advanced features like dynamic ad insertion need some work
Libsyn

$5/month for Monthly Storage 50mb

  • Oldest podcast hosting site.
  • Easy distribution to major platforms and great for scaling once your podcast gets bigger.
  • Hosted over 35,000 podcasts.
  • An iTunes Podcast partner.
  • Allows you to publish your podcast to specific directories.
  • Embed media player.
  • Price is based on storage
  • 50mb storage for $5 won’t be enough if you are publishing weekly so you’ll end up with a higher price point
Podbean

Unlimited audio package: $9/month

Storage space:

Unlimited

  • Great support & customer service features
  • Unlimited audio.
  • Pages are easy to customize
  • Can schedule podcast release dates.
  • Easy to use.
  • Uploads and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions are automatic to Spotify.
  • Embed media player.
  • Simple Analytics
  • Analytics aren’t as advanced as other platforms
  • Upload and changes to podcast titles and/or descriptions take a day to change on iTunes.
  • Not an iTunes podcast partner.
  • The process to send a podcast to iTunes is more tedious. But, you will still be able to get on the platform.
Blubrry

Classic

$5/month

Monthly Storage

50mb

  • Podcast Wordpress plugin and management.
  • If you want to record a new introduction or conclusion, add in a sponsored ad or upload a new version of a podcast, it doesn't count towards your storage usage per month.
  • Blubrry allows a 25% storage overage each month
  • Prices are based on storage.
  • Usability is okay.
SimpleCast

Starting: $15/month

Recommendation: $35/month

Monthly Storage: Unlimited

  • Hosts your audio files no matter what the size!
  • Dynamic insertion for podcast ads or edits.
  • Incredibly detailed analytics including number of episodes completed and listener location tracking.
  • Embed media player.
  • Easy to use.
  • Great distribution! Easy access to all major podcast platforms.
  • Customizable podcast
    website.
  • Prices are slightly higher than other platforms, but well worth it especially if you have a branded company podcast!