Podcast Extra: How to Start Listening

When I talk to friends about podcasts I often hear: that sounds cool but I don’t really get podcasts, I don’t really have time to listen to podcasts. 

Fair enough. It is a commitment, especially if someone is interested in giants like Critical Role, a Dungeons and Dragons show/podcast. Giant in this sense means a massive fanbase and also, massive episodes. Five hour episodes are hard to listen to,  

I would like to offer some ideas for dipping your toes into the world of podcasts. My boyfriend recently celebrated a birthday and I gifted him the Lego Arts Warhol, Marilyn Monroe set. Unbeknownst to us, it has a podcast attached.

He really enjoyed building his Lego to the podcast, and he is historically not very interested. We learned about Warhol, and the process of creating the set he was building. Five stars to Lego for this immersive, and very peaceful experience. It got me thinking. How do I listen to podcasts? I know why. I listen to learn and satiate my curiosity, but what am I doing when I listen? 

Thinking back: It first started with working out. My mind drifts very intensely when I go to the gym, or even go for a walk. It is not always a fun drifting. So, in college, I started listening to podcasts when I (infrequently) went to the gym. Then it turned into my commute. At points, I had a nearly hour long drive into work, so I listened to podcasts because I actually got sick of music. 

Now my life is a little different. I’ve moved from a rural area to what I would call city-suburbia. Not quite the sprawling rural-suburbia I grew up in, but also not a city. My trips in the car are shorter, but I still listen to podcasts because I do a decent amount of solo shopping. I listen when I’m cleaning, doing laundry, or basically doing anything alone that I’m not thinking too hard about. 

I listen as I practice my knitting, when I paint, and sometimes when I’m just settling into my morning. I am pretty solid in my routine and habits, but I’m still figuring things out as life transitions. The fun “hack” I’ve recently discovered: if I’m floating around from room to room, even if I’m alone, popping in an earbud makes me listen more attentively. When I try to listen using the speakers scattered around our home, the dead spots make me lose focus. 

How to listen is one thing. What to listen to is a whole other ballgame. If you’re not sure where to start podcast-wise and are overwhelmed: I am here for you. It’s part of why I started this blog. Podcast reviews and ratings feel somewhat arbitrary. Yes you liked it, or didn’t like it, but give me more than “their voice annoys me”. 

That’s valid. However, it does not tell me anything about the content or quality. For example: I’m not a fan of Ologies because of the style of the podcast, but I still suggest it to friends because the quality of content and production value are still good. Some people don’t like it when two hosts low key read Wikipedia to each other, some people love it. It’s personal preference. 

To find the preference, you have to try. So I present to you a quick method that is hopefully not overwhelming: 

  1. Check the top ten of whatever topic you’re interested in on your basic podcast player. (Yes Apple podcasts needs work but you can still start there).
  2. Find the shorter episodes in those top ten. 15-30 minutes is a nice sweet spot. Remember some shows might ebb and flow on length. Pick something and try. I’ll even give you a list.
  • Current events? Try Today Explained or The Daily. 
  • History? Try This Day in History from iHeart or Obscure History
  • Spooky feeling history? Try Lore 
  • Science? Try Science Vs. 
  • Audio Drama? Aftershock is a good thriller I recently reviewed. 
  • The Anthropocene Reviewed is a nice and relaxing listen from John Green, the brother of TikTok star Hank Green (and also bestselling author but TikTok).

Many places are popping up to help you find your new podcast listen. The intention is to prevent the hassle of weeding through top ten lists or the clunkiness of bad players. GreatPods is a website based on critical reviews, Goodpods has some great new search functions and they are teasing more. Twitter might be a minefield in general but hey, you can always ask your friends and see what pops up. There’s something for everyone. 

Try. Be curious, it’s a good thing. I am sure there is a podcast and a way of listening for you. Feel free to reach out to me on twitter or instagram @iamkeelinit if you’re super lost. I love to help people figure out what they like.