You’re launching a pod, what? A beginner’s guide to podcasts

We’re launching a POD…cast! Yes, a podcast.

In short, podcasts are like on-demand video (on a platform like Netflix and Youtube), but for audio content (like radio shows). And most podcasts are free to access.

pod·cast /ˈpädˌkast/

noun – a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. (Oxford Definition)

In light of the launch of our own podcast show, we wanted to tell you a bit about the podcast and also share this Beginner’s Guide that we put together so that you can be prepared to listen to our show when it goes live on January 28, 2020 (woohoo!).

PH SPOTlight: PH SPOT’s podcast series

Our show is launching on January 28, 2020, and it will be called PH SPOTlight! (How do you like our little artwork below?)

We decided to produce PH SPOTlight as a natural extension of our Blog. The blog has served as a source of inspiration for us all in public health over the past three years. We have been fortunate to read about the journeys our peers have taken and the advice they’ve offered from their experiences. We felt that continuing these conversations over a medium like audio would help us to take these lessons and journeys one step further, to connect with our peers in a way that is different from reading written content.

But, don’t worry, the Blog will still continue to exist, and we will still be sharing reflections through written mediums (and we will still continue to accept your reflections).

The PH SPOT podcast, much like the blog, will be our space, yours and mine, and everyone else in public health, to share our stories, and to inspire each other as we build our public health careers…the difference will be that we will get to hear the emotions, the energy, and the passion that can sometimes be lost in a blog.

I hope you are excited, because I can’t wait for you to be a part of these conversations! (I’d even suggest you put a little reminder in your calendar for January 28th.)

So, once we launch PH SPOTlight on January 28th, we will have weekly episodes! In these episodes, I sit with individuals I like to call Public Health Heroes, and we talk about a topic related to building our careers in public health. These topics so far have ranged from job applications, leadership in public health, family life, and pushing past your comfort zone, to name a few. And this is just the beginning!

As we count down the days, we wanted to share a few things with you so that you can prepare on your end. In this post, we’ve included a quick Beginner’s Guide to get you set up with choosing the method you will listen to PH SPOTlight, and even how to download and install a podcast player if you want to access it right off of your mobile device.

If you are well versed in podcasts, scroll to the bottom (last section) where we tell you a bit more about what you can do as you wait for launch day!

I hope you will join me weekly and be a part of this conversation too (don’t forget to subscribe to our show)!

What’s the big deal with podcasts?

There are currently less than 1 million podcast shows available on the internet for you to listen to. This number might sound overwhelming, but compare to this to 500 million active Youtube Channels and just as many blogs!

So, in comparison, podcasts are still younger and new…which means, if you haven’t heard of podcasts, or have never listened to one, THAT’S OKAY! :)

According to a recent article in the Guardian, you are going to be a part of the growth of podcast listeners if the PH SPOT podcast is going to be your first exposure to podcasts:

“Global monthly podcast listener figures are forecast to grow more than six-fold, from 287 million in 2016 to 1.85 billion in 2023, according to the Ovum research company Ovum. In the UK, Ofcom says that nearly 6 million people tune into a podcast each week, double the number of five years ago.”

Once you get hooked onto Podcasts, you will be wondering why you didn’t discover them earlier. Podcasts are a great method to consume content on the go or while you are occupied doing a menial task, like mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, or doing laundry.

I got into listening to podcasts and consumed the most number of hours while I commuted (driving) to work a few years ago. Even as I switched into a new job and began biking to work, I continued to listen to podcasts. For me, it was not only a form of entertainment but also the method I found to efficiently use my time, in order to learn about different subjects or the way I got inspired for different projects.

What to expect when you listen to a podcast?

Depending on the “show” you are listening to, they can be one of these formats:

  • highly produced, taking you into a story with vivid imagery (much like watching a movie)
  • a simpler format with the host speaking to you, the listener, about a topic
  • a conversation between two or more people, around a topic of interest

How can I listen to a podcast?

If you have never listened to a podcast before, I am going to introduce you to a few options. Depending on your preference and lifestyle, you can choose the best one for you:

On the computer

One way to listen to your favourite shows, like PH SPOTlight, would be right on the computer.

Due to the recent popularity of podcasts, search engines like Google have began to modify the way we see search results. If you search for the title of your favourite podcast, along with the word “podcast” you will receive results that include the actual audio file in the search results, that you can click and listen to right off of Google (see images below, one of my favourite shows “How I built this” shows up when I google it).

Results that appear on Google when you search for “How I built this podcast”

Playing a podcast right off of the web-based Google podcast player.

Google Podcasts, along with many other platforms like Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify are known as podcast players (more about this below in the next section: Mobile Devices).

The next way to listen to podcasts on your computer, is directly on the producing company/organization’s website. Using the example of the “How I built this” show, you can head over to the NPR website (National Public Radio) and listen to the episode right off of the webpage (see below).

PH SPOTlight will also be available on our website (

NPR’s ‘How I built this’ podcast episodes on the organization’s website

A third and fourth option you have, to listen right off of your computer, is using iTunes right off of your Apple computer or the Spotify web player (see below).

Podcasts on iTunes

Podcasts on Spotify web-player

On a mobile device

I rarely listen to podcasts off of my computer. I would say that 99.99% of podcast listening, for me, takes place right off of my mobile device. As I mentioned in the intro, the attraction to podcasts for me is that I can consume content while doing other tasks like commuting to work (drive, bike, public transit) or doing stuff around the house (like dishes, laundry, or vacuuming).

To listen to podcasts on a mobile device, you could browse via Google or go directly to the company/organization’s webpage as explained in the previous section…but, you do have a better option…Apps!

Each of the podcast players that I mentioned above (Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify) have Apps you can download (like any other App) onto your phone.

Once you install the app on your phone, you can search through thousands of shows and subscribe to them so that you don’t miss an episode. The functionality of these apps is getting so much better with the rise in popularity of podcasts. Similar to other apps, you can also set notifications.

[Note: The PH SPOT podcast will not show up in your search until next week. Stay tuned!]

Here are the links to download the podcast players from your App Store.

Can I listen to a podcast offline (without internet)?

Yes! Most of the apps that you use to listen to podcasts on your mobile device will allow you to listen to the episodes without internet access (if you download them in advance). When you have access to wifi or data, download the episodes you want to listen to. Once you’re done listening to them, you can delete the episodes.

Some Apps also have settings you can set to auto-download episodes (once you are connected to wifi) as they become available. Play around with the App of your choice and set up your settings based on your preferences!

Should I subscribe to a podcast? (If so, how do I do it?)

I am subscribed to all of my favourite and/or interested shows. This way, when I launch my Google Podcast App, the shows I listen to are listed in the order of my preference. This way, I know that a new episode is up. Below is a screenshot of the Google Podcast screen.

To subscribe, once you search for a show and are on the show page (within your app), there will be a “subscribe” button. By clicking this button, you will add it to your list of shows.

Screenshot of Google Podcast App.

We hope that mini-guide has helped you get prepared for the launch of PH SPOTlight. If you feel like you need a bit more information, here’s another great (and detailed) Beginner’s Guide.

What can I do as I wait for the launch of PH SPOTlight?

  1. Decide how you will be listening to PH SPOTlight.
    • If you don’t already have one of the Apps mentioned above downloaded on your mobile device, download it now and get familiar with the application.
    • Browse and subscribe to a few shows using keywords that interest you (ex: murder mystery, business, cooking, kid’s shows, fitness).
  2. Help us create some buzz!
    • You can do this by sharing this blog post with your friends and colleagues.
    • Sending a note to your University’s public health program coordinator to send the news out about this podcast to other students in your program.
    • You can share this PH SPOTlight artwork and your excitement on your social media (tag us!) and create some buzz that way.

And finally, if you have topic recommendations for the podcast OR guests you’d like to hear on the show, you can submit them here. (If you want to be a guest on the podcast, we’d love to hear from you as well!)

The outline for this post was developed by Lis Huang, Content Creator at PH SPOT.

Blog post photo by Alireza Attari on Unsplash


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