Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Kelly and Company Segment 5: Podcasts

Feeling penny-pinched and short on audio entertainment? Ever wish you could have a constantly renewing fountain of interesting stuff to listen to on your iOS device? You absolutely can. The only things it may cost you are storage space on your device and the data used to download episodes. I've enjoyed podcasts for years and have made some fabulous discoveries. They're great for when you don't really want to dig into a book or can't afford to. I download a bunch before a trip so I have lots to listen to.

I've often been surprised at just how much excellent listening gets put out there and completely escapes public notice. One show which attempts to rectify this is Podcast Playlist. Each episode features a number of different podcasts connected by a common theme. The hosts of that show have introduced me to many new favorites. The show itself is also a podcast. Check out a few episodes and get a better idea of what's out there for your listening pleasure. It can be found on CBC Radio or online at:

There's no regulation when it comes to podcasts. Anything goes. Ordinary people can just decide to record podcasts on their computer or smartphone and stick them out there through a podcast hosting company. Some popular podcasts are sponsored or produced by companies as advertising vehicles. It's a very diverse and wide world to explore. Gifted amateurs often attract audiences as large or larger than corporate produced efforts.

To listen to podcasts, you need a podcasts player. There are many good ones in the appstore. Three very popular ones are:

Podcasts: This app is made by Apple. It is available free from the appstore. There are no ads or in-app purchases. It's a very bare bones uncluttered experience. A very good choice for absolute beginners still struggling to get used to operating their iOS devices. There are tabs across the bottom. My Podcasts is on the far left and where you'll find any podcasts you've subscribed to. The "Featured", "Top Charts", and "Search" tabs make it easy to find podcasts you're interested in. There are settings for this app but you need to go into the iOS Settings area and find the Podcasts settings. If space is tight, you can tell the app not to automatically download new episodes so that they won't fill your device storage. Episodes can then be streamed over Wi-Fi or cellular data.

Overcast: This app is very popular and offers more advanced features including speed control and an option called voice boost which clarifies speech. It is free from the appstore but is ad supported. A premium subscription can be paid for which gives additional features and keeps the ads away. Even without paying for this, Overcast is an excellent podcast player. Just be familiar enough with navigating around using Voiceover so the ads don't trip you up. It's not rocket science and you get a far more flexible and powerful podcast player for your troubles.

Downcast: This is my favorite. It costs $3.99 in the appstore. You get everything for that low one-time fee. No ads to worry about. A very rich set of features including the ability to import podcast lists. Look in the "More" tab, you'll find settings, tools, all sorts of help, and other options. Go to the "add" tab to search for and add podcasts. For the most part, I find things are explained quite well in context. Learning what options are available is straight-forward.

All three of these apps are fully accessible to Voiceover users. There are more options out there in the appstore. A new one called Youcast is starting to make waves. Nothing says you can't have more than one podcast player. Just keep in mind that each of them might download any podcasts you subscribed to unless you change the settings for the app so that it doesn't download anything automatically. I use Downcast for my podcast listening needs but also preferred Overcastfor a while before they went heavier on the ads. Each podcast player will have its own approach to things like displaying new podcasts, managing downloads, etc. Find what works best for you.

All podcast player apps will have facilities for finding podcasts. In Downcast, go into the "add" tab. There, you'll find the ability to search for a podcast you might know the name of. You will also find directories of popular podcasts which you can browse and subscribe to any podcasts which interest you. Once you do that, you will be informed of any new episodes of that podcasts. They apps will typically default to the behaviour of downloading the new episodes automatically. If you subscribe to a lot of podcasts, this isn't such a good thing. I have Downcast set to mark all new episodes for streaming. I then simply browse through them and convert the one's I'm interested in to downloads. These are added to my download queue. I then have my settings such that I need to enable the download queue for the episodes tow download. That way, I don't need to have several gigabytes set aside for podcasts I don't end up listening to. Most podcast players have setting to automatically delete older episodes so your device doesn't get filled to the brim.

There's so much good audio made available in podcast form that it boggles the brain. I'll never run out of new ones to try. Much like beer in that regard. There are only so many hours to listen in a day though. I subscribe to around 100 podcasts and will comb through new episodes when I want something interesting to hear. Other people simply subscribe to a low enough number of podcasts that they can listen in order or make playlists to hear and keep up with them all. They're all free for the taking.

To help you get started, I've listed some podcasts below which I quite like. Just type the name of the podcast into the search field of your podcast app of choice and you should be able to subscribe and tune in. As new episodes get released, your podcast player can keep you informed. Take the time to learn options and settings the available in the app you've chosen. The time spent pays off as your lisetning priorities and circumstances change. Some great podcasts to start with are:

The Dinner Party Download: A fun informative podcast modeled on the structure of a dinner party. Jokes, etiquette tips, interesting guests, etc. They once had the actors who played Geordy from Star Trek TNG and Gandalf from the LOTR movies as guests. Awesome!!!

Spark: This CBC radio show, like many others, is also available in podcast form. Spark discusses technology and how it efects society. It has been on air for around a decade and has maintained a very high standard of quality. If you want to understand technology and how it might impact your life, tune into this one.

Snap Judgement: Glynn Washington and crew provide thematically linked interesting stories both real and fictional. They've kept the podcast going for around 7 years and there are hundreds of hours of well-produced and curated stories. They have some great special episodes including Spook specials around Halloween and other holiday specials. Shows have a theme which links the stories they contain.

The Applevis Podcast: This branch of the Applevis web site and community offers audio demonstrations and tutorials produced by community members for blind users of Apple products. Stay up to date with this podcasts and you'll be well informed about accessible apps and know how to get the most from your Apple gear. This can be very useful and motivating for beginners who may find navigating web sites and documents to be harder as they get used to Voiceover.

The Overnightscape: A favorite of mine, you just never know what Frank will get into. Frank Edward Nora records his thoughts on all sorts of pop culture and other aspects of life while travelling through New York or other places. Lots of things are described as he encounters them. He sometimes meets up with friends and family who join in the adventure. At the end of episodes is a section called The Other Side where you'll find independentmusic or publically available sounds from the present and past. A most interesting listening experience. Be aware that this podcast is relatively large and usually spans around two hours per episode.

Good Job Brain: A show for trivia buffs where a group of friends dig into all things fascinating. These friends get together each week for pub trivia and have kept the podcast going past 198 episodes.

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