Podcasts, especially in recent years, are an integral part of our daily lives. Born at the beginning of the 2000s, they are now experiencing a second youth, just when they seemed destined for oblivion, and only recently have we realized how much this innovative format for providing information and entertainment has revolutionized an entire sector from the ground up. On the other hand, all you need is a good pair of headphones, an Internet connection and any mobile device, but also a computer, to get lost among thousands of different contents, to be enjoyed wherever you are, whether at the gym, during a trip, while cleaning or in the comfort of your own home.
The huge amount of shows published and available for listening makes podcasting a valid alternative to other forms of entertainment, suitable for all tastes and palates. And while it's true that Spotify is one of the leading apps in streaming music playback, similarly since 2019 it has progressively improved its podcast service. However, the experience can be limited unless you subscribe to a paid premium subscription. There are, however, other platforms where you can listen to podcasts, by the way, almost all of them free: let's discover them together!
What is a podcast
Before discovering where to listen to podcasts, it is good to go and define what it is, outlining a definition and the very boundaries of this now extremely popular phenomenon. The word podcast derives from the two English terms iPod and cast: the translation of Pod refers directly to the Apple iPods that, at the beginning of the new millennium, have strongly contributed to the diffusion of podcasting; cast, or broadcasting, means instead to transmit. Putting them together, we can consequently say that the meaning of podcast is literally to transmit through an iPod or, of course, with other means of reproduction.
From a strictly technical point of view, it refers to an audio program usually serial in episodes and dedicated to a particular topic, that authors upload on dedicated platforms. And that you can download from the Internet at any time on your smartphone, computer or tablet. All without any particular restrictions on the format and duration of the episodes, for an obvious fluidity that characterizes the medium.
Podcasts: where to listen
Now that we are clear on what a podcast is, we can focus on the heart of our guide. We're going to identify together where to listen to podcasts, that is all those platforms compatible with both iOS and Android systems that host various podcasting contents, for the use of fans, but also of the simply curious. Later on we'll take a look at the most popular ones and the most well-stocked catalog, where you can look for the right podcasts and get lost in the listening, which can range from very different topics and subjects. On the other hand, anyone can create and upload their own podcast on the web: to do so, all you need is your voice, good recording equipment, an Internet connection and, of course, something interesting to talk about.
Spotify (freemium for iOS and Android)
Leader in music streaming, Spotify is certainly not the first application we think of when we're looking for a virtual place to listen to podcasts. Yet, among its features there is also a good large catalog of podcasts, both audio and video. That's because, in 2019, the company decided to acquire Gimlet Media, the world's leading podcast producer, for more than $200 million, making itself ready in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. And in which players of the calibre of Amazon, Apple and Google are playing. On the shores of the dominus of digital music, more and more committed to impose itself also in this field, you can also find exclusive shows, such as, for example, the one, very popular, of Joe Rogan.
The contents are organized by category, for an immediate selection of the most popular podcasts to download on our devices or listen directly in streaming. Compared to the other podcast platforms out there, Spotify is still immature and consequently offers rather poor playback options. However, if we already use it on a daily basis, it could prove to be an excellent ally when it comes to broadcasting. The service is free, but with the usual limitations imposed on freemium accounts; there is, however, the possibility of taking out a paid premium subscription, with all the benefits of the case.
Spreaker (free for iOS and Android)
Another platform for listening to podcasts that should definitely be tried is Spreaker, already particularly popular among all radio amateurs who would like to improvise as a radio speaker at least for a day. The app, which is completely free for both iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded from the AppStore and Google Play Store at no cost, is particularly interesting because it includes channels that include and manage different podcast streams focused on the same topic, such as politics, sports and hi-tech.
Using the handy Explore function, we can access specific categories, just as happens on Netflix for TV series, movies and shows more generally. The ability to create playlists and the order in which the podcasts are presented to users is very much appreciated, as they are presented according to the country in which they are located: this means that we'll see the ones in Italian first, after the others.
Stitcher (free for iOS and Android)
If you're looking for an app to listen to podcasts, Stitcher is the one for you. It's no coincidence that we're looking at the most popular platform for podcasting fans, with an endless catalog of shows, from the most popular ones to those produced exclusively. Stitch means to sew, and in fact Stitcher allows us to "stitch" the podcasts we like into a personalized playlist, where we'll directly find the latest episodes as they are released by the authors.
It supports Android Auto and Amazon Alexa commands, while podcasts are searched by name or selected by theme and number of recommendations. The app, in any case, helps us find new content based on our preferences, for a really well-stocked selection with four different categories in Italian: news, culture, comedy and sports.
Overcast (freemium for iOS)
Available only for the Apple product ecosystem, Overcast is recognized for its dry and minimalist design, which aims to give greater relevance to the available content. Opening the app, we'll immediately see the list of podcasts we're following, while tapping on the "+" symbol on the top right we can search and add new ones according to different categories, such as comedy, news, technology, economy and those with more recommendations from listeners.
Also in this case there's a subscription from about 10 euros per year, to browse without any kind of advertising. Not only that, but it has several features that differentiate it from the competition, such as Voice Boost, which increases and normalizes the volume so that each podcast has the same volume, and Smart Speed - which dynamically shortens the silences in talk shows.
Audible (freemium for iOS and Android)
Many people know about Amazon's audiobook platform, but not everyone knows that Audible is a virtual place to listen to podcasts, against a fairly rich and varied catalog. And in which there is no shortage of exclusives, offered by the service in collaboration with authors, actors and professionals. Among these, we can't fail to mention Comedy Pills by Claudio Bisio and 22 other Italian comedians, Cracco's version or Great minds compared by Piergiorgio Oddifreddi, with local content of great quality, in full Amazon style. Unlike what happens in other countries, in Italy Audible offers a freemium subscription just like Spotify, from 9.99 euros per month with unlimited access to all content intended for the Italian market.
Apple Podcasts (free for iOS)
Whoever owns an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch can listen to podcasts using the proprietary platform of the Cupertino giant, Apple Podcasts, completely free for Apple fans and integrated into all its devices. Visually very similar to Apple Music, it offers a good mix of quality content in Italian and English, and hosts titles that span every genre imaginable. Here, too, a subscription eliminates advertising and gives access to exclusively produced works, from big names of worldwide resonance to smaller, independent ones.
Google Podcasts (free for Android)
If you're already in the Google ecosystem, the Google Podcasts application is the most suitable for listening to podcasts. It's also very easy to integrate into the habits of users of the "little robot": completely free, it works in conjunction with all Google services and Google Assistant commands to manage playback options and resume listening exactly where it was interrupted, simply with a voice command. The interface looks very simple and intuitive. Together with the large amount of podcasts available, with an ever-expanding catalog, it guarantees an excellent listening experience.