Guide to Podcasts

By Staff Writers Jessica Jen, Deeksha Raina, Michael Ren & Hana Sheikh

Podcasts are audio or video files released in episodes, similar to radio programs. Audiences tune in for entertainment or enrichment on a variety of topics. Podcasts can be downloaded onto personal devices for offline use, which makes them convenient for listening while on-the-go or multitasking.

To tune in to a podcast, people can visit an online platform, and then download episodes via a podcatcher, a program that downloads media in various file formats from an online feed.  Listeners can then return to the files at their own convenience. Another option is to subscribe to podcast feeds and download directly from the sites.

Podcast Blog:

Much like traditional text-and-photo blogs, podcast blogs span a wide range of topics to accommodate their authors’ interests. For example, the podcast TED Radio Hour has weekly episodes concerning topics such as networks, inquiry, and communication methods. Social Studies Teacher Jaime Richards’s podcast is titled Missing Pieces, after his book released on Oct. 10, 2016. The first episode was released on Dec. 8, 2016, and the third and latest one was available March 9. Missing Pieces covers ideas not often taught in schools, such as misconceptions surrounding the word “passion,” but that are important life skills. Missing Pieces is available through SoundCloud or through Richards’ website at


Sports podcasts can be found for all types of sports, and mostly highlight collegiate or higher levels of play. Podcasts are run by players, former players, coaches, and journalists alike, all of which are able to offer a more nuanced view of the sport or the sport league in question. One particular podcast is The Bill Simmons’ Podcast, by sports columnist Bill Simmons. Although the podcast is predominantly NBA-centric, other sports are also discussed with guest speakers, including players, coaches, and journalists. Episodes can be found on SoundCloud, and are released in one hour segments one or two times a week.


Educational podcasts can be found for all manner of subjects and levels, from elementary to collegiate levels. Popular podcasts include Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Startalk Radio and Radiolab, lead by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich., both of which are predominantly focused on science discussion combined with a mixture of comedy and pop culture references. Although educational science podcasts are the most common, ones for other subjects can also be found, such as Hardcore History or the literary Longform Podcast.


Political podcasts usually cover recent events and political news with either an informative or satirical tone. They often feature journalists, politicians, or analysts and are usually upwards of 30 minutes. Popular political podcasts include Keepin’ It 1600 and Pod Save America, hosted by Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, and FiveThirtyEight Politics, hosted by Nate Silver and the FiveThirtyEight team. FiveThirtyEight Politics focuses more on the quantitative aspect of politics while Keepin’ It 1600 and Pod Save America have more of an analytical spin.


Listening to a music podcast provides two benefits compared to live streaming and regular broadcasts: more relaxed timing and higher quality. Podcasts can be edited before audiences access them. The editing takes time but the music reaches the audience faster than if  it was to play on a broadcast. A popular music podcast is National Public Radio’s All Songs Considered, which includes both music and music-related feature articles. All Songs Considered plays songs ranging from “Sympathy For the Devil” by The Rolling Stones to “I’m Set Free” by The Velvet Underground. Listeners can also find new music genres or learn about featured musicians such as Elliott Smith. Music podcasts are a balance between live and broadcasted music, with some unique aspects included as well.


Podcasts on technology introduce new products, analyze trends, and discuss current events emerging from the tech industry. They are hosted by entrepreneurs, industry experts, and employees or founders from leading firms. A popular podcast, HBR Ideacast, has episodes that run for 20 to 35 minutes and are released weekly by the Harvard Business Review. The episodes cover upcoming events in the business world, how to improve workplaces, evolution of companies, and management skills. Episodes can be downloaded on iTunes or found on


Interview with Mr. Richards:

The Smoke Signal: What do you think about podcasts?

Jaime Richards: I love podcasts! I don’t even remember how I first heard about them, but the story of me and podcasts started when we got our dog. I wasn’t expecting to get a dog, but I ended up adopting our dog from our daughters. I started walking my dog everyday after school for an hour and I would try to listen to radio stations using my phone. But then I would get out of range and it wouldn’t pick up [the signal] and then somebody must have told me about podcasts so I started listening to them while walking my dog. I wasn’t really into it [walking the dog] at first, but then when I started listening to podcasts, it became more bearable. Now I like walking my dog, partly because of podcasts and partly because I got used to it. And that’s how I learned about podcasts.  

SS: What genres of podcasts do you listen to?

JR: The more I learned about them, the more interested I got and found out that there are all these different podcasts you can listen to. If you want to learn Spanish, there’s lessons you can listen to. Some are entertainment shows or sports. I would say there are three categories. One is for learning things, another is for entertainment and fun, and one is just interesting things I didn’t previously know existed. Some podcasts I just discovered serendipitously just by searching things up and others I was referred to by other people. Sports [podcasts] are fun, and then I listen to my Spanish stuff sometimes, and then others have to do with what I teach — government, economics — since it gives me ideas. It’s pretty broad though, sometimes I just listen to things that sound cool. I listen to Jalen Jacoby and Bill Simmons, who both have a sports theme. There’s also a Bruce Lee podcast, his daughter does a podcast about his life and philosophy.

SS: What do you talk about on your own podcasts?

JR: The theme is my book, which is about missing pieces in education. Interestingly, since I’m a teacher, there aren’t many [podcasts] out there on teaching and education and the ones that I have found, I haven’t been too crazy about. That was part of it too. I realized that there was nothing about what we should be teaching kids, and how we can teach better, so I decided that I should do one. I guess the motivation was that there wasn’t one out there that I really liked, and so last summer, when I had surgery and couldn’t do much, I learned about the technical aspects of making a podcast. I’m still learning that, but it’s kind of doing two things at once — working on actually making the podcast, and making the quality of the podcast good.

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