A podcast is an online audio recording show, similar to a radio show, but available at all times. This is great as it means you can listen at whatever time is most convenient to you. More than 7 million people in the UK listen to podcasts each week.
You can listen to podcasts at anytime, doing any activity. They offer companionship to every day activities such as gardening, knitting or walking the dog. If you are isolating during this difficult Covid-19 time, listening to the same podcasts with family means a shared experience and can stimulate conversation.
No matter what you’re into, there will be a podcast to suit your interests. They are generally structured like a typical radio show with a host, and often an interviewee or panel. They aim to provide educational insights, entertainment value or simply a good laugh!
At Age Space, we have produced our own podcasts – a series of informal and lively chats between founder Annabel James and a range of experts in industries including health, finance and travel. The episodes get to grips with some of the complexities of old age and elderly care for anyone supporting parents or relatives. Please visit our Age Space Podcast page for more information. They are available to listen to today – online or through downloading on Apple Podcasts or Podbean.
At the end of our best podcast recommendations, we have produced a guide on how to access podcasts through different apps.
1. Desert Island Discs
First up is an all time classic. The Desert Island Discs programme was first broadcast in 1942, and has since been acclaimed the “greatest radio programme of all time”. The format is simple – inspiring guests share 8 music tracks, a book and a luxury item that they would take to a desert island if they were cast away. In sharing this, guests delve into their life story, revealing often, never heard before, insights.
Over 2250 recordings are available from the podcast’s history to download as podcasts. Guests come from all walks of life, from professors, to medics, to Olympians to musicians.
Below, are some of the most renowned episodes, that are definitely worth a listen:
- David Nott (2016) – Surgeon who has worked in war zones around the world. He talks about having to make the heart-wrenching decision of life or death.
- Maya Angelou (1987) – Poet who opens up about how a traumatic experience made her selectively mute as a child. She explains how one woman, and a deep love for poetry, helped her find her voice again.
- Dame Judi Dench (2016) – World-class actress – her sense of humour results in a hilarious interview, she becomes increasingly regretful of her music choices.
- Mary Berry (2012) – Much-loved cookery star who has brought joy to millions through her recipes. She emotionally accounts of how she had to deal with her son’s untimely death.
2. National Trust Series
Series of audio programmes available to download from the National Trust on topics surrounding its historic places and green spaces. Within the series, there are different sub-categories of podcasts:
3. Woman’s Hour
Daily radio magazine broadcast on BBC Radio 4 which has been on air since 1946. The first 45 minutes consist of reports, interviews and debates surrounding women’s issues such as relationships, motherhood, health and feminism. The last 15 minutes features short-run drama series, which change over time.
The programme is the second most popular daily popular podcast across BBC Radio. 40% of listeners are male, demonstrating despite the general theme of the conversations, the content has proved engaging for all.
4. TED Talk Podcast
TED Talks are inspirational and influential speeches delivered by experts in a wide variety of subject areas. From psychology to medicine, there is something for all interests! Almost 50,000 talks have been given since the organisation began in 1984. The talks are around 18 minutes long and aim to leave a lasting impression on the listener.
Below, are some of the most listened to talks – some have described them as “life-changing”:
- 10 ways to have a better conversation (2016) – Celeste Headless
- What makes a good life? Lessons from the the longest study on happiness (2015) – Robert Waldinger
- How great leaders inspire action (2010) – Simon Sinek
5. In Our Time
BBC Radio Discussion Series investigating a range of historical, philosophical, cultural and scientific topics. The show is hosted by ex MP and author Melvin Bragg. Each week, he is joined by academic experts in the theme of discussion.
There are almost 900 episodes to enjoy. You can pick from the catalogue depending on your own interests. Below, we have listed some of listeners’ all time favourite episodes to get you started:
- Common Sense Philosophy (2007) – involves the most profound questions about human knowledge that we are capable of asking – one to make you think!
- The Gin Craze (2016) – investigation into the economic and social factors that led to the gin frenzy in the 18th century.
- Photosynthesis (2014) – discussion into the natural, chemical process which drives most processes on Earth.
6. Dolly Parton’s America
Fascinating series exploring Dolly Parton’s story from humble beginnings to country music icon. Forbes described the series as the ‘Best Podcast Of 2019’.
Nine 45 minute episodes investigate a different part of Dolly’s life and how this was influenced by America’s culture at the time. Dolly, herself, is also interviewed. She reveals the often poignant truth behind the songs weknow and love including “I will always love you” and “Jolene”.
7. The Archers
Much loved BBC radio soap opera set in an English rural village setting. The show has been running since 1950 and is available as a downloadable podcast, with omnibus episodes. In total, the Archers have aired over 19,000 episodes – making it the world’s longest running drama!
If you are new to the Archers, super-fan Stephen Fry gives a great introduction to get new listeners up to speed with the people, laughs and scandals!.
8. New’s Quiz
Topical panel quiz show making light of the week’s News. The show has been running on radio since 1977. Since then, over 100 series have been produced. Each week regular and guest panellists join the hosts, predominantly comedians, journalists and comedians. This makes for a witty take on the week’s events. The podcast version of the show has an additional 10-15 minutes of material included to make up an hour.
9. Two Cups of Tea
Although a less-well known podcast, Two Cups of Tea is nevertheless growing in popularity.
Two Cups of Tea is based on amazing life stories from older characters. Host, Chris Heath (TV producer, author and editor) is joined by a different interviewee each week who shares personal anecdotes from their life’s experiences. These stories have proved to provide laughter, tears and comfort.
New episodes come out every two weeks and there are 28 episodes in the back catalogue to enjoy.
10. Audio Books
Finally, most books are now available as audio books! Often, people do not realise that chapters from their favourite books can be downloaded as podcasts. This means you can listen to your favourite literature around the house – particularly beneficial for those with diminishing eyesight.
Please note that unlike the above podcasts, you often have to purchase a book (lower cost than physical copy) before being able to download chapters.
How to access podcasts through different apps:
As mentioned throughout this article, podcasts are accessible through several different apps. Below is a guide on how to listen to podcasts through each app. When you have downloaded the app, simply search for the podcast you are look for. You can then play, download and subscribe.
The following ‘podcast jargon’ is useful to understand:
- Download: saves the episode to your device meaning you can listen at any time, regardless of internet connection.
- Subscribe: new episodes of a podcast series will automatically download to your device – similar to subscribing to a tangible magazine and it is delivered to your door, but in this instance it is electronically delivered to your device.
Remember to download an app:
- search on the Apple App Store if you have an Apple device
- search on the Google Play Store if you have an Android device
Alexa is a virtual assistant device, developed by Amazon. It responds to voice commands and can play music, podcast, give you news updates and many other supporting functions that Alexa calls ‘skills’. More and more people are using Amazon Alexa assistive technology in their homes.
To access podcasts through Alexa, you must first ensure you have downloaded the Alexa app:
When you then open the app, go to the settings menu. Next, scroll down until you see the Music and Podcast menu. Select link a new account – you can then choose a podcast app to connect. This means, when you speak to your Alexa device, it will be able to play podcasts through your linked account. If you are unsure of anything you can always “ask Alexa” to play a podcast and the device will help you if you are not connected.
Any Apple device, i.e. an iPhone or iPad, comes with the pre-installed Apple Podcasts app. Find and click on this app. Then, click on the search icon in the bottom left hand corner. Here, you can search for the podcast you would like to listen to.
You can download episodes by clicking the iCloud icon in the episode list. To subscribe to a podcast, tap subscribe on the page for that podcast.
BBC Radio Sounds
BBC Sounds is a free app – the home of all BBC audio including radio and podcasts. All BBC podcasts are easily accessible from here. You will need an account to sign in. If you already use BBC iPlayer, you will be able to use these details. Otherwise it is easy and free to sign up.
Podbean is a free podcast app with a huge catalogue of podcasts to listen to. You can download podcasts and follow series (meaning you are notified when new episodes are realised).
Spotify is primarily a music app. However, you can also use the app to listen to podcasts.
The app is free to use, but comes with adverts unless you sign up to be a premium user. A premium membership costs £9.99 a month and you can cancel at any time.
To search for a podcast on the app, click the search icon in the low centre of the screen and type what you are looking for. You can download podcasts to your device and subscribe to series (also premium features).