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The Beginner's Guide To Getting Into Podcasts

Podcasts: Why they’re good for you, where to start and how to make your own one too!

They have been around for ages but it feels like all of a sudden we’re in a golden age of podcasting. We’re a generation who want to constantly be entertained, and when doing things like driving or cooking means we can’t be staring at a screen, podcasts step in. And they aren’t just entertaining; they’re kind of good for you too.

The benefits of listening to podcasts

  1. You can multitask while listening, making them the perfect companion to road trips, getting ready in the morning, gymming and commuting.
  2. Most of us struggle to get to bed without some form of technology rocking our metaphorical cradle, but we know that staring at a screen isn’t good sleep hygiene. Listening to a podcast is a good way to satisfy your millenial urge to be stimulated 24/7 while giving your eyes a break from a screen.
  3. They’re free to listen to and there is a podcast for basically every topic on earth.
  4. While a lot of podcasts are here to entertain, there are many educational ones too so you get to feel like you’re being productive while listening.
  5. You don’t have to listen to the radio any more. In the age of podcasts and Spotify the idea of old-fashioned radio just seems crazy. You can’t choose the songs or the content of the conversation, and there are a ton of adverts?! No, thanks.

Where to start?

Okay, so you’re convinced. Now that you know you don’t have to spend your commutes in silence and you no longer have to listen to the surf report on local radio every morning there’s no going back. But what podcasts should you start with? If anything, there are too many podcasts out there and it’s hard to know which ones are worth your while. We’ve done the digging for you:

The crowd favourites

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These are quintessential listening for any podcast newbie that cover a broad range of topics and listener satisfaction is basically guaranteed:

This American Life

These guys sure know how to podcast, and have mastered the art of captivating story-telling. Alongside their regular weekly themed story collections, they love to experiment too, like the time they created a whole band out of musician’s classified adverts and made a podcast about it. This American Life is the perfect place to start your podcasting journey.

99% Invisible

99% Invisible teaches you things you didn’t realise you didn’t know about the world around you. Like how fortune cookies came to be, or why therapists use couches, or the history of air conditioning (which is surprisingly interesting, trust us).

Radiolab

For those of us who are interested in the science side of things but need someone to dumb it down for us Radiolab have just the guys for the job. If you don’t know which one, to begin with, check out their most memorable podcasts to get the ball rolling.

The informative and educational ones

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It’s nice to listen to something and feel like you’re learning stuff. These shows will give you a ton of facts for you to throw around at the next dinner party:

No Such Thing As A Fish

Run by the brains behind the TV show QINo Such Thing As A Fish is a weekly meeting of lovable British know-it-alls. Each week they bring their own fact to present and discuss with their playful banter and British charm.

Stuff You Should Know

Stream Stuff You Should Know to learn the things you’re too embarrassed to Google but really want to know. Like how mirrors work. Or whether the five-second-rule is a hygienic way to live your life. And what TF is up with North Korea?

Hidden Brain

If you’re interested in humans and how they work this one is for you. Hidden Brain covers human behaviour in a way that is both interesting and applicable to your life, namely your social interactions and your work life.

The African podcasts

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The podcast scene is pretty dominated by American voices, so we are *so* here for these shows produced by people from our continent:

The Stoop

So, technically both hosts are American, but Hana is half Sudanese and Leila is African-American and it’s a really good show where a lot of conversation surrounds being African. The Stoop covers topics that they feel aren’t discussed enough in black communities like mental health, colourism, ‘sounding white’, and hair (featuring Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist).

African Tech Round-up

We’re used to hearing about the world from an American point of view so the African Tech Round Up makes for a nice change. Andile Masuku hosts this one from Jo’burg and talks tech in a way that’s relevant to Africans. Listen to learn more about what Bitcoin means for you, the presence of Uber in Africa or the latest on HIV research, all chatted about in an easy-to-understand and not-so-boring way.

Not Your African Cliche

Not Your African Cliche is hosted by four Nigerian woman who are all about ‘interesting opinions and a mutual disgust for ignorant comments about our continent’. This podcast strikes a great balance between tackling the hard stuff (like human trafficking or traditional African religions) and the lighter, more relatable stuff (like discussing Beyonce and Black Panther).

The sexy ones

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Podcasts about love, dating and all the nasty stuff in between:

Loveline with Amber Rose

In ye olden days people used to call into Loveline to ask for relationship advice. Now the concept has been given a new format that’s modern, sex-positive and most excitingly hosted by Amber Rose. She and sex therapist Dr Chris Donaghue tackle the questions from anonymous callers and offer their advice. The hosts are both incredibly open-minded and it’s refreshing to listen to people be so nonjudgemental about the sex lives of others.

Modern Love

The New York Times has a ‘Modern Love’ section where readers submit their personal stories about love, and this podcast brings those stories to life. Each episode a different, pretty high profile personality, such as Abbi from Broad City or Kate Winslet, reads a love story, after which it’s discussed. Sometimes the person who wrote the story comes on and updates you on their life. It will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy.

Where Should We Begin

Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in a therapist’s office? Where Should We Begin is an incredibly intimate show where you sit in on a different couples therapy session every episode. It’s heartbreaking, it’s touching, it’s interesting, and it’s hosted by Esther Perel who has a sexy French accent. All good things.

The niche stuff

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There really is a podcast out there for everyone from people obsessed with the old TV show Full House to people who were so into Serial that they want to listen to a whole separate podcast discussing it. Here are some niche podcasts that your inner nerd might love:

A Podcast of Ice and Fire

If you’re the type who loves to debrief after an episode of Game of Thrones then you’re going to love A Podcast of Ice and Fire. Hosted by various GoT fans who really know their stuff (and are pretty funny too), it’s dedicated solely to spoilers, theories and unpacking the George R. R. Martin saga.

Hello Internet

We all love the internet but do you LOVE the internet? If listening to people talk about things like Bitmoji, Hotmail, Wikipedia and anything internet-related sounds like your idea of a good time tune into Hello Internet. It’s hosted by two YouTubers so they know their stuff.

Can I Pet Your Dog

This one is perfect for people who like to tweet about how much they prefer dogs to humans. Every week the hosts of Can I Pet Your Dog discuss the dogs they met and petted that week, have guests on who talk about their dogs and fill you in on the latest hot dog gossip and news.

The storytellers

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Let’s admit it; we’re a generation who struggle to read books that are over 140 characters. Luckily these podcasts have taken the frankly exhausting physical element of reading out of the mix, leaving us free to close our eyes and feel like a child at story time:

Serial

Believe the hype; Serial is really, really good. Sarah Koenig, a producer of This American Life, expertly tells the true story of a murder of a high school girl. It’s full of interviews, namely with the accused (her ex-boyfriend), and will have you on the edge of your seat and constantly changing your mind about his innocence. Another similar story-telling podcast is S-Town, which is by the same producers of Serial and This American Life.

My Favourite Murder

If you love shows like True Detective or Making A Murderer you don’t have to feel like a sick and twisted weirdo; it’s normal to be interested in the terrible things humans do. My Favourite Murder is a show where two women discuss, well, their favourite murders. So if learning about various fascinatingly awful murders is how you want to spend your time in traffic every day, here’s your chance.

Do-It-Yourself

If you’ve got an idea, some basic recording equipment and a big mouth why not give podcasting a try? The South African scene is pretty small and we could do with some more local flavour to spice up our commutes. We spoke to Nanna and Limpho, two Cape Town-based women who host BAD FORMa podcast about ‘dubious social interactions’, for some beginner’s tips.

The podcast community of South Africa is small, but welcoming

‘We have a few friends in the podcasting scene (the wonderful babes from HONEYCNTZA, the fellas from Monday Madness and the nerds at Release the Geek!) who’ve given us all the tips on recording, hosting our content and getting onto all the right platforms. But other than that, there isn’t really a forum for South African podcasters to communicate.’

Technically you can start with just your smartphone

‘…and some basic editing software. But we learned very early on that good sound is super important. Any small bidirectional mic should do the trick (we use a Zoom H4n Pro). We’d say if you can get a professional sound producer on board, you’re 90% on your way to the iTunes featured list.’

It’s more than just recording yourselves having a chat

‘It’s mind-blowing how easy it is to sit down and talk for an hour a week and call it a podcast. But we’ve tried to up the quality of our content, so the production time beyond that hour of talking is pretty intense. We have to design the themes, sift through emails, and try to keep things fresh. There has been some tension between the two of us regarding responsibilities for the podcast and have since become more organised and better at delegating tasks. We now take turns to produce content for the episodes and have spreadsheets, timelines and social media schedules.’

Have a good hook!

‘Having a solid theme or concept behind your podcast, as well as a catchy intro-song, makes it infinitely easier to market your work and attract listeners. It makes the research for each episode a lot more focused, and it helps to have some kind of constraint that guides your episodes. And beyond that, have fun! It’s only something you can continue to do every week if it is something you enjoy and look forward to.’

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