So life has gotten a bit more complicated at the beginning of this year as I've taken on a couple of new responsibilities, but I want you all to know that I have not nor will I abandon this blog.

One of those projects is a podcast that I have been making with my long-time friend Joseph Darowski and his brother Andrew. Our podcast is called The Protagonist and each week we talk about a great character in a great story.

Several years ago I started listening to podcasts, and since then they have become the dominant way in which I take in information. "What is a podcast?" you might ask. A podcast is where people record themselves talking about stuff and then they post that talking about stuff onto the internet. The result is something like talk radio but not in real time (at least not generally and certainly not exclusively) and without all of the commercials. There are many professionally produced podcasts from big news and media organizations (KSL, NPR, ESPN), and these are in most cases radio shows that have been recorded and posted online. But the beauty of the podcast is that anyone with a computer can make and post one to the internet, and they can talk about whatever they like. I listen to podcasts that talk about the news, fitness, technology, personal productivity, current events, nutrition, and media (books, comics, TV, and movies).

So how does one go about listening to a podcast?

PC or Mac

Well, the most straightforward way is for you to go directly to the website where your podcast lives, and listen to it there. My podcast, for example, is at http://protagonistpodcast.com. You could go directly there, push play on the audio player for any given episode, and listen. That's fine if you're sitting at your computer and just want to listen to a random episode, but if you care about a podcast, the best way to make sure you don't miss an episode is to subscribe to it in iTunes.

iTunes is the internet repository for podcasts. If you go to the iTunes store, you can search for any podcast you like. For example, you could search for "Protagonist" and you would see in the search results under "Podcasts" a little white icon with a black microphone that says "Great Characters in Great Stories." That is my podcast. If you click on it, you will see a list of all of our episodes (we are up to 4 posted at the time I am writing this), as well as a button that says "subscribe." If you click that button, iTunes will automatically download any new episode that we post so you won't ever miss an episode.

That solves one problem, but you still have to listen to these while sitting at your computer. Some people have been doing this for quite a while, but since smartphones have become mainstream, the podcast world has exploded because now everyone has the ability to listen to podcasts anywhere. Here is how you do that.

iOS

If you have an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, your device comes pre-installed with a podcasting app. It's purple and it's called Podcasts. You can just click on that app, search for any podcast, click subscribe, and your phone will automatically download that podcast to your phone whenever new episodes post. Now you can just hit play and go for a run, work in the yard, or do the dishes and listen to great content. The Podcasts app is fine, but I don't think it's the best podcast app in the App Store. I haven't used all of the podcasting apps out there, but right now personally use one called Overcast that makes some adjustments to the audio to make sure that you are listening to the clearest sound possible. It also gives you the ability to speed up the audio so that you can listen to more content, and it has a setting called Smart Speed that clips out silences in the audio -- saving the listener loads of time. My app tells me that Smart Speed has saved me 8 hours of listening time -- and that doesn't even include basic time saved from speeding up the audio. This is a great app.

Android

Honestly, I don't know a lot about podcast apps on Android, but I believe that the most common one is Stitcher. In this article Android Central gives the nod for best podcast app to Pocket Casts. My brother uses one called Podcast Addict that is free, and he seems to like it.

In any of these apps the process is going to be the same. Search for your favorite podcast, click on the subscribe button, and enjoy hours and hours of free, high quality, entertaining and informative podcasts directly from your mobile device.

Oh, and one more thing. iTunes has a secret system by which they promote certain podcasts over others. The way to get an app to move up on their list is to give it positive ratings in the iTunes store. So if there is a podcast that you enjoy (hint, hint), I recommend that you do the creators a favor, head over to the iTunes store and give it a five-star rating. It makes a difference.

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