iTunes

Tips for Podcast Fans

Finding Podcasts

Go on a free podcast spree.

The iTunes Store puts thousands of free podcasts at your fingertips. To find them, select iTunes Store underneath the Store subheading in the left column of the jukebox window, then select Podcasts from the menu bar along the top of the store. Or, here’s another way to get there: select the little podcasts icon under the Library subheading in the left column of the jukebox window, then click the arrow next to Podcast Directory at the very bottom right-hand side of the iTunes window.

Search podcasts by popularity.

Of course, before you subscribe, you’ll want to find podcasts that appeal to your interests. And you have several ways of tracking them down. You can either use the iTunes search box in the upper right-hand corner of the jukebox window, or for a more detailed search, click Power Search under Quick Links in the upper right-hand corner of the iTunes Store homepage. Power Search provides pull-down filters for category or language, as well as search boxes specific to podcast title, author or description. Once a search is performed, you can order your results by popularity by clicking the Popularity column header.

Choose a subject.

Looking for a specific podcast subject? Try browsing podcasts in the iTunes Store’s featured podcast pages. Each page lists popular podcasts that iTunes editors have selected for special feature by subject.

Check out some iTunes favourites on the iTunes Picks: Podcasts page.

See what tops the podcast charts.

Take a look at the right side of the podcasts page on the iTunes Store. The Top Charts column displays the top 10 episodes and top 10 podcasts based on a combination of recent subscriptions, downloads and customer reviews. By clicking See All at the top of each chart, the entire list of top 200 podcasts or episodes is displayed. You can even filter the results to display only audio or video by clicking the buttons located at the top of each chart. And if you want to see the most popular podcasts by subject, simply navigate to the desired category from the Podcast drop-down menu along the top bar of the iTunes Store and repeat the above process. Continue to dig deeper by clicking sub-categories located in the bottom left-hand corner of each category page.

Find more from your favourites.

If you find a podcast provider that you like, there’s an easy way for you to find other podcasts they have created. Just mouse over the provider’s name and, if that provider has created more than one podcast, you’ll find a link that will whisk you off to a page filled with their podcasts.

Playing Podcasts

Listen up.

iTunes provides you with flexible options for enjoying your podcasts. For instant gratification, you can stream podcasts directly in the iTunes Store by double-clicking an episode. Or you may choose to download an episode to enjoy on any of your Apple platforms simply by clicking the Free button associated with that episode. Like what you hear and want more? Then subscribe to the podcast by clicking Subscribe Free, and automatically download future episodes.

Get caught speeding.

If you find you understand spoken audio content at a faster playback rate, it’s easy to speed things up on your iPad, iPhone or iPod. Simply click the blue playback speed selector just below the play button in the upper-right corner.

Watch the way you want.

When streaming a video podcast, playback starts in a secondary pop-up window within the iTunes Store. Clicking anywhere in the store outside the pop-up window will stop playback. To view a downloaded video podcast, click Podcasts underneath the Library subheading on the left side of the jukebox window and double-click your desired podcast. The selected video podcast will automatically begin playing in the jukebox window. You can play video back in full-screen mode by clicking the full-screen button at the bottom of the player (indicated by two diverging arrows).

Save it for later.

If you can’t finish a podcast in one sitting, never fear. You can always pause playback in either iTunes or on your iPod, iPhone, iPad or Apple TV and resume playback later from the point you left off. Listen to the first half of a podcast on your way to work, and on your way home, pick up exactly where you left it.

By default, podcast files are set so that iTunes and all Apple hardware platforms will remember your playback position. You can turn the feature off by clicking a podcast file, choosing Get Info from the contextual menu and unticking Remember Playback Position. You can even turn the same option on for non-podcast files, letting you resume playback on any track in your library.

Trouble? Shoot.

When iTunes encounters a problem downloading a podcast episode, it displays a small Exclamation Point icon to the left of the episode title. Click the point to reveal more detail about the error. Generally, such errors are related to the feed set up by the podcaster. In many cases, the episode will be available again in about a day.

Play it again (and again).

Once an episode has finished downloading, a blue dot appears to the left of the podcast, indicating that there is a new episode that has yet to be played. As soon as you begin to play the episode, the blue turns into a half circle, indicating partial playback of the episode. After completion of the episode, the blue dot disappears completely. Through iTunes, you can customise the settings on your Apple hardware to keep or remove podcasts once they have been played.

Enhance your spoken word experience.

iTunes on your desktop, iPhone, iPad and iPod allow you to change the EQ settings for playback. If you listen to a lot of podcasts, the “Spoken Word” EQ setting may enhance the sound quality for you. This EQ setting reduces bass frequencies — especially handy for amateur podcasts, where mic pops and other noise might otherwise distract.

Managing Podcast Subscriptions

Get smart playlists.

When a podcast finishes playing, iTunes does not play the next podcast episode in your Source List by default. To keep a steady stream of episodes playing, consider creating a podcast playlist. By creating a smart playlist, you can even customise playback based on artists, genre, episode length and more. For example, you might create a smart playlist for news podcast episodes longer than 40 minutes.

To build an all-podcast smart playlist, choose New Smart Playlist from the file menu. To include only podcast episodes you haven’t yet listened to, choose “Plays” from the first drop-down menu, “is” from the second, and enter 0. Add additional filters to further refine your smart playlist.

Keep podcasts forever (or just for a day).

It’s easy to tell iTunes how long to keep podcasts in your library. When browsing the podcasts you’ve downloaded, you’ll see a Settings button at the bottom of the jukebox window. Click it, and iTunes will open your Podcast Settings window. See the “Episodes to keep:” drop-down menu? It lets you decide exactly how long to keep podcasts, helping you keep your library neat and tidy.

Not in the Store? Not a problem...

If while surfing the web you ever come across a podcast that you can’t find in the iTunes Store, here’s an easy way to subscribe to it anyway. From the Advanced menu, choose “Subscribe to Podcast...” and enter the podcast feed URL. iTunes will subscribe you to the podcasts and begin downloading immediately.

Hold on to your hits.

If you like the auto-remove feature for most podcasts but want to keep all episodes of a particular podcast, you’re in luck. Select a podcast (either at the episode or podcast level), right-click and choose Do Not Auto Delete. iTunes holds onto that podcast’s episodes until you manually delete them.

Expand or collapse.

Once you subscribe to a podcast, iTunes checks for new episodes at regular intervals. In time, the list of available episodes could grow out of control. To hide or reveal all available episodes, click the display triangle for that podcast. You can also hide or reveal all your podcasts at once by pressing Command + ] or by holding down the Command key and clicking one of the display triangles.

What’s the frequency?

You may subscribe to podcasts that update more often than once per day. Just go to your Podcast Settings (remember the Settings button at the bottom of the jukebox window in your podcast download page?) and edit the rate at which iTunes checks for new podcasts to “Once per hour”.

Time to unsubscribe.

Podcasts are like audio or video magazines. Once you subscribe, you can expect a new “issue” of that podcast at a regular interval. But if you find you have more than you can handle, it’s easy to unsubscribe. Just highlight the podcast you want to unsubscribe from, and click Unsubscribe in the lower-left corner of the screen. To unsubscribe and delete all files related to the podcast, simply press the Delete key after selecting a podcast.

Don’t worry if some episodes pass you by. If five new episodes come and go without you listening, iTunes will pause your subscription to that podcast. You won’t automatically download new episodes until you’ve had time to catch up by playing at least one.

Take notes.

Many podcasters write extensive show notes — text that accompanies their programmes. To access a window that displays the full show notes, click the “i” icon in the right side of the podcast’s Description column.

Sharing Podcasts

Links to share.

When you find a podcast you love, you may want to share it with others. Luckily, iTunes makes sharing easy. You can send an email with the link directly through iTunes by clicking the triangle to the right of the Subscribe Free button and selecting “Tell a Friend” (requires an iTunes login). Or select Copy Link and paste the link into a chat, blog or website of your choosing. Use the same process to get links for podcast episodes as well (except use the triangle to the right of the Free button for the episode).

Love social media? iTunes allows you to share your favourite podcasts via Facebook and Twitter. Simply follow the same process above, but select Share on Facebook or Share on Twitter.

Or, if you already subscribe to a podcast you want to share, simply drag it from your podcast’s source to your desktop. That creates a standalone .pcast file that you can email to friends as an attachment. If they have iTunes, clicking on the .pcast file will automatically subscribe them to the podcast, and iTunes will immediately begin to download the most recent episode.

Share your whole playlist.

You can export a list of all of your subscriptions, either as a personal archive for yourself or to share with others. This option comes in handy when you’d like to introduce someone you know to podcasting because it allows you to send a file of “starter podcasts” for your newbie friend to subscribe to — all at once.

To export a list of your subscriptions, mouse over Podcasts in the source menu, right-click or control-click, and choose Export. Choose OPML as the format. (OPML is a generally recognised format for sets of subscriptions.) Name and save the file wherever you want. At any time, you can re-import that file and iTunes will re-subscribe you to all the podcasts inside. Or email it as an attachment to your uninitiated pals.

To subscribe to the podcasts in an OPML file, choose Import from the file menu and choose the OPML file. iTunes will begin downloading immediately.

Make subscriptions one-click simple.

The simplest possible link you can send or post to your site is the podcast feed URL. It usually looks something like: http://www.example.com/feed.xml

Many bloggers and site owners post the link as-is. To make a one-click subscription link, instead of “http”, add “itpc” in front of your podcast’s URL to make subscription one-click simple. For example:

itpc://www.example.com/podcast.xml

iTunes immediately takes over and begins downloading the first episode.