What is a Podcast, and How Does It Work?

A podcast is a digital audio program that is available on the internet for download or streaming. Podcasts cover a wide range of topics, from news and politics to comedy and pop culture. They are hosted by individuals or organizations who share their ideas, stories, and perspectives with a global audience.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is a type of digital media that consists of a series of audio (and sometimes video) episodes, which can be downloaded or streamed from the internet. 

Podcasts are typically organized by topic or theme, and can range from news and politics to comedy and storytelling. Listeners can subscribe to podcasts using dedicated apps or platforms, and can listen to episodes on their own schedule. 

With the popularity of podcasting on the rise, it’s easier than ever to find great content and explore new topics through this versatile medium.

No of users of podcast

According to the information provided by Statista, in 2006, podcasting was only known by 22 percent of adults in the United States. However, by 2022, this percentage had significantly increased to 79 percent, indicating a growing interest in podcasting as a recreational activity. 

According to recent statistics, over 82 million people in the U.S. listened to podcasts in 2021, and this number is expected to surpass 100 million by 2024. This shows a significant increase in the popularity of podcasts as a medium of entertainment and education.

In this article, you will find out all about podcasts, their purpose and how they work. 

What Is the Purpose of a Podcast?

Podcasts are a form of audio entertainment that have become increasingly popular over the past decade. However, their purpose extends far beyond just entertainment. Podcasts can offer listeners unique content to educate, inform, and inspire them on a wide range of topics.

One of the great things about podcasts is their versatility. They can be created by anyone, on any topic, and can be consumed at any time, making them a highly accessible form of media. From science and technology, to sports and politics, there is a podcast for every interest and passion.

Podcasts also provide a platform for individuals to share their expertise and knowledge with the world. Many podcasts feature interviews with experts and thought leaders, providing listeners with unique insights and perspectives. More than that — podcasts can serve as a tool for personal and professional development, offering listeners the opportunity to learn new skills and strategies.

But perhaps the greatest purpose of a podcast is to foster a sense of community and connection. Podcasts have the ability to bring people together from all over the world, creating a shared experience and a sense of belonging. Through podcasts, listeners can connect with others who share their interests and passions, and engage in meaningful conversations and discussions.

MORE: Learn about the history of podcasts

Podcast Hosting Services: Statistics

Podcast Hosting Services

According to Statista, the most popular streaming service used for music and podcasts in the US in 2022 is YouTube. Although YouTube is known mainly for its video format, many podcast creators have chosen to use this platform as a visual enhancer for their podcasts. As the next most popular streaming service used for podcasts, listeners have chosen to use Spotify. Spotify is an audio only platform, and has been a very popular choice, especially amongst young adults who can subscribe to the service for a smaller price. 

Other streaming services are not as popular as YouTube and Spotify, but some amongst the less popular ones are Amazon, Pandora, iHeart Radio and others.

The share of respondents in specified platform is as follows:

  • YouTube at 39%
  • Spotify at 37%
  • Amazon at 30%
  • Pandora at 14%
  • iHeart Radio at 12%
  • Sirius xm at 9%
  • Soundcloud at 8%
  • Audacity at 5%
  • Deezer at 5%
  • Tidal at 3%
  • Tune in at 2% 

MORE: Podcast listener statistics

There are countless good podcasts available today, covering a wide range of topics and interests. Here are a few popular podcasts across different genres:


This true crime podcast tells one story over the course of several episodes, diving deep into a single case to uncover new evidence and shed light on the criminal justice system. Created by Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder in 2013.

Stuff You Should Know

This informative podcast covers a wide range of topics, from history to science to pop culture, offering in-depth explanations and insights on a variety of subjects. Created by Josh and Chuck in 2008. 

The Daily

This news-focused podcast from The New York Times delivers a daily roundup of the biggest news stories of the day, offering in-depth analysis and context on current events. Released in 2018 and hosted by Michael Barbaro and Sabrina Tavernise.

How I Built This

Released in 2016 and hosted by Guy Raz, this podcast features interviews with successful entrepreneurs and explores the stories behind some of the world’s most successful companies.

MORE: What makes a good podcast?

Did you know?

Using our Podcast Name Generator you can come up with a creative name for your own podcast. Instead of sitting for hours and trying to figure out the perfect name, let our free name generator do it for you.

What are the 3 Types of Podcasts? 

Whether you prefer to hear engaging conversations with experts, immersive stories, or personal insights and perspectives, there is a podcast out there for you. Let’s dive into the three types of podcasts you can find online:


The first type of podcast is the interview or conversation-based podcast. This type of podcast typically features one or more hosts interviewing guests on a wide range of topics. These podcasts often feature experts or thought leaders in various fields, providing listeners with unique insights and perspectives. The conversational format also allows for an engaging and dynamic exchange of ideas and information.


The second type of podcast is the storytelling or narrative-based podcast. These podcasts are typically produced with a high level of production value and often feature a series of episodes that tell a story or explore a theme. This type of podcast can be highly engaging and immersive, with podcast creators drawing listeners in with compelling characters, plot twists, and cliffhangers.


The third type of podcast is the solo or monologue-based podcast. This type of podcast typically features one host who speaks directly to the audience on a wide range of topics. These podcasts can be highly informative and personal, providing listeners with valuable insights and perspectives from the host’s own experiences and expertise.

MORE: Everything you need to know about podcast formats

Is a Podcast Different from an Audio File? 

To start, it’s important to understand that a podcast is actually a type of audio file. However, not all audio files are podcasts. 

An audio file is simply a digital recording of audio, such as a song, a speech, or a sound effect. It can be saved in a variety of formats, such as MP3 or WAV, and can be played on a variety of devices, such as a computer or a smartphone.

A podcast, on the other hand, is a specific type of audio file that is distributed through a feed, allowing listeners to subscribe and receive new episodes automatically. Podcasts are typically produced in a series, with episodes released on a regular schedule. They often feature a specific theme or topic, and may include interviews, discussions, or storytelling.

So, while both audio files and podcasts are digital recordings of audio, the key difference is in how they are distributed and consumed. An audio file is typically a standalone recording, whereas a podcast is part of a larger series that can be subscribed to and listened to on a regular basis.

MORE: What equipment do you need to start a podcast?

Are Podcasts Audio or Video?

Podcasts are primarily audio-based. While some podcasts may include video elements, such as recordings of live events or interviews, the vast majority of podcasts are audio-only.

That being said, there are some podcasters who have begun incorporating video elements into their shows, such as recording their interviews on video and releasing them on YouTube or other video-sharing platforms. However, these video elements are typically supplementary to the audio content and not the main focus of the podcast.

So, while podcasts are primarily audio-based, there is certainly some flexibility in terms of incorporating video elements. However, at their core, podcasts remain an audio-driven medium, providing listeners with a rich and immersive listening experience.

MORE: How to write a podcast script

Difference Between Podcast and Podcast Episode

PodcastPodcast Episode
A series of audio (and sometimes video) episodes that are released on a regular basis, often with a specific theme or topic. A single installment of a series, released as part of the ongoing podcast.
These episodes can be downloaded or streamed from various podcast platforms and apps, and are typically part of a larger series of content.Each episode may feature a different topic, guest, or format, but is part of the larger series and can be listened to in sequence with other episodes.

So, while a podcast is a collection of episodes, each episode is a standalone piece of content that can be listened to on its own or as part of the larger series.

It’s worth noting that while most podcasts are released in an episodic format, some may be released as a single, standalone piece of content. In this case, the term “podcast” may refer to the single piece of content rather than a larger series of episodes.

Key Takeaways

So, what should you take away from this article?

Now you know the definition of a podcast, the purpose, and the types of podcasts available. If you’re interested in starting your own podcast, and you don’t know where to begin, then look through our list of podcast niche ideas and see what inspires you the most. 

Take a look at our free Podcast Name Generator to pick the perfect name once and help you build a successful podcast brand.

Last, but not least, if you’re thinking about starting a podcast, then you may also want to read our guide on how to promote a podcast.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Podcasts work by making digital audio (and sometimes video) files available for download or streaming over the internet. Listeners can subscribe to or stream individual episodes of podcasts on their preferred platform or app, while podcasters create and upload new episodes to hosting platforms.

The precise moment at which podcasts began to gain traction can be difficult to pinpoint, but there are a few key milestones that have contributed to their rise in popularity. Riverside.fm has said that these milestones contributed to the rise of podcasting: Early 2000’s (especially 2004) - Adam Curry and Dave Winer created a vision for a podcast. At this time they were discussing video vs audio format — the internet was not yet as advanced as it is today, so they had a lot of obstacles to get the ball rolling. 2005-2007 — Apple releases software with narrative podcast support, the iPhone makes it easier for people to listen to podcasts on the go. 2014 onwards — true-crime series become a cultural phenomenon and podcasts like Serial gain popularity. Since then, podcasts have continued to grow in popularity, with more and more people discovering the medium and new podcasts being released on a regular basis.

Podcasting has become popular due to its convenience, niche content, intimacy, and low barrier to entry. These factors have made it easy for people to discover and enjoy new and interesting content, while also allowing for a wide range of voices and perspectives to be heard.

While some podcasts are also available on YouTube, simply uploading audio content to YouTube does not automatically make it a podcast. Podcasts are typically distributed through dedicated podcast apps or platforms, such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify, and are optimized for audio consumption. That being said, some successful YouTube creators may incorporate elements of podcasting into their video content by featuring extended discussions, interviews, or other audio-centric formats. In these cases, the content may be referred to as a "video podcast" or "vodcast," but this is not a standard term in the podcasting world.


Dominika Kaminska

Dominika Kaminska

A seasoned copywriter with a passion for transforming ideas into engaging narratives. With over two years of experience, she specializes in crafting compelling copy about podcasts and Shopify.

Show all posts from

We use cookies to offer you our service. By using this site, you agree to our: See cookie policy