ALOHA FROM JENNIE: Everything old becomes new again, as the saying goes. How many seniors remember ‘Mystery Theater’ putting forth Sherlock Holmes-like plays over the radio, letting your imagination paint in the cast of characters.
Then the world moved onto playing audio recordings on cassette and CD players; how many seminar sessions did we sleep through using that medium. Those players then became smaller, and finally evolved into portable wireless devices known as digital MP3 players, the most popular of which is the Apple iPod.
A podcast is a digital audio file that is downloadable from the internet for use with a media player. A number of websites have a podcast section where you can play audio shows directly on your desktop computer or laptop. Despite its name, you don't need an iPod to play podcasts.
For those times when you’d like to be entertained while waiting in line at the grocery store, or crawling along at 20 mph in traffic, podcasts downloaded on a portable device such as an iPod or smartphone are another source of information and amusement.
In addition to the hardware device, you’ll need a software app that can play the podcast files. Each device's operating system may have their ‘built in’ app; for example, Apple’s app is simply called “Podcasts”.
There are third party player apps, such as “Stitcher”, which is free and available for both the Apple and Android systems. I personally use “Downcast” which is a paid app (so there are no ads) with features such as fast forward/rewind (if you’d like to bypass commercials or re-listen to a snippet) and a sleep timer that will shut off the podcast at the time you specify.
Once you have the hardware and software tools, then it’s time to decide on the audio content that you might be interested in. There’s an incredible array of topics to listen to. If you missed watching certain TV shows, such as last Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes”, you can download the podcast of that show and listen to it on your device, at the time of your choosing.
If you listen to current talkradio shows, such as Leo Laporte’s “The Tech Guy”, you can download podcasts of those radio episodes and once again, listen at your convenience. Various NPR shows, such as “Car Talk” and “Planet Money”, are available as podcasts.
One of my favorite podcasts is “The Satellite Sisters” featuring the five Dolan sisters, ranging in age from their 40s to young grandma time, who have over the last decade shared their life events and stories with humor and spirit. You can catch up on what a 'Korean Day Spa' experience might be like, or the latest food trends, and current events, without leaving your armchair. When their syndicated radio show ended, they became award winning podcasters while still continuing to juggle their busy lives as an author, media exec, nurse, teacher and grandma. Their website, linked here, gives you an idea of how a podcasting platform is laid out.
For a list of podcasts covering senior related topics and issues, a link to WVOM FM radio’s website is included here. If you enjoy television shows, there are many ‘TV show’ podcasts, where one to three panel members that are fans of a particular show, e.g. Grey’s Anatomy, Blacklist, Shark Tank, will discuss each episode, much like how a book club will review a book.
The above podcast topics are just the tip of an iceberg. This fast growing medium is already expanding and evolving. Some of the podcasts that were originally available only in audio format are now also playable as a video so that you can view the podcasters in their studios.
More apps are also being released, not just to play podcasts, but to stream international radio programming from other countries, as an example. Finally, Apple’s iTunes U (aka iTunes University) can play certain academic lectures being given at top universities such as Oxford, Harvard, and Stanford, giving you access to their content without having to pay any tuition.
And yes, let’s go full circle, you can download podcasts of the CBS’s Mystery Theater episodes on Apple’s iTunes or listen to them at the link here, complete with E.G. Marshall’s opener, if you want to just stick with the oldies.
Do any of you have favorite podcasts that you’d like to share?