How to Find Free Podcasts on iTunes

Podcasts in the Mist 
The first rule of searching within iTunes for free podcast episodes, literary or non, is to forget every Google skill you know. Do not use quotes and end-quotes in the initial iTunes search oval. Do not toss in the arcane word you know exists in the episode description. Do not type in a date, or the name of the author whose interview or story or poem you desire. To find podcast episodes within iTunes you must proceed in a macro-to-micro syllogism, starting by selecting the podcast sector of iTunes, then searching for a specific podcast directory, and then by using your own eyeballs to find the episode title.

A Podcast is Actually a List of Episodes
If you type in the micro episode details at the start, you will find nada, or a similarly-named music track, because the iTunes search engine can't "see" into the "boxes" that organize the podcast episodes into clickable lists (the actual audio files are hosted elsewhere--iTunes just connects you to them). Think of the box as the podcast container. iTunes' search can only read the labels pasted on the outside of the box. These labels are limited to: the overall podcast title (i.e. "New Yorker: Fiction"), the name of the podcast "Artist," and a global description plus keywords (12 max) that the podcaster supplied when they set up the feed. The specific episode data is hidden from the iTunes search function.

So how do you find a great podcasted interview or free short story or poetry recording if you don't know the name of the podcast publisher? You go back to your internet browser and start with the Big G...

Google Avant La Lettre
To navigate iTunes' top-down search structure you need to equip yourself with the name of the podcast as well as the episode title, and for that your best tool is Google. (I also try to provide this data, or direct links, in my Litagogo.com reviews.) Most podcasters have a web page that will give you either direct links to episodes in iTunes (hurrah!) or enough data to enable you perform your three-step iTunes capture on your own. Go to google.com, and type "author name" and podcast into the search space. Knock yourself out with particulars--book titles, publishing house, pet names, rivals, etc. Popular authors will have many podcasts, so browse around your results. Often you can click and listen right on the page, saving you the trouble of loading the podcast onto iTunes unless you want to keep it, or transfer it to your iPod for portable listening.

To Get or Not to Get
If you're in any doubt about whether you want to have the episode available indefinitely, go ahead and download or "Get" it using iTunes, because some podcasts make their episodes available for a limited period of time--about 4-5 weeks from the original podcast date. Online"archive" listening from the podcaster's web page is often, but not always, available for longer periods of time.

Now You're Loaded for iTunes
1) From within the "iTunes Store" (little green shopping bag icon) click on "Podcasts," which is five items below "Music" as of this posting. Feel free to look around--podcasts are free!

2) Type the name of the Podcast Publisher that you found on Google into the search space and hit return.

3) Click on the arrow that comes right after the Podcast Publisher's name. You should advance to a podcast home page with a list of episodes available from that podcaster.  Scan for your episode (it would be nice to have a control-F function to search the list, but my version of iTunes doesn't have it). You can listen from here.  If you want to keep it for a while, or load it onto your iPod, click the "Get Episode" button. The episode will be stored on your Library (moving it to your iPod requires an extra step, or a global Sync).

Should You Subscribe?
If you see a lot of episodes on a podcast that tempt you, you can click on the "Subscribe" button higher up on the podcast home page. It's not as big a commitment as it seems: only the most recently published episode will be stored in your Library, and only this once, and you can manually delete it. To see all currently available episodes, click on the little triangle before the podcast title to drop down a list. The previous episodes will be listed in fainter gray letters for your approval. You can "Get All," or select them one by one (click on the "i" button for more info if you're not sure). If the faint listings are a distraction, you can delete them. You will be offered new episodes in faint gray whenever you open iTunes.

My favorite podcast subscriptions are: