The next time you put on your headphones, take a break from the Billboard Top 100 and turn the dial to podcasts. Beyond a passing fad, this form of digital media offers audio and video episodes delivered to your device, often free of charge.

Whether you are new to the world of podcasts or an old pro, it can be both overwhelming and exciting to find a consistent favorite. Some podcasts are simply electronic companions to popular shows (NPR favorites, The Soup, etc.) while others exist only in the podcast medium, with cult-like followings. Follow these tips and tricks to navigate the sea of podcasts and uncover a treasure.

Your guide to podcasts after the break!

Watch or Listen?

Your first job is choosing if you want to watch or listen to a podcast episode. If you are a visual learner or a YouTube junkie, then begin your search with video podcasts. If you are often on the move (i.e. commuting, jogging), then opt for audio podcasts. You can browse in Apple's Podcasts app or on Google Play's BeyondPod.

Determine Your Need

There is so much to choose from that it helps to choose your reason(s) for listening. Do you want to catch up on the news? Laugh out loud? Learn a language? Catch up on your favorite shows and celebrities? Or find a how-to podcast with educational tips? Choosing a focus will help narrow down your options and increase your chances of finding a new favorite.

Choose a Category

You've decided you want to catch up on the news. So, what type of news? You can start on iTunes's podcast section, which is arranged by category. Want to catch up on the president's latest happenings? Begin your search with "News and Politics." From there, keep narrowing down the options with the additional tabs . . .

  • News and Noteworthy: These are the podcasts that are new to iTunes and the podcast world. Often, these are the 'casts being promoted. If you want something mainstream and new to the market, then this is your best bet.
  • Top Charts: The numbers don't lie, and neither does the content. This is how you can easily find the most popular episodes among your fellow listeners. The content here is fairly popular, so if you are looking for something specific or an undiscovered gem, then keep searching — it is out there!
  • iTunes Essentials: Podcasts: This is a great way to find popular content. Use this curated library to find podcasts based on interests like "outer space" or "manage your money." Scrolling through this will give you an idea of just how much content is out there.

Keep Up

Once you land on the podcast(s) that make your ears perk and keep you entertained until your heart is content, find ways to follow up and connect. Refresh your podcasts for new episodes, and sync them to your device. Keep in mind, most podcasts are subsets of larger sites or blogs that have even more content for you to access. Social media is also a great way to reach out and learn more about your favorite hosts, guests, and media outlets.