How to Listen to Lots of Lectures and Sermons and YouTube Videos

Updated Jan 12, 2018

I see many interesting lectures and interviews on YouTube that I know I will never, ever have time for. I simply cannot sit in front of a computer and watch a video. Email beckons too hard. But I can listen to these videos on the bus, while doing yard work, and at many other odd times that add up fast. I listened to about five 30-minute textual criticism lectures (on more than double speed) from Dan Wallace last night while cleaning out our family car.

I listen to lots and lots of sermons and lectures and interviews and podcasts. However, I subscribe to only three podcasts: Lexicon Valley (with the inimitable John McWhorter) and Thinking in Public (Al Mohler), and the amazing History of English podcast. Everything else I listen to is some kind of one-off instance.

I’ve refined my system to make it maximally easy to take any YouTube video or MP3 and get it into my podcast app. So though I’ve posted on this before, I have now reached MP3 nirvana and I have to share it with you.

I actually have two systems, one for MP3s I download directly, and another for YouTube videos. The two systems converge, as you’ll see.

Each will take some setting up, and my instructions are geared for Mac, but once you’re set up it takes literally one click to get almost anything into your personal podcast feed. Here’s what I do.

Preliminary Steps for Each System

  1. Sign up for Justcast, a rock-solid app which creates a podcast feed from a Dropbox folder you choose. A little bird told me that they might give you their service for $1/mo. if you tell them you’re only making your own personal podcast, not something for general consumption. But the free service may be sufficient for you (it certainly isn’t for me because of the sheer number of items I listen to in a month).
  2. Subscribe to your own personal podcast, generated by Justcast, within (iOS), Pocket Cast (Android) or whatever podcast app you prefer. I listen to most things at least double speed.

Now let’s get some MP3s into that folder so you can listen to them in Justcast.

System 1: Downloaded MP3s

  1. Set up a Folder Action in Automator that will automatically move audio files to that Justcast folder. Here are the instructions I mostly followed, but here’s what my workflow ended up looking like after I modified it for my needs. (Don’t forget to turn on Folder Actions.)
  2. Anytime you download an MP3 into your Downloads folder, it will be automatically moved into your Justcast folder and then show up in your personal podcast feed on your phone or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Now let’s get a lecture off of YouTube:

System 2: YouTube Lectures

  1. Get Downie. It’s awesome (I have it as part of Setapp).
  2. Set Downie to automatically to Extract Audio Only and Enforce MP3; and have it save the resulting audio file to your Justcast folder in Dropbox.
  3. Install Downie’s Chrome extension. Now navigate to any YouTube video, Soundcloud audio page, Vimeo video, or just about anything you can listen to, and click the Downie icon in your menu bar—the audio will show up in your podcast app soon afterwards.


Postliminary Steps

The key to this system is that I only want to listen to each of these items once. Having my own personal podcast that only I listen to means that each item leaves my feed as soon as I’m done with it. It’s so much easier to manage these files if I don’t have to manually delete them from my phone when I complete them.

But I still have the MP3 files in Dropbox. So every so often I move all the MP3s out of my Justcast folder and into an archive location in Dropbox (not on my hard drive) so I can find them again if I need to—and sometime I do, like if I want to cite an illustration from one of them or transcribe a portion of it for use in an article or sermon or lecture of my own.

I got an older iPhone but spent a little extra to get 64GB of space so that I could fit as many files in my feed as I needed to (plus audio books, for which I use Audible, Libby, and Christian Audio). The main thing I use my phone for is listening to stuff. I highly recommend Bluetooth headphones, and the ones I’ve found most comfortable and usable are the Plantronics Backbeat Sense.

My wife bought me the AquaAudio Cubo for Christmas, and I love it. I love to listen to lectures, sermons, and audio books in the shower. It feels cheap, but it works great.

I’m a bit manic about listening to stuff all the time, so I also have a Plantronics M70 earpiece for when it’s too ostentatious to be wearing white headphones (like while driving).

I even saved my monthly budget for a little bit and got myself 3M Bluetooth work headphones/ear protectors for while I do yard work. I’m kind of dedicated to this personal podcast thing…

My system has given me access to some truly memorable YouTube interviews, like this one with Amy and Leon Kass. It’s a rare one I listened to three times. Recently I nabbed a speech someone recommended from a “Sheologian” who turned out to be James White’s daughter. It was excellent. I never would have heard these things without my precious personal podcast. =)

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

One thought on “How to Listen to Lots of Lectures and Sermons and YouTube Videos”

  1. While I am quite late in this reply, I just want to thank you for the link to the program that converts a You Tube video into MP3 audio. I have used it with great delight and success. To quote a blogger we all know and love, “this is gold.” I have been able to put the audio from the Asia Center for Advanced Christian Studies on my phone and listen to it in the morning as I take my morning exercise walk. What a great blessing. I actually purposefully walked a little more this AM so I could keep listening to Dr. Collins. I greatly appreciate that you put up the link for this site.

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