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Podcasts – time, place, and player shifted media

Music, talk and general discourse bursting from desktops, laptops, MP3 players and smartphones are a likely sign of another net savvy podcast listener. Podcasts – digital audio (or video) programs – are delivered via RSS feeds or direct download from originator sites to a range of devices for on-demand listening.

Podcasts are becoming increasingly popular among content providers and consumers for a variety of reasons – providing an easy, low cost alternative channel for dissemination and access of valuable information; generating a way to “time and place shift” media delivery and consumption and offering an option for a subscription notification service using an RSS feed and reader like iTunes or iPodder. (See No RSS feed? You’re Fired!)

What’s the status of Podcasting?

Since jumping out of obscurity and being named word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2005, podcasts have exploded among content developers and listeners. Podcast Alley, an online directory of podcasts, has listings for well over 27,000 podcasts and over a million episodes of content.

On the content side, mainstream (print, radio, TV) media providers have branched out online by adding audio and video podcasts to their collection of content options. Specialized publications like Infoworld offer podcasts on a range of topics. Regionally, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel now has a daily podcast covering the top news stories of the day, and, not to be left behind, local radio stations like Madison’s WTDY 1670 the Pulse, offer podcasts of a number of their shows including the daily “On Air with In Business” where I was interviewed last October.
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New podcasting entrepreneurs have sprung up to deliver radio-quality content both for free and a fee. Apple iTunes reports that they have over 100,000 podcasts available including, for those interested in technology, popular ones like Talk Crunch from the publishers of TechCrunch, eMarketer Daily and Diggnation.

Corporate and marketing communications staffs have jumped on the podcast trend to introduce new products, reveal investment results, provide value-added information as part of their “expert mode” marketing tactics and for other brand-building initiatives. For example John Costigan, a sales training company, uses podcasts to showcase their sales philosophies and will be offering them for a yearly subscription fee to reinforce their live sales training presentations, according to B2B magazine. GM’s Fastlane is podcasting interviews as a supplement to their written blog entries and video clips. Purina has launched a series of audio and video podcasts including one aimed at pet owners, called “Animal Advice”.

Colleges and universities are beginning to offer podcast sessions of some of their popular courses. These online courses can showcase faculty and enhance the learning opportunities for participants in these courses.

On the consumption side, Pew Internet reported in November that 12 percent of Internet users had downloaded a podcast for later listening. This represented almost a doubling of the results since their February – April 2006 survey. They did, however, warn that only 1 percent of Internet users downloaded podcasts on a regular basis. Given the large number of MP3 players in circulation, we should see continued increases in audio and video podcast downloads.

Are you considering podcasting?

If so, be sure to answer these questions as framed by Refinery’s Elle Mitchell in a recent issue of iMedia Connection:

• Know your audience – is podcasting an appropriate way to reach them?
• Know your business goals – why and/or is podcasting the best approach?
• Know your strategy – should you produce/re-purpose your own content or buy into other’s podcasts through sponsorships or advertising?

Beyond these questions you should also ask yourself:

• Do I create my own podcasts or outsource? This depends on how professional you want your podcasts to be and your available resources.

• Do we have the resources to add podcasts to our mix? Like many new media initiatives, podcasts can be time consuming to produce and depending on the production values, they vary greatly in expense.

• What should the tone of our podcasts be? Dynamic, upbeat and passionate is preferred.

• Who will be the voice of my podcasts? The interviewer/speaker becomes the voice of your brand, so think carefully about the perception you want users to have after listening to your shows.

• How long will our podcasts be? They should be short, 1 to 10 minutes unless you really have unique content and perspectives to share.

• Where do I host my podcasts? They can take up quite a bit of storage and bandwidth.

• How do I promote my podcasts? Be sure to get them into all the major podcast directories (see below) in addition to using your more traditional promotional mix.

Do you want to find out more about podcasts? You can see some of the latest available podcasts by visiting directory sites like Libsyn, Odeo, Podcast.net or Podcast Alley. They are keeping track of the top podcasts for those of you wanting to hear these popular audio programs. You can also watch a lively and interesting videocast on ZD Net’s At the Whiteboard - Podcasting 101.

Previous articles by Paul Gibler

Paul Gibler: Virtual communities make online connections

Paul Gibler: Lights, cameras, action: The state of online video

Paul Gibler: Joining the wiki wacki world

Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?

Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog

Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You're fired!

Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era

Paul J. Gibler, “the Web Chef,” is principal consultant for ConnectingDots, an e-business and marketing strategic consulting and training company. Paul speaks on e-marketing and writes two blogs – e-Bytes and PPT (Powerful Presentation Techniques). He can be reached at pgibler@connectingdots.com.


The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.

WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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