What’s There to Love About Podcasting?

April 24, 2006

Apple has sold a kazillion iPods. I have one. (Well, I did until last week. I lost it somewhere in my house – I trust I’ll find it). But this post is less about iPods and more about audio as a media to deliver a message.

Apple has been quite brilliant in creating this category and smacking their iPod product name on it. Brilliant! (Say that like the Guiness ads, please). But, let’s face it. Apple didn’t define the channel as much as they popularized it.

Internet radio has been streaming for years. I get my German fix via a live feed from www.swr3.de. I can watch a German news channel live at n-tv. (No, I’m not German, but I lived there while working for SAP and I have become a bit of a Germanphile as a result.)

The medium has been there. The iTunes platform just made it easy. And now others will follow suite. I was just speaking to a high-flyer at one of the largest interactive agencies in the world (Which agency, you ask? Are you kidding me? Hand you to the competition?!) and he was telling me about their “one-stop” solution for delivering Podcasts outside of iTunes. This signals the continuation of even more buzz and hype, I imagine.

(Just to be clear – I don’t really think you need the largest interactive agency to deliver an .MP3 outside of iTunes, but my friend would be bummed if your company knew that.)

So, Why Podcast?
I suppose you could pay $249 for a 6-page Forrester report “Podcasting Hits the Charts”, but do you really need someone to tell you “hey, people are going to listen to sound files in the future – in fact, some are already listening?!”

Let’s just think out loud for a moment:

  • Podcasts let me listen to your message whenever and wherever I want. I can listen on any MP3 player, which may be my phone or Blackberry. Or on my laptop as I watch tv, read the paper, have a beer, and work through the kazillionth email that just wasn’t important enough to work into my regular day.
  • Podcasts let me use my “dead time” (driving to work, taxi to airport, etc.) to catch up on relevant topics. I downloaded a series last year to prepare for a project while I mowed my lawn.
  • Podcasts can be a pleaseant break from the world of print. Your audience may be tired of white papers, PowerPoints, and online newsletters. Podcasts may offer a new way to capture initial interest and drive them deeper into a particular topic. Joan Damico wrote up a nice, simple introduction to Podcasts in this PDF and gives some case studies. I don’t know anything about her or her services, so don’t ask me about more than the PDF.

Is any of this rocket science? No.

In the end, it’s a sound file. Do whatever you want. It’s just another tool to use. People can subscribe to it like a blog or RSS feed from a news site. That’s nice.

Sound is cool. Podcasts are cool. But they’re no big mystery. Think about sound as another way to make your message interesting. The options are endless.

The bigger mystery is truly understanding your audience and crafting ideas that surround them with a consistent brand experience – regardless of the channel. Sound (i.e., Podcasts) may be one part, but it’s not the only part.

One Tip
In addition to some of the ideas in the linked PDF from Joan, I like the idea of Podcasts for (yes, once again) internal communications – especially for large, distributed global organizations.

One Warning
Don’t fall into the trap of doing your sound recordings so cheap (“Hey, I’ve got a mic and a computer, let’s roll!”) that it weakens your brand. This isn’t the time for shortcuts in production. Keep production professional – even if you choose a more informal or conversational tone. (This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive.)


One comment

  1. Hi John,

    Interesting post. Is there any data available to show how many people actually listen to podcasts? It would require some creative effort to develop a marketing communication that people actually want to listen to in lieu of pure entertainment. Do you know of any examples of firms that have succeeded at this?

    I liked your article on short online advertising – it’s a very interesting concept and may have application in other contexts too.

    I have recently been blogging about Spot Runner, an innovative online service that enables small firms to create professional looking ads at a fraction of the cost, and other interesting concepts in the marketing field. Do visit some time.


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