In the first of this two-part series, Neil Cumins introduces the concept of podcasting and examines what it can do for your business…
It might sound like an obscure gardening technique, but podcasting symbolizes the democratization of the Internet. It describes the creation of a series of standalone programs or presentations, usually covering related topics. And it makes a great addition to a hard-working business blog.
Unlike television or radio programs that rely on a broadcaster allocating them airtime, podcasts can be created by anyone in the form of audio or video files. They are typically free from advertisements or third-party contributions, acting as a dedicated communications vehicle for the person or company producing them.
The word podcast is a conflation of iPod and broadcast, harking back to a time when Apple’s iPod was the default platform for enjoying digital media files on the move. It was 2005 when Apple added podcasting to its iTunes 4.9 music software and a directory of podcasts to its iTunes music store.
Podcasts represent a way of communicating with people without needing any professional equipment, since they can be recorded on a webcam or even saved as a voice recording file using a smartphone. Creating a podcast is as simple as recording yourself talking about your favourite football team or last night’s TV, and then uploading it to YouTube or an appropriate website/blog. There are no industry standards to meet or fees to pay – anyone can create content, just as anyone else can consume it.
The advantages of podcasting include being able to make a more personal connection with the audience than written materials could achieve. Podcasts are cheap and easy to produce, they can be listened to while people are doing other things (rather than demanding their undivided attention), and they can quickly build loyal armies of followers. However, perhaps the greatest benefit of podcasting is that it gives everyone a voice. If your family carpet company is losing money, a series of podcasts uploaded to the firm’s website about different flooring options represents a free and easy way to promote key products and services. If you’re passionate about a political party or campaign, you can extol these virtues in your own words as often as you wish. From a corporate perspective, podcasting represents an intriguing alternative to conventional advertising, because it influences perception of your brand. They regularly attract a far wider audience than merely existing customers, and there’s always the possibility of a well-constructed program going viral.
The Secret to Successful Podcasting
The secret to successful podcasting involves creating a series that will build an audience throughout its duration. It’s also important to have a strong message, and present it concisely and effectively. It’s easy to build a loyal following in a specialist area such as heavy metal music or Linux programming, if you can display genuine expertise. IT companies recognise that podcasts can relay information their customers may otherwise be unaware of – hence the popularity of Windows Weekly and its Microsoft-themed debates, or Intel’s informative webinars. At the time of writing, five of the ten most downloaded podcasts on iTunes are bespoke BBC productions, while the Business category on iTunes is crammed with content from marketing gurus and SEO evangelists.
These disparate parties all share one key characteristic – they know how to make a good presentation. For a podcast to work, it requires decent production values in terms of sound and picture quality. It also needs a worthwhile message to attract repeat listeners, and enough information or opinions to support an ongoing series of programs.
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