What is podcasting and what are its benefits to your business?

As a provider of not only radio advertising services, but also audio podcast production and consulting services, we come across a lot of confusion about podcasting. Hopefully if you are one of the many who have questions about podcasting – what exactly is podcasting, how does it works and how can it benefit my business – we will do our best to provide you with simple answers.

What is podcasting? Podcasting can be audio (the most popular form) or video. For our purposes, we will focus audio podcasts. Here’s where the confusion comes in. Podcasting really has nothing to do with owning an iPod. In fact, according to a recent report from Nielsen Analytics, most podcasts are enjoyed simply on a desktop computer. Audio CAN be transferred to any mp3 player (of which the iPod is just one model…albeit the most popular model) for mobile listening. But to enjoy podcasts, you do not specifically have to own an iPod. Now many wireless phones and handheld PDA’s have podcast compatibility.

Podcasting uses a special syndication model. For years audio has been posted on websites to listen to or download. Podcasting, however, is more than just audio online. Podcasting is the combination of audio files (usually mp3) and what is called RSS technology. In its most simple explanation, RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a technology that allows the listener to be notified when new material (new audio) has been created and posted. Popular software such as iTunes works well with RSS technology. Say you find a podcast you would like to “subscribe” to it. (“subscribe” is the term used for the steps below…most podcasts are actually free to download) Associated with the podcast will be a special URL you will copy and paste into iTunes, or any other RSS reader. This special URL is known as an “RSS feed”, and is usually paired with a special icon that says “RSS”. Now, every time iTunes is opened, it will look for new audio at that location and if there is new audio, it will automatically download the audio to your iTunes player for you to keep. You can play the audio from iTunes, or transfer the audio to your portable player. The idea here is that fresh audio content has been delivered to you to enjoy on your own schedule.

How can businesses benefit from podcasting? Podcasting is increasing in popularity every year. Growth in the podcasting arena has been phenomenal. The greater the growth in podcasting, the greater the need for companies to harness the potential as part of an overall marketing mix. Podcasting is a great, cost effective method of communicating with potential customers who share a passion for your industry. Companies can create lifestyle programs for potential customers focusing on issues associated with their products and services. New products, new ways to use the products, and industry trends are just a few of the many ways to share information via a podcast. One word of warning! You must provide content that has value to the listener. Podcasting is not a blatant advertising vehicle, it is a powerful way to show that your business is an expert in a field and can provide information that entertains and informs; information that can make a person’s life easier – possibly saving time and money. A podcast is not an audio brochure, it is a lifestyle element. Get too sales oriented and no one will want to listen to your podcast. Podcasts are great internal tools as well. Companies can disseminate information such as employee communication, audio white papers, meeting recaps, presentations, etc. to employees. Having the CEO provide a regular message to stockholders about what is happening with your company can be a powerful way to communicate not only vital information, but the CEO’s passion not experienced with just written text material.

Start podcasting now while the medium is young and growing. Make sure you have clear goals and a clear idea of who the listener will be.

Podcasting is an incredible tool. Do it right, and it can be extremely cost effective. Professionally produced podcasts will always have a greater impact than self produced podcasts. So hire a professional to match the professionalism of your other marketing materials.