Reach new audiences with Podcasting

February 9, 2005

Podcasting has yet to hit the mainstream, but the process has started — in the past two days, USA Today has covered the phenomenon in two different articles.  If you have (or can produce) audio content, there is still time to reach a major new audience as it grows.

USA Today Money 2/9/05 – Radio to the MP3 degree: Podcasting

“The Cambridge University history student on Jan. 24 began hosting a 40-minute audio program — a podcast, or online radio program — in which he introduces original songs performed by British musicians, including himself. Rundle didn’t need the BBC or any PR firm to help him reach an audience. He simply posted his show on the Internet.”

USA Today Lifestyle 2/8/05 – Podcasting: It’s all over the dial

“And so is the concept of entertainment as we know it. Because The Dawn and Drew Show isn’t on television or radio. Rather, it’s the nation’s most popular program among a new breed of free amateur chatfests available at an Internet connection near you.”

In brief, podcasting is the ability to produce periodic audio programs that listeners can subscribe to using a podcasting client program (many are free, few are more than $20). 

Once a listener has subscribed to your “podcast feed”, whenever you produce new audio, their software automatically downloads it, and places it in their favorite audio software’s playlist — many packages will even automatically update the user’s iPod or other MP3 player.

These users can then listen to your content — at the gym, while commuting to work, anywhere that they listen to audio.  Many of these listeners don’t have time to hunt for new and interesting sites otherwise, and they use podcasts to discover new information sources for topics they are interested in.

Please note that I’m not suggesting that you need to start your own music show or a chit-chat hour — frankly, there are plenty of those already. 

No matter what your site is about, you have information that is valuable to your customers.  If you can produce that information in short audio segments (anywhere from 5 – 45 minutes, on average), you can reach this growing audience.

If you offer teleclasses, lectures, seminars, sermons, or other spoken word material, you may already have content that you can be offering immediately.

If you’re not already producing spoken word material, all it takes is an audio capture device (a microphone plugged into your computer will work; an inexpensive digital voice recorder that can download to your computer can work well also) and a little bit of patience in learning to edit and prepare your content.

If you’d like to try listening to a few podcasts yourself, you can go here to find a list of podcast client programs for Windows, Mac and Linux, and to PodcastAlley to find a directory of available podcasts.  New podcast directories are springing up daily — searching your favorite search engine for “podcast listing” or “podcast directory” will turn up many more.

When you are ready to try your hand at producing your own podcast, here are several good “how to” articles for preparing your content:

How to Podcast (for Windows Users)

How to Podcast (for Mac Users)

Once you have your audio prepared, you’ll need to make it available.  The articles above speak a bit to the raw technical questions, but if you are using any of the popular blogging packages, or another package that generates RSS syndication, then check with your software producer. The odds are very good that most or all of the heavy lifting has been done for you, and all you’ll have to do is include a link to your audio with your syndicated posts.

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