Podcasting: Beyond the iPod

If blogs can transform people into journalists, does podcasting transform them into TV or radio personalities?  It sure looks that way, based on a presentation by Richard Harrington of RHED Pixel at a June 4 lunch program of the Independent Public

Mary-Jane Atwater

Mary-Jane Atwater

Relations Alliance, a committee of PRSA-NCC.

Several at the meeting were podcast veterans, including Mary Fletcher Jones of Fletcher Prince, who has created PR Conversations in Public Relations, a podcast featuring what Mary says are “DC’s most interesting public relations professionals.”  Others at the IPRA meeting have just begun to create podcasts.  But the majority of us were podcasting rookies, eager to learn about how podcasting technology can be used to benefit our clients.

If anyone thinks that podcasting is tied to iPods and Apples, think again.  Rather, podcasting is a highly targeted, syndicated series of video or audio shows available online to people who subscribe to them (usually for free and through an RSS feed).  And unlike videos posted on YouTube, podcasts can be downloaded from host sites to all types of consumer electronic devices (TVs, computers, mobile phones, gaming systems) to watch when it’s convenient.  That means no more email blasts or expensive postage to ship DVDs.

A quick check of the podcasts available for free download from the iTunes directory shows that there’s no limit to podcast topics:  action sports, arts, crafts, cooking, the environment, how-to, hi-tech, parenting, world news and more.  Since 85% of all Americans can now get online whenever they want, and 82% of U.S. homes with Internet now have broadband, the market for podcasts is enormous.  According to Richard Harrington, 35-44 year olds are the largest groups of podcast subscribers.

With an opt-in audience and the ability to target niche markets, it would seem that podcasts are a smart move for many businesses and nonprofits.  But Harrington cautions that podcasts are not for everyone, especially those who don’t have the time or resources to create new episodes and add new production features.  Podcasts can’t stand alone to establish your brand (but they can help extend your brand), and they certainly aren’t for those who like to keep things private.

Still, podcasting appears to be a great, relatively low-cost way to grow an audience and provide information, including showing how a product is used or describing a service. As PR professionals, we need to know when podcasting should be part of a PR plan and be comfortable explaining this technology to our clients.  IPRA’s program helped move us in that direction.

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