Friday, May 19, 2006

Podcasts Are Taking Over The World

Maybe that'’s a bit of an exaggeration -– some might say satellite radio is really taking over, but it'’s less so than you might think for the podcast.

I was in a local ice cream shop last weekend after my daughter'’s softball game and, low-and-behold, the shop was promoting their podcast series on new ice cream flavors. I kid you not. Take a look, I mean, listen for yourself.

One of the benefits of podcasting is that it's audio -- —and an attribute that'’s shared by no other communication medium is the ability to listen while you'’re doing something else. Unlike video or text, you can listen to podcasts when driving, surfing the web, or working out (I don'’t do the latter as much as I should).

A few interesting stats on podcasting:

  1. the creation of podcast feeds has averaged 15% growth month over month
  2. podcast circulation is consistently growing nearly 20% per month
  3. iTunes is the clear favorite for podcast subscribers, a healthy 43% of the market (even thought an iPod is not required for listening to a Podcast --– any mp3 player will do).

A medium that'’s less than two years has already amassed a lot of media coverage and a listener ship of close to 1 million; Forrester Research expects that number to grow to 12.3 million households by 2010. A year ago Business Week covered Podcasting with equally optimistic estimates.

These estimates may be low, since more and more mainstream media outlets are podcasting their recorded content and will undoubtedly promote its availability.

FeedBurner recently surpassed a major milestone of 50,000 podcast feeds under management which, according to the CIA World Factbook, exceeds the total number of radio stations worldwide.

In briefings and clients meetings of late, most of the discussion about podcasting has focused on what to use it for, who would listen, how long the podcast should be, and how to download a podcast. What most people haven't asked much about is how to create a podcast in the first place.

So let'’s take a look at some if these issues
While company news or CEO broadcasts are commonly thought to be good candidates for turning into podcasts (they are), there are other uses that will be particularly handy as we move into benefits enrollment season this fall.

HR can use Podcasts to discuss upcoming changes to the benefits programs, and use voice -- which his a powerful communication medium -- to reinforce messaging around health care "‘consumerismÂ" issues, escalating costs, and how employees can get the most our of their benefits plans.

Another good use is in the retirement area. Stats show many twenty-somethings don'’t enroll in their company's 401(k) plan, and miss out not only on the company matching funds, but on starting to build their retirement accounts in their early working years --– ever more important for those without a tradition defined-benefit pension plan. A podcast series is a great way to explain why enrolling in a 401(k) is so important, no matter how young an employee may me.

Unlike broadcast voice mail,– which can do double duty for some of these uses, the podcast can easily be replayed, forward or reversed, and saved far more easily than in a voice mail system. And for those employees who donÂ’t work at a desk, or may not have voice mail, it'’s one of the only ways to receive verbal communications from the company.

So now you're geared up and ready to make a podcast about the latest changes to the annual performance review process (how much fun is that!), or that new policy on use of the corporate jet (still paying attention? Good).

Creating a Podcast
Let's take a look at just how easy it is to create a podcast -- with the understanding that the most difficult aspect of podcasting (like blogging) is the content --– the script or plan for what you want to say,– not the technology to record it. Two good podcasting tutorials are How To Podcast or on Feedburner.

If you want to create a podcast for an external website (maybe to go along with your blog, or as companion for all those vacation pictures you just uploaded for your relatives), there are many free services, including Yahoo! and Podcast Alley.

If you want to create a podcast within your company, for posting on your intranet or internal blog, you'’ll want an enterprise version (which isn'’t free, but is amazingly inexpensive). Some options include, and

Here'’s another novel way to create a podcast -- Skype. That'’s right, Skype. The free computer-to-computer (and until year end, free from computer-to-regular telephone) service (which eBay bought last year for $2.6 Billon) has the ability to record conversations (and so does services like WebEx) .

Once recorded, turning the recording into a podcast is as simple as using the aforementioned podcast creators to ‘"convert" the recording into a podcast format.

Now that you know what software to use to record your podcast, all you'’ll need is a microphone for your PC or laptop.

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