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Podcasting for Learning and Sales Enablement

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Copywrite 2006 Tim Keelan, StoryQuest Inc.

What do Duke University, IBM, Capital One, Newsweek and Barenaked Ladies all have in common?

Answer: they are all reaching out to staff, students, and customers with a new and powerful tool – podcasting. You may have heard about podcasting from your kids or on the news, but podcasting is much more than some phenomenon started by the rock and roll or techy crowd. Podcasting is a powerful communication tool being used to reach global and mobile audiences, save people time and, most importantly, really connect with their audiences in news ways – in today’s communication/message glut. But let’s take a look at what podcasting is, who is using and why it is so effective for both business and individuals.

First, we’ll look at the size and scale of the podcasting phenomenon…

— A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that more than 22 million American adults own Ipods or and MP3 player and 29% of them have downloaded podcasts or listened to podcast that have been “pushed” to them. That equates to 6 million people listening to podcasts. Market researchers and analysts continue to buoy up podcasting’s future with latest figures suggesting a US audience alone of 56 million by 2010.

— Jupiter Research recently predicted that US digital music player sales would grow to 56 million by 2010, up from 16.2 million in 2004 and by 2010, three-quarters of all people who own portable digital music players will listen to podcasts, a growth from less than 15% last year.

What is podcasting?

Whether you describe it as the greatest communication tool since email, or as an RSS feed for audio, podcasting is a way to “push” audio content to subscribers for virtually zero cost. Podcasting allows anyone (me, you, IBM, or NBC) to post audio content that gets pushed to any subscriber’s desktop and then directly to their iPod or MP3 player. This is global. Anyone, anywhere can “tune in” to your podcast and learn what you have to offer or say. You don’t need to be NBC with a global distribution infrastructure. Now people can “subscribe” to a podcast and have new content “pushed” out to them without them having to surf the web, download MP3s or burn CD’s.

Ideas/Stories/Voices -to- Audio/MP3’s -to- Internet -to- PC -to- MP3 players

Notice: all the arrows go in one direction! Once someone has subscribe to your podcast, your content get “pushed” out to them. There is no turning in to stations with podcasting. You don’t have to visit a website to find streaming podcasting. Podcasts show up (pushed) when new content is produced. If you are a subscriber, you get the podcast right then. All you need is an Ipod or MP3 player of any kind for listening, thus the word podcasting.

The term “Podcasting” is derived from the iPod (Apple Computer’s popular device for playing compressed audio files) and “broadcasting.” Podcasting allows for audio files that would have been previously downloaded and played on a personal computer to be automatically downloaded and listened to on portable music playing devices (such as the iPod and other MP3 players).

Having originated in the world of blogging, some have even referred to podcasting as “audio blogging.” For many, podcasting is a logical next step from blogging. As Business Week Senior Writer Stephen Baker observes, “The heart of the podcasting movement is in the world of blogs, those millions of personal Web pages that have become a global sensation. In a blogosphere that has grown largely on the written word, podcasts add a soundtrack.”

Now that you know what a podcast is, let’s look at where they come from: who is producing the “pushed audio content.”

Who is producing podcasts?

The answer is wide ranging. Teenagers, techies and rock musicians were early adopters. Today you see the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Business Week, ESPN and news programs of all types producing, distribution and marketing podcasts. The number of podcasts available is growing at a very rapid pace. In late 2004, there were close to 500 podcasts available. Today there are over 10,000 different podcasts to choose from.

Now that podcasting has becoming more mainstream, corporate and non-corporate organizations are getting into the act, using podcasting to connect with customers, students, staff and partners. Here are some examples:

— Duke University handed out iPods to their entire 2005 freshman class so they could receive podcasts that included university news, class work and social content.

— Capital One University has handed out over 3000 iPods to support corporate training and communications. This includes, leadership training, sales, customer service and other topics.

— IBM has created podcasts to show their thought leadership to customers investors and prospects.

— Keane Inc. has handed out over 100 ipods to their global sales force to share training, customers’ stories and organizational content.

Why have these and other organizations gotten into podcasting? They have gotten into it because they know their audience (whether internal or external) is inundated with text-based content: emails, articles, the web portals, and marketing messages. Podcasting allows them a unique medium to reach and connect with their audience.

iPods will be part of Duke University’s new Duke Digital Initiative (DDI). “We’ve been focusing on iPods and other mobile computing, but our wider goal is to integrate technology broadly into the teaching and learning process,” said Peter Lange, Peter Lange, the university’s provost and senior academic officer. “The iPods have helped jump-start this process, and we plan to keep pushing ahead.”

Listeners love podcasting because it delivers rich content directly to them, in a form that allows them to save time, control what they hear and listen to while commuting, working or whenever it works for them. No longer is learning tied to a book, PC screen or web portal.

Content is still king in any communication, especially recorded podcasts. Podcasting is the delivery tool. Compelling content ensures continuous listening and not a flip of the power switch or turn of the dial.

Should you podcast?

Podcasting is not answer to all your learning and communication problems. As great as audio is, like any medium, it has its limits. While audio allows users to multi task, it is not easily scanned – which means you consider the listeners needs very carefully. You must provide value.

Corporate podcasting is different that individuals or media podcasting. The standard for a corporate podcast is much higher than for individual or media. Your staff and customers expect certain from your communication with them. You can’t just offer long-winded rants, self serving commercials or cute content. It is all about value. When producing that value, ask yourself; who and how will you produce your podcast? Who will review it and how? Will you get it transcribed? There are legal issues to consider as well.

Despite these issues podcasting can be simple. Once you have determined your format and established a process the whole process gets much easier. Still podcasting takes a proactive effort, a planned approach, creative development and the courage to try new things. But if you have the courage, and are willing to put the front-end work into it podcasting and mobile audio can provide huge benefits. If you would like to:

— Reach a global audience — Connect with that audience in a new and effective ways — Save your audience time — Share the passion, experience and stories of your business

…try podcasting – it works!

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