Podcasting for the Business World

Today’s ever-changing technology landscape demands that businesses constantly evaluate emerging technologies and their usefulness in the marketplace. Not all new standards are readily applicable. But with a little research and ingenuity, you’ll find certain technologies can be beneficially incorporated into your business practices.

Podcasting is one such technology. It is a combination of several technologies that has led to a clever way to distribute information to a targeted audience. A podcast – a combination of the words iPod and broadcast – is nothing more than an .mp3 file. That .mp3 file can be music, an audio book, a lecture or a marketing message to clients. What makes the concept of the podcast especially interesting is the mechanism for delivering it to the listener. The details of an .mp3 file are included in an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed. When an RSS reader opens the feed, it can automatically retrieve the .mp3 file from the Web server, download it, insert it into a digital media application and, in some cases, categorize it according to predetermined rules that the user has set up.

The technology behind a podcast is simple. Its value lies in the message it can deliver and how it can be used. Two viable uses for podcasting are 1.) conveying a message and 2.) educating an audience.  You can use a podcast to get a message out to your clients, customers or your staff on up-to-the-minute issues. A recent Pew Internet & America Life Project poll tells us that more than 22 million Americans own MP3 players and of those people, 29 percent have already downloaded a podcast. That number does not include the number of computer users that are connected to the Internet with a set of speakers or a CD-ROM burner attached to their computer.

Many companies such as BMW, Random House, Microsoft and Business Week offer podcasts targeting specific segments of their businesses. Their podcast content ranges from highly technical information to news or entertainment. They all, however, have the same mission to communicate an important corporate message to a target audience. Your organization can do the same. Offer a monthly podcast that tells listeners about the newest updates to your product line. Or, podcast an interview with a member of your organization or industry. Such efforts are a clever way of staying in front of your clients or prospects while communicating important information.

You can also use a podcast for educational purposes. Consider the Stanford University and Apple joint venture that offers podcasts of lectures as a download right inside of iTunes. This program can be easily copied by the business world, using podcasts to educate associates about new and emerging topics or to provide continuing professional education. Armed with iPods (or any MP3 player), employees could receive timely educational content delivered directly to their ears whether they are in the office or in the field.

Once you decide to podcast, be sure to implement the program in a professional manner. For best results, you should purchase a semi- professional quality microphone, USB mixing board, and recording software, all of which can be obtained for a few hundred dollars. This minimal

investment will go a long way toward creating a first-rate presentation. Make sure that you have both the on-line storage space and the bandwidth required to deliver your podcast to potential listeners. A short podcast, between 10 and 20 minutes long, recorded at good quality, can be 10MB in size. An important step in the podcast process is ensuring that your targeted audience actually listens. Send an e-mail to let people know your podcast is available. Update announcements on your Web site, and make the podcast easy to find. Take advantage of the RSS feed and periodically offer additional information that may be of interest to your listeners. Employed properly, podcasting can be a powerful business communication tool whose originality and novelty will draw employees, customers and potential clients.