How to Make Podcasting Work for You

Podcasting was the focus of several well-attended panels at the Syndicate Conference in New York last week. What’s unique about podcasting is it allows users to time-shift audio content in an efficient, location-independent fashion to the device of their choice. Currently, a less-than-exciting 1 percent of North American online consumers listen to podcasts. This may not yet be a market that excites media buyers, but Forrester projects podcasting will reach 12.3 million households by 2010.

As podcasting ramps up, marketers must figure out how to both support podcasting and fit it into a marketing mix. Current podcast listeners tend to be early technology adopters who are well-educated males with high average income. In addition, they’re time pressed, which makes them a more attractive market as they’re hard to reach via traditional media. Here are some of the ways marketers are making podcasting work for them.

Marketing Goals

Podcasting is another marketing tool that’s great at reaching and engaging niche consumer segments. As a marketer, you can either create your own media outlet or advertise with an established content company that provides content compatible with your brand.

Podcasts serve a variety of marketing objectives while reaching a broad spectrum of niche constituents. Some approaches include:

  • Create a direct communication channel with consumers. Whirlpool developed ad-free American Family podcasts to address issues that affect families with diverse backgrounds.

  • Extend brand reach through an emotional connection with customers.
  • Add a new media outlet to extend a media company’s reach. WNYC radio uses longer format podcasts to expand its audience beyond the reach of its terrestrial signal, and washingtonpost.com created podcasts to expand its offering into an audio format. Short sponsorships tend to be the best approach to integrate advertising. Podcasts can offer marketers audiences unavailable via regulated broadcast radio.
  • Facilitate internal marketing communications with sales, distributors, business partners, and employees.
  • Humanize investor relations. Provide investors with a better way to relate to your senior management team.

Enhance Your Podcast’s Reach

To extend your podcast’s reach, develop a marketing plan. Factors to consider:

  • Business objectives. Consider what goals you want the podcasts to achieve.

  • Creative strategy. Think about the podcast’s content and format. John Federico of Audible advises hiring a PR or advertising agency to ensure professional quality.
  • Editorial calendar. Develop a calendar of upcoming shows. Schedule content topics and frequency just as you would any traditional media outlet.
  • Promotion. Build an audience for your podcasts. Tactics include:
    • Develop a brand for your podcasts. Create a dedicated area of your Web site or a related site. Include online tools, such as forward-to-a-friend, RSS (define) notification, and email notices. Add instructions for podcast newbies to aid usage.

    • Include a text description and tag each new episode to podcast posts to aid searchability, as search engines don’t search audio content. Enhance downloads with show notes and images.
    • Post podcasts on popular portals. ITunes is one of the top resources for downloading podcasts. According to Hitwise, in April 2006 other top podcasting sites were Odeo, Podcast.net, Yahoo Podcasts, PodcastAlley.com, Podcasting News, and indiepodder.org.
    • Promote podcasts throughout your site by navigation and footer links, house ads, and email marketing. Add links to relevant content.
    • Promote complementary podcasts in your own podcast in exchange for being promoted in theirs.
    • Create a blog for your podcasts, even if only to list your podcast summary and tags, so search engines can find your podcast and you can easily ping blog-specific search engines when you’ve added another podcast, recommends Pheedo‘s Bill Flitter.
    • Leverage other media outlets. “Scientific American” promotes its podcasts in its print publications. WNYC drives users from its on-air shows.

Measure a Podcast’s Impact

At this point, there are limited available metrics tools for podcasts. For marketers, this is an obvious concern. Given that being an early adopter in many markets can drive PR buzz, the need to document a positive ROI (define) approach may not be that important in the beginning, especially if you have a budget for experimental advertising. Lack of established metrics shouldn’t be a reason not to test podcasting.

Here are some basic metrics people are using:

  • Downloads. At a minimum, monitor the number of times a podcast is downloaded. You can assume a significant percentage of downloads are listened to, because it’s an on-demand medium. InfoWorld’s recent Podcast Insights by Palmer Research supports this. According to the research, 56 percent of respondents listened to podcasts within 24 hours of downloading. Another related indicator is podcast feed subscription data.

  • Direct response tool. To increase podcast measurability, incorporate a call to action that gets listeners to visit your Web site or call a toll-free number. Offer listeners something of value, such as unique content, a white paper, or a discount.
  • Branding. If your goal is to augment your brand, consider using branding metrics.
  • Listener input. As another way to determine the impact on consumers, solicit listener input about podcasts. WNYC has found donors cite its podcasts as important through a check box and comments box on its online donations page.
  • Costs. Podcast costs include content creation or repurposing, marketing, servers, and bandwidth.

A few companies are emerging to measure the impact of podcasting and related advertising. Among them are Audible’s Wordcast, which measures reach and frequency; Podtrac, which offers audience data based on downloads; Arbitron’s Portable People Meter; and Podbridge, which tracks actual listeners.

Regardless of your business objectives, you can make podcasting work for you. Podcasting is a great, low-cost way to engage customers with very specific interests. Podcasting can give your enterprise a personal voice that can be used for either branding or providing a very personal sell. Though metrics remain limited, this the perfect place to invest some discretionary marketing dollars to create buzz and raise your profile with well-targeted audiences.

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