Meet PSPCasting (Podcasts? So Last Week)

So you’ve just gotten used to the whole idea of podcasting (define), huh? Well, I hate to tell you this, but podcasting’s so last month. Get ready for PSPcasting.

On March 24, Sony released its PlayStation Portable (PSP) in the U.S., and it was eagerly snapped up by gamers. The sleek black device sports a 4.3 inch, 16:9 screen, making it perfect for playing video games and watching video stored on MemoryStick Pro cards. The PSP also accepts Sony’s UMD discs for movies and games, and the first million U.S. PSPs were shipped with a full copy of “Spider-Man 2” to demonstrate the video capability.

The PSP can also display JPEG pictures and play MP3s, though the lack of a hard drive for music storage may not make it a strong contender against players such as the iPod. But MP3 players are a dime a dozen; the real PSP story is games and videos.

Rather than stick with a proprietary format as it has in the past, Sony wisely chose to allow its device to play MP4 video files (as well as MP3 music files). This opens the platform for users who want an easy video-to-go product. The open platform also allows software developers to jump on the bandwagon. Several “media manager” programs were available even before launch, which allow users to convert and load video into their PSPs.

Sony isn’t the first company to release a device that lets people take video on the road. Devices such as the ARCHOS that do the same thing have been around for a while now. But they don’t play games, don’t carry the Sony label, and cost significantly more than the PSP’s $250 price tag (a low-end 20GB ARCHOS costs $500; the high-end model is a whopping $800). Final sales figures for the PSP launch weren’t available at press time, but Sony reports it’s already sold 800,000 units in Japan since its December 12 debut.

Within a day of the launch, users had discovered combining PSP Video 9 (a free PSP video conversion and management program) with Videora (a $22.95 automatic video downloader utilizing BitTorrent and RSS (define) allows them to cobble together a system that automatically downloads video feeds directly into their PSPs. Just like Adam Curry’s initial iPodder script, it isn’t the most elegant solution. But also like iPodder, it works. The implications for marketers could be pretty profound.

As you probably already know, advertisers are discovering podcasting as a way to reach select early adopter audiences. Microsoft sponsors the very excellent “Chris Pirillo Show,” and Warner Brothers is sponsoring the “Eric Rice Show.” Others are following.

It’s an ad format that makes sense. The audience is targeted and measurable. They’ve already got an affinity for the content and trust the provider so they’re more likely to listen. Podcasts are typically listened to like radio: in the car, on a jog, or at work. It’s still too early to tell how well these initial advertising efforts will work, but they seem to make sense.

Audio is powerful, but imagine how much more powerful it would be to advertise in video users carry with them. In a possible PSPcasting future, Joe Urbanite grabs his PSP on his way to work and sits on the train watching the morning news, a few short entertainment blasts, maybe a movie trailer or two. All are programmed according to his needs.

Getting your ads into that format would allow you to tailor your content precisely to what Joe is interested in. You’d know if he received it or not because you’d have server logs to look back on. It’s a measurable, powerful way to distribute video content that goes far beyond video tethered to a PC or a cable box.

Whether this initial personalized videocasting iteration catches on with the PSP, it clearly seems to fit directly into a trend that shows no signs of stopping. Consumers are used to being in control of their media consumption and don’t seem interested in relinquishing that control. From MP3 players to TiVo to RSS syndication, podcasting, and now PSPcasting, the public seems pretty enamored with the concept of getting to read, hear, or watch what they want, when they want.

Heck, the fact coupons are now delivered via RSS ought to convince you, if nothing else does. Personalized pointcasting is here to stay. The PSP is yet another milestone.

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