Podcast? It's not just for early adopters anymore!

indexfrontside20051011.gifThinking about podcasting? Many organisations, including Telstra (see www.nowwearetalking.com.au), are already producing them as part of their communication program. However there are conflicting reports about the popularity of podcasting and its future.
Despite Oxford University Press naming “podcast” as the 2005 “word of the year”, news from Forrester Research suggests 73 percent of North Americans have never heard of podcasting – and apparently they “don’t care to learn more about it”.
Over at Billboard Radio Monitor, the news is all about podcasts “coming of age”:

A year ago podcasting was just a fad with a cool name. In recent weeks, the format has taken several steps toward becoming big business. The audio blog phenomenon that began as free, grass-roots rantings is being commercialized through advertising and subscription fees.

Worldwide, especially in North America, the number of new Internet users has stagnated, but according to ClickZ Network involvement has deepened. Online developments such as podcasts, and RSS feeds are driving Internet usage and setting the pace globally according to the Internet marketing resource site.
My straw poll of corporate communication professionals I’ve met during the past month indicates there is a huge gulf between the technology “haves” and “have nots”. Reactions to questions about use of new technology ranges from “what’s a blog” to “I couldn’t survive without RSS feeds”.
Political parties and politicians are arguably at the cutting edge of community consultation and not surprisingly are generally making use of new technology. In Australia, the Greens, Democrats and the Australian Labor Party have embraced RSS feeds. At least one politician, Senator Andrew Bartlett, writes his own blog. But no podcasts as yet.
In the lead-up to the 2008 US presidential election, the Democrats have fully casino embraced technology with both a blog, called Kicking Ass, and podcasts featuring on their federal site.
There’s no doubt audio, and video content, on the Internet is here to stay. Convergent technologies will mean that multimedia content will increasingly be easier to access, and with this we’ll see even more people listening to podcasts.
For communication professionals, maybe the lesson is that podcasts could be an effective way to reach a specific target public.
Radio advertising research group Arbitron, for example, suggests:

Podcasting attracts a youthful audience: one out of five who have ever listened to an audio podcast are 12-17 years old, and more than half (53 percent) are under the age of 35.

Other research indicates more males than females are listening.
So whilst it’s not a tactic for every campaign or issue at the moment, it could be a useful channel to reach particular target publics.
Some analysts have predicted that we”re moving out of the “early adopters” stage for podcasts. How quickly they become mainstream is yet to be determined, but when they do they”ll become a regular tactic for communications professionals.

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