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A Case For Podcasting Now

David A. Utter
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-05-17

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Here's the choice: support a medium where a company could reach an audience where 100 percent of them have an interest in the company's products, or keep tossing money into mediums where 98 percent of the audience sees the message as an intrusion.

That's how moderator Eric Schwartzman put the issue to the panel at the Syndicate Conference: "How do you construct an argument in support of business use of podcasting? The usage trends are in our favor."

Mikel Ellcessor from WNYC, New York Public Radio, noted how the station first got into streaming in 2000, and on-demand programming in 2001. Podcasting came along later:

In January 2005 we launched the Omnimedia podcasts as a test. When we saw the adoption shoot up, we started launching others. We now have 8 separate feeds with a million downloads a month. This is under way for us to meet you where you are. If we don't have a clear one-to-one relationship with our viewers, our sustainability is in question.

Jeff Burkett from Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive described the role of his business development team as one that works the line between advertising and content:

The first thing I had to do when I started was to figure out how to do advertising in podcasts. I didn't even know what a podcast was.

I figured out quickly that you can't just import a TV spot. We told advertisers you have to make custom content; they looked at us really cross-eyed. So we took the traditional spots from radio and TV and used those ads. I hope that it moves toward a more conversational advertising model.

BusinessWeek's Department Editor Heather Green had to approach the concept of selling others on podcasts from the editorial side of the industry. Her publication made its first foray into podcasting in 2004:

I started noticing podcasting and how it was changing the Internet. We wrote a story about blogs and podcasting, and I do think you have to try podcasting. It is going to be one of these changing technologies like blogging and RSS.

The beauty is you can jump in cheaply as well. We have 10 podcasts at BusinessWeek now; some are doing well, and others are doing what they are doing. I don't think we are going to give up. We will keep experimenting.

Ellcessor said for WNYC, increasing podcast listenership meant going to those listeners, and asking them to visit the station's website and become members. The station is close to bringing on its first podcast advertiser. Now, WNYC is looking at the next level of syndication, via Delicious and tagging.

Burkett observed that the motivations for early advertisers on podcasts has been to do it, just to do it. Costs are much lower, and calculated by the download. Podcast users tend to be early adopters, a group that advertisers love to target.

On the topic of monetizing podcasts, Green doesn't think a lot of podcasters will succeed at doing so. For BusinessWeek, podcast sponsorships could be offered as part of an advertising package.

Green made an interesting observation about listeners and devices. She said about 50 percent use the PC to listen, and the remainder use iPods and other media players. That indicates, at least for BusinessWeek, portability is not the deciding factor in subscribing for a podcast.

In making the case to do a podcast, Burkett offered an opinion on time-shifting as a selling point for advertising. He said people are time-starved, and that makes podcasting more valuable than television because the consumer just isn't in front of the TV as they have been in the past.

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About the Author:
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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