Podcasting – Is Anybody Really Listening?

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Is it me, or is everyone podcasting these days? On nearly every website I visit there is a block of text or graphic taunting me to download the company’s most recent podcast. Last year’s Pew Internet study showed 11% of American adults (22 mil.) own an iPod or other MP3 player, of which 29% downloaded podcasts. With the sudden influx of iPod sales in 2005 it comes as no surprise that a recent study by eMarketer shows the total podcast audience to be 10 million strong and growing, with a prediction of 50 million by 2010! According to the study, 3 million people are actively downloading 1+ podcasts a week, anticipating to hit the 15 million mark by 2010.

What do all these numbers mean? It’s apparent that podcasts are moving beyond the introduction phase and well into the mainstream. With the increase of broadband connections, comes an increase in video and audio downloads. Many companies are realizing this and introducing podcasts into their marketing mix. What an excellent idea I say, and if you are part of a company currently using, or looking at using podcasts as a way to extend your brand to Joe public, I applaud you! Especially since it seems there are half a dozen search engines specific to podcasts. However, much like your website, podcasting is a direct extension of your company’s image. Therefore, before users hear your image, many will need to explore your website. Once again, website optimization can prove to be your friend, in a slightly different format.

Even though some of the podcast specific search engines recognize bits of audio, it’s still a good idea to optimize your podcast and the page it resides on. Include a brief description of the podcast, letting the user know what they are about to download. Include this description at the beginning of your podcast (in audio form) to help with those “audio enabled” engines. One last note: if your podcast is created through iTunes, it may not be accessible to all users because the AAC format is specific to iPods. To make matters more difficult, iTunes does not redistribute podcasts. Separate media feeds must be generated in order to thoroughly catch the attention of the masses. Now here I thought podcasting was suppose to be easy for anyone to do. Apparently it is, however, if you want to be seen and heard it involves a bit more work.

As podcasting evolves into a mecca of information, I think optimizing your podcast and the pages attributed to it will be imperative to your efforts. So if you want this growing audience to become familiar with your company’s products and services, do yourself a favor, stay in tune with the podcasting nation and remember to optimize wisely.

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