Podcasting: Dead or Alive?
Podcasting is not something that comes up very often in a web design requirements meeting with a new client. Even though adding a podcast channel to a customers site is simple and inexpensive and making podcasts can be quick , fun and within the capabilities of a lot of website owners it isn’t often that customers ask for them.
This might be because not many small business website owners are aware of the potential of podcasting or it might be because they are just not very popular so if you don’t listen to them yourself then will anyone want to listen to yours.
In this article I want to explore whether podcasting is a viable option for small business website owners and their marketing efforts or is it just a big waste of time?
Essentially, we’ll ask the question,
‘Podcasting: Dead or Alive?
A Podcast Defined
In case your unsure of what a podcast is, it is defined as
‘A multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.’
In simple language what we are really talking about is an audio file (an mp3 for example) that is available to download. The piece of audio can be spoken word, musical or any mix of whatever you wanted. The definition allows for video but to qualify the video file would need to be downloadable rather than streamed (so not just available on YouTube). I really think that video is another category and another topic, so in this blog I am talking exlusively about audio podcasts.
The name comes from a blend of ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’ although Apple aren’t themselves responsible for this.
The word ‘Podcast’ was named word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary on 3 December 2005.
The Pros and Cons
With just a microphone plugged into your computer, it is easy and fun to make a quick podcast. Quicker than writing a blog article (I can’t seem to write a blog that I’m happy to publish in less than 2 hours). If you have a concept that you don’t need a script for, then you can create a two minute podcast in… well, only two minutes. A few minutes to upload and link and your done (you’ll actually need about 15 to 20 minutes, start to finish. once you are used to it).
Interesting, different and catchy podcasts can go viral and give you massive exposure that you wouldn’t normally get, but writing a catchy and interesting podcast can be tricky, especially if your clientele would be offended if you suddenly became a bit zany.
The real down side is that to receive that information from a podcast I need to sit there and listen to it. I can’t skip to the bit I want to hear (until I’ve heard it I don’t know where that bit is), I can’t skim over the whole podcast and zone in on the bits that have value to me. I have to sit there and listen and hope it has what I want in there somewhere.
Most business podcasts use spoken voice and that can be quite boring. Nothing worse than listening to a nervous business owner reading a badly written script that actually doesn’t interest me that much. Actors are expensive, you’ll have to do this yourself. If your launching a music or radio career then your podcasts can go viral and spell success, but if your giving an introduction to social media marketing… well, snore.
So from a web design and business website owners point of view the main draw back with podcasts is no one really bothers listen to them, especially ones that have to be streamed and can’t be downloaded. If they are listened to then its for a (really) short space of time.
Podcast Web Design (Staffordshire) Rules
1. Create a written introduction so your Podcast. Visitors to your website are more likely to listen to your podcast if they know what its about.
2. Never make a Podcast (or any other sound file for that matter) start automatically. Nothing makes me leave a website faster that sound suddenly coming out of my speakers. Its annoying and its intrusive. Never, Ever Do It!
3. Always allow Podcasts to be downloadable. Have the podcast accessible and streaming on your website if you want to, that’s all good. But allow website visitors to be able to download your podcast to listen on their phone or iPod later. They be interested but just may not want to listen to it right now. On that long commute the next morning, it might just make it onto the play list.
My final point is more of an editorial point Rather than a consideration and is namely this: Say something to hook your listener in the first 10 – 15 seconds (something really useful). Get your main points across in the first 30 seconds and if you can keep the whole thing under 2 minutes all the better.
Funny and lighthearted podcasts usually work better than one that sounds like a lecture series.
Re: Web Design (Staffordshire). Our SEO Expert loves that word Staffordshire and when I slip in a Staffordshire or a web design staffordshire into an artice in some cookey kind of way it makes him smile, so forgive an old web developer his Friday Fun. Google doesn’t look at punctuation so the brackets are ignored.
Conclusion: Dead or Alive?
My very real negativity to small business podcasting comes from me finding small business podcasts dull and dreary. As I have said, from a web design perspective its quite inexpensive for you to implement podcasting on your small business website. So until I see a small business utilise podcasts in a way that makes me want to buy their product or become their customer then podcasting is very dead to me.
Of course, Radio 1 has a series of hugely successful daily and weekly podcasts that get downloaded in the thousands and tens of thousands. Ricky Gervais still produces highly popular podcasts (and video podcasts) to support his stand up work and TV shows. If you go to iTunes you’ll find loads of interesting podcasts amongst the thousands that will send you to sleep.
So dead or alive depends on your opinion and your business. For me it all boils down to return on effort, or return on investment. If you have a zany business where odd things going viral can be of help then podcasting is a real possibility. But if you want to do a lecture series on tips for social media marketing or ten top feeds for your dwarf rabbit, then I don’t think you’ll win many customers by using podcasts.