The 360 View
Podcasting: The Pod Has Landed
The 360 View
36 0 V I E W I V: P O D C AST I N G
A new generation of “Pod People” has landed. And unlike the
screeching zombies of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, these
modern-day Podsters are not content to take over bodies at
the behest of the mother ship. Oh no. These Pod People,
freshly hatched from the Internet, want to capture that rarest
of modern treasures: content they want, when they want it.
They’re poised to topple the bastions of traditional media with
nothing more than a pair of iPod ear-buds and a single bone-
chilling request: “Take me to your Podcast.”
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating. A little. But something
exciting is going on in the communications industry. You
guessed it: Podcasting.
I’ve seen Internet ideas sweep the virtual landscape before,
but Podcasting is moving across the online marketing terrain
with exceptional velocity. In October 2004, there were 24 hit
results on Google for the word “Podcast.” Today, it’s 83 million.
Consider “Pod Climber” and “Formula Pod,” two audio
Podcasts about rock climbing and Formula 1 racing. Run out of
a simple recording studio in Bend, Oregon, Pod Climber has a
monthly audience of 54,000 listeners. To put this audience
number in perspective, consider that the monthly circulation
of Climbing Magazine, the industry leader, is 34,000. Climbing
Magazine is 34 years old. “Pod Climber” is only seven months
old. Yeah. Wow.
So what is Podcasting and why should you care? Glad you asked.
The 360 View
“Podcasting.” In the dictionary, right next to “zowie.”
Podcasting is a means of distributing audio programs via the
Internet. Users subscribe to a number of programs, and then
listen to the material at a time that they choose.
Translation: Podcasts are audio shows of various lengths that
are sent directly to your computer via syndication.
Like a newspaper subscription delivered daily to your lawn,
Podcasts are delivered right to your computer. You don’t have to
remember to visit specific websites to get updates, giving you
time to do other things. Like read our white papers. Today, the
great majority of Podcasts are free. All of them let you get the
audio programming you want, when you want it with very
By the way, the name Podcast comes from the combination of
Pod from iPod, the most often used MP3 player, and
broadcasting. But you probably already figured that out.
The new kid on the Blog.
No, it’s not the name of the newest boy band. Thank God. It’s
what Podcasting is. Or was.
A little history lesson:
Podcasting was a minor media player in 2004 and early 2005
as the technology employed to deliver the programs, Really
Simple Syndication or RSS, became standardized and gained
distribution. RSS allows Internet users to subscribe to websites
that have provided RSS feeds. These are typically sites that
change or add content regularly. Still with me?
At first, RSS gave the builders of text-based Blogs the opportunity
to distribute new text postings directly to interested readers.
The same technology used for text delivery allows Podcast
program subscribers to get their audio Podcasts delivered.
The 360 View
While RSS is clearly a good idea, it is simply too difficult to use
unless you are a dedicated web user with a “be the first on your
block” (or Blog) technology mind-set. To make all of this magic
work, you need to download one of at least 45 popular and
somewhat geeky RSS feed readers or aggregators and figure
out how to make it do its magic. This is a bit too Palo Alto for
most of us (I am not talking to the tech-cognoscenti here).
However, in the past year Google, Yahoo! and MSN have helped
us out by adding user-friendly RSS to their personalized
sections. Everyday users do not have to download anything and
do not have to read a RSS user manual to subscribe to the feeds
they want – RSS becomes invisible just like html. They have no
need to ever hear the name RSS again.
The world dramatically changed in May 2005 with the introduction
of audio Podcasting programs to Apple’s iTunes 30 million music
store customers (see Fig. 1 on page 4). Apple once again
revolutionized the Internet landscape and took the not-so-simple
Really Simple Syndication and made it, well, really, really simple.
With one click, iTunes 4.9 made it possible for us to subscribe to
different audio feeds and have them automatically delivered to
iTunes and then transferred to your iPod (or if you prefer, just to
Apple allows Podcast producers to add their listings for free and
added a comprehensive user-friendly directory. This is very
important because you could be the next Podcast producer just
like our friends at Pod Climber.
Audio Podcasting recently gained additional energy with the
birth of Yahoo! Podcasts (see Fig. 2 on page 4). Yes, more one-
click ease and a directory of hundreds of Podcasts. Beautiful.
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Fig. 1: iTunes Podcast section on iTunes Music Store
Fig. 2: Yahoo! Podcasts http://podcasts.yahoo.com
The 360 View
The Pod People cometh.
“Pod People” jokes aside, the power of Podcasting lies in its
ability to give consumers the information and entertainment
they want, when they want it, which will ultimately help
marketers reach and influence their audiences in new ways.
I’m not the only one to notice this. Podcasting is getting hot. You
know something is up when Katie and Matt, the quintessential
two-peas-in-a-pod, discuss Podcasting on the TODAY Show.
In fact, according to April 2005’s PEW Internet Study, one of the
most reliable predictors of growth, by the end of 2006 there will
be 10 million Podcast users. I am convinced that they may be off
by at least 50%.
Two days after release of Podcasting on iTunes, Apple reported
one million Podcast subscriptions. Two…days!
According to Business Week (May 16, 2005): “Over the past
six months, the number of Podcasts has jumped 25-fold to
5,302 feeds in mid-May.” Uh, that was before iTunes and
Yahoo! democratized Podcasting.
From last July: “Researchers at The Diffusion Group predicted
this week that the U.S. Podcast audience will climb from
840,000 last year to 56 million by 2010. By that time,
three-quarters of all people who own portable digital music
players will listen to Podcasts, up from less than 15 percent
last year,” the digital entertainment research group said.
Additional insights come from Yahoo!’s October 2005 white
paper “RSS – Crossing into the Mainstream,” which states
that 28% of Internet users are aware of Podcasting, but
only 2% currently subscribe to Podcasts, pointing to a clear
growth area for publishers and marketers.
Yes, Pod People are indeed everywhere and those who haven’t
been assimilated yet, will be. This, as it turns out, is a good thing.
The 360 View
You see, lots of different people use Podcasts. The current ticket
to Podcast membership is the desire to listen to the spoken
word and the money to own an MP3 player to take your Podcasts
with you. Today’s Podcast users are older and more educated
than you might imagine. But don’t take my word for it.
According to Billboard Radio Monitor (August 19, 2005):
“A survey of over 8,000 American consumers by pollsters CLX
has revealed that Podcasting is most popular with those over
45, with 21% of those questioned listening to Podcasts. This
compares to just 13% of 15 to 24-year olds.”
Okay, so now you know what Podcasting is.
Here’s why you should care.
Like the Digital Video Recorders (think TiVo) that came before
it, Podcasting gives people the ability to control their media
consumption. This shift from passive consumption to consumer
control is important to any marketer who uses media to reach
and win the minds and hearts of consumers. Just like TiVo and
TV, people opt-in to receive the Podcasts that interest them,
wait for these Podcasts to be delivered, then listen or watch
when they want to.
With TiVo I can avoid commercials and time-shift my viewing
for my personal convenience. Podcasting gives me the same
freedom and now portability. I no longer have to listen to
terrestrial radio or watch airline movies when traveling on
business. I can readily—and aurally—digest the information I
need with fresh Podcasts that keep me up to speed with latest
thinkers in Silicon Valley (“InfoTalk”), tune me into my old
hometown (WNYC’s Brian Leher), provide a preview on my
upcoming travels (“Three Minutes in Shanghai”) and give me the
scoop on what’s popular in pop culture (Slate Magazine). I can
create my very own personal programming with a single click.
It seems that Do It Yourself-ism isn’t confined to the aisles of
the local Home Depot.
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It gets better.
Apple just cranked Podcasting up another major notch with the
introduction of iTunes Videocasting and its new crop of video-
capable iPods that allow users to play videos, listen to music and
I actually used this technology last week while stuck in a mountain
pass traffic jam for two hours. (Don’t ask.) I was out of radio and
cell range, but lo and behold! My trusty iPod was loaded with the
latest episode of “Desperate Housewives,” courtesy of an iTunes
Videocast. Talk about better living through technology.
At the time of this writing, there are only 78 Videocasts on iTunes.
These are a combination of the somewhat technoid DV “GearTalk”
and the now famous “Rocketboom” (see Fig. 3 below).
Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine suggests that despite this modest
beginning, Videocasting is poised for great things. “I point out all
the things Rocketboom doesn’t have: expensive studios,
equipment, staff, lawyers, deals, marketing budgets,” Jarvis said
three weeks before Apple introduced the easiest way to get
Videocasts. “But they do have audience. Rocketboom serves at
least 60,000 downloads a day. Compare that with Crossfire’s
audience on CNN: 150,000. So Rocketboom has more than a third
of the big network show’s audience at a fraction of the cost. And,
by the way, CNN’s audience is near retirement age, while
Rocketboom’s fans (excluding me) are young enough to be CNN
Don’t worry. More Videocasts are on the way. This is a very hot
space with new, mostly re-purposed shows like NBC Nightly News
and Nightline and personal I-want-to-be-Scorsese mini-films on the
horizon. The options—and opportunities—are limitless.
Fig. 3: Rocketboom http://rocketboom.com/
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It’s a brave new marketing world.
There’s no denying that the Podcasting invasion is in full swing.
So what’s a marketing professional to do?
Of course, “How to Use Podcasting and Videocasting to Reach
Vast Vertical Markets” merits its very own white paper, but here
is the top line of what you should know and do. Yes, it’s still
early. Just think of this as Podcasting’s spring training.
First, the opportunity:
People are very busy. If you can now give them a way to get
“home delivery” so they can watch or listen to your message
when they want, everyone wins. To put it another way, direct
personal delivery to a constituency that has actively asked for
your message is good. Very good.
Audio and video programming will take on a new life as
Podcasting allows them to be delivered with greater ease.
Podcasting provides a delivery tool that works harder, and
actually gets through better, than email. Let’s face it. E-mail
newsletters are so 2004.
People have unique entertainment and business information
needs. Microcasting works to deliver a targeted message to a
wide array of very interested markets.
-- Now, the how to use.
The 360 View
Here are a few examples of how marketers can use Podcasting
to reach external markets and to speak with internal
On the simplest level, just sponsor a couple of targeted Podcasts
and Videocasts. Lexus now sponsors KCRW’s Podcasts. Shouldn’t
Robert Mondavi sponsor “Grape Radio?” C’mon folks this is the
easy way for you to tell your boss that you are on the cutting
edge of Podom. And, it isn’t like these shows can’t pull large
audiences. “This Week In Tech”, arguably the number one
Podcast, has over 200,000 weekly listeners.
Produce your own category-specific audio and video shows. Take
advantage of what’s essentially the newest broadcast medium.
IBM has created a series of Podcasts now running on iTunes
including “IBM and the Future of Shopping.” Whirlpool created “The
American Family” (see Fig.4 below). What could you produce? I
know that you can be a bit more – uh - more exciting shall we say.
Create a new form of active audio and video collateral materials.
Why are there so many out-of-date paper-based brochures? This
is another nail in the ink and paper coffin.
Deliver audio and video press releases that have life to them.
The big players will. Why shouldn’t you?
Do video demos of new products and send them to your
Evangelists and the bored press.
Make your CEO, COO or CTO a star. I see a raise coming.
Talk directly with employees and shareholders via the delivery
of Podcasting news events.
Fig. 4: Whirlpool’s “The American Family” Podcast
The 360 View
They come in peace.
And it’s time to get a piece of the action.
Despite the fact that the acronym RSS will quickly die away, the
syndication of Podcasts is here to stay and will begin to play an
increasingly important role in marketing programs. Just as we
discussed a couple of years ago in our white paper on the TiVo
effect, consumer control of the media and personalization is a good
thing for marketers.
Moreover, it is a great thing for forward-thinking marketers with a
vision and the desire to try the new.
This vision will require marketers to start to think more like editors
and journalists. More like producers than ad-builders. More about
conversations than lecturers. More two-way than one-way. More
niche than mass.
The tough-love reality is that unlike push media (TV and even
Web 1.0), syndication and Podcasting requires a new breed of
marketers with the skill-sets to create marketing messages that
consumers will actually choose to consume. I’ve got to tell you folks,
it is more difficult to create content that people choose to listen to
than it is to force-feed messaging via hit and run commercials. That
said; imagine hitting RSS and Podcasting’s sweet spot. We will go
from having a large percentage of our messages ignored to having
them be anticipated. What a concept.
No, this is not the death of old media.
In fact, we believe that it is imperative that old media (which still
dominates in audience reach by the way) and these new
technologies work seamlessly together in a perfect 360º world.
Whew, I knew I had to get that in.
The 360 View
We want you. We are looking for that handful of marketers that are
willing to take the leap into Podcasting and Videocasting. We have
been developing global, national and regional marketing strategies
leading to stand-out audio and video programming for 20 years.
To add to our core competencies, we have assembled a team of
experienced Podcasters, Bloggers, writers, art directors, animators,
audio and video producers and Internet entrepreneurs. We have
the tools and experience to get you started on your journey.
Just call me at 541-388-2003 or send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me a critical marketing objective
and fifteen minutes and I’ll give you your Podcast strategy. I mean it.
W H AT I S T H E 36 0 V I E W ?
It’s a series of white papers featuring marketing insights
from Ralston360 CEO Peter Levitan. The 360 View provides
business and marketing professionals with new perspectives
on what makes marketing communications work. Not yesterday.
Not tomorrow. Not in theory. But in the real world, right now.
To get a fresh outlook on the business of creating, nurturing
and maintaining Delighted Customers, check out Peter’s next
360 View. You’ll find a visionary approach to marketing
communications. And a 360º view of how to make it work.
Past 360 Views can be seen at ralston360.com.
W E D E L I V E R
Ralston360 is dedicated to helping clients
exceed marketing objectives and ROI goals.
We are dedicated to getting our clients and
their messages noticed.
We do not have a one-size-fits-all solution, and
recognize that the most effective program is
based on the right brand strategy, advertising,
direct response or grass roots marketing.
Our mantra is simple: We help our clients
acquire, stimulate and retain Delighted
W H Y W E D E L I V E R
Ralston360 is a full-service marketing
company with 20 years experience in
national and local markets. Our management
has worked in major agencies in San
Francisco, Seattle, New York, Minneapolis
and London. We offer strategic research and
guidance leading to effective marketing
solutions for print, broadcast, corporate ID,
collateral, direct marketing, trade marketing
and the Internet.
W H O W E H AV E D E L I V E R E D FO R
Just a few of our clients in Oregon,
Washington, Idaho and California:
ACCENT OPTICAL TECHNOLOGIES–the global leader in
optoelectronic process controls
BANK OF THE CASCADES—nationally recognized
CLEAR CHOICE HEALTH PLANS—Medicare-Plus
IDAHO POWER—publicly traded regional electric utility
LEGALZOOM.COM—The leading online legal resource
THE OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY—39 restaurants
SEASWIRL BOATS—International sport and fishing boat
SUNRIVER RESORT—the Northwest’s leading golf and
And some clients from our staff’s deep,
JOHNSON & JOHNSON
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