What is a podcast, and how does it work?
A podcast is a downloadable or streamable audio or video/ audio file that can be accessed via a number of digital platforms. It is a highly versatile medium that allows for on-demand use. There are over 250 media file types that can be used in podcasting. The most common are Mp3 and Mp4 type formats. A user can visit a site that has a media podcast file embedded and listen to it on site. They can download the file to any of a number of devices for a later time. The content comes through like a regular radio or online video program.
Unlike with paid advertising spots, a podcast is permanent and can be accessed at any time by the user. They also permit longer and more creative exploration of topics than a 30-second radio slot allows for. Listeners also do not have to wait for a scheduled radio program hour. They can easily return to content they missed.
Who Listens to (or watches) Them?
Think of podcasts as niche radio programs for people interested in your organization. Some people prefer to read content, and others prefer an audio format. Typical modern podcast users are people who listen to your audio while walking, commuting, or doing housework. Others, to drown out office noise. There are individuals drawn to a human-interest story. You find men and women interested in learning more about atypical subjects. They are people who learn better by watching something be done or listening to it being explained. A recent survey shows us that 1/3 of US citizens over age 12 have listened to podcasts. That number is expected to rise.
What Benefits do Podcasts Provide?
Podcasts permit their generators to explore topics in greater depth than written articles, commercial slots, or standard web sites usually accommodate. They are as permanent as you want them to be, making them very cost-effective. This media is an efficient way to transmit some types of information and content. An audio format allows the creator to publish content that feels personalized, like a dialogue, with the listener.
They are also an excellent workaround to two common problems encountered in modern media. 1. The Clear Channel monopoly that determines most content by perceived saleability and 2. FCC regulations for adult language and content. Podcasts actually started as workarounds to these issues and are considered to be the best solution for democratizing radio.
While all applicable regulations for copyright infringement apply, when discussing content- anything goes. You can run a podcast on the migratory patterns of Kentucky warblers, UFO sightings in Peru, or erotic fiction designed for young adult women. Imagine how much easier it is to learn a complex cake recipe by watching a video blog than by reading a recipe in a standard cookbook. The v-blog format allows you to see how to fold ingredients, when to stop beating the eggs, how to fill the pan, etc.
How does an Organization Start to Design a Podcast Series?
Typically, a podcast user creates an idea for a series of podcasts that are tangentially or directly related thematically. You would consider the added value– both to you and the user groups mentioned above. What might a commuter in your city be interested in listening to on the train? What does your company sell? How might a great story be built around one of your products or services?
It is good practice to think about what goal you want to achieve with your digital stories. Some themes that lend themselves very well to this format are:
- create content that inspires listener action (then tell them how to take the next step)
- tell the human story behind the invention of a new product
- inform your audience about upcoming events, policy changes, etc.
- product and service launches
- tell a success story (or overcoming challenges story)
- teach a skill
- explain uses for your product
- take users into the field to places or sights or sounds they would not otherwise have considered
- entertain the listener
- inspire listeners to support your organizational mission
Many organizations also use podcast platforms to help people inside the organization effectively communicate without spending time on meetings.
What are Some Considerations for Your Organization?
Remember, this is a team effort. You want a professional finish, like everything else your organization puts out. You will want to consider the people who will ideally be involved in the creation of your content. These might include [but are not limited to]:
- Subject matter experts (in-house or invited)
- Story designers
- Elocution specialists
- Sound effects people
- Music- jingle, background, complementary, mood
- For video blog podcasts, consider visual effects, image creation, video creation, translators, sign language interpreters
- A web designer versed in podcast design and publication
- Advice on any copyrights that need to be considered (Creative Commons is a good resource)
- A promotion strategy
The decision to start down the path of podcast creation should take into account a benefit-cost analysis unique to your own situation.
How I can use a Podcast with Inserted SEO content?
If you follow this series, you know that we always consider the SEO content question in every marketing and website tool we discuss. Since web crawlers do not pick up on audio or visual content, there are three main ways to do this with podcasts. The first is to embed your podcast in a brief article with content optimized for search engine accessibility. Second is to use tags if your platform allows for it.
The third and most recommended method is to include a written transcript with your podcast or video blog. This last strategy can serve other purposes as well. It can draw in users who like to read more than listen. Using a trnscript provides an excellent way to organically create SEO. Finally, it is a great tool for adding details that typically do not lend themselves to an audio format. Consider the power of:
*including web links instead of speaking them
*providing a map or directions, phone numbers
*linking to ordering information.
How Can You Get Started Using Podcasts?
Fifteen years ago, podcasts were the realm of technogeeks. Today their popularity has exploded. They are mainstream normal, and with their popularity come hundreds if not thousands of resources to help you get started. Here is one fairly comprehensive online site for helping new users design content. Then there is this example of a site that walks users through the basics of the process and tools. You will want to take the following minimal steps, remembering that each one might have several moving parts to consider:
- Choose your topics and set your intent
- Select your people (see the list above for who you might want to consider)
- Determine your platform(s) for creation; consider geographic restrictions, ease of use, operating costs, functionality
- Choose your platforms and tools for podcast content delivery/ distribution
- Design a promotional strategy- you want people to know you have something they might be interested in!
- Build a relationship with your users based on continuous feedback
Final Word: In-house versus outsourcing
As with many other digital content decisions, there is a lot to consider if your organization is considering podcasts. You may have an excellent voiceover artist on staff but lack a good story-teller. Maybe you want some insight into industry trends so that you design modules that stand out. Your company might have great tech support but lack a content creator. Some might have an in-house expert whose work should be featured, but do not have experience with formal interviews. When you identify your goals, your next step should be to identify your informational resources. The ones you have, and the ones you need.
Arcada Labs has many web and content experts on-hand that can help at various stages of the process. For a no-obligation consultation, feel free to contact us! We also invite you to check out the resources provided in the vetted links above.