Podcasting: Why Bother?

Podcasting is being touted as the newest word in the dictionary, as search engines like Google and Ask have incorporated the distribution format into their search engine ranking pages (SERPs). It can help businesses create great brands and forge new and more intimate relationships with their clients as the clients listen to audio podcasts and watch videos, with feeds syndicating both blogs and podcasts.

Podcasting: one word. It simply means putting together multimedia presentations in a digital media format and syndicating them over the web. Such presentations can be downloaded by users and played on their computers, iPods and other Mp3 players. Podcasts can be syndicated (like RSS feeds) and are updated regularly. Once updated, the user’s feed is also updated automatically. 

So why bother? What does this have to do with search engine optimization and/or Internet marketing? Well first things first; Right now I am still learning how to create podcasts for content purposes. And while I would not say i am a total newbie at creating and editing podcasts, it is not yet my neck of the woods — it’s pretty easy though, and is not  comparable to neuroscience or learning Latin. In this article, however, I will not be talking about how to make podcasts. I will be talking about why.

The Need

Technology and marketing follow each other, but tech always gets ahead of the marketers. Only the brave and the extremely adventurous moved their advertising budgets wholesale to the Internet when it became another media. Most fortune 500 companies still devote just a fraction of their ad budgets to online advertising, with the majority of the budget still going to TV.

However, in the next few years all these companies are going make major investments in online advertising (albeit late). When it comes to podcasting most companies that currently have syndicated podcasts (not just direct multimedia downloads) are web-based companies. Most other companies that are getting into the business of promoting their products online have forums, blogs and ezines but have simply not clued in to the concept of syndicated podcasts.

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Needless to say, everybody has an MP3 player (okay, not every body) and a lot of them even have video iPods. People want everything served up in a form which they can easily carry around if they find it compelling, intriguing or interesting. Now I don’t save my emails but if I get a very interesting one I print it out. In contrast, I always have my favorite ten tracks in my MP3 player — so whenever I want to listen to "Stronger" I just push a button. 

So what about that Motley Fool piece on when to sell shares? Well, not only is it not in my email, it’s still online, and I can’t remember the details exactly; I just read it once and… Okay, before I lose you, Motley Fool could have done an audio rendition of their article and made it available for download, and their ezines (which always have this link back to their site before I can read ANYTHING!) should have a syndicated feed for podcasting.

Now note that Motley Fool offers advice on financial matters and may need to have their legal terms on the same page. Still, this is not just about fool.com; most web sites that offer regular ezines can easily create audio podcasts, giving their subscribers more options and also giving themselves more marketing options, such as YouTube and other video aggregators. In this world of instant gratification, web sites like Motley Fool delay the user! Again note that I am just using Motley Fool as a model; I actually believe their products are more helpful to the user than to themselves.

Upside Potential

When it comes to creating podcasts, you can do no wrong. With an estimated ten billion mobile devices to be connected to the Internet by 2010, and every manufacturer of consumer electronics making sure that their mobile devices can play pretty much everything, tools that are commonly found in the average person’s pocket, (phones, organizers, handheld video games) can now play audio and video in MP3, MP4 and other digital formats. The digital streaming market is a booming market, especially for videos. Analysts like Piper Jaffrey project that most money in online advertising will move to video ads and not predominantly stay in the text-based ads, which is the situation we have today. The downloadable digital streaming media market is just set to explode.

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If the industry is catching on so strongly, and the potential is so high, what makes people not get into podcasting? A lot of of the time it’s just plain laziness. Don’t get me wrong, the laziness is not the inability to create podcasts, but a lot of people have no idea exactly what a podcast is, let alone what is the best way to create and market one. A podcast is just like a TV or a radio program; the syndicated feed will be available at regular intervals. Just as a newsletter comes out at regular intervals, a podcast also comes out at regular intervals.

Another issue is that some podcasts can be complicated to create (videos for example) and the necessary creative skill may not be readily available. But not everybody needs a complicated monthly video directed by Ridley Scott. You can get dozens of videos over at Yahoo News. what you simply need is a webcast that is transferred to your user as a feed. An example of this is Kevin Rose’s Diggnation Dish. Additionally, there are dozens of video podcasts on www.revision3.com. Most of them are weekly. Studying these podcasts will show you that video podcasts don’t need to be Emmy award winners.

But even more popular than video podcasts are audio podcasts in MP3, RealPlayer and other audio formats. While you need some video recording equipment for a video podcast, you can create an audio podcast just by connecting a microphone to your computer and having a relatively good sound editing package (to convert you .wav to .mp3 or a lighter digital format than the original recording). Audio podcasts are easily recorded and  ensure that your users get your rapidly changing content. They also ensure that you have more versatility in your content; by creating multimedia you can actually do more and be more creative in the types of content you use and where you get it.

Do Basic Linking And Generate Activity

How do you link back to your site and (even more important) generate activity back to your sites? Danny Wall has written a classic piece on how to quickly use videos to do this in his article on getting to the number one position on Google. I am going to look at certain points he raised, and relate them to why you should create your podcasts. You can create videos and podcasts and offer them through third party feed syndicators; this is easy since all the online channels are always looking for new and interesting content. Your feeds will all link back to your content — and even better, you have a byline in which you can add links back to your site.

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You can hold online competitions where your users can create videos for your feed and then give prizes for whichever video has the highest number of votes. The polls will be conducted on your site. This will generate activity for your site as you will have traffic coming over to submit videos and also users coming over to vote for their favorite videos. You will also have dozens of video podcasts created for you for free. This method creates both a viral marketing buzz and a community around your web site. The mere act of placing your podcast on video aggregation sites gives you back links.

A New Form Of Content

Video content on niche topics (such as how to make beads or how to change a Bumblebee into a Camaro) will reach high rankings on the SERPs, particularly if you optimize them for this — few people actually deliberately optimize their videos on the SERPs, according to Bruceclay "At its most basic core, a podcast is a blog in audio form. The difference with podcasting is that content creators are able to connect with users on a very basic level by engaging in conversations through voice. It’s real discussion captured in an audio file. The files are then uploaded onto the Web and made available through an RSS feed so that users armed with an iPod or some other media device can download it and listen to the MP3 at their leisure offline." This service can be helpful for people offering online teaching courses or pastors who want to syndicate their sermons for members of their congregation.

Right now a lot more individual downloads are made than people subscribing to podcast channels. eMarket John Belchers projects that revenue made from podcasting will be close to $400 million dollars with 55 million subscribers to podcasts by 2011. As podcasting channels (video aggregators) grow in size, the podcasts and channels on them will explode. Just a few years ago nobody had even heard of YouTube; now podcasting media and digital media downloads on the net (not just on YouTube) have an estimated six million users. Why not get in on this new way to build visitors and potential customers for your web site?

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