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Podcasting 101: What is a podcast and why should you do it?

By Dawn Sailors   •   6 October, 2011



Podcasting 101: What is a podcast and why should you do it?

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For a short while in 2005, podcasting was poised to be the “next big thing.” Six years later, podcasts have not made the leap into the mainstream that some expected. Despite the fact that they aren’t as ubiquitous as Facebook, podcasts have evolved into an excellent tool that allows organizations and individuals to reach niche audiences across the globe.

Simply put, a podcast is like a radio or television show that users can subscribe to and have delivered to their computer through apps like iTunes. Podcasts can be audio or video files – and video podcasts have had a jump in popularity thanks to MP3 players that also play video. The user can then listen to the podcast on their computer, on their iPod or even on their cell phone. In some cases, podcasts are actual radio shows from organizations like ESPN, NPR and the BBC, who distribute shows digitally to allow for a larger listener base. In other cases, podcasts may be created by amateur broadcasters talking about a topic of interest while in other cases they can come from organizations that want to reach customers via this highly portable medium.

Starting a podcast doesn’t have to be expensive – some organizations run their audio podcasts with a $20 microphone and free software. The big considerations when evaluating if your organization should launch a podcast are:

· Do you have the content?
· Do you have the time?

Podcast content must be of interest and/or value to your potential audience. When thinking about content, it helps to honestly evaluate whether or not an audience would be interested in what you’re talking about. Listening to someone read the company newsletter is probably not worth their time, but if you have a stream of helpful tips, potential interviewees, or ready-made content, you may want to consider podcasting. It’s helpful to listen to other podcasts within your industry to see what types of content people may find “podcast worthy.”

Time is as big a consideration as content. While a podcast may be short (many run under an hour, or less), we’ve found that unless you already have ready made content, creating a podcast can take a considerable length of time. Surveys of some of the podcasters we know indicate that it can take between five and ten hours to edit each podcast – more if you’re doing a video podcast – and that doesn’t include planning content ahead of time and promoting the podcast after it launches.

Despite the time and content needed to be successful, many organizations – particularly nonprofits and member drive organizations – are finding that podcasts help them get the “ear” of their donors, customers and members when done on a regular basis. This has the potential to develop relationships that can be invaluable. If you’re interested in learning about what podcasts are, or seeing how other organizations are using them, visit iTunes and check out their podcast section. Select some of their featured podcasts or search for one that matches your interests and give a listen!

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