Put simply: a podcast is a media file which is sent via the internet to a computer, and which can then be downloaded onto a personal media player.
What are podcasts like? Many of them are niche "shows" on all the topics under the sun, there is a lot of variety of style content and production standard. Successful podcasts compete directly with radio for your audio time, and video podcasts are a growing sector.
Models for corporate podcasting include the audio-visual company newsletter, key training, charitable or fund-raising, updates on a campaign. Podcasts also play a role on shaping consumer and political opinion worldwide - they are word of mouth writ large.
The word podcast has come to mean any audio or video online, but most podcasts are released on regular schedule, and this regularity helps keep an audience engaged. A one-off podcast is not going to maximise the potential of this medium.
Much of podcasting resembles niche publishing, with the podcaster maintaining the interest in their key but narrow area, each podcast forming the next chapter in an ongoing dialogue with their listeners. This well-established publishing model is simple, easy to plan, and works well for many businesses.
Push / Pull Podcast Technology
Podcasting is an automatic mechanism whereby multimedia computer files are transferred from a server to a client, which pulls down XML files containing the Internet addresses of the media files. In general, these files contain audio or video, but also could be images, text, PDF, or any file type.
In simple terms, once subscribed you automatically receive each new episode.
Easy to use software automatically downloads new podcasts, which are able to be copied onto computers, playstations, or mobile media players.
What sets podcasting apart from conventional published and broadcast media is that it is a two-way communication. Enhanced podcasts can contain email and web links, so that the mechanisms for customer response are built into the media stream.
This feedback loop is perhaps the most important yet least understood aspect of social media. If you set up your podcasting with the right editorial structure in place, you can maintain and build interest. But if you allow people to play their role in your programme-making and contribute, you can gather valuable data from an engaged audience.
User generated content can be as simple as a voice message, or an email. Well-planned corporate podcasts should definitely build this into their podcast strategy.
Just for Christmas
There are commercial implications to this activity. Your podcast planning should allow for this effect, especially if any part of your interest in podcasting lies in providing any kind of product or public service. But it's not just about making sure product awareness is up to date, or published schedules are current; it's about the potential for creating longer-term archival value.