A podcast by any other name . . .

Someone recently told me that they saw a news item about a local organization podcasting. I checked it out and they weren’t. Instead they were streaming video from their web site. Big difference! Needless to say I was a little disappointed. Since words like social networking, Web 2.0 and podcasting are so new it’s to be expected that they are sometimes used out of context.

At one point in time many podcasters were content to go along with the confusion on the grounds that it was a good thing that people were turning to the web for audio and video regardless of the finer details. I was uncomfortable with it but went along with them for a little while. Not anymore though. Podcasting is so much richer and the audience experience is so much grander than simple streaming video or audio.

Podcasting is portable – you can take it with you when you download it to a portable device like an iPod or MP3 player or cell phone. Some folks burn their downloaded podcasts to CD’s and use them in vehicles that aren’t iPod equipped. Or you can listen or view it on your computer if that’s more convenient. Oh ya . . . podcasting is convenient as well. Streaming audio or video can sometimes be live which has a unique value unto itself. If the content producer records it and publishes it as podcast then the audience can enjoy that experience as well.

Podcasts are something you subscribe to. When a new episode comes out you pick it up with your aggregator, reader or podcatcher and away you go. If your new video goes up on your streaming site I might miss it. This is really important for time sensitive materials. The great thing about podcasts is that I can listen to them as often (or as little) as I want. Most podcasts are standard file types (MP3 for audio and Mpeg4 for video) so they work with almost any portable player. Streaming video relies on your audience having the right viewer and version to make it work (anyone still using REALplayer?).

Streaming video views can be tracked. Every time someone clicks on your website based video or audio you will have a good idea that they watched it and how many times it was watched. When a podcast gets downloaded you don’t know what will happen to it. How many times it is viewed and by how many people is something that gets lost after it leaves your hosting site. But which is more important? Tracking stats or audience convenience?

Streaming video and podcasts are different. I think Podcasts are a better, richer, more complete experience for the audience. Give me podcasts to go anytime!

Dean

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