While reading Tom Webster’s blog post where he gives a preview of his upcoming talk at Blogworld 2010 it was exciting to see that according to his work with Edison Research, the audience for podcasting is growing. A slow but steady growth since 2005 now shows that in 2010 almost 1 in 4 Americans have listened to an audio podcast. Podcasting never took the world by storm like Twitter or Facebook but when compared to traditional media it’s a big winner. While broadcasting and print media are fighting for their life and trying everything they can to slow down the decline in viewers, the continuing growth trend in podcasting is incredible in comparison.
Podcasting has grown in two ways. Quality of podcast production has improved thanks to affordable technology and production processes shared by the podcasting and open source community. Trailblazers willing to share their successful strategies with others have made it easier for independent content producers to bring quality shows to the listening audience. As a delivery platform for content it has taken off in different directions with podcasting becoming a tool for both sides of the same coin.
Broadcasting, radio and television has taken to podcasting as a delivery method to redistribute or re-purpose their content. They produce a show for traditional television viewing and then repackage it in whole or in part as a podcast. They have the material anyway and this adds to the reach by making it available to another segment of the audience through time shifting. Just like the traditional broadcast model the costs of a podcasting strategy are supported by advertising in the podcast. Typically the advertising assets used are commercials inserted into the podcast episode. Examples of broadcast networks re-purposing content are CBC, NPR and TSN.
The oddity of podcasting is that it gives independent content producers the opportunity to bring their material to a world wide audience which is in direct competition to the traditional broadcasting industry. These independent producers provide access to niche topics which the traditional broadcasters do not include in their lineups. Classic examples of the Long Tail theory of digital production and distribution, these podcast shows provide an opportunity for alternative views and narrow interests to find their audience. Many of these podcast producers are driven by the love and passion for their topic and generate little to no revenue. There is however a sector for podcasting producers who are creating premium quality content which are recognized by advertisers as being a valuable platform and are viewed as operating with robust business models. The ultimate example of the independent podcast producer making it big is Leo Laporte and the TWIT network. Laporte left traditional broadcasting many years ago to pursue internet based content delivery and now heads a multi-million dollar web media network which has grown to include live web casting as well as podcasting.
Podcasting is more than a broadcast medium and it has grown in education. Podcasting has proven itself as a valuable tool in the teaching-learning process in K-12 and post-secondary schools. As a technology it has been embraced by teachers around the world while being supported by companies such as Apple who provide supportive services and technology through channels such as iTunesU. Although many educators are interested in leveraging podcasting as another tool to communicate with their students it still hasn’t reached the critical mass it was hoped for when introduced a few years ago. It is expected that the next generation of students who are growing up with the delivery of digital content via smart phones and similar devices will demand that the educational institution of their choice provide learning materials in digital formats such as podcasting.
Using an information rich media like podcasting as a customer and marketing outreach platform is growing. This type of show is sponsored by a company but rather than an advertising spot as seen on traditional Television, these shows deal with lifestyle topics related to the sponsors products or services. Similar to the early days of radio where soap companies would sponsor an entertainment based show which would include their advertising commercials embedded in the plot lines or interspersed throughout the show, these podcasting shows are a new way to market to an audience seeking relationship building with a vendor versus hard-sell advertising.
The future path of podcasting may see more twists and turns but there is no doubt that it has a future and will continue to grow.