Guest Post – Podcasting Isn’t Dead at All

Daniel Steinberg The following is a guest post from Daniel Steinberg, a veteran podcaster, and a personal hero of mine. Daniel’s one of the first “big names” I ever reached out to on the web, and he was gracious, friendly, and patient with me (I was critiquing his show). His opinion on podcasting should be heeded much more than mine.

Podcasting Isn’t Dead At All

Chris Brogan writes that Podcasting as we all thought it might be in 2006 is gone. 2006 was the year that I first met Chris. He emailed me with some suggestions for the Distributing The Future podcast I was producing for O’Reilly.

They were good suggestions and I took them. But he must have been looking at podcasting differently than I was because podcasting is a lot like I thought it would be in 2006. It’s a varied mix of offerings by people with different motives, talents, and audiences. There remains a lot of opportunity for podcasters — last year was my best year ever — and the future is even brighter.

Podcasting dead? That’s like a teenager complaining that they’re bored. There is so much creativity being captured in podcasts. It may be hard to find the content you want, but podcasting isn’t dead. It’s not even stunned.

I came out of radio, so for me podcasting was all about talking to one person at a time. But podcasting isn’t the same as radio. The listener’s commitment to us is different and our obligation to them must be different as well.

I recently complained on Twitter of a podcast I subscribe to that begins with a forty second canned intro before you get to any new material. As if that wasn’t bad enough the first words in the canned intro is “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls.” Who are they talking to? Long time radio buddy Chuck Collins replied to my tweet with this “you are not onstage, you are inside the listeners head! Don’t invite a crowd.” Chuck should be podcasting.

There are people who say that the NPR shows that you’ll find on iTunes aren’t podcasts and there are others who say the impromptu shows that feature some friends around a microphone aren’t podcasts. They—and everything in between—are all podcasts. There is no podcast police. Just as there is room on the radio dial for everything from highly edited and produced shows like “This American Life” to call-in sports shows like “The Jim Rome Show” there is even more room in the world of podcasting for a diverse world of content and style. I subscribe to “On the Media”, “TWiT”, “Late Night Cocoa”, and “Stephen Fry’s PODGRAMS.” There all as different as can be but they are all podcasts.

Dave Winer writes in Chris’ comments that podcasting “just isn’t what these guys thought it would be. No big deal. Now we can get on with what it really is.” But we don’t know what podcasting really is any more than we know what photography really is.

In one sense I agree with Dave—radio really changed when the non-radio people started buying up stations and started focusing on short term profits. So if you, like Chris, are mainly interested in the business case for podcasts then some things have changed since 2006. But much hasn’t changed.

Podcasts are a great way to create, grow, and serve an audience in a very personal way.

Podcasts are a valuable channel that your businesses can use to talk directly to your customers. You need to understand how audio differs from other media and how podcasts differ from other delivery systems. If you do, you will benefit tremendously. Can any company benefit from a podcast? I think so. Let’s put together a few pitches for podcasts that don’t yet exist.

There is no end to worthwhile creative ideas for podcasts. You need to pair the pitch with a solid business case. Identify your audience and your goal. Find your story and think about who best can tell that story to that audience.

Let’s take two big pitches—one to Make Magazine and one to The Walt Disney Company—and rif on them a bit.

Start with Make Magazine, for example. This is a wildly popular magazine that features the cool things that people make and customize. But it only comes out quarterly… so they also have a blog where they’re always on the lookout for cool things. Many of these items will never make it to the magazine where space is a premium. In the magazine, for many of the items you have 200-300 words to tell your story. That’s not a lot.

Make has a video podcast that is perfect for their needs. They demonstrate weekend projects in a short and engaging way. Make is also about to debut a new television show on public television.

What could a weekly audio podcast add to all of these offerings? Through audio you can get to know the makers and what makes them tick. In the magazine we get a little of that in the longer pieces but we’re mainly focused on what they are making and how. We can include people who have created ideas that aren’t so visual and we can find them anywhere in the world without sending a camera crew.

We can also resell our food. The same reporters who have written articles for the magazine can tell the parts of the story that wouldn’t fit into the 300 words they were given. They can talk to people who tried the project themselves and have advice on where things can go wrong. I wandered around the Maker Faire last year with a microphone and captured some amazing compelling audio from Makers and fans that could have been edited down into a compelling series of podcasts. This is a show full of stories, inexpensive to produce (compared to a magazine or television), with amazing audio, and high sponsorship potential.

But there’s only one Make magazine and maybe they aren’t interested in a podcast or maybe they hire someone else to do it. What then? Look closer to home. Newspapers are in trouble and are cutting back and you, as a podcaster, can help them. How about a weekly podcast from the Arts section where the regular columnists and critics contributed pieces.

In a typical show the music critic could do an audio preview of the music that would be performed by the Orchestra this week and the food critic could visit local restaurants and talk to chefs and patrons. Why the arts section? Because this is a targeted demographic that you can sell to advertisers. This is also an area of the paper that does not tend to be served by other media. A sports podcast would probably not go over as well because your local radio and television cover the same stories the newspaper does. The arts are probably undercovered on radio and tv. If you’re going to pitch a sports podcast, look for holes in area coverage—maybe you do a high school sports roundup instead of focusing on the same pro games as everyone else.

Audio is great for communicating personalities and emotion. Audio paints great pictures that include the listener. With video the consumer sits outside the scene while with audio the consumer creates the scene. Audio brings me into a story quickly.

The key to audio is great stories and good story tellers. Walt Disney World has both. The parks and resorts are filled with great stories and their guests and cast members (with your editing and directing help) are great story tellers.

A year ago I did an internal podcast for Disney for one of their technology groups and spent a week in Orlando. At the end of each day we would head over to one of the parks for a meal or just to wander around. Every cast member I spent time with had great stories. They showed me an area of the parks I’d never noticed. They talked about some feature they particularly liked. They pointed out why the lions sit on that same rock in the Animal Kingdom Safari. They talked about time they’d spent in the park in Paris.

As an experiment, I called a couple of friends when I got home and asked them for their favorite Disney memories. One told me how his parents had taught him his phone number growing up to the tune of “It’s a Small World”. Another plans to run in a Disney marathon some day. I hadn’t even known there was a Disney marathon. Another loved walking out the back of Epcot and taking a quick boat ride over to the Hollywood Studios.

It’s not hard to imagine a weekly 15-20 minute WDW podcast for existing fans that isn’t marketing driven. Sure the American Idol attraction is opening in a couple of months—but everyone will be covering that. This show is a nod and a wink at people who are in the know. As for the business case, you are encouraging visitors to come back more often than they might otherwise have done, to stay a day longer to fit in everything they are hearing about, to come for some special event they didn’t know about, or to stay on property for the first time.

But again, you don’t need to sell a show to Disney to be successful. Look closer to home at entities that have existing fans that want to encourage them to come more often or to try new things when they do come. I produced a weekly show for a local jazz club that featured artists coming to town in the next month. It took people who were listening to the show for one artist that they knew and liked and introduced them to other artists they might want to come see. I’ve produced podcasts from conference presentations—people who can’t make it to your conference listen to these. Some conferences see this as money lost, but it is also a great way to interest someone enough that they might attend the following year. And you can often get a sponsor for these podcasts. Local colleges always have something going on. There are lectures, sporting events, shows, and more. A regular podcast serves the existing students, touches alumns in a way that encourages them to give money, and can be an effective recruiting tool.

Podcasting isn’t dead. I produced well over one hundred shows last year and have had great success with clients who understand their audience and have a story to tell them.

Daniel Steinberg is a podcaster, author, editor, trainer, and developer at Dim Sum Thinking. He co-authored the book Zero Configuration Networking: The Definitive Guide. He is also the author for two Pragmatic titles, Producing Compelling Audio and Podcasting Tricks.

ChrisBrogan.com runs on the Genesis Framework

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  • http://www.monthiel.com Monthiel

    Great Article, good points.

  • http://www.monthiel.com Monthiel

    Great Article, good points.

  • http://meadowsonline.com John Meadows

    What a great post to read on the last day of 2008!

  • http://meadowsonline.com John Meadows

    What a great post to read on the last day of 2008!

  • http://www.stickyfigure.com Steve Woodruff

    “…have had great success with clients who understand their audience and have a story to tell them.” I’ve had a narrow tendency to view podcasting from a technical perspective, and felt that it would quickly be obsolete. Hadn’t really considered the storytelling angle. Now I need to re-think this…

  • http://www.stickyfigure.com Steve Woodruff

    “…have had great success with clients who understand their audience and have a story to tell them.” I’ve had a narrow tendency to view podcasting from a technical perspective, and felt that it would quickly be obsolete. Hadn’t really considered the storytelling angle. Now I need to re-think this…

  • http://anneisaman.blogspot.com Anne is a Man

    I would like to add that podcast is also a great educational tool. Teachers have been talking to their students since the dawning of time. There was always a problem for the student who missed class, or would like to hear the lesson again. Podcasting answers this. The podcast lectures educational institutions put on line, are in my opinion both the natural thing for them to do as well as one of the most valuable addition to the podcasting landscape.
    My own modest contribution is to review these podcasts on my blog – Anne is a Man – podcast reviews

    cheers,

    Anne

  • http://anneisaman.blogspot.com Anne is a Man

    I would like to add that podcast is also a great educational tool. Teachers have been talking to their students since the dawning of time. There was always a problem for the student who missed class, or would like to hear the lesson again. Podcasting answers this. The podcast lectures educational institutions put on line, are in my opinion both the natural thing for them to do as well as one of the most valuable addition to the podcasting landscape.
    My own modest contribution is to review these podcasts on my blog – Anne is a Man – podcast reviews

    cheers,

    Anne

  • http://twitter.com/mybiziz Mark Shimko

    What a fantastically detailed argument in favor of podcasting.
    With respect to being able to communicate a message, the often sited Albert Mehrabian study shows that people interpret what you say by 3 v’s (verbal, vocal and visual). Only 7% of is communicated by the words used (verbal). Tone of voice (vocal) adds another 38%.
    We’ve all experienced emails and other communications that get misinterpreted. By adding vocal through podcasts, you greatly increase the chances of your opinions being taken the way you wanted them to.

  • http://twitter.com/mybiziz Mark Shimko

    What a fantastically detailed argument in favor of podcasting.
    With respect to being able to communicate a message, the often sited Albert Mehrabian study shows that people interpret what you say by 3 v’s (verbal, vocal and visual). Only 7% of is communicated by the words used (verbal). Tone of voice (vocal) adds another 38%.
    We’ve all experienced emails and other communications that get misinterpreted. By adding vocal through podcasts, you greatly increase the chances of your opinions being taken the way you wanted them to.

  • http://doughaslam.com Anonymous

    why would anyone say podcasting is dead? Because the idea that you can quit your dayjob and make a living podcasting is no longer viable? Was it ever?

    I’m with you– podcasting has so many great uses– and they are so easy to produce now. Perhaps now more people are liberated from the idea that the podcast itself generates revenue– it makes whatever does generate revenue for you more valuable

  • http://doughaslam.com Doug Haslam

    why would anyone say podcasting is dead? Because the idea that you can quit your dayjob and make a living podcasting is no longer viable? Was it ever?

    I’m with you– podcasting has so many great uses– and they are so easy to produce now. Perhaps now more people are liberated from the idea that the podcast itself generates revenue– it makes whatever does generate revenue for you more valuable

  • http://www.rowdy.com Rusty Speidel

    I am still VERY interested in discussing podcast distribution models outside of iTunes. What are the hotspots? Most of the podcast “networks” have been a bust for me. Anybody done anything really creative in that area?

  • http://www.rowdy.com Rusty Speidel

    I am still VERY interested in discussing podcast distribution models outside of iTunes. What are the hotspots? Most of the podcast “networks” have been a bust for me. Anybody done anything really creative in that area?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biQWyBcYSX4 Shane

    I agree Daniel. I just wish you would have put your twitter handle on the signature of this post so that it’s easier for people to contact/interact with you.

    Regards
    Shane
    twitter: shanearthur

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biQWyBcYSX4 Shane

    I agree Daniel. I just wish you would have put your twitter handle on the signature of this post so that it’s easier for people to contact/interact with you.

    Regards
    Shane
    twitter: shanearthur

  • Daniel

    Sorry Shane, my Twitter is dimsumthinking

    Happy New Year,

    D

  • Daniel

    Sorry Shane, my Twitter is dimsumthinking

    Happy New Year,

    D

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biQWyBcYSX4 Shane

    Thank you kindly. Now following.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biQWyBcYSX4 Shane

    Thank you kindly. Now following.

  • http://franklinbishop.net/ Blog Expert

    I like podcasting because I’d rather listen to someone instead of reading a post. However, they can get really long because a person goes on and on.

  • http://franklinbishop.net/ Blog Expert

    I like podcasting because I’d rather listen to someone instead of reading a post. However, they can get really long because a person goes on and on.

  • http://mobileandembedded.org Binky

    If podcasting is dead then I wonder why the Mobile & Embedded podcast that I host with my partner is up 100% over last year. But then again I’m very lucky as Daniel acts as our editor. He takes a lousy interview and makes it into something that everyone is proud of. In fact in our last podcast that we just published I had this cute little banter with the guest about his custom made 1960 bluetooth headset. He cut it because it just didn’t work.

    Our format works for us but might not work for everyone else. We do a quick news segment, a feature segment and then finish with “pet peeves and what’s cool”. The feature segment is what I really like. Over the last 66 episodes I’ve been lucky to interview some of the most interesting people in the M&E space. I have to think my favorite was the researcher in Brazil that created a program for cellphones that used bluetooth technology with one of the communities framework projects to communicate to EKG like sensors on a heart attack survivor. At the end of the broadcast he said some thing like unless we add our scientific thinking to what we can do with phones it’s just toys. Boy did that hit home.

    So here are my suggestions for podcasting (mostly from Daniel and from an internal presentation I did a while back.)

    Know your audience (and tarket for them)
    Choose a format (we choose a host format but I really love Daniels NPR format)
    Choose a frequency of publication (we’re weekly but occassionally biweekly)
    Outline and initial set of recording.
    Use your voice not a “radio” voice (you don’t have one unless you had one)
    Prepare in advance (keeps the rambling down)
    In person recordings are the best
    Skype works great for remote interviews
    Hire a professional editor (I can’t tell you how much this really saves us)
    Do your own editing if you have to (but you’re not that good nor do you have the time)
    Allow interview advance review
    Review controversial items (be controversial but cautious)
    Create a web presence
    Create an RSS feed
    Create something like Feedburner to publish
    Submit your podcast to iTunes

  • http://mobileandembedded.org Binky

    If podcasting is dead then I wonder why the Mobile & Embedded podcast that I host with my partner is up 100% over last year. But then again I’m very lucky as Daniel acts as our editor. He takes a lousy interview and makes it into something that everyone is proud of. In fact in our last podcast that we just published I had this cute little banter with the guest about his custom made 1960 bluetooth headset. He cut it because it just didn’t work.

    Our format works for us but might not work for everyone else. We do a quick news segment, a feature segment and then finish with “pet peeves and what’s cool”. The feature segment is what I really like. Over the last 66 episodes I’ve been lucky to interview some of the most interesting people in the M&E space. I have to think my favorite was the researcher in Brazil that created a program for cellphones that used bluetooth technology with one of the communities framework projects to communicate to EKG like sensors on a heart attack survivor. At the end of the broadcast he said some thing like unless we add our scientific thinking to what we can do with phones it’s just toys. Boy did that hit home.

    So here are my suggestions for podcasting (mostly from Daniel and from an internal presentation I did a while back.)

    Know your audience (and tarket for them)
    Choose a format (we choose a host format but I really love Daniels NPR format)
    Choose a frequency of publication (we’re weekly but occassionally biweekly)
    Outline and initial set of recording.
    Use your voice not a “radio” voice (you don’t have one unless you had one)
    Prepare in advance (keeps the rambling down)
    In person recordings are the best
    Skype works great for remote interviews
    Hire a professional editor (I can’t tell you how much this really saves us)
    Do your own editing if you have to (but you’re not that good nor do you have the time)
    Allow interview advance review
    Review controversial items (be controversial but cautious)
    Create a web presence
    Create an RSS feed
    Create something like Feedburner to publish
    Submit your podcast to iTunes

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  • http://www.distantcreations.com/insidethemagic Ricky Brigante

    I host a weekly unofficial Disney podcast (Inside the Magic) and have wondered for the 3.5 years I’ve been doing it why Disney hasn’t come out with something similar on an official basis. They have released a few podcasts from Walt Disney World and Disneyland on and off, but they’ve been closer to commercials or audible press releases than podcasts with new and interesting content targeted towards fans.

    While I do have the longest-running Disney podcast, I’m by no means the *only* one doing it. There are hundreds of Disney fans with their own podcasts all trying to put together what we really wish Disney would release on their own.

    It would absolutely encourage regulars to visit more often. I know because my show does just that. I often get feedback from listeners who say they’ve tried a new restaurant or taken a tour at Walt Disney World as a result of hearing about it on my show. They’ve been to the parks a million times but often overlooked certain aspects of it. It would make great business sense for Disney to take the best of Disney fan podcasts and make an official stab at it.

  • http://www.distantcreations.com/insidethemagic Ricky Brigante

    I host a weekly unofficial Disney podcast (Inside the Magic) and have wondered for the 3.5 years I’ve been doing it why Disney hasn’t come out with something similar on an official basis. They have released a few podcasts from Walt Disney World and Disneyland on and off, but they’ve been closer to commercials or audible press releases than podcasts with new and interesting content targeted towards fans.

    While I do have the longest-running Disney podcast, I’m by no means the *only* one doing it. There are hundreds of Disney fans with their own podcasts all trying to put together what we really wish Disney would release on their own.

    It would absolutely encourage regulars to visit more often. I know because my show does just that. I often get feedback from listeners who say they’ve tried a new restaurant or taken a tour at Walt Disney World as a result of hearing about it on my show. They’ve been to the parks a million times but often overlooked certain aspects of it. It would make great business sense for Disney to take the best of Disney fan podcasts and make an official stab at it.

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    I would like to add that podcast is also a great educational tool. Teachers have been talking to their students since the dawning of time. There was always a problem for the student who missed class, or would like to hear the lesson again. Podcasting answers this. The podcast lectures educational institutions put on line, are in my opinion both the natural thing for them to do as well as one of the most valuable addition to the podcasting landscape.

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