Call it the new underground radio, or perhaps the next step in future media, but “podcasting” has all but conquered the Internet. By offering Web users a new dimension in obtaining news, fringe entertainment, and music from up and coming and/or established artists, the podcast is yet another way the Internet expands its interactivity. We can do more than see, we hear and we listen…and are introduced to new ideas and cultures that miss the mainstream.
Simply defined, a “podcast” is an audio clip, a miniature radio program focusing on a topic like travel, art, news, sports, or just about anything of interest. The term comes from a combination of “broadcast” and “iPod”, as these short clips are primarily downloaded for use iPods and portable MP3 players. Clips may range from five to twenty minutes long to allow for easy downloading, and may be found through specific websites that offer podcasts or through specialized portals like Libsyn, that host podcasting communities. Web users interested in listening to podcasts may use a specialized search engine like Odeo or iTunes to find thousands currently available.
For website owners, authors, musicians, and others interested in a unique method of reach, a podcast can be a valuable marketing tool. Whether you are selling a book by reading an excerpt or reporting on a favorite travel destination, adding a podcast to your existing website can help drive more traffic to your site, which in turn can increase your visibility and business. There are countless advantages to offering a podcast to existing customers and possible new visitors who enjoy this new technology.
Podcasts are inexpensive to produce! If you think you need to rent a recording studio to make a regular podcast, think again. All you really need is a computer, some good recording software, a microphone, a good speaking voice, and the willingness to have a little fun. A quick Internet search will direct you to recommended programs, particularly freeware and/or shareware that works well in a pinch until you are able to spend a bit of money for a more sophisticated production. If you find you are running out of memory saving podcasts to your computer, simply burn the MP3 files onto CDs and keep going!
Podcasts broaden your audience! As you begin to build a podcast archive, you increase the opportunity for your website to be found through search. Also, a podcast allows your site to be listed in specialized search portals dedicated to audio-enhanced websites, thereby increasing your link popularity. Say you are a writer of mysteries and introduce a podcast about your novels and the mystery genre in general. A podcast listener searching for that particular topic may find you through your podcast, but not necessarily have found you another way. With the podcast, you open your door to a possible reader, and perhaps others who may not be into mystery, but might change their minds upon hearing your show!
Podcasts introduce a new level of comfort! Podcasts offer a new dimension to your website, a personalization unmatched by the written word. When you deliver a voice to accompany your website content you enhance the style of your site, attracting visitors to the “real” person behind the website. The concept, of course, is hardly new. During his presidential administration, Franklin Roosevelt addressed the nation through radio “fireside chats,” which were very effective in increasing public awareness and support. The broadcasts helped to amplify an agreeable persona in the president, which bolstered the spirits of the nation during wartime.
Now, it’s likely your podcast will not be designed to rally troops to victory. But, to offer this option to site visitors can endear people to the image you project, and in turn help sell your books, music, and services.
Podcasts give you a voice! With a podcast you can reinvent yourself. Do you operate a website of restaurant reviews? You can host “The Phantom Dining Booth,” as the secret diner who reports the daily specials around town. If you write romances, you can tout your own works and become the new Mary Hart, offering irreverent news and gossip on the romance publishing industry. Serious or playful, using a podcast gives your site a unique voice that you can work to your advantage.
Once you have made the decision to record a podcast, next comes the fun part, actually making it. In Part II of this article, we’ll go over the procedures to create, upload, and promote a podcast.