Monday, May 29, 2006

Lieb: Why Pod? Yes Pod!

Paul Colligan provides a valid critique of Rebecca Lieb's critique of podcasting as a marketing medium.

First, let me say that Rebecca made a few points that I'm so glad she made, namely:

  1. You don't need an iPod or other portable MP3 player to listen to podcasts.
  2. You need to optimize your file size so they're not so huge.
  3. You need to publish a professional sounding podcast, otherwise your brand suffers.

But, while Paul focused on metrics, I want to focus on a few other points in her article. First, Rebecca comments on audio not being quick. In particular, she says:
"Reading, whether on a screen or on a piece of paper, is faster than talking or reading aloud. If your podcast is high in informational value but lacks other audio bells and whistles, such as music, interviews, celebrity value, or sound effects (particularly if the audience is business-to-business), you may be better off with text instead of a talking head, sans head. And unlike text, audio isn't yet searchable."

I agree that audio isn't searchable, however, any type of information that you're going to create isn't quick either. Whether you write an article or create a 30-second commercial, these things take time to create.

Consumption of that information also depends on what the person is doing. If I'm driving, can I read at the same time? No. That's why audio books are becoming so popular. It allows me to put my attention elsewhere while listening to something worthwhile. I would argue that the activity drives how the information will be consumed.

Another point that Rebecca makes is that podcasting offers no way for the listener to interact.

"Once downloaded, a podcast is an audio file -- plain and simple. Nothing more, nothing less. The subscriber can listen. She can't click, fill out a form, or navigate elsewhere."

The same can be said for TV and radio. Unless it's a call-in show where the hosts are taking calls live, there's no interactivity in these media either. So, you leave listeners with a call to action, prompting them to call your comment line, or email you or visit your website.

Now this statement made by Rebecca:
"Real podcasts don't stream (define), nor are they individually downloadable, single files."

Is completely not true. Each episode of a podcast is a single download, so I'm not sure why she wrote this.

Lastly, concerning the number of listeners, there are alot of different viewpoints. Rebecca makes note of this in her article by saying:
"Podcast user numbers aren't all that big, and growth isn't expected to be explosive. In April 2005, Pew Internet & American Life Project reported about 6 million Americans had listened to a podcast. Forrester Research says 12.3 million will listen by 2010. That's only fairly rapid growth and, for many marketers, not significant penetration."

Sorry, I believe this is rapid growth. Look at the Internet, TV viewership and radio listenship. All took a number of years of penetration. However, with podcasting taking a few months to grow, I consider this to be explosive.

While I do agree that the number of listeners is small, it's a fairly influential group and one that can't be ignored. While TV viewership and radio listenship continues to decline, can any company afford to ignore podcasting?

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