Podcasting: Radio-Free You

Why Aren't More Brands Using This Emerging Tactic?

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Mat Zucker Mat Zucker
I didn't know it at the time, but all the radio spots I did back in the '90s really set me up nice for the digital content era, especially for my favorite emerging media vehicle, podcasting.

In media, news and entertainment programming used it first, especially NPR (e.g., Driveway Moments) and later and more innovatively, HBO (e.g. Bill Maher's 2 Minute Rant). BusinessWeek does a great behind-the-scenes of each week's cover story and Jack and Suzy Welch have their career podcast, which is their regular column in audio format. And here at AdAge, there's a nearly daily 3-minute podcast of top stories.

For brands, though, podcasting has turned out to be especially effective for timely internal communications (e.g., speeches you missed in the office), customer service (e.g. Whirpool), business to business and some consumer areas, especially high-interest stuff. My experience has not only been blabbing about podcasting at conferences on both coasts but in producing some branded podcasts for Johnson & Johnson and most recently for CIT Group.

As opposed to unbranded user-generated content, podcasting is basically brand-generated content -- but with an interactive twist.

What I wonder about, however, is why so few agencies and marketers are leaping in on this relatively easy format to concept and produce? And what is the next step for branded content as it becomes more interactive? What does podcasting 2.0 look like for brands?

The barriers are low. Audio podcast production can be as low as $5,000 to 30,000 per episode and video podcasts $50,000 to 150,000 per episode. And though not mass by any means, nearly every research report will tell you how the numbers of those, including baby boomers, who have downloaded a podcast, are surprisingly high (e.g. 1 in 8 and that was 2006).

My suspicion is agencies (and many marketers) are lazy. Agencies and marketers are still more comfortable with hit-and-run advertising, viral videos and campaign sites and far less interested and impatient with recommending or executing content that sustains a campaign like a video or audio podcasting series or webisodes.

It's crazy to me, since it's so easy to do and far more fun than an email or a text alert. Maybe it's the direct agencies that should be doing it, but for digital agencies, we're working the brand and direct side so we have no excuse.

There are plenty of folks with experience too. I usually turn to Adam Curry's Podshow network, based in San Francisco and recently renamed Mevio, which can do anything from concept to produce to distribute. Also radio experts like World Wide Wadio are getting in on the act and seem to know what they're doing.

So tell me where you think podcasting will go, which brands are doing it right and what consumers will demand and what brands need to give them. Believe me, we're all tuned in.
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