I was recently at the Corporate Podcasting Summit Europe in London – two days of intense discussion, presentation and sharing of best practice. Podcasting is barely two years old, and it feels like being in at the start of the Internet again, before the conventions, practices and business models had developed. There was almost no representation from publishing, yet this is a medium with huge, and relatively untapped, potential for publishers.
The publishing industry has, traditionally, adopted a ‘wait and see’ approach to new technology. There are good reasons for this. The false promise of e-books a few years back left some publishers with their fingers burned when they invested heavily in a future that didn’t quite materialize.
Podcasting is different. It’s not expensive, it’s not difficult, and the return on investment can be significant.
While some publishers are engaging with their markets via podcasting already, there is still much caution. The ‘problem’ with podcasting is that it is free content. What sort of a business model is that? In my view, this is completely missing the point. What if:
- an author podcast leads to a massive upswing in book sales?
- your podcast includes a ‘call to action’ to register with a website, to enter a competition, to download an e-book?
- you use a podcast internally for training, or to supply the latest product information to sales reps?
The possibilities are greater and more lateral than simply creating marketing ‘buzz’ around your product – although that’s valuable too.
You don’t have to do a podcast every week forever. You can do a limited run podcast leading up to a product launch. Your audience doesn’t have to be the ‘iPod generation’. Around half of all people who regularly listen to podcasts do so from their desktop computer.
I listen to a lot of podcasts – including podcasts about web design, marketing, business – and the Russell Brand show. Chances are your market does too, especially if you’re involved in educational or professional publishing. I have also, as a direct result of listening to a podcast, bought a book, downloaded an e-book, registered for a newsletter, and visited several websites.
Free content is counterintuitive to how most of have been conditioned to think in publishing. There are ways of monetizing free content. But we shouldn’t get too hung up on that initially. The content must come first, and the cash will follow.
The other reason for not focusing on the cash first is that such an attitude runs counter to the expectations of the medium. Podcasting is the ultimate in permission-based marketing, with more valuable, more targeted customers. But it’s important not to exploit the trust you’re trying to build by using it as a direct sales channel. The content you’re offering must be valuable in itself.
Top ten reasons why you should be podcasting:
- to build trust
- to gain credibility
- to enhance your reputation
- to be seen as a market leader
- to extend your brand
- to reach a global, niche audience
- to strengthen your website
- to generate word of mouth buzz
- to gain feedback from a large ‘focus group’ of listeners
- to punch above your weight (especially for small publishers)
Some publishers have suggested we wait for the business models to change, and/or for it to become acceptable to charge for podcasts. That isn’t going to happen (Ricky Gervais notwithstanding). A paid-for podcast is an audiobook.
In an age of social media, publishers have already lost control of content. Top-down publishing models are evolving into more participatory ones. People are generating, sharing and recommending content. The new role for publishers is to facilitate, involve and invite, and to add value by filtering the mass of information now out there.
I shall be writing more in later posts on how you actually go about creating and marketing your podcast. For now, remember that the conversation has already begun: it’s time to join in.