Monday, September 29, 2008

Fishing for an audience: Podcasting

Like Kleenex and tissues or Xerox and copies, podcasting has been genericized to define any audio content that can be downloaded for later use--excluding music. Born of the rapid expansion of iPod ownership, podcasting has gathered all manner of supporters in corporate marketing and agency departments. 
But the Pew Internet and American Life project's latest research into podcasting may call into question the viability of podcasting as a mechanism worthy of its attention level: according to Pew, only 19% of internet users have ever downloaded a podcast. An even smaller 3% of internet users download a podcast daily.

And while 20% is certainly nothing to sneeze at, it represents only 7% growth from the numbers reported 2 years ago. Meanwhile, the devices from which podcasting takes its name (i.e., iPods and similarly capable) are now in the hands of 43% of internet users.

So what?

With more than 43,000 podcasts containing more than 2 million episodes logged by the directory Podcast Alley, it would seem that podcasting--like so many other niche applications online--is a Long Tail application at best. And for those considering a podcast, building an audience will still be the first challenge.

We've recently produced and developed two significant podcast campaigns with very different approaches to audience aquisition: Both targetted to small audiences of influencers. In one, we used a promotional mailing to gain interest and garnered more than 40% response to the four-part podcast series. In another, we relied on a more traditional approach with a 3rd party web publisher. The results for this effort were less satisfactory (though well within the cost per user guidelines for the project).

A summary chart from the Pew Research report below (click to enlarge)

For a top of the week musical interlude, a Fisherman named John:

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