Group: Super ModEARator
Joined: April 1992
||Posted: Oct. 19, 2005, 11:02 pm
Podcasting goes corporate
Fortune 500 firms discover the downloadable audio shows that started out with hobbyists.
By Jan Norman, The Orange County Register
At Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration in July, Newport Beach resident Michael Geoghegan was one of the first people inside the gate.
He wasn't there to enjoy himself but to capture the sounds and secrets of the Magic Kingdom's special event for Disney fans.
Geoghegan treated his audience to a tour of Walt Disney's private apartment above the fire station on Main Street, interviews with "Mary Poppins" star Julie Andrews and DisneyChairman Michael Eisner, and reminiscences from some of that day's park visitors.
Geoghegan's shows didn't go out over the radio waves, but as podcasts over the Internet to personal computers and MP3 players.
Podcasting, which gets its name from the most popular personal media player, Apple's iPod, is just a year old this month and has already evolved from the playground of hobbyists to a tool of Fortune 500 companies.
Still to be seen is whether Disneyland's recent podcasts will turn out to be part of a short-lived fad or will help lead the way to increasing corporate forays into a new technology for reaching customers, investors and employees.
Podcasts are MP3 audio files - everything from music to informative programming – that individuals can download and listen to when and where they want.
Geoghegan was one of the first to develop a nonmusic podcast, "Reel Reviews," and has since co-authored a book on the subject, "Podcast Solutions," and formed a corporation, Willnick Productions, to make money in the new medium.
Along with tens of thousands of individuals like Geoghegan who have started podcasting, a few corporations have jumped on the bandwagon. In addition to Disneyland:
•Pontiac podcast its party that introduced its new car, Solstice, June 21 in New York's Times Square.
•IBM announced in August that it will post podcasts on its investor relations Web site.
•Virgin Atlantic Airlinespodcasts audio tours of New York City.
•TV Guide magazine dishes entertainment dirt on its weekly podcasts.
"Podcasting is still in the Wild West stage – people figuring out what they can do with it," says Greg Cangialosi, a Baltimore podcaster who helped Geoghegan with the first Disneyland podcasts in May and did the Pontiac podcast from Times Square. "But it's viable enough that you have corporations coming in."
The trick is for corporations to avoid being boring, adds Mike Spataro of Weber Shandwick, the public relations firm for Pontiac.
"The content has to be interesting to have people want to subscribe," he says. In that way, it's like infomercials, he suggests – a company with a new diet product can't simply release audio infomercials about the product; they have to be informative and entertaining shows about battling obesity.
Some early corporate podcasts were read straight from marketing brochures, Geoghegan says.
"Disney stood out because it was the first corporation to do content produced specifically for a podcast," he says.
Even though Disney is a media company, it contracted with an experienced podcaster and didn't tell him what to do, says Duncan Wardle, vice president of publicity at Disneyland. "We chose Michael because he's a father with two kids, and there's instant credibility in that. He produced interesting, informative programming. It didn't come across as a slick marketing piece; it was genuine."
Disney considers its podcasts to be a part of a broad marketing package, not a stand-alone effort, Wardle says.
Pontiac adopted a strategy like Disney's. Its Solstice podcast built on General Motors' existing collection of interviews with in-house engineers discussing design that car buffs love, Spataro says.
"They brought in an outside podcaster, relinquishing marketing control to get unfiltered content," he explains.
Cangialosi podcast music from the event, person-on-the-street interviews about the car and descriptions that made listeners feel as if they were standing at his side at 46th Street and Broadway.
"Podcasting is a way for companies to create buzz relatively inexpensively," he says.
Podcasts reach very narrow audiences, so for a company to use the technology for marketing, it must figure out the demographics of its customers and what information they want, says Tim Bourquin of Laguna Niguel, producer of the Podcast and Portable Media Expo, scheduled for Nov. 11-12 in Ontario.
"You have to get your message out in a way that your audience won't fast-forward through," he says. "It's more effective if you teach them something. It can't be press releases."
Everyone is seeking ways to make money with podcasting, says Bourquin, who will have several workshops on that subject at the expo.
Individual podcasters accept donations at their Web sites, charge for subscriptions or sell merchandise and ads on their sites. Corporations use podcasting differently – so far, it's an indirect marketing tool rather than a source of revenue.
But venture capitalists are betting that podcasting is much more.
Podshow, a company founded by former MTV host and podcast pioneer Adam Curry, recently received $8.85 million from Sequoia Capitaland Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others. The company aims to make podcasts easier to create and download.
Odeo, a company that will match advertisers to podcasts, received an undisclosed investment from Charles River Venturesand Amicus Ventures.
Free-access podcasts are just the beginning of corporate involvement, Geoghegan says, predicting that "privatecasting" will be the next big use. He worked with a computer science class at Duke University in North Carolina that this month is starting to distribute the professor's lectures, homework assignments and multimedia handouts to students enrolled in the class.
Companies can distribute information by podcasts that only specific employees can access by password, he says. "For example the VP of sales could explain a new sales initiative or product to a hundred field-sales reps."
Public relations consultant Spataro foresees an even brighter future.
Videocasting – podcasting with pictures - will be coming soon, he predicts.
"People will create their own TV channels and that will probably surpass podcasting," he says.
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