Video may have killed the radio star, but the podcast brought the radio star back online.

Podcasting. Many in our space have a vague idea of what the heck it is, and of course, the early adopters and tearing it up recording every week and posting video podcasts (vodcasts) as well. Our very own Jonathan Goodman has done a great job interviewing HR vendors and thought leaders and packaging them in easily digestible podcasts. You can find them all in our blog (just search "podcast"). There other great HR marketplace series as well including Peter Clayton's Total Picture Radio, The Bill Kutik Radio Show and HRchitect's WebMingle.

A podcast is an audio and/or video recording varying in length that can be posted and downloaded from your site, distributed via RSS feeds (iTunes being the most popular distribution site). It's a great way to distribute and share best practices content, advice and commentary while marketing and selling your stuff. Most are free while some folks charge for their content. Subscribers and downloaders of podcasts can listen to them when and where they want.

But is it really a viable marketing activity? Is it already passé, being passed over for other social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook? Is it a complete waste of time (like Twitter and Facebook as some would argue)?

Not in the least. Last week I listened to Join the Conversation marketer Joseph Jaffe reviewed the future of podcasting with other well known podcasters. The discussion stemmed from the demise of Podango at the end of 2008, a podcast hosting service. From that, some bloggers surmised that podcasting must be dead.

Which is silly. Because it's only just begun (and there are too many inexpensive ways to record and produce them yourself).

According to Pew/Internet (as of last August) 19% of all Internet users say they have downloaded a podcast so they could listen to it or view it later. This is up from 12% of Internet users who reported downloading podcasts in 2006. This isn't happening with daily regularity yet, but it's increasing. And according to eMarketer the US podcast audience will grow from 18.5 million in 2007 to 65 million in 2012 – an increase of over 250%.

Again, it's only just begun. Out of everything Jaffe and guests discussed in the future of podcasting podcast (which is beautiful, isn't it?), the thing that struck me the most was what wasn't said – the fact that using podcasts in marketing is an engaging method of storytelling (they did say selling) – the oral tradition that spans millennia (everything is true in Wikipedia, isn't it?).

Ever since folk could talk we've been telling stories orally (and singing them too – that's why catchy ad jingles work so well!). That was curbed somewhat after the invention of the printing press, but oral storytelling is alive to this day, even though only about 20% of the population make up auditory learners. (Does that mean that 80% of the population will never download a podcast? I don't think so. It's still embedded in our genetic communicative code and auditory learning can be re-learned.)

We run meetings with our minions, attend events to listen to keynote speakers (or speak there ourselves), we produce Webcasts, we run customer focus groups, we give our elevator pitches to prospects and journalists – we do many things with the spoken (and sung) word in marketing and PR.

Marketing is storytelling. Great marketing is compelling storytelling, especially when it's timely, value-based content. And what's a better way to do that than in tasty storytelling treats enjoyed in your car, the train, a plane, on a run, a walk, you name it.

Video may have killed the radio star, but the podcast brought the radio star back online. Notice that two of the podcast series I referenced in the first paragraph have "radio" in their titles. There's a whole free Internet network service called blogtalkradio that allows you to create your own "radio" channels to stream live and record and post as podcasts.

Again, it's only just begun. More and more businesses are getting the Web 2.0 marketing mix and podcasting should be a big part of that. One of our clients in the online coaching and wellness space, Hummingbird Coaching Services, has offered many insightful white papers and research reports, but the most often downloaded content from their site in 2008 were the handful of podcasts we produced for them. We're now kicking off a regular series for then in 2009.

In fact we're kicking off many client series including our own HRmarketer series – we're going to be interviewing HR (and eventually senior care) marketing and PR professionals, sharing marketing and PR stories. What works, what doesn't and just why the heck being part of the conversation is where you need to be.

If you want to be part of our conversation, give me a shout.

Post by Kevin Grossman (join me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn)

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