Reading through The New Influencers on the chapter on podcasts, one quote struck me. Ron Bloom, CEO of Podshow Network, calling it "5/50", believes that within 5 years 50 percent of all content consumers listen to will be generated by other consumers. I would have doubted this statement a year ago, but I'm now becoming a believer. And why not? Radio is an outdated media that's geared for the masses (whoever they are) built on an advertising model that doesn't hold up in the new world. Satellite radio and Internet radio have helped but they don't go far enough.
Podcasts fit well into the new world, where you can find whatever kind of content you want, when and where you want it. So no wonder it's exploding, from less than 100 podcasts three years ago to likely over 100,000 by now. Advertising revenue could hit $300million by 2010--small by online advertising standards, but growing rapidly.
What's fueling this is a raging consumer demand. It's all part of a bigger trend of time-shifted media, which got ignited a few years ago with digital video recorder services like Tivo. Now consumers like me can pick and choose whatever programs we want on our own schedules. Podcasts are a similar breed--download them and listen to them (in the car, on your iPod, PC, etc) at your convenience. I've discovered old radio shows and obscure NPR programs, among others.
The ramifications for small business are enormous.
A podcast is like an offline radio show that can be transformed into a communications channel. If you've got a service or product to sell, and a message, podcasts are a potentially powerful marketing tool. The Influencers book uses examples of two suburban mothers in Northern VA who got together and developed podcasts around family issues, "Holding the world together, one child at a time." They called it "Mommycast" and after getting on the Podshow Network it took off. Another example was the "HT Guys," two home theatre specialists who created podcasts around electronics in the home. They soon had a big following, eating up every word. This could just as easily be a gardener, a chef, or professor of chemistry and so on. One woman supposedly tapes dogs barking (I'll skip that one).
One reason these are effective is they come across as the (educated) neighbor who you depend on for advice vs TV commercials and other traditional marketing. Studies have shown that people rely heavily on their friends' advice to buy everything from cars to mutual funds. Podcasts, with the right hosts, represents the friend you never had. The other reason, as I said, is convenience and mobility. Miss a college class or your favorite investment show--no problem. It's there and waiting for you with a podcast; you can have it automatically and directly downloaded to your computer.
Not surprising this year we've seeing podcasts and videopodcasts increasingly replacing traditional media in corporate environments (where we do most of our work), albeit the adoption is bumpy at best (more on that later).