Podcasting: a new frontier in Marketing

Manuel Alonso. Director. E-marketing Virtual Community. IE Business School

5 January 2007

Podcasting opens up a whole new world to advertisers and marketing executives. Companies use the technology to target future markets; consumers receive music and videos when and where they want.

How big is the podcasting market?
Who hasn´t heard of the iPod? Or rather, who doesn’t have one for listening to music and watching films or other audiovisual files downloaded from the Internet? What is new is that the iPod has become a medium for advertising. And yet, this should come as no surprise when one considers the size of the user universe. According to PodTech.net, the main podcasting network in the USA, 1% of US citizens down load and listen to podcasts on a daily basis, and in three years time this number will total 34.5 million. Nielsen/Netratings estimates that 9.2 million Internet users in North America have recently downloaded a podcast.

Podcasting (a term which comes from the acronym of Public on Demand and the term ´cast´), or podcast marketing, consists of creating sound files (usually MP3 files) or video files (MP4 files) and distributing them via RSS systems. In this way the users can subscribe to and download the programmes to a portable player, and listen to them when they wish. A podcast is therefore similar to a subscription to an ´audio´ magazine over the Internet.

In one of their recent podcasts, Heather and Jonelle, two high school students in the USA, spoke about boys, music and teenage-related matters. They closed by saying: "And now, a hello to our sponsor: Acuvue Contact Lenses". With that, Pod casting was born: Johnson & Johnson, Acuvue’s manufacturer, hired the two girls to create and present a series of episodes about teenage life entitled ‘Download with Heather & Jonelle’. According to Naomi Kelman, CEO of Acuvue, the programme has boosted sales among teenagers. The two teenage girls and their webcast have their own page on the Acuvue website and the programme is also available at Apple´s digital music shop, iTunes.

Podcasts as an advertising tool?
This technology is beginning to be used in two different ways. In the first, companies use it by producing their own podcasts to advertise products and explain their features and advantages. In the second, companies sponsor all kinds of podcasts which are grouped into categories and placed on the podcasting networks where they are easily downloaded. These podcasts are developed in such a way that the brand name or its products are mentioned in the podcasts, either directly as sponsors or tangentially.

From the technical point of view, the steps to be followed are very simple: first of all, you find a subject of interest for advertising your products or services; then you write the scripts, record the audio/video files and save them as MP3/MP4 files. Then you create an RSS file that contains the addresses for sending the files when a user programme requests them. Finally, the two types of files have to be placed on an appropriate server.

Keeping consumers captivated.
As always, the difficulty of pod casting lies in finding a subject matter that is interesting to your prospective audience and then keeping that audience captivated. It isn’t a matter of making one very brilliant podcast, but rather being able to hold that interest during successive podcasts so that the consumer looks forward to the next episode of his "audio subscription".
For example, Purina has launched a section on its website titled Petcast. Users can download podcasts with sound advice on how to care for pets. On its website, Maybelline offers a weekly video with tips on beauty and make-up. Nespresso combines music and recipes, and can be downloaded free from iTunes (Apple’s podcast manager). Kraft also offers recipes for the iPod.

The first flush of success
The prospects for podcast campaigning could not be sunnier. According to figures posted on the Instituto de Empresa’s Digital Marketing Virtual Community by marketing executives from different companies who employ this tool, its use has increased as much as 200% in comparison with other e-marketing formats. The users surveyed said a podcast was particularly well suited to advertising products and services with a decentralised content and significantly boosted customer loyalty. Also important was the ability of consumers to see/listen to content on the podcast at will—a feature that psychologically increases receptiveness to the messages emitted by advertisers.

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