Making the Business Case for Podcasting

Although I’m not doing any podcasting for personal reasons, it was inevitable that I’d encounter it professionally. More on that later, but in the meantime, here’s a white paper describing “How to Leverage & Benefit from this New Media Technology”.

As a white paper, it’s a bit shoddy. I spotted numerous grammatical errors, and at least two inaccuracies. The first is this silly claim:

The first thing that you need to do after your podcast is produced and published is to do a press release to tell the world about your new podcast station. One of the best ways for achieving tremendous exposure is to do a press release at this resource site specializes in electronic distribution of your press release.

First off, most podcast listeners won’t be interested in a press release. Secondly, writing a press release and putting it on PRWeb is like putting it in a bottle and sending it out to sea. Very occasionally, a journalist will be monitoring keywords and have his or her interest piqued, but mostly PRWeb and i’s more expensive competitors are simply a tithe we PR professionals pay. There is absolutely no way that it ever offers “tremendous exposure”. In short, a press release is a lame way to promote your podcast. [more]

More significant is their reliance on a Pew Internet study which I and others have already debunked. Even Pew themselves have admitted the numbers are wrong. I put this to the white paper’s author, and this was part of his reply:

I wouldn’t say that we used “shoddy” information in the white paper; rather we tried to generally educate the general public with the few actual studies that have been done to date about podcasting. The sampling numbers done by PEW were very low to consider it a true “survey study”. The omission of a link to the study was not intentional. We actually link to the site itself.

With that being said; the real issue is how many people are listening and consuming podcasts. With Apple recently becoming a huge deliver mechanism and channel for podcasts the actual number are probably much higher than the Pew study indicates.

We have taken the potential accuracy issues of this study under consideration and will actually be releasing an updated version of the white paper that is more reflective of the real landscape of podcasting consumption. This new version will be forthcoming in the next few days.

This is an exceptionally common issue with new technology white papers–no one’s done any studies. Hopefully they’ll remove all reference to the Pew study. I’m sure that in the near future Apple will come out with a big, splashy number that this white paper can tout instead.

UPDATE: I erroneously pointed the whitepaper link to the download page, as opposed to the registration page. I’ve changed that now. No one asked me to change it, but I think it’s only fair. It’s also fair to note that there’s no notification built into the email field, so you can enter any old address you like.


  1. “I’m sure that in the near future Apple will come out with a big, splashy number that this white paper can tout instead.”

    You can count on it. Their podcast support in iTunes ties in nicely with their “we deliver easy-to-use high-tech” mantra.

  2. Even well-subscribed podcasts are now seeing their traffic double, with all the new listeners coming through iTunes. So whatever numbers the white paper used would be wrong now, even if they were correct before (which they weren’t). Already on my own site, iTunes has passed Camino, and is coming up on Opera, Netscape, NetNewsWire, and Mozilla, for _all_ requests, not just the podcast, or just RSS feeds. The landscape is changing very fast.

    On the other hand, as far as I can tell, most podcasters (including Adam Curry and Dave Winer, who co-invented the technology) still spend an awful lot of time talking about podcasting, and interviewing other podcasters, and talking about the technology rather than any actual interesting topic. (There’s a reason “Quirks and Quarks” is so high on the iTunes hit list: it completely ignores talking about podcasting, and just publishes an interesting show.)

    Combining the iTunes release with Microsoft’s upcoming integration of RSS into Windows, any numbers or analysis about the current podcasting landscape will soon be irrelevant.

    Really, podcasters themselves need to make their material less insular and more useful, to catch up with the speed at which RSS and podcasting are making their way into people’s computers and onto their iPods.

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