The Purpose Of Podcasting

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Podcasting is not going replace radio, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting, powerful or compelling. Besides, radio is having its own set of challenges.

When Podcasting (both audio and video) was first introduced, the potential for anyone, anywhere to record audio and video and publish it to the world instantly – for free – as simply as Blogging brought forward many new voices, stories and types of content. In 2006 (over four years ago), the Oxford Dictionary chose "podcast" as their word of the year. To this day, many people confuse Podcasting with both streaming and downloadable audio and video.

What makes a Podcast different?

“Podcasts are more than downloadable audio. The biggest difference between downloadable audio and a Podcast is the subscription component… Podcasts allow you to subscribe, and new shows are automatically downloaded as they are produced. Listeners can subscribe via Podcatcher software, and an RSS reader that supports enclosures, or iTunes. Regular Internet radio does not allow you to subscribe,” says the book, What No One Ever Tells You About Blogging And Podcasting, by Ted Demopoulos.

Beyond the technicalities that make a Podcast something more than streaming content, it’s fascinating to see how people react to this different content.

Like any form of content, it’s not uncommon to get both negative and positive feedback from listeners about any given episode. The constructive criticism is always helpful and appreciated, but it always makes me reflect on the difference between mass media and the types of content that Social Media enables us all to produce. One of the best parts of a Podcast is the ability to fast-forward, rewind, pause and delete the content. Also, with so much content being produced into these channels, it’s also fine to totally ignore a specific show or episode.

The content finds the audience.

Unlike traditional mass media – which is in a constant struggle to grow the audience so that it can sell advertising for a higher premium, the beauty of Podcasting is that the best content is very niche and it’s not always going to be relevant to that niche audience. Producers of Podcasts have to be comfortable with the fact that not every bit and byte of audio and video is going to connect with an audience. Some people love Media Hacks (a semi-frequent roundtable conversation that I lead over on the Six Pixels of Separation Podcast about new media that features Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman, Hugh McGuire, Christopher S. Penn, and Julien Smith), while some don’t like the flow, language, recording quality, etc… others say it is their favourite Podcast to listen to. We used to say, "different strokes for different folks," but even within the Media Hacks audience/community, some episodes resonate while others may be perceived as boring.

The point is, we’re experimenting with audio.

The idea is not to create a Podcast that sounds something like you would hear on the AM/FM or even Satellite dial. The idea here is to use this opportunity to experiment – with both audio and video. So, instead of always getting a "produced" show, what you’re hearing is usually an attempt to do something different (I’ve used the media to broadcast from planes, trains, automobiles, while camping and while walking the beach in Thailand). To noodle with the media and try to create something interesting within this new and shiny white space. Some people think that Podcasting is no longer relevant. That is silly. Any brand or individual can suddenly produce compelling content about the industry they serve and publish this for the world to hear. That is amazing (not silly at all).

Podcasting is just getting started and the biggest challenge will be in trying to get the audience into the experimentation instead of the audience expecting the same old, same old we’ve been getting from mass media.


  1. I love my podcasts. I live in a big city and walk a lot. My podcasts during my walk or taking transit is how I stay informed. Love ’em passionately.

  2. The thing I love about podcasting is that it’s niche based, and there is a podcast for every interest. The problem is the distribution isn’t professional enough. It’s still seen as something created by geeks and fanboys.

  3. Hey Mitch,
    Completley agree. I’ve been all over podcasting ever since buying my first iPod (the mini!), back in the summer of 2005.
    What I would like to add to the discussion is what podcasting has done for the mass media.
    The BBC puts many of their radio programs into podcast format. Why is this important? Because this is content that I would otherwise be unable to obtain over the airwaves because I live in Canada, and not the UK.
    One podcast, in general, that I RELIGIOUSLY download is BBC Radio 4’s Today program. The Today program is streamed online via the BBC iPlayer, however, the show is roughly two hours in length, and is on in the morning GMT time. If I wanted to listen, I’d have be up way before the sun!
    The podcast cuts through this, along with the time length, buy showcasing only the best interviews of the program (usually 10 minutes in length per podcast). I get up in the morning, turn on iTunes, and it’s already packaged and ready for download.
    A bi-product of the mass media that would have been otherwise alien to me if not for podcasting.

  4. I appreciate the effort you put into your podcasts. It allows me to hear the speakers, not read them, which adds so much more context to the words.
    It is also great for time shifting learning and make running more productive.

  5. I sighed with glee when I saw the latest Jaffe / Mitch podcast this morning in iTunes. In other words, it was like a book or CD I’d been waiting for.
    This is how much podcasts can mean to individuals. I’ve been so inspired by them that I made one for my own website a few weeks ago, which led to 3 speaking gigs. I then got to make a podcast for a client which was well received.
    So for me, podcasts are an important part of staying up to date with what’s happening in the community, a source of inspiration and an exciting medium to help grow my business and others.

  6. Lee, I couldn’t have put it better myself.
    Because podcasts are an audio medium, you get to hear the speakers words, inflections, sarcasm etc… It adds so many different layers that are not possible when reading blog entries full of bolded and italicized words.
    Additionally, since they are rarely scripted, the organic conversations that ensue are generally more interesting and creative.

  7. I love creating and listening to podcasts.
    I can’t tell you how many books I’ve purchased or blogs I’ve subscribed to because I heard an interesting author, topic or description on a podcast.
    If podcasts were silly and not relevant, I don’t think my numbers would still be going up weekly.

  8. Well said Mitch. I’m one of those guys who found a way to do podcasting for a living. I totally agree that, even though I’ve been doing this since 2005, podcasting really is just getting started.
    Every day, I’m approached by businesses to help them launch their first show. When podcasting first started, there was this major jump in the popularity of podcasting. Since then, a lot of those podcasters have faded away.
    I noticed there was an 18 to 24 month period of time where the interest didn’t necessarily decrease, but it certainly hit a plateau.
    Though, since October of last year, my consulting/coaching schedule in this field has remained booked solid as I am seeing record numbers of soloprenuers entering into the “experimentation” as you would call it of podcasting.
    Best part is that I believe that 90% of my clients are in this for the long haul. The reported value to building an online community around their brands is out of this world!

  9. Great post Mitch.
    It took Heather and I a long time to clue in that people we spoke with about Two Boobs and a Baby (our podcast) didn’t understand what a podcast was.
    We finally decided on calling the show “internet radio”. Bob Goyetche from Canadian Podcast Buffet named it “internet radio on demand”. Both alternative titles helped stop the eyes from glazing over.
    What do you call the show to strangers who still may not understand?

  10. Mitch, I have been very surprised at a few things about podcasting:
    1. It’s a lot easier with a co-host/guest (mine is Cliff Ravenscraft usually)
    2. You can start your own without asking for permission.
    3. Quality helps a lot, but it’s not as important as some make it out to be.

  11. Hey Mitch,
    Since we’ll be talking soon on our podcast, this is really relevant subject for me. The main focus of our podcast has been interviewing bloggers. But in the last week or two we decided to do some experiments. We interview a journalist about the iphone leak at Gizmodo. To date we’ve produced over 40+ podcasts.
    To me, the greatest thing about a podcast is the ability to develop relationships with the people who are on your podcast. That benefit trumps all the others in my opinion. The major challenge for podcasters in my mind is that people have really short attention spans. So, unlike a traditional blog post where people scan, read, and comment, podcasts require a higher level of engagement. I’m glad to see a thought leader like yourself is saying that podcasts are still relevant :). Gives me a sense of security in my project. I look forward to our chat in a few weeks.

  12. Podcasting has made a tremendous impact on promoting my brand. Audio and video can attract a totally different audience of learners.

  13. Have been listening to podcasts for sometime now. Up until this week, they have been podcasts of radio shows that I enjoy but have missed i.e. CBC’s Ideas, or SPARKS.
    I’ve started listening to yours on my daily walk commute to work and together with the content, which I enjoy tremendously; I love the flexibility of the medium. The ability to download the ones I want and to listen to them whenever I want.
    As for sound quality, I’m interested in content so as long as I can hear what is being said, I’m ok with it not sounding like BBC World. (Had issue with reverb on my iPOD Touch but googled solution last night. You were much clearer today!)
    Great post. Thanks

  14. Podcasting is spreading like wildfire. We broadcast live from our studio every Tuesday night ( which adds another element to the show. People love listening to it but many love to watch also.

  15. Hi Mitch,
    I agree about the importance and potential of podcasts.
    But I think you missed the main difference with traditional radio. While production quality varies and the ability to subscribe to pocasts is great, that’s only a subset of the real differentiator:
    Podcasts are asynchronous. Unlike traditional live radio, listeners can tune in on-demand, whenever it’s convenient for them.
    It’s this asynchronicity that’s helped my weekly Click Millionaires podcast find listeners all over the world. I broadcast when it’s convenient for me (at 11am PT Tuesday mornings from Los Angeles) but they can listen anytime from any time zone later.
    This convenience and time-shifting is what makes podcasts great for so many busy people. Just like I prefer email (asynchronous) to Twitter (synchronous), today I prefer TV via DVR and Radio via podcasts.
    Just wanted to add that important point to help others appreciate the potential that podcasting offers to their businesses, too.
    Thanks for your excellent blog.

  16. Mitch, I enjoy your podcasts. Agree that the content finds the audience, but would add – so does style. Finding a voice that resonates with us is a great filter.

  17. Pod casting has definitely come into its own. They are using it for everything from marketing and dating to politics and business meetings. It has become a global obsession!

  18. Hey Mitch, everyone,
    Mitch and I have chatted via email about our company’s mission with podcasting. I’ve been an avid podcast listener for half a decade. I’ve seen many changes in the space.
    But you know what? We still think the process is too difficult for the average person (iTunes, syncing, and even the aggregators out there), so we created a pretty, simple, and efficient way for anyone to listen to podcasts. CC’s stuff is there, as are several other major podcasters.
    I invite you, and your readers, to have a look and tell us what we can do better.
    Thanks for any feedback you have, good, bad, or yes, ugly!

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