Look for Q1, 2007 to be podcast heaven

Finding the ways to enliven the feedback loop of listener reactions and thoughts to podcasts remains a yet-unexploited trove of market research treasure.
Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor

Q1, 2007 -- Podcast Heaven! That was a rallying point that emerged from one of the panels I took part in at the first (and surely not last) Corporate Podcast Summit this week in Redwood City, Calif. The point is that corporate, or B2B, podcasting – where companies use podcasting in myriad ways as a powerful internal and external communications medium – is in its infancy, but is about to grow up fast.

According to Bill Flitter, founder and vice president of marketing at Pheedo, a darn-near perfect storm of RSS developments will hit the market and gel in Q1 of 2007 to allow B2B podcasting to mature in terms of audience reach, measurement, and value. That in turn will drive more companies to create better, more useful podcast content that will get that big old virtuous adoption pattern churning along.

Major factors coming together early next year: End users upgrading en masse to the Microsoft Internet Explorer 7.x browser with its deep, inherent support of RSS/Atom features and functions; Google and Yahoo’s continued use of RSS to better manage and distribute syndicated content, with better interfaces, ie Google Desktop; Microsoft environment developers taking advantage of RSS/Atom capabilities for machine-to-machine communications syndication across more applications and services; and added capabilities from the RSS and podcast ecosystem – such as FeedBurner, Libsyn, PodTech, Podshow, Kiptronic, SimpleFeed, Pheedo (among many others) – to make RSS more relevant to businesses.

[And this worthy addition from Don Loeb, vice president and business development at FeedBurner, "I think the big wave re RSS is coming (early next year) because of the new Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Live mail ... IE7 and Vista are important, but the mail programs are where people live and consume info."]

Here’s a great rundown of the whole event on Podcasting News. I even made some BriefingsDirect news myself at the conference.

What many people on the panel and in the audience lament is the lack of a robust, tested, trusted, widely used attention meta data gathering, aggregating, and sharing capability. That would bring much richer information about what listeners actually are doing with podcasts or blogs, who they are in terms of demographic and economic profiles, and then relating that back to the podcasts (or any online activity) themselves and their reach, value, and relevance.

I was impressed at how intently the B2B podcast community is aware of and following the developments at Attention.org and Gesture Bank, not to mention Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Apple, on this front. If Steve Gillmor gets Gesture Bank right, and he appears to be making great progress, the age of transparent, anonymous, real-time, online behavioral tracking and profiling – in a way that works for Internet surfers AND content and services providers alike – is now upon us.

Also joining me on the panels Wednesday were: Mark Carlson, president and CEO, of SimpleFeed; Paul Colligan, CEO of Colligan.com; John Federico, senior director of podcasting at Audible; Loeb, of FeedBurner; Flitter, of Pheedo, and Dave Mansueto, a founder of Liberated Syndication.

Some other take-aways from this very worthwhile event (thanks to Anita Yaa Agyeman at Podcast Summit):

  • Such presenters as Audrey Reed-Granger, director of public relations for Whirlpool, show that companies like Whirlpool, Johnson & Johnson and Disney are taking the high road with podcasting, and understand that it is not another channel to deliver marketing and sales collateral. It is an authentic conversation with your best customers, and should be treated with the respect and best intentions that tight community building entails. Brava!
  • The best new metric for measuring podcasts efficiency is Return on Influence, where the audience size is less important, by far, than the impact the podcast content has with the highly influential audience that opts-in to get it.
  • The best way to determine near-term value (as we await an attention meta data capability to mature), is by asking listeners in the podcast itself to take an action, such as go to a unique URL and get more information and/or services and/or discounts. This allows the podcast sponsor to determine a result from their podcasting efforts. Paul Colligan is a champion on this.
  • In a related area, John Furrier at PodTech has a great concept of creating a mercantile catchers mitt of a web “landing site” that podcast listeners can jump off to as they wish to pursue more information on a technology, product or service. Mr. Interested Listener, please allow me to introduce you to Mr. Expert on the Subject – now you two and talk amongst yourselves. It’s information-driven commerce in the best sense.
  • Internal corporate podcasts are hot: interview the employee of the month, sales training, FAQs – a host of usual corporate communications to the troops could and should be done via podcasting.
  • Ah, ah, ah … bit of finger-wagging by Audible. John Federico called from his walled garden to Apple to open up its walled garden in terms of podcast metrics and DRM. Hello, Mr. Pot, I’m Mr. Kettle, and you, sir, are black.
  • There are a lot of creative B2B podcast/videopodcast activities under way, including French Maid TV – “The How-To Videopodcast by French Maids.” All learning should be so much fun.

One thing I think was not well represented at the conference is the role that feedback and market research plays in podcasting. Even a small audience, which opts in based on content and topics, is a huge resource to the podcast creators and sponsors. They are a super focus group on what it is you are doing right, or could do better, or what you should do next. Finding the ways to enliven the feedback loop of listener reactions and thoughts to podcasts remains a yet-unexploited trove of market research treasure.

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