Could podcasting -- currently mainly an ancillary service promoted by mainstream media types -- become a small business tool? If so, how, exactly, can podcasting make a substantive contribution to the bottom line?
Podcasting is a term to describe the producing of audio content and the delivery of that content via an RSS feed. It's downloaded by users from a Web site onto devices like PCs or MP3 players (such as an iPod). Small business entrepreneurs are often first-adopters of such cutting-edge technology because they are generally more willing to take risks, to shake out bugs and, basically, to give something new a shot. But the term "podcasting" brings to mind two disparate images: One, of professional broadcasters (ala Rush Limbaugh) who are offering high-quality podcasts to boost their offerings to Web site subscribers, and two, of this century's equivalent of CB radio operators. So can a business case be made for podcasting? Experts seem to think so.
Rick Wootten, director of eBusiness at SonicWall, is not looking at podcasting as a chance to become a cult figure in the land of iPods. Rather, he sees podcasting as a strategic way to get his company, and his company's clients, out in front of customers. He's careful to note that SonicWall is not using podcasting to promote specific products, but, rather, the company's overall expertise in Internet security.
"We are creating podcasts to showcase our experts in the field; we're not promoting specific products," says Wootten. "We take a question-and-answer approach. A customer comes on with a problem and a SonicWall executive discusses solutions. It's really an expert showcase." He says the approach offers a better, longer-lasting value for his marketing dollar than focusing on a specific product that becomes out of date within 18 to 24 months. "The investment I make in promoting our top executives gives a halo effect to all our products. We're getting out in front of people and showing the intelligence of our executives...these podcasts will demonstrate SonicWall is a thought leader in our industry."