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Who Podcasts, And Why?

Podcasting is a way to make iPods (even more) commonplace. That's because it opens another demographic up to the iPod: Talk show listeners.

Even now, many moons after its initial debut, the iPod remains cool. It carries a cache similar to, but I think weightier than, the first Discmans, or would that be Discmen? (And yes, I can all too clearly remember that far back, to Sony's hey day.) And that's because there's a level of technology associated with it: You need to have some techno smarts to be able to make use of it. Not to use it -- Apple, of course, made it simple enough for nearly anyone to figure out " but to load it, sync it, etc. The iPodder is, by extension, techno cool.

If you're a product vendor, or work for one, you understand that brand extension is crucial to your survival. And that's exactly what podcasting is: A way to make iPods (even more) commonplace. That's because it opens another demographic up to the iPod: Talk show listeners. While iTunes and other digital music sellers serve all age groups, the majority of downloads are undertaken by high school and college students. Podcasting appeals to a more mature following, in particular, talk radio listeners.

In yesterday's blog, I asked for the podcasts to which you listen. Topping the lists were the shows of financial guru Dave Ramsey and conservative Rush Limbaugh. By podcasting their shows, these broadcasters have provided at least one service to their listeners: They can now listen at their convenience, without, perhaps, having to deal with objections from others within earshot at the time the show is actually being broadcast. (Those "others" could include, for example, children, that other iPod constituency.) Be advised that podcasts do not include any music at all (that includes "bumper" music that frequently functions as the intro and outro for programs' commercial breaks. Speaking of commercials, podcasts edit out those nasty little profit makers. Which begs the question: How does this work financially?

I'm not exactly sure of the answer, but the writers at InternetWeek.com are on it. Until then, I can only surmise that a subscription-based model would be profit-generating and therefore fiscally advantageous. Many podcasts, such as Ramsey's, are free. In fact, Apple offers a directory of free podcasts at no charge. Some of them will have a hard time finding traction. Others might have some shelf life, and so serve as marketing tools, aimed at boosting the radio shows audiences (thereby making the advertisers happy). But, since you've decided to download the show " without commercials, remember -- I'm not sure how that translates into an increase in listeners. Limbaugh, however, has taken a different tack: If you want his three-hour daily show, it can be delivered daily to your e-mail, but only if you are a paid subscriber. That seems to be a fiscally sound way of not only providing a service to your readers, but also making some money.

All this talk of podcasting takes me back about four years, when I was working for a sister publication, VARBusiness. We put a "radio" button on our home page and every week offered a talk show on issues related to the reseller channel. All we needed was an iPod! Today, with tools such as Parliant's new PhoneValet Podcast Bundle and Click&Buy, we would have been able to produce high-quality programming and charged for it. Alas, we were ahead of our time.

If you offer a podcast, let me know about it. And if you have thoughts about spyware, I'd like to hear those too ... for tomorrow's topic.

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