‘My name is Richard and I’m a podcast refusenik.’ There, I feel better already for this confession. This is a discussion I’ve had with various people over the past week, so this post pulls together some of these thoughts.
Who are podcasts aimed at?
Presumably, those ‘digital natives’ with computer connections and MP3 players. (I now have an iPod, but previously found listening to podcasts on the office PC a chore.) I also assume that podcasts are prefereable to those who prefer to learn through the spoken rather than the written word (I’m not one of these.) The ability to listen on the move suits some people well – and I found myself catching up on podcasts on a long train journey last week.
What is their role in education?
This is a much-discussed topic. One colleague has a site devoted to giving digital audio feedback to students and there are books on the topic. I’ve come to realise the absurdity of my own position: that one hour podcasts are too long yet I expect students to listen to my hour long lectures several times a week.
How can they be categorised as social media?
Podcasting uses a broadcasting approach (one to many) rather than a true social media approach. So why do they count as social media? The answer comes in their ability to encourage conversation and community. Shel and Neville’s book on podcasting is dedicated to ‘the worldwide listenership of For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report. Much more than just an audience – a vibrant community.’ Conversations are two-way, broadcasting is usually one-way (radio phone-ins being the exception).
If blogs can be seen as a form of amateur journalism, then podcasts are a form of amateur radio. Citizen journalism is another defining quality of social media. Yet podcasts require skilled amateurs, with good voices, sharp interviewing skills and good technical editing skills.
What is their role in marketing and corporate communications?
It is easy to see the value of a podcast in internal communications – or in crisis communications. But I fear that many corporate podcasts will be little more than vanity publishing, just as corporate videos were in the ‘world before the web’. I’m hoping that Anna Farmery, who is leading a session here the week after next, might have some good examples to cite.