Business’ grasp of podcasting

Posted on November 7, 2006 6:36 am by | Podcasting | Social Media

I hope this post doesn’t come across as too snarky, but I couldn’t resist.

I was attending a session at a conference yesterday at which the speaker presented a company’s podcast as an example of excellent communication. The podcast sounded like a public service announcement: professional voice talent reading a script with hokey music playing in the background. The podcadst was accessible on a page that did not allow listeners to comment. But here’s the real kicker. The speaker clicked the “play now” button on the podcast page, launching Windows Media Player and its associated “visualization,” the image that leaps and dances in time with the music. After playing the podcast for a few minutes, the speaker said…

Get ready for it…it’s worth the wait…here it comes…

“Usually, when you listen to an audio podcast, there’s nothing to look at. But this organization has created some interesting graphics for you to look at.”

He was, of course, talking about the Windows Media Player visualization which appears withany audio file. The guy sitting next to me just shook his head slowly, his jaw hanging open in amazement.

Okay, so I’m being snarky. But this wasn’t somebody sitting in the audience. It was the speaker, a proclaimed expert lecturing some 400 conference participants…many of whom, unfamiliar with podcasting, were probably soaking it in. It’s no wonder, then, that so many business podcasts are nothing more than the same old highly polished, impersonal broadcast audio made available via RSS with no view toward listening to listeners, building community, or embracing the social aspects of the medium. It’s what happens when companies jump on the bandwagon without actually listening to podcasts or reading blogs. That’s why the first task in any business initiative involving social media should be to read and listen.

11/06/06 | 17 Comments | Business’ grasp of podcasting



  • 1.Shel Holtz (a guy who really does know about business podcasting) tells of sitting in the audience at a business conference listening to a so called expert demonstrate a total lack of basic podcasting skills let alone expertise in business

  • 2.hello Shel,

    Agree with your position entirely. We would have made the same mistake, had it not been for Neville telling us every step of the way to avoid it. His constant reminders NOT to treat the medium as a direct advertising tool were invaluable in establishing our credibility and developing a solid listener base. That said, the pressure internally to "get the company message out" is intense.
    Your post will help as a I pass it on to others who need to get the message.


    Alex Briggs | November 2006 | Nottingham, England

  • 3.I was actually in the same room, and when the presenter said that I thought to myself: 'He didn't just say that. There's no way he could possibly be that naive.'

    What's more is he was presenting the 'best of site awards' to a convention of Webmasters!

    Good point on the treating the podcast more as an interactive tool than just a professional audio recording and pushing it upon the visitors of your site.

    Also: great presentation on media relations today, I really enjoyed it.

    Aaron Holbrook | November 2006

  • 4.Shel:

    I think this is indicative of the "old guard" trying to use the new tools. So many people see podcasts, blogs, and other social media tools as, "Hey, people are listening to podcasts...we can use that medium to tell them how great we are!" The problem is, they're not that great.

    I am stuck on a thought in my head of the fact that there is just way too much "me too" in business. "Oh, our competitor is doing a podcast, well look at us, we add pictures in WMP!" (Incidentally, when people load it to their iPod or other MP3 Player, those pictures don't do a hell of a lot do they?"

    The truly successful companies will be the ones that understand the new way of marketing, the new way of promoting and truly engage with their customers.

    By the way, why weren't you giving the presentation about podcasting. It must have been intimidating for him to be presenting (poorly!) about podcasting with one of the greats in the audience!


    Kevin Behringer | November 2006 | Whitewater, WI

  • 5.So, the next obvious question is: Who was the speaker? Hey, have to ask.

    Shel, here's hoping you gently pointed out to him the error of his ways after the presentation, in hopes that he doesn't spout this nonsense again?

    Bryan Person, | November 2006 | Boston

  • 6.No way, Bryan; biting the hand and all that. I was the speaker who followed him, and the last thing I want to do is offend the people behind this conference (especially since I've already been invited to speak at their 2007 event)! I had to sleep on it before even deciding to post the vague item I did.

    Somebody else had evidently already gotten to the guy before I was able to find him and explain the Windows Media Player visualizations -- and I addressed the idea of scripted, traditional recordings and their incompatbility with podcasting during my session, so he heard me on that!

    Shel Holtz | November 2006 | Atlanta, GA

  • 7.Wow, that's crazy. I remember the same sorts of things happening when the commercial internet was new (and have been seeing it again lately). People are rushing into, sometimes being pulled into a vortex created by the math: There are simply too many questions, and not enough smart people to answer them...yet. That'll change soon enough, and we'll have a more normal, "standard" level of misunderstanding in the next few years - just like we do with the web overall now.

    It's as hard to swallow now as it was in 1996 though!

    Jake | November 2006 | Dallas, Texas

  • 8.I was at the conference as well. I really enjoyed your talk, I was equally astonished at WM comment. Welcome to ehellth.

    Brian | November 2006 | Indianapolis

  • 9.Holy smokes. You are so right: I've heard people say some really odd things about podcasting, proving that they DO NOT understand the medium! I hope they hire YOU to talk about podcasting next time, Shel.

    donna papacosta | November 2006 | Toronto

  • 10.I wasn't at the conference, but I'm not suprised. What the presenter (and so many communicators) is missing is that nobody likes gladhanding or propaganda, no matter the channel. So podcasting is a new channel. There will always be new channels. What doesn't change is the need to truly understand what the audience needs and can accept -- regardless of HOW we choose to communicate it.

    Amy Gooen | November 2006

  • 11.While someone with that level of understanding should obviously not be presenting on the topic at a conference, I still see the whole thing as an opportunity - people who do "get" it can sweep in, show their know-how (a stark contrast) and scoop up the business.

    Or is that a touch too Machiavellian? Did I spell that right?

    maggie fox | November 2006 | toronto, canada

  • 12.Shel,

    Tim sent me a link to your post, and I got a good laugh when I read the "some interesting graphics for you to look at." part. That's a bit embarrassing, coming from an 'expert'.

    We've put together a small whitepaper that details how we make the most of our MP3 file by creating files that will open in Windows Media Player, Real Player, etc., and can present a hyperlinked banner within the player that can open a web browser to our sponsor's web page. This gives us something more to offer to a sponsor, as well as to the listener/viewer. The paper is titled Making the Most of Your MP3 File.

    Continually hearing stories about the "paid voice reading a script" type of podcasts makes me realize we have a long way to go in showing big (and small) companies that people want to hear a message from the people within the company, not a message from the corporate entity. The best way to get this message across to the companies is by example, and the best example I have seen lately was introduced to me by Michael Geoghegan. He and I are both highly impressed with the Ford Bold Moves series of videos, in which they introduce the people behind Ford, how they are affected by plant closings, their thoughts on a quality product, and much more.

    Emile Bourquin | November 2006 | Mission Viejo, CA

  • 13.Every conference I go to I seem to hear/see a speech similar to this. It's painful not to just jump up and scream "No you don't get it!!!"

    C.C. Chapman | November 2006 | Boston

  • 14.Hilarious and scary. I'm not sure how someone could have the stones to get up in front of a room full of people and yammer on about something they clearly don't understand.

    David Jones | November 2006

  • 15.Shel
    'Read & Listen' reminds me that we have one mouth and two ears, and that babies immitate those around them, hence english speaking parents produce an english speaking child. I am but a baby in blog land, and feel naive, immature and uncomfortable about my online identity most of the time, but I mustn't let those feelings stop me giving it a go, it never stopped anybody learning to swim or ride a bicycle, so as life skills go Blogging and Second Life are places that I know I should go.
    My husband and I attended the Delivering the New PR conference in London on Friday and authenticity as well as going where the customer & clients are came out as real points of importance. Enjoy learning to fly in SL, and congratulations on the launch of Crayon. We like the roof top swimming pool. Maybe see you there.
    'Lydia Isabella'

    Lydia Mallison-Jones | November 2006 | Nr London UK

  • 16.Yeah, this just goes to show that as new users/consumers, we need to be wise. That is, we need to get our information from more than one source. Going to hear a talk on podcasting is fine, but that should be a jumping-off point, rather than the be-all and end-all. I mean, half the stuff I was presenting on podcasting six months ago is out of date now, anyway!

    Heidi Miller | November 2006 | Chicago

  • 17.via BusinessWeekOnline According to online survey service Zoomerang, 79% of marketers aren't even aware of the term web 2.0. Ok, is anyone surprised by this? I am not. Blogs are difficult enough for most marketers to grasp. You start talking

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