Saturday, April 08, 2006

Are people listening to Podcasts?

Many people know what podcasts are, but few use them. At least, that's the conclusion one research firm reached in a report released Friday.

Only 1 percent of online households in the United States regularly download podcasts from a PC to portable media players, which is the purpose of the audio files, Forrester Research said. Nevertheless, interest remains high, and people are expected to use the technology more in time.

By the end of this year, Forrester expects 700,000 U.S. households to listen to podcasts in portable players. That number is projected to grow to 12.3 million by 2010, or more than a third of households that are expected to be listening to MP3 files on portable devices. The MP3 format is used for music, as well as podcasts.

MP3 adoption in general is expected to rise from 11 million households this year to 34.5 million in four years.

What the numbers show is that companies should wait before heavily investing in original content for podcasting. The Forrester report, entitled "Podcasting Hits The Charts," says a quarter of online consumers are interested in podcasts, but most are looking to take their favorite radio programs on the road, as opposed to listening to new content created as podcasts.

The reason is most people don't know where to find the new content, and are unlikely to go on a blind search, Charlene Li, a Forrester analyst and author of the report, said. In addition, people right now are more interested in listening to content their familiar with on their own time.

"My recommendation right now for marketers interested in this is to take the no-brainer stuff and turn that into podcasts," Li said. "Companies can go out there and actively create original content, but they have to be realistic about the kind of reach they're going to get. I'm asking that they be realistic about it."

For example, earning calls, training updates and executive presentations are all excellent candidates for converting to podcasts, Li said.

The market, however, is expected to change in time, making room for podcast-only content. Large companies such as Apple Computer Inc. and Yahoo Inc., as well as small Internet companies such as PodShow Inc., are slowly pushing podcasts deeper into the mainstream through marketing, Li said.

Apple and Yahoo offer ways to listen, download and find podcasts through their online music stores, and PodShow features a podcast directory.

Device manufacturers, such as the Apple iPod, are also making it easier to manage podcasts, including continuous updates through RSS feeds, on a portable device. Currently, however, the process remains too hard, Li said.

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