A couple of days ago, I learned that Podango, a large podcast network, had suggested to its customer that they should take steps to back up/move their content to other hosting providers, the implication being that they were going out of business. I’m a bit bummed by this personally because I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lee Gibbons (Podango CEO and co-founder) on several occasions and found him to be a person dedicated to delivering a good service to his customers. Not surprisingly, this lead to another round of “podcasting is dead” blog posts by podcasting “experts”, suggesting that the day of the podcast has come to an end. So, that begs the question. . .
Is podcasting dead?
I think not. Of course, you could argue that I’m biased, what with my company being in the podcasting business. Fair enough. But my answer is not motivated by keeping my company alive and viable. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 10 years, and during that time, I’ve never been emotionally connected to what products and services I provide just because it’s what I do for a living. If podcasting wasn’t a viable play, I’d find something else to do. However, I am excited about what we do for our customers because I found a problem that needed solving and than solved it. (By the way, wanting to do corporate podcast because it’s the in thing isn’t the “problem” we solve.) My reasoning behind the ongoing belief in podcasts has less to do with “rah rah” and more to do with analytics.
Podcasting: Trends Matter
When we start working with a new customer, one of the services we provide is analytics. That is, we count every podcast that is downloaded every month and report that information back to the customer. And every month, when we gather these numbers, it is an “open the kimono” moment. That is, numbers don’t lie. If a customer’s traffic is trending down, that’s not a feature. On the other hand, if the number of podcasts being downloaded trends upward, that’s a good news story.
In reviewing each and every monthly report we’ve written, EVERY podcast we’ve produced has grown new listeners and additional downloads month-over-month. There has never been an exception. If podcasting was dead, I’d think the trend would have spiked in the mid to late 2006 period (when corporate podcast started being “in”) and drop off shortly thereafter.
That never happened.
Over the course of the last six months alone, on average, our customers are seeing the number of podcasts being downloaded growing at 16% month-to-month. Our smallest client, Acutrack, has been seeing a late 2008 surge with growth of 21%, 19% and 20% over the last three months. If that kind of growth is “dead”, color me dead.
Now, these numbers are for ongoing shows. But we’re also seeing steady growth for shows that have stopped production. My Podcasting for Business podcast was delivered as a series of ten episodes. The last episode went live on May 7th, 2007. That’s over a year ago. In the last six months, that show has seen month-to-month downloads grow at a rate of 13%. The last two months have seen 12,319 downloads. Not too shabby for a podcast that hasn’t produced a new episode for 19 months.
Now, not every corporate podcast is a good podcast. And as a result, there are many shows that are likely struggling to find an audience. This is because many of these shows continue to fail to recognize that if you do not either entertain or education, nobody will listen. But the failure of these podcasts has nothing to do with the technology itself—it has to do with delivering good content.
To those out there calling for the death of podcasting, I’d suggest you ask yourself why you think it’s important to do so. While I understand the “if it bleeds it leads” mentality (especially it seems for many bloggers), what are you doing to move your audience forward by stating something that, more times than not, you have no personal experience with?
The reality is, if podcasting works, it works. In reading posts from people in the podcasting business, things seem to be moving along quite nicely. We like where podcast is heading for 2009 and expect to hear more podcast-positive stories as folks doing good work continue to spread the word (and their talent).
But here’s my question to you. Has this podcasting is dead nonsense hurt your attempts at starting a podcast at your company? Let me know. I’d be interested in hearing what your dealing with.