Monday, July 11, 2011

How to decide whether to offer podcasts on your site

Versión en español aquí.

At the moment I am leading a course for Latin American journalists who have created their own digital news media (blog for the course in Spanish is here).

We just analyzed the multimedia aspects of a number of websites and a question arose about the value of offering podcasts. The simple answer is that it depends on the purpose of the site and the characteristics of the audience. 

There are tools available to offer a bewildering array of different services on your site, but before you deploy any of them, consider these questions:

  • How likely is it that this new service (podcast, video, audio, poll, blog, forum etc.) will attract a new segment of the target audience?
  • Do our competitors offer this service? If we can’t do it better than they do, maybe we should not consider it.
  • Does this new service have the potential to increase time on site or visitor loyalty?
  • Given our limited resources of time, personnel and money, is it worth diverting resources to this service?
  • Do our target users want information fast or deep analysis? In other words, what do they value most?
In many cases the only way to answer these questions is to test the tool and measure results. The ideal is to have several months to evaluate it.
As for podcasts, the Internet Pew Research Center conducted a survey which revealed that only 3% of U.S. users downloaded a podcast as part of their usual activities on the Internet. Three percent seems low, but the use of any specialized web site, such as a local site, would also be comparatively low in this type of general survey.
Brand loyalty
Podcasts might be useful if they increase a user’s brand loyalty. For example, I download programs from National Public Radio on news, finance and culture to listen to on my iPod when I am traveling or exercising. Podcasts are the only reason I visit the Spanish radio site Cadena Ser in Spain.

There is no other way I would ever access the news or information of these sites if they did not have podcasts available. The question is, how valuable am I to them? Is it worth it for them to do this to reach users like me? They need to analyze their numbers closely to decide.

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