Is business podcasting dead?

Updated on April 20, 2008

Maybe the question is better phrased as: has the desire to learn how to produce podcasts for business died?

I’m wondering this because two public events about podcasting I’d been due to speak at during the next month have been cancelled because of lack of interest.

The first one was a big surprise which I heard about yesterday – Podcasting 101, the half-day pre-conference workshop at the New Communications Forum 2008 that my podcasting partner Shel Holtz and I were due to lead on April 22 (next Tuesday). The plan was I would join in remotely from the UK via video link.

But as I gather less than a handful of people had signed up, it won’t be happening at all now.

Next is Podcasting for Business, a one-day workshop that I was leading for Melcrum on May 20 in London. Melcrum cancelled it a week or so ago as not a single person had signed up for it.

What we’ve done now is rolled the topic into a broader one-day workshop on social media that’s scheduled for June 17.

In both cases, the event organizers promoted the workshops. To no avail, it seems clear.

Are these signals of a broader trend, if it is that – lack of interest in podcasting for business? Or maybe lack of interest in attending a paid-for event to learn about it?

Perhaps interest in podcasting as a business tool has peaked. Maybe not so much in the US but it looks like that in the UK. Indeed, I’ve never really seen any strong interest in business podcasting here outside of the mainstream media and some financial institutions’ marketing-casts.

How do you see it? Is business podcasting dead?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Alex Bellinger

    I think this is symptomatic of how easy podcasting is to produce (relatively).

    Many large businesses (RBS, BT, Centrica etc) have in-house production facilities that rival some TV studios, so getting a bit of audio out isn’t a big deal).

    I also think that podcasting is now one element of a much broader sweep. To put it a different way – podcasting is normal, not unusual. That’s thank to you, Neville, the BBC and a few others.

    In fact, a root around the iTunes business podcast charts in the UK actually reveals lots of businesses and organisations already doing it.

    How well they’re doing it, and how much return their getting on their investment is another matter. There’s still a lot to learn about engaging with online communities whether that be via podcasting or twitter or facebook or blogs … but that’s another story, I guess.

  2. Richard Bailey

    I feel we often fail to see the wood for the trees (forest for the trees if you’re in North America).

    The social media tool that’s gone mainstream the fastest seems to me to be the one that’s least discussed: the classic three minute YouTube video.

    Perhaps because this looks closest to a TV commercial, no one thinks to turn to PR advice on creating one of these. Perhaps it’s because mass amateurisation is happening so fast that we’ve moved from concept to mainstream in a blink.

    The thing with video is that people can quite literally see it. Compare this with Twitter, say, which needs an army of mavens, communicators and salespeople for it to begin to approach the mainstream.

  3. Chip Griffin

    I wonder if the issue with NewCommForum is that it is more of an advanced conference whereas it was a 101 seminar. There are less folks at SNCR events who are just getting started and more who are looking to take it to the next level.

    In any case, I do think video is the hot tactic du jour. I don’t believe audio podcasting is dead, but I do think we are entering a period where folks are trying to figure out how best to use various media. To me, it has been less about silos for a while and more about tailoring the medium to the content I have to put out.

  4. Nick Booth

    I think I agree with Alex. On the whole there is a growing awareness of the breadth and importance of understanding social media in general, so learning time is probably going into that.

    However audio/video production and their use online are still mind bogglingly new to a frightening range of organsiations.

  5. neville

    The trouble with rooting around iTunes, Alex, is precisely that – you really have to hunt for business podcasts produced in the UK, outside of the many by mainstream media.

    Where are the UK equivalents of Whirlpool, GM, HP, Mercedes, BMW, Peugeot, etc, that’s what I’d like to know. There aren’t any.

    The three large businesses you mention don’t do business podcasts. At least, if they do, they’re not in iTunes, according to a simple search.

    Richard, that’s been some of my thinking, too – video. Yet it’s not what I hear when I talk to people. Experimentation perhaps but not a lot that’s concrete. Not yet.

    Chip, that was my thinking too: a pretty advanced crowd at NewComm Forum.

    Nick, maybe it’s all just too mind boggling for communicators?

  6. Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with "sketch")

    I’m shocked to hear about these cancellations, though perhaps, indeed, you should have offered advanced podcasting at the NewComm Forum. (I feel sorry for the handful of people who signed up and won’t get their seminar, though.)

    I’ve been offering podcast consulting services since February 2006, and I didn’t have any clients until late 2007, though I got asked to speak to a lot of groups about podcasting. (Good thing I kept my day job as a ghostwriter.) My own clients tend to be small businesses, but my colleagues at the Asylum, Donna Papacosta and Lee Hopkins, work for large corporations. (I helped Donna with some podcasts for Autodesk, for instance.)

    Are the UK businesses who are not producing audio podcasts producing YouTube videos instead, or are they just dragging their heels on any kind of social media at all? Have they concluded that podcasts are only for media companies? Do they have blogs?

    It takes a long time for things to reach the mainstream. We’re all keeping our eyes out for the hot new thing, but I still meet a lot of people who suffer from podcastus ignoramus.

  7. Alex Bellinger

    Neville, one of the worst aspects of iTunes is its search facility. Dreadful. But for obvious reasons I’m a close observer of the iTunes business podcast listings in the UK. Here are a few links:

    Direct Line (HSBC)

    Business Link (government body supporting SMEs)

    RBS Career Talk podcast


    HSBC Golf Update

    Which? Podcast – Consumer Association


    UBS Economics Podcast

    KPMG Podcast (UK)


    HMRC Podcast

    To name but a few.

    I admit many of these do not have the depth of the GM podcast. Many I’m sure will not have proved as beneficial as organisations might have hoped. More effort in terms of community engagement online and elsewhere would probably have been required to get a few of these podcasts of the ground.

    But … a lot of business-related organisations in the UK have tried audio podcasting. To characterise otherwise would be a mistake.

  8. Bruno Amaral

    In Portugal, podcast is still not something that is part of the day-to-day vocabulary. Except when associated with existing radio shows. So right now, I don’t even know about any business podcasts.

    On the issue of podcast vs video, I also think it’s a matter of getting people to fit podcasting in their routines. I may go to my computer to watch video podcasts. Stopping what I’m doing to relax and just watch.

    That won’t happen for audio unless it’s just music. I find it hard to multitask when I’m listening to podcasts or radio shows. On the other hand, I try to have new podcasts ready whenever I get stuck on traffic.

    So, I don’t think business podcasting is dead. Just passed it’s initial phase and hype. And in Portugal, it didn’t even pick up speed yet.

  9. Anna Farmery

    Wouldn’t disagree with any of the above. I would also add that I think in the UK there is still a gap in understanding social media in general. UK people don’t like to admit the island mentality, the industrial past which still pervades business. This means many businesses are still fighting the command and control mindset. Generalisation I know! But I think there are 2 things we need to think about
    1) We still need to head up workshops titled with the value….how to engage with the modern consumer etc rather than the technology.
    2) We also need to sell the uniqueness of podcasting…the benefits are quite different to social networking etc

    Finally maybe it is a time lag. We are always a little behind the US. Podcasting levelled in the US early 2007 and then started to see an increase in consumer “take up” later in the year…maybe in the UK we will see that uplift later this year?

    On a personal note I often think I like the fact that not that many businesses are taking up the technology. What I love about podcasting is the independent nature…do I want to listen to Wiggly Wigglers or a large firm…I know my answer and as big business enter, it will become more difficult to find those independent gems. I believe podcasting should be part of business strategy however in the meantime I enjoy the fact that they aren’t – :) Neville I am working with 4 companies – large companies who are about to launch podcasts…because of the command and control they take a long time to launch…so maybe that is another time lag :)

  10. Shel Holtz

    I think Chip’s on to something. All but one of the pre-conference sessions at the New Communications Forum had adequate registrations, not just the one on podcasting.

  11. links for 2008-04-22 « Das Textdepot

    […] Is business podcasting dead? : NevilleHobson.com Zwei Podcasting-Veranstaltungen wurden abgesagt – ein Zeichen für nachlassendes Interesse an Business Podcasting? Berechtigte Frage: Ein Zeit lang meinten Berater, Unternehmen seien an Podcasting eher interessiert als an Blogs… (tags: podcasting) […]

  12. neville

    Sallie, I know a few folk here who work with large companies in producing their podcasts. I have one client in particular where I produce public podcasts for them (15 in past 12 months).

    There’s something, though, that’s a blocker for more companies to get involved with something that has almost no barriers to entry (as we well know).

    Maybe it’s just a lack of imagination.

    Alex, thanks for that list. I’m aware of most of them. Many financial institutions as I mentioned in my post. But I’m asking where are the Whirlpools, the GMs, the BMWs, etc.

    Anna, I recall intense interest in business podcasting here in 2006 and early 2007. I presented at conferences on the topic, gave workshops at a number of companies about social media including podcasting and how it fits into traditional communication.

    Yet little progress. With one exception, none of the companies I’ve talked to directly have started a podcast, internally or externally, in spite of very clear expressions of desire to do so.

    In those cases, I know of many hurdles they still have to jump (mindset shifts mainly) so maybe it is all about time lags as you noted.

  13. Sebstian

    Hey Neville,
    maybe the boundaries to tackle podcasting have become lower and people don’t think they need the tutoring as much as before. Also, there is now pretty good standard-setting book out, called “How to do everything with podcasting”. It might be too soon to tell, but the book comes cheaper than attendance, and has more information too.

  14. Krishna De

    Neville – I think there are two issues here – why aren’t businesses in the UK using podcasting more and why are people not registering for the programmes you mention. They are not necessarily the same issues.

    Firstly thanks to Alex for sharing those links to the corporate podcasts. It’s good to know that there are at least some.

    Overall in Europe there are far fewer corporate podcasts than we might like – but then that’s the same for the whole area of social media communications.

    I believe that there is still alot of work we need to do to engage the communications, marketing and HR communities to show them how they can include podcasting and other social media platforms both to engage with clients, prospects, business partners, prospective employees, current and past employees.

    In Ireland we’ve only just started to see business podcasting being referenced in the media this month for the first time to a significant level in the major press.

    To the point of people not registering to attend the programmes you mention, don’t overlook that at a time of economic uncertainty, the one thing that most organisations look at is discretionary spend. I know that is what I would have been doing had I still been in my SVP role in a FTSE top 20 company.

    Yes I know podcasting is inexpensive and can help build and sustain brand engagement and employer brand engagement during an economic downturn, but implementing new ideas and strategies when financials are under pressure is not at the top of the list for many leaders in large corporates.

    It’s taken some time to see the seeds we’ve been planting about social media starting to grow in Europe but I’ve received more enquiries from organisations interested in social media in 2008 than ever before and have been running a number of workshops and providing consulting on social media strategies including podcasting.

    It’s incumbent of all of us who are first movers in the area to continue to raise awareness of the benefits social media can, share case studies and I am sure that eventually we will see more companies adopting podcasting and social media in their marketing, communications and engagement strategies.

  15. Dave Burckhard

    What Mr. Hobson and others see as some sort of lack of interest in and a leveling off of business podcasting is really a feature of podcasting many don’t realize or understand.

    Because podcasting is so precisely aimed and because so much business podcasting is proprietary, the fact that, as an outsider, you don’t see it is not an accident but is intentional. Sometimes people forget that podcasting isn’t advertising. You don’t have to reach 100,000 viewers if your audience is 500 and they and only they can get your podcasts.

    Indeed, the National Podcasting System has been producing most of its podcasts for selected eyes and ears only. When the audience are your employees, partners, distribution chain, trainees, sales force, retailers, or legal department, the last place you’ll host your podcasts are on iTunes. Only our clients and the intended recipients know of the podcasts.

    This feature not only gives podcasting an advantage of broadcasted media but is a downfall as well. The masses don’t see a prevalence of business podcasting so they believe it’s not a proven medium or isn’t well-known enough to use themselves. Unfortunately, that type of thinking works against businesses. Especially those whose competitors are exploiting all the benefits, especially the covert ones, of podcasting.

    Surely, open podcasting has a place to supplement or even replace advertising and marketing mixes and my company has produced several for a variety of companies. And those overt or open-to-all podcasts are playing an increasingly important role for business. But to only regard those as the only podcasts being used because they’re the only ones that can be accessed freely disregards the huge number of covert podcasts that are being made and being watched and heard.

    And while businesses might be interested in producing their own podcasts, many are turning to businesses that specialize in professional podcast production. Therefore, a seemingly disinterest in podcasting when, in reality, the medium is booming.

    regards,

    Dave Burckhard
    National Podcasting System
    http://www.nationalpod.com

  16. FeverBee

    Podcasting – Peaking or Dying?…

    Two divergent themes emerged about podcasting this week. Neville Hobson noted the cancellation of two podcasting conferences. Neville wondered if businesses had lost interest in podcasting, and whether this was specific to the UK? A few comments sugges…

  17. Sam Deeks

    Hi Neville – good question. I think business podcasting was strangled at birth by its parents – people like Alex Mandossian and Paul Colligan.

    I think they and many others have helped to turn what is potentially a useful, empowering medium into a pimpable, trashy, empty commodity. I thank them for their podcasting bible – it helped me get started and understand a few things, but as soon as the endless junk afiliate marketing emails started, I lost all respect for their approach.

    I think podcasting has a future as a specific solution to a specific problem in a specific context.

    The problem for business podcasting as I see it is that very few businesses see podcasting as a solution to any of their problems. It also doesn’t clearly add to their bottom line and – even if it did – for most, the prospect of performing in front of a mic / camera is an ordeal in itself.

    We’re finding that businesses are not eager to podcast themselves – but they are interested in how podcasting techniques can solve certain problems. With that in mind, we’re trying to create the very simplest ways for them to ‘speak’ leaving us to ‘publish’. The ‘get-rich-quick-with-information-products’ approach has soured the whole podcasting field and the quicker it loses the ‘podcasting’ name, the better in that respect.

  18. Dean Owen

    Here it is almost eight months after this article was posted and I wonder what has transpired since? Here in Alberta Canada I have found that the business community (as well as the community in general) are still in learning mode regarding social media and podcasting. Social networking – Facebook etc, has become more popular and the niche elements of web 2.0 such as podcasting and blogging have taken a back seat. But they haven't died off. As people are learning more they seem to be trying to digest the value of podcasting. Since it's easier to create a page on Facebook than to create a podcast, that seems to be the initial foray for business into the world of social media. Podcasting isn't dead so much as evolving into a new form of media and communication. As far as my own speaking engagements are concerned. . . one group I speak to (Alberta BusinessLink) has asked that I expand my one hour brown bag lunch event into a three hour seminar based on increased requests from their members. As podcasters we need to change and innovate to meet our clients needs. Don't forget – innovation is what created podcasts in the first place.

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