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ipod image
‘Podcasting’ has exploded into the mainstream with publishing giants such as the BBC, Emap, Guardian Newspapers, Reed Business Information, Telegraph Media Group and VNU Business Publications all embracing this new concept in content delivery.

Some sixty publishers met at an AOP forum recently to discuss the opportunities and challenges podcasting presents for publishers and the ways to generate a return on investment in these new services.

Opening the session, Neil McIntosh, assistant editor at Guardian Unlimited spoke about the success of its Ricky Gervais Show, which reached number one on the iTunes download chart on both sides of the Atlantic. McIntosh argued that podcasting is “just another means of delivery,” pointing out that the challenge for publishers remains the same as for any other medium, “to do something original and entertaining that’s the right fit for your audience.”

He added that while podcast content is largely available free-of-charge, tangible benefits can include raising the profile of your brand and introducing new audiences to your other services.

Chris Green, technology editor at VNU’s Computing, described how its aim had been to take its content to “another level,” working alongside print and online services to offer a full range of access points for users. He said: “In the age of ‘pull’ rather than ‘push’ media, we need to be able to reach our audience at times, and in places that suit their needs.”

ruddle podcasting
Guy Ruddle, the newly appointed podcast editor at Telegraph Media Group likened the growing UK podcasting market to the “wild west,” explaining: “There are no rules and no one knows what they are doing (yet).” He added: “At this stage we are concentrating on giving our users great content and choice in terms of how to interact with our brand.”

john macfarlane podcasting
John MacFarlane, online manager at New Scientist, explained that a key lesson for his team had been that users have high expectations of quality. New Scientist envisaged a time investment of half a day per week for their website editor to work with an external producer to create its ‘SciPod’, however this increased to as much as 2.5 days per week. A key question moving forward will be whether publishers can cover their costs. MacFarlane cautioned: “Don’t believe the hype. The word ‘podcast’ has been added to the dictionary, but the word ‘bubble’ has been there a lot longer.”

sarah prag podcasting
Sarah Prag, senior project manager at BBC Radio and Music Interactive shared the story of the BBC download trial and urged publishers to ensure that “user experience comes first and technology second.” In addition, Prag reminded publishers of the importance of ‘idents’ and ‘metadata’ to ensure that a user downloading content from an aggregator such as iTunes, can source additional content directly.

The panel highlighted the importance of gaining carriage on iTunes, which offers access to some 42m potential listeners. However concerns were raised regarding the role of aggregators as gateways to content and the potential issues arising from publishers being beholden to third-parties in order to deliver content. Both McIntosh and MacFarlane noted they have found little transparency with regard to how ratings on iTunes are derived.

AOP invited Dominic Finney, head of buying at Quantum Media, to offer the agency perspective on this new technology. He said: “Fear, a lack of understanding, a lack of time and critically, a lack of a transparent value metric are the key barriers to attracting advertisers to podcasts.”

Finney called for more experimentation and research and urged agencies and media owners to work together to “educate, grow and innovate” in order to ensure spend can be placed with confidence. The panel agreed that as an industry we must explore the measurement and accountability of these services in order to gain advertiser buy-in.

AOP members are invited to download presentations from the AOP website.

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