Monday, March 05, 2007

VaBIO Podcast Noted in RTD Article

Podcasting a tool for firms
Experts say shows can be helpful in getting message out to public
Saturday, March 3, 2007

Since its early days circa 2004, podcasting has touched on such subjects as gardening, video games, cooking and sports.

But the online audio or video shows have also become a tool for businesses that want to share a message with their clients, investors or the general public.

Podcasting's audience? Largely male, folks who work out and commuters and business travelers who want something other than music or the newspaper to pass the time.

Lasting about a half hour, podcasts made by Ironworks Consulting revolve around corporate information-technology topics the average person would find perplexing "open source" software, anyone? But such content has an audience: folks who know and work in information-technology, and understand all of its jargon.

"It's kind of a marketing thing because we're showing our perspective on technologies we help clients implement," said Will Loving, the Henrico County firm's chief operating officer. "If someone listens to it, they can actually learn something from it and use it in their day-to-day work."

That's precisely how podcasts should be done, experts say. If made correctly, a corporate podcast can become a marketing and public-relations tool, but it shouldn't look or sound that way.

Steven Hearn, a former Richmonder and president of, said the programs should be considered "infotainment" -- in other words, listeners should learn something, yet stay amused.

A little more than one in 10 Web users in the U.S. have downloaded a podcast, the Pew Internet & American Life Project said in November. Few consumers appear to download podcasts with great frequency, perhaps a sign the technology is still young. Forrester Research says the adoption of broadband and spread of MP3 players will push podcasting's popularity in the future.

Still, Forrester said last month, Internet videos, blogs and networking sites such as MySpace are still much more trendy with consumers than podcasts.

"My caution is that companies shouldn't be dashing out to create expensive original content for a small audience -- unless they gain value from being seen as innovative," Charlene Li, a Forrester analyst, wrote last year in her blog.

As people who use podcasts know, listeners can subscribe to the programming as they would a magazine, through services such as Apple's iTunes. When a new show is published, it is sent to software on the user's computer or hand-held device such as the Palm Treo.

Chesterfield County-based PrecisionIR Group converts corporate earnings calls and shareholder meetings into podcasts for some clients. It handles investor-relations services for thousands of public and private companies.

"If you're a Wall Street analyst you can download all the earnings calls and listen to them on the treadmills while you work out, or on the train back [home], and listen to what the CEOs have to say," said J. Patrick Galleher, PrecisionIR's chief executive, a frequent flier who, on his iPod, has everything from Guns N' Roses tunes to corporate podcasts from paper and packaging firm Stora Enso.

PrecisionIR began its podcasting service in June 2005, and that year turned 116 corporate events into podcasts. Last year, the firm offered 1,286 podcasts, which were downloaded 64,692 times.

Galleher projects his company will have thousands of podcasts available this year.

Virginia Biotechnology Association Executive Director Mark Herzog has hosted seven podcasts since September. He's interviewed state life-sciences entrepreneurs, government officials, and others involved in the creation of a biotechnology industry in Virginia.

The programs, running anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, are as much an advertisement for the association as they are informative to those who are engrossed in science.

"Some [listeners] are interested in policy aspects, some are concerned about new trends in science. . . . The podcasts are a way that we can [cover] different topics and people can download those topics to meet their needs," Herzog said.

The association has tracked about 200 downloads of the podcast each month since December. People can subscribe to the podcast for free on the association's Web site,, or through iTunes.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond has been podcasting the speeches of its president, Jeffrey M. Lacker, since December 2005. "It's one of the most popular features on our Web site," Fed spokeswoman Lisa Oliva said, although she did not provide figures.

"It just gives you a greater dissemination of information. Our audience is broader because of podcasting."

Contact staff writer Jeffrey Kelley at or (804) 649-6348.

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