There are likely better ways to engage your supporters
Target audience: Nonprofits, NGOs, cause organizations, social enterprises, independent sites, educators.
By Kyria Abrahams
The human-interest work done by nonprofit organizations naturally presents a rich trove of compelling topics for the world of social media. In addition to Twitter and Facebook, podcasts may appear to be an effective way to push a good story to the public and generate interest for your cause.
The issue is this: Few people listen to podcasts anymore. And if they do, it’s nearly impossible to measure.
“Podcasts were a moment in time,” said Matthew C., who works as the global marketing specialist for an international nonprofit in New York. “iTunes automatically downloads everything [you subscribe to]. So we see you downloading. The question is: Are people listening? We have no way of knowing if the public is actually engaging with the content.”
Perhaps this is why the top five results for the search term “Top nonprofit podcasts” brought up links from as far back as 2006. Or why when I told Matthew that I was writing an article on podcasts, his immediate response was: “Choose another topic.”
Where did podcasts go? Should your organization should destroy all existing podcasts and never utter the words mp3 and iTunes again?
The eight-tracks of the Internet?
At the 2009 Blogworld and New Media Expo conference, podcasting pioneer Leo Laporte famously declared, “Podcasting is dead.” That’s a bit of hyperbole, considering that Laporte’s 23 podcasts are downloaded more than 5 million times a month. But Laporte has an established brand in tech circles, and it’s a challenge for newcomers to match those stats.
If there’s no way to measure who is interacting with your podcast, why do websites like NPR and UNICEF.org still have popular podcast sections that are updated on a regular basis? You may be asking yourself: if they’re doing it, why shouldn’t we?
The answer is simple. Those podcasts are just another way to publicize a brand’s deeply embedded radio presence.
“If you have existing radio programs, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t podcast them,” said Matthew, who preferred that we not disclose his full name. “It takes five seconds.”
UNICEF, for example, augments existing news stories on their high-traffic website with radio reports, which, in turn, also go out as podcast episodes.
The difference between podcasting today and podcasting in 2006 is that podcasts are no longer thought of as a means to an end. Now, they’re just another way to get your story heard, like linking to an existing story on Twitter. Launching a podcast as a means to an end in 2011 is like starting a blog in the hopes of getting a book deal.
“A few years ago, it was thought that people would wake up in the morning and download their favorite podcasts onto their iPod for the morning commute,” Matthew continued. “Turns out no one actually uses their phones that way.”
That’s overstating it — certainly many podcasts have a dedicated listenership and fan base. But the real question is: In a resource-strapped organization, is this the best way to allocate your time?
There’s a lot of work that goes into creating something that looks so simple. The shorter the final piece is, the more work probably went into making it. That’s why it’s all the more important to make sure your podcast is part of a bigger social media campaign or program. If you do launch a podcast, some good podcasting hosting services include Libsyn, PodBean and SoundCloud.
So, bottom line, podcasts aren’t dead, but you probably shouldn’t start one with the hopes of going viral.
What happened to podcasts?
• People generally don’t use their media devices that way.
• No one can measure if people are listening to the downloaded podcast.
• The time and cost of creating one generally outweighs the benefits.
What’s your view? Disagree? Agree? Tell us in the comments!
Kyria Abrahams is the author of “I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed – Tales From A Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing.” She has worked in the field of Web design and content creation for the past 10 years.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.