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Podcasting is exploding in popularity thanks to the ease of creation and distribution. Learn how your company can benefit from this new medium as a way to reach new customers, boost employee morale and spread the word about your business.

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business, marketing, podcasting, podcast, public relations, advertising

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Should Your Company Be Podcasting? Before we answer that question, let’s take a quick look at what a podcast is. Audio programming isn’t revolutionary.A company called has been selling downloadable content like audio books and radio shows for nearly 10 years. Now, thanks to the growing popularity and large storage capacity of Apple’s iPods, tech experimentalists are considering anew the possibilities of downloadable audio. Now with new, easy-to-use distribution tools and cheaper storage capacity in addition to the millions-sold iPod market, podcasting is going mainstream.

The broadcasting part comes from syndication tools that allow listeners to subscribe to receive automatic downloads of new podcasts in episodes that interest them. People who produce podcasts use something called RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to create subscription feeds. Listeners point their podcatchers toward those feeds and receive their automatic updates. Apple’s iTunes software has built-in podcatching features, but you can also use other programs, like the free Juice Receiver. These podcatching programs transfer new episodes to your PC. Some software will then even deliver the files to your digital music player automatically using the RSS feed.

You can listen to podcasts without an iPod. Individual podcast shows are usually recorded in common audio formats like MP3, others are in AAC format. Some podcatchers’ auto-synch features only work with iPods, but you can listen to podcasts on any digital music player or on your PC with standard programs like RealPlayer, Windows Media Player or any of the myriad other programs available for download at no charge.

Your company can shape the message it delivers, and a podcasting series distributed regularly to customers is a great way to build their loyalty and create a bond with both customers and new sales leads. The trick is to offer content listeners will find useful. For some companies, the podcasting topics are more obvious than others. Music distribution services provider posts a monthly promotional podcast of samples from its archive while travel website offers podcasts full of travel tips. But companies that aren’t in the consumer services market can still use promotional podcasts—they just have to be more creative in figuring out what they have to offer.

If you’re ready to begin making your own podcast, Audacity is a popular, free program for recording and digitizing and editing sound. HOwever, pretty much any sound software will work. Once you have a recorded sound file, upload it to the internet on your website; if you’re creating a series, set up an RSS feed pointing to the site where new episodes will appear. That’s all there is to it.

Unless you’re aiming for top-quality production quality, podcasting is a fairly inexpensive undertaking. If you don’t want to go the trouble of doing your own production, services shops are springing up to handle podcasting chores. Some companies have a production staff and network of voice artists on tap to quickly convert scripts to ready-for-podcasting sound files. Others have a hosting and syndication service that handles podcast storage and RSS feed creation, with an unlimited bandwidth allowance. For marketers interested in podcasting, the obstacles to start up have never been smaller.