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Podcasting: A New Communications Tool for SMBs
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By David Erickson

As the iPod and other MP3-based devices continue to change how music is purchased, delivered and listened to, “podcasting” has emerged as a next generation medium for small to medium businesses (SMBs) to syndicate and distribute all types of audio content. Everything from radio shows, songs and music videos to corporate training programs and how-to seminars can now be podcasted. Podcasting is emerging as a highly cost effective communications tool for small to medium businesses.

The word “podcast” combines iPod with broadcast and was first coined in 2004 by Ben Hammersley of The Guardian. The subscription aspect, as well as the medium of playback, sets the podcast apart from the traditional multimedia content found online today. While streaming will allow users to hear and view multimedia content directly from a Web site, podcasting allows listeners to download the audio content and listen to it on their iPod (or other MP3 device) anytime, anywhere.

“Under the Hood” of a Podcast

As far as content development, podcasting is simple process that begins with the creation of an audio or multimedia file, which may be edited and then converted into an MP3 file. Audio podcasts are typically in MP3 format – the de facto standard – to make them easy to read by today’s players. The “podcaster” – the person or SMB producing the content – will then want to have their file hosted on a podcasting Web site or placed on their own Web site. The next step takes podcasting from traditional content to next generation communications tool. The content creator sets up a RSS feed to publicize and distribute the podcast.

RSS can have multiple definitions. The most recent and favored answer is Really Simple Syndication – it has also been defined as RDF Site Summary and Rich Site Summary. The acronym still does not explain the RSS. In its most basic definition, RSS is a format for sending information to a group of subscribers such as metadata, or data about data, across the Internet. Typically, users will request an RSS feed, which sends them content ranging from news to blogs to multimedia podcasts. The content creator will then send periodic updates with new information. RSS allows users to receive tailored information in a central repository and gives content creators another avenue to reach a target audience. Since RSS technology is Web-based, feeds are automatically stored as links on other Web sites.

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David Erickson is the found and CEO of Free Conferencing Corporation of America.
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