Podcasts for Portable CE
Recently, I had a conversation with a teenager about music. He asked me, “Which iPod did you have when you were a kid?” When I told him there was no such thing as an iPod when I was growing up, he stared at me, incredulous. Today, the iPod, or MP3, generation extends well beyond teenagers. Many adults, accomplished professionals, use MP3 players regularly. And although the main use for these players continues to be music/entertainment, they are increasingly being used to download serious business and educational content in the form of “podcasts.” Important to note: MP3 players are not the only way they are being accessed; professionals are also listening to podcasts on laptops and desktop computers.
Proof that podcasts are becoming more and more important in the education sector is everywhere. For example, the leading business school in France, HEC, supplies its students with iPods. The students can preview programs and build a library on the iPod for listening whenever and wherever it suits them. Research suggests that these students, who download podcast lectures, perform significantly better on exams than students who attend lectures in-person. Harvard University is also offering courses via iPod, as are Stanford, Purdue, and others. So we know where the next generation is going with this. In the meantime, there is plenty of value in portable audio programming for continuing professional education (CE, CPE, CME, etc.). The lawyers, doctors, accountants, bankers, and others who are required to participate in continuing education are busier than ever--and considerably more mobile. Bringing CE to those audiences, wherever they are, via devices like MP3 players or laptops makes sense.
According to eMarketer, 37.6 million people will be downloading podcasts by 2013. That’s up from 17.4 million in 2008—more than double. According to a Pew Internet and American Life profile, as of May 2008, 23 percent of people earning over $75,000 per year had downloaded podcasts. These are precisely the same professionals who have a mandate to participate in ongoing CE. Conservatively, say that 10% of your audience will regularly download podcasts--based on those numbers, it might make sense to repurpose existing content into CE to-go. It will be different for each organization, in terms of what content they offer, the demographics of their particular audience, and the resources the organization has, but it’s probably worth looking into.
Let’s talk a little bit about the practicalities of producing a podcast for CE. Technically, podcasts can be audio (sound) or video (sound and pictures), but the majority of us think of a podcast as an audio file, so for the purpose of this post, we’ll stick with that. Anyone with a sound card on their computer, a microphone, some recording software (many are free, if your computer wasn’t delivered with recording and editing software), and a website can produce a podcast. Basically, you create an audio file, add the file to your InReach catalog (or an RSS feed), and let your customers know how to find it. Granted, you still need worthwhile content and a solid script is a good idea when creating a podcast, but producing the podcast is not difficult. For InReach customers who are already producing webcasts, webinars, and telephone seminars, podcasting will be an easy repurpose of course material and another convenient way for your audience to access CE.
I’m not suggesting that podcasts will replace webcasting and webinars, but I am suggesting that they are an emerging tool for providers of CE and probably worth evaluating. With an audience comprised of busy professionals, who have limited time (and/or who need to focus on billable hours), and shrinking travel budgets, many of the organizations we work with have been very open to evaluating CE delivery methods that are flexible and portable. Podcasts provide additional options, and today’s CE consumers need all of the flexibility and portability they can get.
I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on CE and podcasting and about your podcast experiences.