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Selfie in the sound booth at George Washington University [credit: Dr. Felicia Mebane]

Selfie in the sound booth at George Washington University [credit: Dr. Felicia Mebane]

TOOL: If you listen to public radio or follow news-related programs or talk shows on television, you probably have heard of podcasts. Even well-established entertainment shows (The Dan Patrick Show, The Dr. Drew Show and This American Life),  blogs (Hollywood Life with Bonnie Fuller), informational/news organizations (NPR’s Marketplace and Reuters: Top News) and large health organizations (like the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation) now have podcasts. What’s going on and why should public health researchers and organizations get on board?

Definition

According to Dictionary.com a podcast (combining “iPod” and “broadcast”) or netcast is:

digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer

I prefer this definition because it includes video components. The main focus is on the idea that the content is “evergreen” or available whenever the listener or viewer prefers to listen and/or watch and that it is available for download to convenient devices.

Purpose

Thousands of people produce podcasts everyday. Some are individuals who share their thoughts and experiences with their family and friends. Some are popular entertainers and experts who share their ideas and experiences with millions of subscribers. Some are businesses and other organizations who have figured out that 10 minute or 30 minute audio programs can be a great way to educate or inform employees and customers. And, some are all about entertainment…and marketing.

Popularity

Because podcasts are hosted on many, many sites (e.g., Blubrry, iTunes or a company server), counting the number of podcasts and the size their audiences is a real challenge. Fortunately, the Pew Research Center has recently begun to focus on this topic.

According to their April 2015 Podcasting: Fact Sheet:

  • The increased reach and upward trend line of podcast consumption is evident in every available measure – the percentage of Americans who are listening to podcasts, the level of public awareness, and how many podcasts are being hosted and downloaded.

  • Edison Research also reported that fully one-third (33%) of all Americans 12 years of age or older now say they have listened to at least one podcast.

  • Mobile devices are increasingly the preferred way to listen to podcasts. Libsyn also recorded that, of their 2.6 billion podcast downloads in 2014, 63% were requested from mobile devices – up from 43% in 2012.

Pros

  • Audiences can take their time to listen to content at their convenience.
  • Some people prefer to process information by listening to it.
  • Content production does not have to be expensive or complicated.
  • This tool can be a great way to expand your reach, if that is one of your goals.
  • Audio and visual content allows researchers to tell their stories in a variety of creative ways not available in written form.
  • Podcasts an also help audiences connect with the people in them.

Cons

  • Creating engaging audio and visual content that also conveys technical or complicated research concepts is challenging. You may need to work with a communications expert.
  • Though production does not have to be expensive, you may need to buy production tools, such as a microphone, headphones and software. You may also need to work with a production expert.
  • Some people prefer to process information by reading it.

Though these are not all of the pros and cons of using podcast, hopefully my list and this post will help you start thinking about how you might use a podcast to meet your communication goals. And, there’s this: “The Pros and Cons of Podcasting.”

In sum, podcasts can be a great way for researchers to disseminate their information to specific audiences large and small. With the right match between content, the tool and audience, a podcast could be a great way to share your public health work.

If you would like to create a podcast series to showcase your health-related research or services, contact us or at fmebane@mebanemedia(dot)com. We can help you develop a plan, secure funding and produce content.

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