As I said back in September of 2008, the news content of WJMA would be perfect repurposed as podcasts. Looks like they took my advice (I'll add that my consulting fee) and did just that with their news and sports reports.
Unfortunately, WJMA's podcasts have a long way to go -- the same problems that plagued their website's newsfeed in April of 2008 are still with them.
Here's the 3/24/09 episode of the WJMA News podcast. See if the same things strike you that do me.
Personally, this tells me a few things about whoever's in charge of WJMA's podcasts.
1) They have very little idea of what podcasting's about -- and how they differ from radio content. If they did, they would understand that we need some context for this news. There should be an intro at the very least. The FIRST thing we should here is an identification of the station, the locality, the date and the announcer. This MP3 can be downloaded anywhere in the world, at any time. What state are we in? What day is this news for? Who is this guy talking?
Imagine this: a simple music bed of urgent music and the sound of a teletype (retro I know, but effective). Over top of it we hear "This is the WJMA Daily News Podcast for March 24, 2009, I'm Phil Goodwin. Here are the top stories from around Central Virginia." Then move on to the prerecorded stuff. And have the music bed return briefly at the end. Now I can hear when this podcast starts and stops -- so when I'm listening to several podcasts in a row, I know where I am.
Remember -- once I subscribe, it's unlikely I'll return to this podcasting page. So I won't get context from any of the graphics or the popup player.
2) They probably don't subscribe to any podcasts themselves. If they did, they would know that metadata is absolutely crucial. This downloaded podcast has "1653340" as the title. Now when I see that on my iTunes menu, that tells me nothing. There's no date anywhere, nor clue as to origin of this podcast. That makes it a prime candidate for deletion.
OK, fellas, I'll make it country-simple. Here is the information this podcast should have to make it useful to anyone downloading it. All of these fields should be filled in.
- Name: WJMA Central Virginia News for 3/24/09
- Artist: Phil Goodwin
- Year: 2009
- Composer: Piedmont Communications, Inc.
- Genre: Podcast
- Artwork - an image of the station's logo with some additional element that says "news."
Do all of that, and you'll have something useful and more valuable to the listener (sort of the point, dont'cha know).
3) They have yet to see the value -- both in branding and advertising revenue -- of this repurposed content. Look, what's the point of a radio station podcast, anyway? Doing something just because all the cool kids are is no way to run a business. There are solid reasons why a radio station should be podcasting -- three, in fact.
First, a podcast should should reinforce the station's brand. Second, it should engage a new audience on their own terms. Third. it should be a revenue stream for the station.
Adding metadata (which I discussed above) will reinforce the brand.
Meeting the audience on its own terms? Well, how about placing this podcast in a few directories already? Getting a podcast listed on iTunes is not hard -- even I've done it. Twice. 50% of web browsing on mobile devices is on done on iPhones, and 70% of the MP3 players in the world are iPods. They both use iTunes exclusively. Put the podcast where your audience is -- don't make them come to you (because they won't).
Finally, how about some additional monitization? Is the Culpeper Star Exponent paying extra for mention on the podcast? I don't know, but they should -- if account managers are throwing it in for free then it will be very difficult to charge for them or others clients for placement later.
Remember that opening I talked about? How about a brief spot right after the intro and before the news? I'll sit through one ten-to-fifteen second commercial to hear the news. When the news is over, though, I'm outta there. Placing spots at the end (like for said Culpeper Star Exponent) is a bad idea. This isn't radio. I don't have to sit through the ad to hear what's coming up next. I can just skip to the next podcast.
What kind of sponsor would work for a podcast? One that has a web-based business or a strong web-based component, of course. Even if the business is local, this is the perfect media for driving traffic to a website. Why? Because the people listening are already online. Podcast listeners are comfortable with technology, and have no problem navigating the Internet. So give them an easily remembered link, and go.
Oh - and you can also use the comments field in the metadata to provide URLs for the sponsors. An added service -- for a price. (We won't talk about enhanced podcasts that you can embed links into. I think that might be too confusing at this point.)
Fixing these podcasts is a fairly simple task. But it's one that needs to be done -- and not 344 days later.
(Don't know what to do now that the WJMA web watch is over. Maybe keep a running total of consultant fees I should be charging?)