I like to think I have learned a thing or two about internet audiences, thanks to running talkRA. But I can always learn more. Unfortunately, one thing I have learned is to never finish a blog with a question for the audience. Nothing discourages comments more than explicitly asking for them. So, to be clear, this post is definitely not asking you what you think about the talkRA podcast, the long-running companion output to the blog. That said, I cannot stop you leaving a comment, if you choose to do so ;)
Some years ago, when iPods seemed new and funky, podcasts also seemed new and funky too. They provided me with an excellent way to make and share content with very little additional effort. I was already in the habit of using the phone to discuss business assurance with all sorts of people around the world. Recording the conversation, and sharing an mp3 file on the web, was both easy and fun. Often the hardest part was to convince my peers that they would speak as much sense if talking to the whole world, as when they talk to me alone. But when they do speak, I find the results to be excellent, and the use of electronic communications is far more convenient than travelling to some overseas conference to hear much the same thing.
When the podcast was first made available, I assumed the listeners would be the same people who read the blog. Subsequent feedback from readers and listeners told me I was wrong. A very wide variety of people read talkRA’s blogs. On the other hand, the podcast has a more loyal but narrower niche following. I receive most offline feedback about the podcast from senior managers in telcos and c-level execs working for suppliers. Why does the podcast appeal to them more than most? One reason is that talkRA is read by people whilst at work, during their lunches and coffee breaks. Ten minutes reading a blog is a shorter interruption, and less disturbance to colleagues, than spending between 30 minutes and an hour listening to a podcast. Not all work computers are set up to play audio, though I believe this is less common than it used to be. Bandwidth used to be an issue for some people, though this should also have become much less of an obstacle than in the past. Podcasts are more likely to be listened to away from the office; some regular listeners tell me that they typically enjoy the podcasts whilst in the car or on some other journey. And maybe the content itself is subtly geared for a different kind of audience. Blogs might be short or humorous, whilst podcasts tend to give a serious ‘deep dive’ into specific topics.
Looking at the all-time stats, the most popular talkRA podcast was an interview with Hanno Allolio of Allolio & Konrad, about improving the exploitation of data. After that comes several podcasts with similar numbers of downloads, though with they have varied topics: revenue assurance in Africa, the growth of managed services, and the history of revenue assurance. But then, all the podcasts have varied topics, from a 2009 panel debate about the impact of data warehouses on revenue assurance, to our most recent podcast about preventing fraud by improving number range management. Unsurprisingly, the least popular talkRA podcast featured me, talking about the concept of podcasting. I was much more surprised, when I saw how many people downloaded the podcast where Mike Willett asked me to talk about me (not counting the repeat downloads by my mother).
To my mind, there should be a strong market for podcasts, as they provide an entertaining and efficient way of hearing quality content from good speakers. But am I missing a trick somewhere? Are there ways to make the podcasts more appealing or accessible, but which I have not thought of? Should I publish podcasts more often, in the knowledge that the more podcasts are offered, the more people will get into the habit of listening to them? Or should I concentrate on increasing the output of the blog instead? I would ask you, dear reader, but you already know why I cannot do that…