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Making podcasting more enticing

Friday 7 May 2010, 18:05

Andrew Caspari Andrew Caspari

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At BBC Radio we are pretty proud of our success with podcasting. Around 10 million editions of BBC podcasts are downloaded each month in the UK - Around 20 million across the whole world. The numbers are impressive.

However I often wonder whether we could do much better than that. "Ask not how many podcasts there have been but how many more there could be."

Listeners often tell us they would like to be able to save programmes and hear them when it suits them and being able to take programmes with you on an MP3 player or mobile phone is also attractive. On the other hand people also tell me that podcasting seems very complicated. It feels rather geeky or indeed expensive. So we commissioned some research and are going to experiment with some new ways of describing what I think is a really terrific offer.

Our first go is the new trail for A History of the World which John Humphrys has recorded. We worked hard to try to make the whole business enticing and simple and John is one of the least geeky people around:

A History of the World has proved hugely popular with over 3.4 Million editions downloaded so far. It is unique in that we can offer the full series of podcasts forever. You can listen or download them from the A History of the World web site.

So if you think there are things we can do to make podcasting feel easier or make it more attractive do let us know. Words like 'subscribe' ("sounds like something you have to pay for") or 'download' ("I don't like clogging up my computer") are particularly unpopular. We will try to do better.

Meanwhile A History of the World is back on May 17th for 8 weeks or 40 more podcasts.

Andrew Caspari is Head of Speech Radio and Classical Music, Interactive

  • There are currently 262 BBC podcasts. Learn about them and subscribe here.
  • Give us your own suggestions for how to sell podcasts to the millions of people who haven't tried them yet - snappy catchphrases or clever communication ideas - in a comment below.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Get more from your favourite programmes with BBC podcasts, free, straightforward and yours to keep forever.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    "Break-free from the bandwaves, pause it when the doorbell goes...listen to the shows you love when you want" BBC Podcasting

    "I listen to (Insert Name of Podcast) while on the tube" Escape from the radio and enjoy a podcast of your favourite show : BBC Podcasting

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I subscribe to several BBC podcasts and for me the major issue is the podcast downloading software.

    I loathe iTunes and won't use it; Juice is old and nolonger updated and I currently rely on ZenCast Organiser (which outrageously inserts it's presence into your browser user agent string (unless you go through a complicated method to counteract this) and is somewhat tied to their Zen mp3 player hardware (which I don't own). The alternatives are browser-based (such as Google reader etc,) which I don't care for, since I want a desktop app that I can launch as I see fit, or leave running and auto-downloading.

    How about the BBC release a free, maybe open-source, podcast downloader, able to operate on all podcasts (not locked-in to only BBC podcasts). Perhaps make it AIR-based like the BBC iPlayer, or perhaps integrated into the iPlayer itself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Listen when you like with a pod: easy peasy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Instead of referring to 'downloading', why not say that the programme is available to put on one's MP3 player, or save to the computer for listening when not on the internet, by clicking on the 'Podcast' button.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Why do podcasts need to be segregated from the rest of the BBC's ondemand stuff? Perhaps by branding them as iplayer or moving them to /programmes would make them easier to find.

    Also, some people think of a podcast as a sort of extra thing on the side (a bit like a director's commentary) rather than an actual copy of the programme which you can save to your computer and keep forever.

    jolinwarren: I disagree - I think the term 'download' is more straight-forward than 'podcast'

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Leo Laporte (www.twit.tv) who does many podcasts a week actually doesn't like the term "podcast" because he feels that it gives the impression that it will only work on iPods. Instead he uses the term "netcast" which I also think is a more accurate term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    I subscribe to several BBC podcasts and use Juice to manage them (I hate Itunes and refuse to use it). I do think that many non-computer literate people might be helped with a slightly different way of describing this stuff. On a different point, one thing that is great is that once downloaded I can listen months later to podcasts. For example, I am often weeks behind on any specific podcast, but many are still enjoyable months later (In Our Time, Start the Week, Thinking Aloud, the Friday Night Comedy show, the Archers). Podcasts free me from the tyranny of schedules and limited windows of availability. It gives me control of when and where I listen to programmes and I like that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I lived in the UK many years ago and never stopped missing Radio 4 after I returned to the US. I even bought a shortwave radio to try to listen in that way. The advent of podcasting has finally reunited me with my beloved Radio 4! The Archers, In Our Time, Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo, and Desert Island Disks are my favorite.

    I subscribe to many BBC podcasts now via iTunes, and check the podcast page here at the BBC website regularly to see what new has been added. If you could make podcasts available of Just a Minute and the Bells on Sunday, my life would be just about complete!

    Thank you for making your excellent programming available to the entire world. What a gift.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    A better podcast interface, including HTML5 audio playback. The current podcasts site is little more than a directory of content, it needs to be more fluid and dynamic. Make podcasts a part of iPlayer for example. Allow people to see that they can subscribe to shows easily via iPlayer. Currently there is no "subscribe to podcast" option available. Oh and make more than 1 episode available. Archives please!!

    Please don't use Leo Laporte's terrible "netcast" terminology. This was a reactionary hangover from his self created panic that Apple were going to sue for the word "pod" in everything. If you want to fragment, go Leo's route.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Thanks for all your ideas. Some really fascinating stuff here - two or three genuinely novel solutions to our problem. I'm passing it all to Andrew Caspari and to the podcast team. Watch this space!

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I agree with those who suggest that the name is the biggest barrier, even a term like "Download" is enough frighten off some! So, as was suggested, why not just refer to them as programmes and then give the surfer the chance to "Save and keep this programme", does it really matter if they keep the file on their computer, transfer it to a mp3 player, save it to a flash drive, burn it to CD - what's in a name, other than commercial marketing...

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    A few more ideas.
    Make podcasts visible, and browsable in BBC iPlayer Desktop.

    Any show with a podcasts available should appear to download into BBC iPlayer Desktop as well as an option directly on its iPlayer page to subscribe, offering the six options you provide on their Podcasts page. You could call it Podcasts still, but have a pink question mark button that pops up a tooltip explaining what a podcast is, and what you can do with it in simple layman terms.

    Tie BBCiD into iPlayer, so people can have a subscription interface in BBC iPlayer. This could be something incredibly simple, that essentially creates a user custom playlist, that alerts people to a particular show they like having new content available. You could create a new "Channel", lets call it "YourBBC" that just lists the shows you have indicated an interest in.

    I have put together a very simple, very quick mockup of an easy way to integrate Podcasts into iPlayer in the way I've described.
    Seems a no brainer to me!


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Find out about this year's panel and theme