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MENUMENU 1999In the world of interactive marketing, one never has to look too far for the next big thing. One promising channel that’s become buzzworthy lately is podcasting – the Internet distribution of audio or video content, usually using an RSS feed.

As usual, though, standing behind the early adopters gushing praise for a new technology, someone will have to figure out how to turn podcasting from a promising technology into a trusted marketing tool with a measureable ROI.

There seems extraordinary growth potential for podcasts in the next few years, but that’s just untapped potential until podcasting novelty is replaced by podcasting utility.

Even if there’s no money exchanged, the content at a minimum has to be worth the trouble to download. If I have to actively search and download, I will listen to few of them. If I can automate the downloading of a few that I’m interested in, as with an RSS feed, I’ll be more likely to check them out.

Podcasting may or may not develop into a marketing channel with broad applications, but there certainly are opportunities to deliver targeted content. I have a stack of articles on my desk that I’ll get to sometime – behavioral marketing, presenting effective web seminars, how to reinstall Windows XP – if someone came along and made these into mp3s for me so I can listen to them in the car, I would be most grateful. Perhaps even to the point where I would listen to a short ad. You might even put up with a commercial if it’s wrapped in sports highlights (more NFL highlights coming up, but first a word from Gillette’s new XtremeTrac 5-blade, now with Unibrow Control).

One interesting facet is that as more and more marketing moves to interactive channels, podcasting is sort of a one-way, more passive medium. Maybe it’s just a matter of time until players have some kind of feedback button you can push to indicate yes, download the next e-book chapter, that podcast was valuable to me, or send me more information.

Then next time I plug my player back into my laptop, my preferences are sent back to the podcasters. Or maybe there’s no rush for that…

Overall I think it’s very positive that this form of new media marketing is accessible to nearly anyone who wants to create a podcast. Certainly, consumer-controlled media is an exciting trend and there’s a lot of home-grown content out there that’s much richer and more original than what’s generally available from commercial radio.

There is a possible downside if personalization is carried too far. One day soon, as you’re motoring down the highway, you may hear a podcast from your spouse reminding you to pick up orange juice and warning you not to speed.