Last month at the Future Summit in Winnipeg, Andrew Lippman, senior research scientist at MIT, told a room full of media executives that the “future of broadcasting is podcasting”. Certainly a clever turn of phrase, and one that was surely dismissed without much thought by some broadcast execs in the audience, and greeted with a shiver of dread by others. Lippman’s bold prediction assumes that a technology in its infancy, in fact less than a decade old and only visible in the mainstream in the last couple of years, will disrupt and quickly replace an institution that seemed until recently to be invulnerable to usurpers and a cornerstone of commerce and society.

For those of you without iTunes or an MP3 player, podcasting describes a collection of technologies for automatically distributing audio (and more recently, video) programs over the Internet, using a publisher/subscriber model. It’s the end of that definition — the publisher/subscriber model — that sets podcasting apart from broadcasting and should raise the antennae of those interested in forging and maintaining meaningful relationships with their customers.

Podcasting is a social medium. It’s audio and video that's easy, fast and inexpensive to publish and distribute, and can be subscribed to, absorbed and responded to with equal ease by a distributed but targeted audience. If the goal of marketing is to create a conversation, then social media — blogging, podcasting, wikis etc. — are the enabling technologies that start and engage conversation with an accuracy and hit rate that leave traditional advertising and “push” media in the dust.

But, as amazing and powerful as these social media are, they are the easy part of the equation. Much more challenging is the actual content they transmit. Companies and organizations, like strangers at the dance, have only one chance to create a first impression. What they say to their customers and how they say it is of importance. How they engage in conversation determines their credibility and success.

Podcasting is an important technology. How it’s used is mission-critical.

(Blog entry by Philip Hogarth. Philip is Producer for market2world communications inc.)