December 26, 2005
New Campaigns by Disney and Others Suggests Companies Are Catching On to Podcasts' Marketing Powerand Recognizing the Dangers of Promotional Angles
Podcasting turned a year old in September and has already evolved from the playground of hobbyists to a tool of Fortune 500 companies.
Case in point: At Disneyland's 50th anniversary celebration in July, Newport Beach, Calif., resident Michael Geoghegan was one of the first people inside the gate. He wasn't there to enjoy himself but to capture the sounds and secrets of the Magic Kingdom's special event for Disney fans. Geoghegan's shows went out as podcasts over the Internet to personal computers and MP3 players.
Geoghegan treated his audience to a tour of Walt Disney's private apartment above the fire station on Main Street, interviews with "Mary Poppins" star Julie Andrews and Disney chairman Michael Eisner, and reminiscences from some of that day's park visitors, reported the Orange County Register.
Still to be seen is whether Disneyland's recent podcasts will turn out to be part of a short-lived fad or will help lead the way to increasing corporate forays into a new technology for reaching customers, investors, and employees.
Geoghegan was one of the first to develop a nonmusic podcast, "Reel Reviews." He has since coauthored a book on the subject, Podcast Solutions, and formed a corporation, Willnick Productions, to make money in the new medium, reports the Register's Jan Norman.
Along with tens of thousands of individuals, a few corporations have jumped on the podcasting bandwagon. In addition to Disneyland: Pontiac podcast its party that introduced its new car, Solstice, June 21 in New York's Times Square; IBM disclosed in August that it will post podcasts on its investor relations website; Virgin Atlantic Airlines podcasts audio tours of New York City; and TV Guide magazine dishes entertainment dirt on its weekly podcasts.
"Podcasting is still in the Wild West stagepeople figuring out what they can do with it," said Greg Cangialosi, a Baltimore podcaster who helped Geoghegan with the first Disneyland podcasts in May and did the Pontiac podcast from Times Square. "But it's viable enough that you have corporations coming in."
The trick for corporations is to avoid being boring, adds Mike Spataro of Weber Shandwick, the public relations firm for Pontiac.
"The content has to be interesting to have people want to subscribe," he said. In that way, they are like infomercials, Spataro suggestsa company with a new diet product can't simply release audio infomercials about the product; they have to be informative and entertaining shows about battling obesity.