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Podcasting and Retail

Ipod_photoYou've probably heard of MP3 files, and how the popularity of music downloads negatively impacted music retailers. I'd like to introduce you to podcasting, and what it may mean for store operations.

Podcasting involves the recording of internet radio or similar internet audio programs. These recordings are then made available for download to your iPod or some other portable digital audio device. You can then listen to the podcast internet radio program while you are away from your computer or at a different time than the original program was broadcast.

To get a sense of how fast this phenomenon is moving, if you searched for "podcast" on Google earlier this year, you'd get zero results. I just Googled "podcast" and got 89,400 results. It wouldn't surprise me if there were a million results by the end of the year at this rate. 

To understand why podcasting is so popular, think of why the VCR became so popular. People couldn't always watch TV at the time they wanted to see it. Podcasting lets people with MP3 players listen to regularly scheduled broadcasts listen to them at a time of their own choosing.

But podcasting is more than that. I bought a Photo iPod over the weekend. After carefully reviewing the product, there are some pretty phenomenal retailer-friendly concepts that come to mind.

First, retailers are always interested in controlling their environment, and are starting to use TVs for visual merchandising. Problem is, getting video over the Internet or satellite is expensive, and DVDs pose logistical hurdles. An alternative? Podcasting with the Apple Photo iPod! For a few hundred dollars, you get an easy-to-use and highly reliable unit that plugs right into the existing store network and delivers great-sounding audio and powerful visual content. With free podcast software, your iPod is updated every time it's connected to a PC (internet connection required).

Next, once you have the iPod in the store, you have a platform to solve all kinds of day-to-day situations. Playlist #1 might be for the store manager, consisting of a Powerpoint-driven daily briefing describing what's working nationwide and providing a heads-up on corporate initiatives. Playlist #2 is for the staff as they prepare to open the store, a pseudo-corporate TV channel with information about promotions and incentives for performance. Playlists #3-#6 are dayparted to target the mood of different audiences at different times of day. Playlists #7-#10 are exactly the same, but in Spanish instead. Playlist #20 will hopefully never be played: it's the emergency playlist.

Since the content is updated every time the iPod is connected to the Internet, store operations are able to rapidly respond to a variety of situations at a low cost.

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