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Should your library be podcasting?

Confession time: I haven’t listened to podcasts in quite a while. I was only sort of marginally aware that they had even made any kind of comeback; it was only after a coworker raved about her podcast habit that I began to wonder if I was one of the few not listening these days.

As it turns out, podcasting is having kind of a moment. Edison Research’s Infinite Dial  study uncovered some key trends, some of which which Jay Baer summed up:

  • “Overall, 40 percent of Americans age 12 or older have listened to a podcast at some point.”
  • “Today, 24 percent of Americans age 12 or older listen to podcasts monthly. For context, 21 percent of Americans are Catholic. Thus, podcast listening is more common than Catholicism in the United States.”
  • “42 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, five times more than go to the movies.”
  • “The year-over-year growth rates for podcast listening have been remarkably consistent, with 10 to 20% increases each year.”

While podcasting is getting more popular, popularity isn’t a good barometer of whether or not podcasting is a good fit for your library. Think back to the innumerable blogs, for instance, started by libraries, then left to rot as preferences and interests changed. Here are two very important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who are you trying to reach? Podcast listeners used to skew young. Now, they skew towards the ages 25-54 demographic.  Will your proposed topic(s) be of interest? If you’re aiming for a different group, podcasting may not be the right format for your messages.
  2. How will your podcast be different? Your podcast will be competing with hundreds of thousands of others. If you’re planning yet another book review program, you’d better figure out what is going to make it stand out from, say, the New York Times’ Book Review Podcast. Don’t reinvent the wheel, because there are already way too many wheels.

I remember teaching basic podcasting classes to librarians, over a decade ago.  While I am not unhappy that podcasting is rising again, I am wary of libraries jumping back in without considering what problem they are trying to solve by doing it. New and shiny does not always mean “we’ve got to do this thing.”

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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