Podcasting: Transportation’s forgotten ‘new’ media

It was not that long ago that podcasts were quite popular. The proliferation of portable audio devices like early iPods and Zune devices helped to create a demand for audio that spilled into a podcast revolution.

According to Wikipedia, the mid-2000s were a heyday for podcasting with a growth in interest spurred by people who liked radio but found an ability to customize the programming and the ability to listen on demand.

But there is an interesting part of the podcasting story that is left to be told. Would you believe they are still quite popular? According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, one in five people online are listening to podcasts. That is nearly twice as often as people use Twitter.

Several transportation agencies have invested in podcasting – either using audio or its video cousin, “vodcasting.” The Texas Department of Transportation has produced a podcast for several years. It was what helped convince me that I wanted to experiment with the technology in the mid-2000s. There are other states using podcasts, too. West Virginia Department of Transportation has a regular show on WCHS radio, which it makes available as a podcast for downloading. The Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board posts audio from its meetings online as podcasts, too. The Missouri Department of Transportation’s podcast, To The Point, is another long-time program.

Like all tools, podcasts do not work in every situation. Several state DOTs, including the Washington State Department of Transportation, experimented with podcasts and eventually abandoned their programs.  Meanwhile, others used podcasts for a specific meeting or campaign and found no further use for them.

Ultimately, podcasts can be a useful part of an overall storytelling strategy for a transportation agency.

To be successful at podcasting, a transportation agency should make sure a few things are in place:

  • Clearly define the potential audience.
  • Streamline the process of downloading the audio file, lowering the technological barriers that might keep someone from listening.
  • Have a champion for the tool, a person on their team or working near their program that is passionate about audio and the possibilities it offers.

And, a transportation agency should be patient. An audience can take time to develop as the staff or team creating the podcasts try out different ways of telling your stories.

Additional podcast links:

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About Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.
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