‘The world opened up for me when I downloaded my first podcast three years ago,” says Rita Christensen, who quickly moved from the role of fascinated user to that of an expert in producing and promoting podcasts. She also now teaches others how to use this technology in their businesses.

Christensen will present “The Poducator: Podcasting, What it is and the Advantages,” as a part of Trenton Small Business Week’s series of free workshops, on Wednesday, October 22, at 8:30 a.m. at the Sovereign Bank Arena. She will explain what podcasting is, its advantages, and how podcasting can be used in marketing. For more information, visit www.smallbizweek.com.

Trenton Small Business Week, now in its 15th year, includes the seventh annual Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce Trade show, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — also on October 22 — as well as several network events, seminars covering real estate, intellectual property issues, and financial goal setting.

Christensen opened her own marketing design studio, iColor Studio, in Berlin, New Jersey, nine years ago after working for a number of years as an art director at several advertising agencies. Her studio specializes in “high end print, web, and new media marketing,” she says, so when she heard her first podcast, she immediately realized its value in marketing.

In the past three years her work with podcasting has developed into a separate, web-based business, www.thepoducator.com, where she focuses on training people in the best use of podcasts, as well as how to promote them. In addition to her work at her design studio and as the Poducator, she also teaches classes in digital illustration, web multi-media, and podcasting at Camden County College.

“Working with the kids keeps me fresh. It keeps me in tune with the latest colors, the latest trends,” Christensen says. That has been as true in her work with podcasting as it is with graphic design. “I notice that the students on campus walk around with one earbud in and one out. They are walking to class, socializing, eating lunch and at the same time one ear is tuned to a podcast.”

Marketers dream. That new trend, to be constantly tuned in to a podcast, is just one of the reasons Christensen calls podcasting a “marketer’s dream.” For people unfamiliar with podcasts, she explains it as “the radio version of TiVo, or radio on demand.” A podcast can be downloaded to a person’s MP3 player or a computer and then listened to (some podcasts do include video, also) at whatever time or place is most convenient. “You can listen to a podcast while you’re driving or working out or waiting on to pick up the kids from school,” she says. Podcasts can also be received on a cell phone.

From the podcaster’s point of view the format makes it easier to present information in a way that makes it more interesting and more likely to be seen and heard by a client or prospect. “Let’s face it, we are all lazy today, and less and less willing to sit down and read a lot of information.”

She uses an investment counselor as an example. “Think about an investment counselor with a large packet of information he’d like his potential client to read, but he knows the chances of actually getting the person to sit down and read it all are slim,” she says. “If the counselor has a podcast, his prospect can download it and listen to it in a few minutes while waiting for his son’s soccer game to begin.”

Another advantage for business is that podcasts can also be linked to a website and used to market other, related products and services. Podcasts can also easily be listened to again and again, an advantage not only for marketers, but for educators who were one of the first groups to use podcasts.

“At the university level, many professors are making their lectures available on podcast,” Christensen says. “That way if students have to miss a lecture, or just wants to listen to it more than one time to really understand the material, they can easily do it.”

Sponsorship income. Podcasts are free, explains Christensen, but if a particular podcast becomes popular and gains a large number of subscribers, it can generate income through sponsorship. Because podcasts can target very specific, niche markets, they makes an ideal advertising vehicle.

“Let’s say you like to tinker with your vintage Corvette in your backyard on Saturdays and you develop a podcast targeted to other Corvette enthusiasts. A specialty auto parts dealer might sponsor your podcast and you are now generating income,” she explains.

Better than E-mail. Podcasts can reach a wider audience than E-mail marketing campaigns because they are not usually blocked by spam filters. They can be downloaded through a cell phone as a text message or can be viewed or listened to on a computer, as well as an MP3 player.

Podcast favorites. As a true podcast enthusiast, Christensen has several favorites she listens to regularly, including Garrison Keillor’s, “The Writer’s Almanac.” Since she gives a lot of speeches she enjoys Keillor’s interesting and unusual bits of trivia. “The other day I learned that the person who invented the first electronic television never owned a TV and never allowed his children to watch.”

She also recommends “Morning Coach,” a 15 minute daily podcast which she credits as one of her inspirations in developing the Poducator. “The podcast links to a website with a dream board where people can write their dreams and goals. Shortly after I started listening, I wrote that I planned to become an expert on all things podcast, and here I am today.”

No matter what your interest, there is a podcast for you. From Grammar Girl with a daily grammar tip, to Ghost Gab from the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group, to bible study groups, and information on wine making, parenting, science and math. Podcasts are available in almost every language, also.

While she often appears on the radio and often helps others develop podcasts, Christensen hasn’t gotten around to making her own. “It’s in the plan, though,” she promises. “As soon as I have time.”

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