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How visual podcasting is helping us justify our hard work

Estimated read time: 11 minutes

Podcasting is tough. There, I said it.

Anyone who has been tasked with generating audio content for their university comes to realise this pretty quickly – once the reality hits about everything that’s actually involved in podcasting.

It’s quite one thing to head out there with your recording equipment to capture the energy of your campus, the voices of your people, the excitement around your research. But what about:

  • Recording it well: Buying some decent kit, avoiding too much background noise, minimising the popping of ‘ps’ and bs’, accessing or setting up a studio space
  • Editing it: Do you go for the free Audacity, or jump in to the whole Adobe Audition experience? (Other editing software packages are available…)
  • Hosting it: Blubrry, Buzzsprout, Podbean, hosting it yourself…which way do you turn?
  • Promoting it: Podcasters always say that creating an episode is only half the process. They’re so right
  • Evaluating it: <Insert tumbleweed here>

entale logoThese last two points on the list – the problems of promotion and evaluation – were actually the jumping off points for Imperial’s latest venture into podcasting: Entale, the new visual podcasting platform we’re experimenting with for publishing our monthly Imperial College Podcast.

More on Entale in a bit. But first, more context…

(Rude interruption from the editor: don’t forget to check out The Native Podcast too!)

Call and response: The need to get better at promotion and evaluation

Until very recently, it’s been near impossible to gather some honest-to-goodness stats about the performance of podcasts. The tide may be turning slightly with the iTunes Connect beta offering some insights into listens and downloads. But it’s still early days.

This lack of analytics has been a huge cause for concern for the Imperial comms team. We’ve essentially been flying blind.

Promotion and engagement, too, have seen a bit of ebb and flow. How do you maximise the visibility of your podcast, and then make sure people actually listen to it, share it, enjoy it?

Here are the basics of our current promotional activities for the Imperial College Podcast:

  • Publish and propagate far and wide: We host the podcast on our in-house repository, iMedia. It’s not ideal, but it largely does the job. Then we send the RSS feed out to iTunes and a load of other platforms (Stitcher, Overcast, Podbean etc)
  • Get it on the website and news site
  • Push it out on social: Anywhere your people are. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Youtube, even G+!
  • Get creative: When time and energy allows, we do additional promotion, such as these animated teasers we create for use on social media:

And yet for all this work, the podcast still feels a bit like a side project for us. Over in one corner we have our news and rich media content, and in the other sits our podcast. This is where Entale may be stepping in to bridge the gap.

Enter Entale – squeezing extra life out of our podcast

About a year ago we were approached by a graduate who was working on a new visual podcast platform (then unnamed, but now Entale). The chat went like this:

Them: “Hi. Would you like to come on board as a guinea pig for our new visual podcasting platform which also offers you access to analytics?”

Us: “….Duh, yeah we would!”

Since then, we’ve met with the development team to talk a lot about podcasts in general (what we like, what we feel is missing), the particular requirements of organisations like ours (budget, the need for at least WCAG 2.0 Level AA accessibility), and tested out the publishing platform through its numerous iterations.

Flash forward to today and we’ve published seven episodes – the initial four when the platform was completely offline, and the remaining three since it’s opened in beta on Apple iOS and desktop.

imperial college podcast on entale

So what does Entale…um…entail?  

Well, try it out for yourself on the desktop embed (below), or download from the Apple store:

Here’s the development team’s elevator pitch:

Entale is helping to make audio smarter. We are combining the best of audio storytelling with the richness of the web, creating a next generation platform for rich audio content.

In short:

  • You can split up podcast episodes into chapters and kit them out with images, text, links, pull quotes and maps.
  • It’s designed for mobile app and desktop.
  • You can see how many people are listening (second-by-second listening figures), and which chapters they prefer.

But what does it mean for us?

  • A way to bring podcasting much closer into the fold with the other comms content we produce.
  • Analytics on what’s working, and what isn’t. Finally! Last summer, we did a listener survey to see what our listeners liked, how they were connected to the College, where they listen to podcasts and so on. But the stats we see on Entale categorically show us how many people are engaging with our content, and where they are dropping off. It’s the strongest evidence we’ve had to date.
  • Sharing on social. Entale allows you to share links to individual chapters of a podcast. This has proved to be a fantastic way for us to build and stretch out the social media campaign for our episodes.

First impressions for us?

We really like it. It’s early days, but we see huge potential for visual podcasting in allowing us to increase engagement levels with our audio content, while allowing us to weave it in with a lot of the other content we already produce.

While the platform is still in its infancy, the Entale team has been able to see some very encouraging stats. For example, 22% of listening time on Entale is spent interacting with extra content. A big tick for us.

What’s it missing?

There are a few things holding us back from going full pelt on Entale, thankfully all of which are on the development team’s roadmap for this summer/autumn:

  • Launching on Android: At present, the Entale app is only available on Apple, though their Android app will be up and running by autumn
  • Accessibility for desktop: The desktop version is easily embeddable by iframe, however it’s not currently operable by keyboard, which means it’s not accessible to WCAG 2.0 Level AA standards
  • Video: You can’t upload video to Entale episodes. But in a few weeks the team is about to launch a load of interactive content integrations such as Youtube, Instagram, Amazon, and Spotify.
  • Further analytics: Once we start pushing out our episodes far and wide (including on desktop), it would be great to be able to see which platforms people are engaging most with them.
  • Cost: Entale will at some point introduce a subscription model for content producers. From early conversations with the Entale team, the price plans don’t sound prohibitive, but it’s something we need to make sure is budgeted for.

As for our listener stats? Like I say, it’s early days. We’re getting a few hundred listens per episode at the moment. But once the list above is sorted, we have high hopes this will rocket up. Especially once desktop is sorted – if we can embed our episodes on to our website and news articles, we expect a big boost.

The future of podcasting?

Despite what people were saying five years ago, podcasting isn’t showing any signs of going away. So we’re in it for the long haul. Could visual podcasting take us to the next level, and finally help us fully justify the blood sweat and tears we put into it? Here’s hoping.

In the meantime, it’s a heck of a lot of fun for us to experiment with and to be able to say:

“Come watch our podcast!”

(PS don’t forget to check out The Native Podcast too!)

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