With an audio and video recording setup already in place, MassMutual had a small investment hurdle. "We purchased inexpensive equipment to do quality interviews over the phone," said Szczebak. The company chose Pro Tools editing software from Avid Technology and DynaMetric telephone equipment.
With six months of podcasting completed, Szczebak said response has been strong. "Weve seen a dramatic increase in downloads," she said. "Weve gotten good feedback from our audience. Its quick, its timely." About 850 of MassMutuals 4,200 agents, or approximately 20 percent, have signed up to have podcasts e-mailed to them each Monday morning.
For the next act, Szczebak is looking at adding video programming and expanding to more channels—that is, producing programs that appeal to others in MassMutuals work force, such as field managers.
While MassMutual has focused mainly on podcasting internally, automaker General Motors has looked outside, using the technology as an adjunct to product marketing. Starting with its first podcast in February 2005, GM has completed more than 30 productions.
"Were trying to create a viral buzz, basically," said Michael Wiley, director of new media at GM, in Detroit. "We dont do it on a schedule; only when we have interesting content."
GMs podcasts go hand in hand with the companys Fastlane blog site, another effort to create product buzz by encouraging consumers and experts to write about products they care about.
"What were after is a kind of informal presentation—to find out what the expert thinks in terms of their passion for the product—for example, how the race team prepared for and won another of the Le Mans series with the Corvette," said Wiley, one of two anchors for the 10- to 15-minute podcasts.
Insurance-industry publisher A.M. Best, of Oldwick, N.J., has been producing a daily podcast called "Best Day" since February. As a media company, A.M. Best is striving for high quality and is interested in selling advertising for its podcasts, said CIO Paul Tinnirello.
Tinnirello called on Brian Cohen, a former Wall Street Journal editor, to produce the programs, write copy and edit audio. He also hired professional voice talent Dan Kelly to do the podcasts openings and closings. A.M. Best has built a studio that includes microphones, a PC, Audacity and Sound Forge software, and a phone hookup. The total cost so far is well below $10,000, said Tinnirello.
Even so, Tinnirello hasnt lost sight of one of podcastings main draws—informality. "People seem to respond more to real conversations than to prepared items. Ten minutes of conversation beats headlines and short items," said Tinnirello, who handles regular on-air duties with A.M. Best Vice President of Communications Lee McDonald and Terrie Piell, director of marketing.
A.M. Best is readying video podcasts, an initiative that is costing "tens of thousands" of dollars more but is not yet ready for launch, Tinnirello said. The setup includes a studio, three video cameras and lights and will include the ability to use sophisticated video techniques such as green screens, said Tinnirello.