The comedian Ricky Gervais made it into the Guinness Book of Records in 2006 when his podcast became the most downloaded ever. So you could be forgiven for thinking that podcasting has more to offer entertainers and hobbyists than accountants and other business people. But you would be mistaken.
'The common perception that iPods and podcasting are just for teenagers and music fans is a misleading myth,' says Damian Broughton, a partner with Danbro Accounting. 'The medium presents a new and exciting way to communicate and offers a magnitude of possibilities for commercial businesses.' The firm's first podcast offers its contractor client-base a slide show and narrative on current market trends, and anyone who downloads it has the opportunity to win an iPod Nano.
Tenon also leapt into the Podosphere in 2006 with its Budget Podcast.
'Every year our clients come to us looking for guidance on what the Budget means to their business,' says Andrew Hubbard, national tax technical director. The podcast takes the form of a discussion between tax experts and business representatives, exploring the consequences of the Budget; and it has proved popular with clients.Great response
'Our 2006 Budget podcast had a great response,' says Hubbard, so the firm created another this year, and preceded it with a webchat. This ran live in parallel with the Budget, giving entrepreneurs and owner-managers the opportunity to question Tenon experts on various aspects of the Budget.
Then the podcast was created, so that clients could download and listen to it at their convenience. 'They're busy people and need to know the key facts quickly, wherever they are,' comments Hubbard.
Tenon made its podcasts available from the Apple iTunes Music Store in the business management and business finance categories, and also posted it on the Tenon website as an MP3 file. As you can see if you visit iTunes, or run an online search, Danbro and Tenon are not alone. Disney, IBM, General Motors and Pepsi are just a few of the organisations making podcasts on a wide range of subjects.
General Motors podcasts have included subjects as diverse as genetic modification in India and an interview with Maxim model Rachel Perry, along with product information and interviews with management, of course, while IBM podcasts have included identity management, Lotus Notes, and various product and service-related subjects. But you can podcast on pretty much anything you choose, depending on what you are trying to achieve.
'The majority of our clients are always on the move,' says Broughton, 'therefore a quick and easy podcast will prove a lot more practical than a text or web-based item.' It may not get Danbro or Tenon into the Guinness Book of Records or make them as popular as Ricky Gervais, but it can help to differentiate them from their competitors and show that the accounting profession can be as innovative as any other. As Tenon's Hubbard quips: 'Who says accountants are boring?'
• See Opinion, Robert Bruce, p16
A podcast is an audio programme that can be downloaded and listened to on any PC, Mac, digital audio player, PDA or smartphone capable of playing the industry standard MP3 audio format. With a webcast you are stuck in one place, with a stream of audio between the website and your computer; once you've downloaded a podcast you don't even need to be connected to the internet to listen to it.
If you want to learn more about podcasting you'll find a 'cheat sheet' at software.silicon.com/applications/0,39024653,39131267,00.htm.
You can also find out about the bits and bytes involved in publishing a podcast at www.jellycast.com, while www.thinkvitamin.com/features/blogs/podcasting-with-skype can offer hints on how to minimise the costs. And if the DIY approach is not for you, Podcast Digital specialises in creating podcasts for business. Visit www.podcastyourbusiness.co.uk.
Meanwhile, guidance on podcasts is also available from the ICAEW Finance and Management Faculty at www.icaew.com/index.cfm?route=142550.