Tech notes

There's a quick question for you: what has comedian Ricky Gervais got in common with long-running radio drama The Archers?

There's a quick question for you: what has comedian Ricky Gervais got in common with long-running radio drama The Archers?

The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is that they're the stars of two of the most listened-to podcasts in the UK.

The Archers' podcast regularly pulls in well over 100,000 listeners, and Gervais' - The Ricky Gervais Show - holds the record for the world's most downloaded podcast, with over 500,000 paying subscribers.

Podcasting's popularity (and the hype surrounding it) has soared over the past year. But despite that, it remains a mystery to many consumers and businesspeople.

In simple terms, `Podcasting' is a method of distributing multimedia files, such as audio programmes or music videos, over the internet.

Each podcast usually features one `show', with new episodes released sporadically or at planned intervals. They can be downloaded, free or for a price, from websites like Apple's iTunes.com or Audible.co.uk

To date, news, entertainment and comedy shows have proved the most successful, with podcasts by the likes of Radio One DJ Chris Moyles and The Office creator Gervais regularly topping the downloads chart.

However, the key question for businesses is not how do we get a smash hit podcast on iTunes, but can we use podcasts to help our organisation - or would it be a David Brent-style gaffe?

In the North-East, two innovative technology companies think they have the answer.

Newcastle-based technology firm The Amazing Group is selling a podcast presented by former BBC newsreader Anna Ford that aims to help parents support their children through the `difficult' teenage years.

The podcast format enables the company to showcase its high profile presenter and make the most of her characteristic voice. And because it's online, it's tremendously easy to sell and distribute anywhere in the world.

The second company, Podcast Digital, has sought to grab hold of the opportunity by its roots. Set up by former DJ Steve Bainbridge, the company offers businesses in the region a complete service - from podcast creation through to submitting it to websites such as iTunes or Audible.co.uk

These local firms are using podcasting for different reasons, but both are reaping the rewards of this new technology. There are, of course, many other possible advantages of using podcasts.

It's particularly useful for marketing, advertising and making speaker presentations available online.

* Herb Kim is chief executive officer of Codeworks, the North-East centre of excellence for digital technology.

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