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Normal, every-day uses for podcasting

When one thinks of podcasts, one might think of technically-literate geeks. One might think of large media organisations leveraging their output to the new medium. One might think that there's scant reason why a normal, generally untechnical person would want to be involved in producing podcasts. One might think that there'd be even less of a desire to listen to such a podcast. In fact, there are many reasons why such a podcast might be stimulating to produce and to hear. Local communities have been deploring an increasing atomisation, and a lack of cohesion. Local, social podcasting could be one tool to help bring such communities back into a sense of social union. Here we provide a few examples of just this. If you have any further you think interesting, let us know and we'll add them to the list.

Tales from abroad

When students go on gap year, families emigrate or friends take extended vacations, it's always interesting and reassuring to hear from them. To complement Emails, letters and postcards, they can also set up a podcast so that people back home can keep in touch with their news. A decade ago, families would send one another cassette tapes of their travels, taking time and money in postage. Now, with services like jellycast, a laptop and a port of call with an Internet connection represents an opportunity to record a holiday diary, family audio newsletter or just a few warm words from far away. And with podcasting technology, they're automatically given the update as soon as it's available.

A campaigning medium

When one thinks of campaigning organisations, one might have in mind large enterprises like Greenpeace or the the Fairtrade Campaign. In fact, there are many smaller, community-based campaigns doing valuable work locally. For example, one might be campaigning to save a local post office from closure. Another might be aiming to win lottery funding for a cultural project. Another might just want to coordinate the Neighbourhood Watch schemes across a number of localities. Essential to all such groups is the need to communicate with fellow activists and supporting members. Websites, blogs, meetings and newsletters are useful tools in achieving group cohesion. Now podcasts offer a perfect addition to such communicative facilities. Record latest events, interviews with key campaigners and key moments from community meetings, and let everyone in your locality keep abreast with the campaign's developments. With jellycast, it need cost next to nothing to do this.

Keeping the customer informed

People in cottage industries struggle to compete against the marketing might of major corporations. Something that does work well is in engaging the customer at a local and personal level: keeping them involved in a product's establishment, launch and subsequent development. The key to turning a consumer into a customer, and a customer into a fan, is the key to a small business's success. Part of this key's fabrication is in constructing a powerful narrative around the product - and what better medium is there than a podcast to do this? Compelling tidbits, advice, interviews and feedback get the customer to subscribe the first time, and so long as the information is interesting, he or she will remain subscribed, and will automatically receive updated podcasts - not so frequent that it annoys the customer, but, say, a quarterly update.

The team's story

Local sports teams thrive on the support of their community. Without the fulsome attendance of a core fanbase, a team whithers. The fan newsletter is an established means of communicating with fans; an involving regular podcast complements this beautifully. Each episode could contain match reviews, interviews with the players, chats with the fans and strategy from the coach. Even those fans who don't yet regularly attend local matches can be brought into the fold.

Shepherding the flock

Religious leaders can provide an important service to members of their community, but not every member of that community is always able to meet together - be it in a church, synagogue, temple or mosque. Recording important services, messages, sermons and musical concerts can provide an important pastoral service to those unable to attend in person, and can allow members of the flock strewn across the planet still to feel involved in the spiritual life of their original community. For the elderly and the ill, the solace provided by attending services can never be replaced by an electronic recording - but podcasts can at least give them a vicarious involvement.

School's out

Too often, an adversarial triangle forms between pupils, teaching faculty and parents. In particular, schools feel that they do not receive the support of their community, and the community of parents feels that schools do not report and involve them. Much of the problem can be found in the inadequacy of communication between school-life and home-life. A termly report card and the occasionally fund-raising newsletter aside, little permeates either bubble. Producing a podcast for parents can help enormously in involving them beneficially. A weekly report on the goings on at the school, interviews with teacher and pupils involved in special projects, extracts from debates, plays and concerts, and reviews of sports reports can bring parents more effectively into the school community. It also provides a stimulus to pupils - both in the notion that their achievements shall be broadcast, and in helping to produce and manage the production of that broadcast.

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