November 2, 2005 4:10 PM PST

Big Blue dives into podcast waters

IBM is jumping into the podcast stream by creating Internet radio shows on technology trends and encouraging its employees to create their own podcasts.

The move comes less than six months after the company launched an initiative to encourage its more than 300,000 employees to write blogs.

Podcasting "is a cheap form of communication; it's economical compared with other ways of communicating," said Ben Edwards, who works in strategic communications at IBM. "You can download it, it's on demand, and you can take it with you wherever you go."

The growth of broadband connections has paved the way for a proliferation of broadcast-type media applications over the Internet, particularly podcasts, which are audio, and sometimes video programs that allow users to subscribe to feeds and access them when they want.

Unlike text-based Web pages, podcasts have been difficult to search for. But that is changing. Blinkx launched podcast search in June; Yahoo launched a similar service last month; and America Online plans to launch podcast search this fall.

IBM's investor relations department has produced five podcasts as part of an ongoing series featuring executives and visionaries discussing how computing is changing the future.

The topics so far have been about banking, shopping, the networked home, automobile technologies like voice recognition, and the Genographic Project, a five-year study IBM and National Geographic launched to collect a massive sample of human DNA to map how humans populated the planet.

The most recent podcast, "IBM and the Future of Banking," was ranked No. 55 out of more than 20,000 podcasts posted to Apple Computer's iTunes system, IBM said.

Future podcast topics include computer gaming and privacy issues, Edwards said.

IBM also is providing its employees with software and information that will allow them to easily create their own podcasts.

"People are using it for work force training and as marketing material for sales forces," as well as to communicate with customers, shareholders, suppliers and partners, Edwards said.

IBM is ahead of the pack in terms of trying out new technologies, especially Internet and communications tools, said John Furrier, founder of and host of the InfoTalk Podcast.

"They are going to make a cultural shift in how they reach consumers and partners," he said. "IBM can put out information about its company in a very authentic, credible way to reach people. That water-cooler advertising model around information only helps IBM."


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