Streaming Videos Not the Same as Podcasts

    July 11, 2006

I was intrigued by the PRWeek headline: “Free podcasts become driving force in BMW branding push.”

The “free” bit wasn’t the hook; after all, only a handful of the 70,000 or so podcasts available require a fee, and BMW isn’t going to attract the same fervent desire for its podcasts as Ricky Gervais. No, it was the fact that BMW had turned to podcasts to aid its branding that made me curious. I was also impressed with the approach. The alleged podcasts were videos shot at the exclusive Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference.

So I cruised on over to the site referenced in the write-up and found…wait for it…streaming videos. Nowhere on the site could the word “podcast” be found. Good thing, too, since a subscription feed is what separates a podcast from other online multimedia. Even if you dismiss the RSS requirement, you would still think a podcast could be played on, well, you know, a video iPod. (That’s even part of the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a podcast.) But these videos can’t be downloaded. They just play as streams in pop-up windows on the web page. They are decidedly not podcasts.

Which is not an issue from BMW’s perspective, since the automaker never claimed they were. (Interestingly, you can both subscribe and download from the TED site.) And I applaud BMW for linking their stylish cars to the premier design conference, not to mention getting videos out of what has historically been a very closed meeting. I even like the headline on the page, a send-up of the Las Vegas tourism campaign: “What happens at TED stays at TED. Until now.”

It appears PRWeek just chose to call these streaming videos “podcasts.” Surely the editors know the difference, since PRWeek has a few podcasts of its own, complete with subscription feeds. So what on earth prompted them to mislabel BMW’s videos?


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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.