Between blogging, podcasting, advertising and social networking, it’s no wonder advertisers are trying everything under the sun to reach information-saturated customers.

But sometimes just plain words work best, assuming they communicate a clear, concise message.

This became clear to me while reading Tom Foremski’s excellent Silicon Valley Watcher blog, and checking out an advertising widget (a program which runs video, posts the temperature, or performs some other function on your desktop) that Intel had posted on his site. Foremski says “This is much better use of this space than a banner ad or skyscraper ad that repeats a marketing message” because it “showcases Intel’s new/social media and it changes all the time.”

That may be true, but I couldn’t tell because clicking on this widget just got me a little “Buffering” message indicating it was downloading the audio, video, etc. or whatever. After about 15 seconds, I gave up and moved on.

The lesson here isn’t that you should never put audio or video on your Web site, but to use it carefully. I’d suggest that:

A podcast or Webcast is most useful when:

You need to show, not tell, how something works. (The ease of a user interface; the architecture of your client virtualization software; the flow of a business process through an organization.)

When the interaction among the participants is either educational or entertaining. (Genuine disagreements; humorous or particularly articulate ideas; the moments when one idea “sparks” another idea from someone else.)

When the audience is interested enough and technically savvy enough to download and listen to a podcast or Webcast at their leisure. (A storage manager learning about file virtualization over lunch; a financial trader learning about a new form of a risk analysis on the train ride home.)

Words are best when:

The reader is on the run or “browsing” through the Web for specific information.

When the reader needs the information quickly (such as when I looked up the formal definition of “widget” for this posting;

When your message involves multiple concepts and levels of abstraction (first we’re explain server virtualization; then we’ll explain the security risks of server virtualization, and then we’ll explain how our product reduces those risks.)

Making the time to sit through a Webcast or podcast is getting harder all the time. Only ask your customers to do it when you’ll make it worth their while.

Author: Bob Scheier
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I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

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