SBA Offers Podcasts, But Are They Really Podcasts?

The The U.S. Small Business Administration is the latest organization jumping on the podcasting trend — but is it really “podcasting” as that term is defined?

I wrote about it over at my BNET column, Selling to Small Business. On the one hand, the SBA is to be commended for offering podcasts, but on the other hand the SBA’s implementation of podcasting needs a bit of improvement. You can learn these do’s and dont’s about podcasting from the SBA’s example:

  • DON’T forget to offer your audio recordings in MP3 format. The SBA is offering some of their recordings only in a WMV or WMA format, not MP3. MP3 has become the lingua franca of the audio world. WMV and WMA are Windows file formats, and not everyone is on Windows. iPods require specified audio formats for the audio file, and that does not include WMV or WMA. Although some MP3 players support WMA and WMV files, others require that the file format first be converted to MP3. That’s not an insurmountable task, but it is an extra technical step and just enough hassle to cause people not to bother. Bottom line: make sure you offer the most widely-usable audio file format: MP3.
  • DO offer a transcript of the recording, or at the very least offer some text that hits the highlights of the audio recording. Podcasts are invaluable for when people are away from the office and have some time they want to fill with audio: when out running or working out; when outside gardening; while waiting in a doctor’s office or at the BMV line; when on a plane or at the airport; when driving long distances in the car between customer sites. However, at other times you just want to read. The SBA is also offering a transcript of the recording, for those who wish to simply read the content. Great idea!
  • DON’T forget to offer an RSS feed in which your podcasts are enclosed. That’s the true definition of a podcast: an audio file enclosed in an RSS feed, so that readers can subscribe to the podcast series and automatically download new recordings via their feedreader or podcatcher program. If you do not have an RSS feed for your podcasts, you are overlooking an important marketing aspect of podcasts, and an important convenience benefit for the user.

Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

6 Reactions
  1. Well, it is a great movie for SBA to go podcasting. But they should make the recordings as available as possible to all like they should be in MP3 format etc.

    Good luck.

  2. Great post. This is one of my pet peeves – posting some audio files on a website and calling it a podcast. If it’s not in a feed, it’s not a podcast. It’s just an audio file!

  3. Thanks, Susan and Tom, for your comments.

    One of the things I love about the Internet and new technologies that make it easy to offer audio recordings, is simply the fact that we have so much more access these days to information.

    Despite the SBA not offering true podcasts, they are at least making audio available online for free download. Ten years ago we could hardly have imagined such access.


  4. Hello Anita,

    The SBA seemed to have listed to your advice. Trans scripts are now available and most podcast audio files are available in mp3 format now (but not all). Also no RSS Feed yet.

    They also should know better than to move stuff around without putting redirecting in place to the new location.

    The link to the SBA podcast takes you nowhere. The podcast moved to
    this address. The BNet url does also not work, the whole directory /smallbusiness/ seems to be gone, no idea to where.

    Just FYI. Interesting post though. I didn’t even know that a Government Agency would be able to be up to date enough to just consider something like a podcast in the first place. 🙂 (just kidding, I found actually some good resources at the SBA website that I will refer to from my resources site).

  5. Hi Carsten,

    Actually the folks at the SBA are cool — I dialogue with their press folks from time to time. And the site has excellent resources in it — I use it all the time.

    I am glad they improved their podcasts. 🙂

    Thanks for the update on the SBA podcast link — I swapped it out.

    As to the BNET site, yes that has been taken offline. The link was to a column I wrote over there for almost two years, but in February 2007 BNET changed its business model and eliminated all their blogs. I did get permission to move selected articles to a new domain of my own:


  6. Thanks for the update Anita. You might want to ask BNET, if they could requests made to /smallbusiness/ 301 redirect to a location on your site where you should emulate the file and folder structure of the bnet blog. That would make not only your own references to posts there work again, but references by all the other people that link to the old blog as well.

    You loose out on direct traffic that hits an error page instead of your content without knowing where to go, is bad for your own readers (if you have more references in other posts to a post at bnet) and of course all the link power that does not benefit your site when it comes to SEO and search engine visibility.

    Just a tip. You might explored that already. If a 301 redirect is not an option, an error page that tells people where your new site is and that the content went there.

    I hope you still have a good connection to the people at bnet, because you can’t do much without them, except searching your own blog for links to the bnet site and also any other site that links to it and contact them with the request to change the link to the new location. This is something you should do anyway (if not done already), especially for links from very important sites. 🙂