As most know, the Internet and related technologies have made many things possible that were almost inconceivable only a few decades ago. There can be little doubt that blogs, streaming audio, webinars, asynchronous and synchronous web tools, and virtual teamwork software have given negotiation and mediation practitioners and scholars a new platform to disseminate ideas to a wide array of people who ordinarily would not have taken the time to understand the benefits of these processes. In addition to everything that is out there, we can now add the increasingly invaluable tool of Podcasting to the list.
What is Podcasting?
For those readers that are unaware of Podcasting, it is crucial that you understand what this instrument is, how easy it is too use, and how it might aid you in your work. Specifically, Podcasting can enable you to reach audiences you might never engage with, as well as to help keep those already interested in negotiation and mediation intrigued and thirsting for more.
The term Podcasting is a hybrid word derived from the word broadcasting and the device that is used to listen to the broadcast – iPod, which is made by Apple Computer. According to another useful Internet service – Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia) – “Podcasting is a method of publishing audio broadcasts via the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed of new files. It became popular largely due to automatic downloading of audio onto portable players or personal computers.” 
Podcasting can be differentiated from other types of online media delivery because of its subscription model, which uses a feed sytem known as Really Simple Syndication (RSS)  to deliver files. The best way to explain Podcasting to the “non techie” is that it enables independent producers – like you, me, and the guy next door -- to create self-published syndicated radio broadcasts. From the users’ end, Podcasting couldn’t be easier. Listeners simply subscribe to the feeds using "podcatching" software, which periodically checks for and downloads new content automatically to an iPod. And voilá, a new Podcast appears in your iPod each week without you doing anything else. Imagine the possibilities! 
And imagine is exactly what I did when a consulting group that I work with – The Otter Group – proposed that I start doing a simple 3-5 minute Podcast around the topic of negotiation. We entitled the Podcast the “Negotiating Tip of the Week”. At first I had a healthy amount of skepticism – something that has never stopped me before. However, as I learned about Podcasting I realized the technology was incredibly easy to use and the results were, well, rather amazing. In one year of doing one Podcast per week I had approximately 3,500 to 4,000 people regularly downloading my short and pithy recordings to listen to on the subway, in the workout room, at the office, or when walking in the woods. The listeners ranged from diplomats to financial advisors to homemakers.
Examples: Broad, Narrow, and Interactive
If you go to www.negotiationtip.com (see image below) you will be able to see and listen to the Podcasts that I have recorded to date. As you can see from the list of topics on the website, I have covered both broad conceptions, such as general approaches to negotiation, and focused very narrowly on specific concepts, like the role of silence in negotiation. One last idea I have been experimenting with lately is to conduct more interactive Podcasts – posing actual negotiation scenarios to the listeners and asking them to think about what they would do. In the subsequent Podcast, I include some of the listeners thoughts and provide them with a few of my own ideas to address the negotiation problem in question.
Practically Speaking: How do you Podcast? 
So, how exactly do you get starting making a Podcast? Here are some of the basics. First, you will need to create a topic and a title that best captures what you will do in your Podcast. Note that if you are going to do a weekly podcast you should have a lot of material in “mental storage.” When you get people to tune in regularly, you create an expectation that something new will be coming each and every week.
Second, get some simple devices to record your Podcasts. For example, the Otter Group purchased a microphone for me that plugs into my laptop. For those of you that have a desktop computer or laptop with a microphone already built into it that will also work fine.
Third, you need a place to record and save your Podcasts. We use a website called Audioblog.com, which lets you record and save files on the web for less than $5 per month. After you have recorded your Podcast you can download it to your computer and save it just like you would any other file. It is also helpful to have a freeware (i.e., one you can download for free from the web) editing program to delete out pauses and other mistakes or glitches. The editing program that I use is called Audacity. Without such editing software you need to make a perfect recording. That can take extra time and get a bit frustrating. For ease of use by your “podcatchers,” save the recording as an mp3 file and make sure that your settings in Audacity are on “wav out mixture” and the volume is on high.
Finally, register your Podcast with a number of Podcast Aggregator sites, such as podcastalley.com or ipodder.com. These are places where Podcatchers can go looking for Podcasts on topics of interest. Of course, it is also helpful to register your Podcast with iTunes from Apple. It can be helpful to set up a webpage or blog that links to your Podcasts so your listeners can also tune in online.
That is it – pretty simple. And remember that it is the power of the Aggregator sites (using RSS feeds) that spreads your message and ideas widely!
One Opinion on the Best Uses for Podcasts Today
Before concluding this brief article, it seems useful to discuss what Podcasting is best used for in our world as it is presently constituted. One caveat, Podcasting is very much in its infancy and so its uses will undoubtedly multiply in the future. That stated, from my perspective the following seem to currently be the best uses for Podcasting as it relates to negotiation and mediation:
- As a way to reach audiences that normally would not be privy to the value of negotiation and mediation
- As a tool to peak the interest of people that already know a little about negotiation and mediation and to encourage them to learn more
- As a tool to raise awareness about negotiation and mediation and all the complex dynamics and issues that impact these processes
- As a way to convey stories about the power and benefits of negotiation and mediation
- As a tool to advertise your skills and abilities as a teacher and trainer
- As an easy to use and convenient refresher to trainings you may have provided
We live in a world of instant information. We live in a world of simplicity. We live in a world that desparately needs negotiation and mediation skills and processes. Podcasting enables practitioners and scholars of negotiation and mediation to extend our reach and explain concepts simply, in an unfiltered manner, to a large number of people around the globe. If 3,800 people have downloaded my Podcasts over the past four months alone, imagine what would happen if we had legions of Podcasters spreading the message that negotiation and mediation are invaluable tools to have in your toolbox. I am hard pressed to think of something that would help our field more. . .aren’t you?
Note of thanks: I would like to thank my friends and colleagues at the Otter Group – Kathleen Gilroy, Glen Mohr, and Aixa Almonte -- for their comments, suggestions and input into this article.
2 RSS is a tool for condensing information into a feed, which can then be downloaded automatically as new information becomes available. At a technical level, RSS is a file format as well as the process for converting things to that format and distributing them. This technology allows you to "subscribe" to any source (website, weblog, database, news site) that provides an RSS feed. These are typically sites that change or add content regularly. To subscribe to a feed you use a piece of software called an "aggregator." Aggregators will soon be built into all browsers, but they can also be integrated with email programs like Outlook or Google Desktop. The aggregator acts as a personal mailbox. You then subscribe to the sites that you want to get updates on and they start appearing in your mailbox. RSS subscriptions are free, but they typically only give you a line or two of each article or post along with a link to the full article or post.
3 Unlike streaming audio, which requires you to listen in real-time, podcasting lets you control how and when you listen. Podcasts are portable and re-useable. But with subscriptions, podcasting goes to a new level of ease and simplicity. You publish and then find your podcast in, for example, iTunes. Users subscribe to your podcast feed in iTunes and then iTunes automatically downloads each new episode as it becomes available. With the click of a button, you get the most recent episode — and all future episodes — automatically delivered directly to the iTunes Podcast Library.
4 By the way, if this explanation is not enough there is a “Podcasting for Dummies” book on the market by Matthew Bishcoff.