New Media Marketing, Part III – Podcasting: The Latest Addition to the Legal Marketing Toolkit

  • August 14, 2014
  • Janet Ellen Raasch

When the Supreme Court of Canada issued its recent decision in the Canada Trustco case, the marketing team at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP jumped into action. Almost immediately, a comprehensive analysis of the decision in this important business tax case was posted on the firm’s Web site and distributed via RSS to subscribers of the firm’s taxation feed. (For more information on RSS feeds, see Part II of this series.)

Shortly thereafter, an audio broadcast—as sophisticated as anything that you might hear on a professional radio station—was added to the site and the RSS feed. This kind of broadcast, called a “podcast”, is the newest tool available to lawyers who want to drive more traffic to their Web site, enhance their online presence, become thought leaders in their niche market, and keep in step with the latest in technology.

What is a Podcast?

The word “podcast” comes from a combination of the words “iPod” (the new-media device introduced by Apple Computers that has become virtually synonymous with the personal audio player product), and “broadcast” (the old-media term used to refer to the method of disseminating information to a mass audience via radio or television). Podcasts, however, are not restricted to iPods.

Podcasting refers to the distribution of digital files, usually MP3s, via the Internet and RSS feeds, to your computer or portable audio device. You can watch/listen to them online or download them to a MP3 player and listen to them at your convenience. Listeners can subscribe to a podcast in much the same way that they subscribe to an RSS news or blog feed

“Any law firm that can record a digital audio file can create a podcast,” says Robert J. Ambrogi, co-host of the “Coast to Coast” series of law industry podcasts on The Legal Talk Network. “As a law firm releases new podcasts, interested listeners are notified and can download them automatically. The name suggests playback on an iPod or other MP3 players, but you can just as easily listen to a podcast on your computer or burn it onto a CD.”

Multimedia files have been available on the Internet for years, but listeners had to take the proactive step of using search engines to find these files. With podcast technology, listeners can subscribe to feeds on subjects in which they are interested so that links to these relevant podcasts automatically show up on their desktops. They can automatically download the podcasts to their computers or to a portable audio player for listening away from their computers – while exercising or commuting, for example.

Evolution of the Podcast

By 2004, the word “podcast” began to create a buzz as amateurs began started up the first “podcast networks” featuring one-stop collections of audio commentary devoted to a particular niche topic. By 2005, commercial podcast production companies and commercial podcast networks appeared on the scene.

This growth was so fast that the word “podcast” was selected as the 2006 “word of the year” by the New Oxford American Dictionary. Today, the word is often used generically to describe any MP3 file that is available for download, even those that are not included in RSS feeds. Purists, however, protest this watered-down use of the term.

Video files are also starting to appear within RSS feeds; these are called video blogs, video podcasts, vlogs, vodcasts or vidcasts. However, video files are a lot harder and more expensive to produce. In addition, they create much larger files and longer download times – factors that are likely to hamper their mass adoption in the near future.

To provide visual interest – at least to those who are listening on a computer – some podcasters offer the option of a slideshow that is synchronized with the audio, usually served up using a Flash file.

Why Podcast?

Creative communication can portray you as an innovative lawyer in the minds of clients. Podcasts can also help lawyers generate a loyal audience, generate leads for new work, and build a reputation as a respected expert in a particular field. The minimal cost and time required makes podcasting a particularly attractive marketing tool for solo- and small-firms.

Podcasting is becoming increasingly popular among lawyers, law firms and their clients. Podcasts are particularly popular with listeners, especially aural learners and business professionals who spend a lot of time away from their desks, because they allow these individuals to access valuable information when, where and how they choose.

Do It Yourself

Depending on the marketing purposes of the lawyer or law firm, a podcast can be simple, complex or of commercial quality. It can be free or expensive. It can be a one-time event or part of a series. It can last for three minutes, half an hour or longer. It can be any format – an individual talking, an interview, a roundtable discussion, or a sophisticated program complete with music, announcers and special effects.

At its most elemental, the process requires making a recording, transferring it to a computer, compressing it into an MP3 file, uploading it to a web server for hosting and adding an RSS feed using a program like Blogger, TypePad or MovableType.

Attorney J. Craig Williams has used closely interrelated new-media marketing tools to bring big business to his small firm. In late 2003, Williams became one of the first attorneys to launch a blog – May It Please the Court (, and in 2005 he was one of the first to re-purpose the content of this blog into a daily podcast. The podcast is housed within his blog, which is one of three situated within the firm’s website. Williams is pushing the envelope even further by experimenting with vodcasts.

“My blog is very successful in its own right, attracting an average of 300,000 visitors a month,” said Williams. “My podcast is pretty much an audio version of the blog – with the human aspect that actually hearing a person’s voice adds. My subscribers now have a choice. They can read my blog when the link shows up each day, or they can download the audio version of my blog to a personal audio player and listen to it at the gym or during their commute.”

A simple podcast like this one can be accomplished with little more than a microphone, a headset, and a computer with the right software – like the free audio mixing program Audacity ( However, even this option requires a moderate amount of technical proficiency. Williams has his radio license and is more familiar with the broadcasting process than the average lawyer.

Another option for a simple podcast is to subscribe to an online service like Audioblog ( – which offers a telephone number that you can dial into to make a recording. Audioblog transforms this recording into an MP3 file, posts it, automatically uploads a link to your website or blog, and creates the RSS feed. With this option however, there is no opportunity to edit a file or add special effects.

Do It With Some Help

Most of the work for the Osler podcasts is done in-house under the direction of Nanette Matys, director of client development, who came to the firm with media production experience, and Web site manager Robert Reid.

“The firm devotes a great deal of time and money to generating original and useful content,” said Matys. “Once we have invested in this content, we don’t let it sit there.”

The firm makes this content available to as many people in as many innovative ways as possible, including RSS and podcasts.

Each summer, for example, the firm conducts a comprehensive North/South business development effort across the border with the United States. “In 2005, in addition to our usual ads and brochures, we produced our first podcast – on the subject of cross-border mergers and acquisitions,” said Matys. “All of our North/South campaign materials were revised to make reference to the podcast. As a result, we had 1,200 downloads.”

The Osler podcasts are about 15 minutes long and use professional voice talent to open and close the show, and to provide logical transitions where they are needed to tie the whole program together. Osler also hires recording experts to come into the firm and capture the actual voice recording in a high-quality format.

The firm does not use a script for its programs. “We come up with a topical subject (something that’s in the news), an outline and a list of good questions based on that outline,” said Matys. “Then, we sit the attorneys down one at a time and ask them the questions. We want them to speak with passion, in plain English, in a way that puts a human face on the law for the business person who is our target. The lawyers’ answers are much more conversational than if they were reading a script.”

“We edit the tape (the interviewer is not part of the program) to select comments that are pithy and digestible,” said Reid. “Then, we add the voice of the announcer to tie it all together, run it by the lawyers to make sure it is still accurate, create the MP3 file and post it to the website within an RSS feed.” This is all done in-house.

“We do not podcast on a pre-determined schedule,” said Matys. “We wait for the right subject – one that is relevant, timely and important to our clients – and one that is not being covered by every other law firm in the target market.”

Osler has benefited from the addition of RSS and podcast technology, as it was recognized as a top law firm website at the 2006 Legal Marketing Association conference.

Law firms can also contract with an outside turnkey provider, which offers a wide range of services, including writing a script (often based on a firm’s existing content), recording the broadcast in a professional studio (often using professional voice talent), mixing in music and special effects, publishing the broadcast to a host, and promoting the broadcast by posting the RSS feeds to sites like iTunes, Yahoo and other podcast directories.

Speak for Yourself, or Not

Voice talent can be used for the entire podcast, or for introductions, conclusions and to tie together segments. Some podcasters swear by the polished sound of voice talent.

“Unless your lawyers are professional speakers or have well-recognized voices, we recommend professional voice talent,” says Joshua Fruchter, president of

Others believe that speaking for yourself adds a sense of credibility and familiarity that resonates with listeners.

“I think that there is great value to speaking with your own voice – straightforward and without any special effects,” said Larry Bodine, a legal marketing consultant ( who has used Audiblog. “People want to know what you are like as a person as well as a lawyer. They want hear what you sound like, what it is like to work with you – not with some polished announcer.”

Ultimately, your decision on whether to use voice talent should be based on your objectives and your ability.


A steady stream of fresh, original content goes a long way towards establishing a law firm, a practice group or a lawyer as the thought leader within a target market. Audio programs, once thought to be reserved for professional broadcasters, are now possible with as little as a microphone, computer or even just a dial tone.

While podcasting has been making waves for a few years now, the legal community on the whole has been a little slower to catch on . As a result, there is still room on the ground floor for lawyers and law firms to become leaders in an emerging and innovative way of marketing themselves and their services.

More Information


Sites for those interested in creating podcasts:

Audacity (
AudioBlog (
BlogMatrix Sparks! (
Easypodcast (
ePodcast Creator (
FeedForAll (
PodFeeder (
PodOmatic (
PodProducer (
Webmater Podcaster (


Sites for those interested in listening to podcasts:

iTunes ( )
Juice (formerly iPodder) (
Nimiq (
RSSRadio (
WinAmp (
Ziepod (

Janet Ellen Raasch is a writer/ghostwriter who works closely with lawyers and other professional services providers – helping them promote themselves as thought leaders within their target markets through publication of articles, books, white papers and rich content for the Internet. She can be reached at (303) 399-5041 or