A three-second clip of music crescendos, and a female voice says, with professionally smooth intonation, “Hello, and welcome to the first Osler Report.” What follows–a seven-minute discussion with two seasoned legal experts on trends in mergers and acquisitions between Canadian and U.S. companies–is not something you'll find on the FM or AM dials. In fact, you can hear it only on the website of a Toronto-based corporate law firm, Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP.
The free audio segment is called a podcast. Posted for streaming or downloading at www. osler.com on June 28, it is not an extended advertisement or infomercial. Instead, Nanette Matys, Osler's director of client development, uses the ongoing series as a way of showcasing the firm's expertise on specific legal topics–the next segment, about trends in class-action litigation, will be available by the end of September. “There's a nuance and a directness of the spoken word that doesn't always get captured in print,” says Steve Sigurdson, managing partner at Osler, who along with co-chair Clay Horner appeared in the June 28 Osler Report on M&A trends. In the two months after the 9.7 megabyte file was posted, visits were up 23%.
Podcasting–a term coined after the iPod, although MP3 audio files can be played on PCs and many other devices–grew out of the success of blogs, which are like free online journals. Podcasts, on the other hand, are like radio shows, self-produced on a computer and then distributed over the Internet. Both are largely the domain of amateurs who focus on narrow subject areas. But for corporations looking for new ways to reach an audience that is saturated with media and immune to overt marketing, blogs and podcasts are a fresh medium–if done right.
The trick is to be genuinely informative. After all, no one voluntarily downloads a seven-minute ad. General Motors, for instance, podcasts on new product developments; IBM podcasts on its investor relations website about future technologies.
In Canada, Osler is one of the first businesses to podcast. The firm doesn't post blogs, but Matys thinks podcasting nicely augments its corporate marketing initiatives online and in print. “I like to think of it as radio on demand,” says Matys. “It really gives more of an inside view of the firm.”