Two things came together for me this morning in a way that sometimes happens. You might choose to call this serendipity, but I have always found that word to be terribly twee. In my (perhaps) overly practical mind, I prefer to imagine a jigsaw puzzle coming together as intended.

The first was the comScore profile of the iTunes podcast audience. Most interesting among the findings: more men than women use iTunes (63% vs. 37%) and the 35 to 65+ 54 demo represents the largest and most active segment.

The second was a request from a colleague for a Web 2.0 strategy piece for a proposal she’s putting together for a website geared to seniors. Three things immediately popped up for me:

1. Seniors don’t use the Internet very much.
2. Their kids do – and they like podcasts.
3. Podcasts are really no different than radio, except that they’re much more convenient.

I also know how people behave in my family. My mom navigates much of the world for my 82 year old grandmother. Not because she’s an invalid (she’s actually incredibly robust – shockingly so), but because it’s hard for old eyes to read the tiny sentences on most letters and her Ukrainian vocabulary was frozen in 1944, leaving blanks where there should be words for important new things like “email” and “website”. So my mom finds the info my grandmother needs and explains it to her. I imagine that many people have the same routine, regardless of which language they speak natively.

Enter podcasts. I am a big fan of the Whirlpool American Family Podcast because it’s such a delicious revival of something old – the sponsored radio program. The content is broadly useful, but the bringing of it to you is sponsored by a company that wants you to think kindly of it and it’s washing machines. The ‘cast wildly successful, and has allowed Whirlpool to engage deeply with their consumers by delivering meaningful and useful content.

I believe we can get to the great grey wave of people who don’t use the web much in the same way – by giving them access to something old that’s new again (a radio program) that they can listen to at their leisure. In addition, the delivery mechanism we can use will be quite novel. We’ll reach out to their ‘Boomer kids (who love podcasts and download them like mad) and get them to connect the dots, downloading to a PC or even an iPod and picking up useful information on the site along the way. Did Mom miss that bit? Simply turn up the hearing aid and “rewind”.

It’s something I’ve often thought about (and a problem that will be gone in 10 years or so, sadly); the fact that seniors are not wired, they don’t use the ‘net and they’re often incredibly isolated. Perhaps by employing their kids to help deliver a new technology that uses an old paradigm, we can change that a little.

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3 Comments

  1. Certianly aging parents (or grandparents) have a whole different set of issues dealing with the web that younger folks do -and pod casts can bridge that.

    One of the things I’ve noticed dealing with my parents and my wifes mother (all mid 80′s) is that even little changes in an interface make processes they knew (like putting a song on an MP3 device difficult or impossible). So many programs are set to automatically update and often that means minor UI tweeks – and a call to one kid or other to sort things out.

    Still using audio is a great way to deliver information, and connection to a generation that grew up in an radio world.

  2. We have seen a lot of interest in our new series of podcast for elders on our new web site. Both my wife who is a nurse-attorney and myself a psychologist assist families in the difficult issues involving the careing for our aging parents. Podcasts is a wonderful medium to deliver current information in a familiar radio format. Please check us out and let us know what you think. We have only publish 4 free podcast now and have over a dozen ready to go live.

    Dr. Mikol S. Davis

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