Social Media in public works 101 - Podcasts

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As much as everyone loves movies and pictures, talk radio still commands serious playtime. Perhaps it all goes back to how people love to hear stories. But back before social media arrived on the scene, it would have been difficult and costly for public works departments to take advantage of this media channel. Now with all the free, online tools, any department with an Internet connection can host its own version of talk radio. So let’s explore the tools available to us and how some people in the industry are already using this new technology.

People have been uploading and sharing audio files since the Internet became more widely available to the public in the early 1990s. But it’s only been over the last decade or so since web radio, sometimes referred to as podcasting, became a mainstream method of delivering audio content over the web. This could occur because of the arrival on the scene of tools that simplified the entire process from production to listening. Some tools are used to create audio files that can be shared through a service while others allow you to download and post files on your own website. Some also allow you to create and host regular broadcasts and a few even have guest call-in features.

One of the simplest audio capture tools I’ve used is Audioboo. Adding this application to your smartphone allows you to capture a short audio clip, photo, and location. You can use this to document issues and share them with your work crews. Or use it to create short reminders of work or tasks you must address.

Here's an example of an Audioboo I created a while back to explain the need for expansion material between concrete pours:

At the other end of the spectrum, we have tools like Blog Talk Radio (BTR) that allow you to host your own talk show online. All you need is a phone and an Internet connection. Its free plan allows you to host an hour-long show. Although this plan only allows for five listeners during the live feed, each show is archived and can be accessed later. You can also embed a listing of your shows on your website so your visitors can listen to your shows. Paid plans have additional features such as the ability to better brand your page and the capability for more listeners.

If you’re not interested in broadcasting your own content, you can visit BTR just to listen to shows relevant to our industry. Gov 2.0 Radio is a BTR show that has been around for almost four years. Every week it hosts a one-hour discussion covering all topics related to government management and operation at all levels. Many different guests from the public and private sector from all over the world have been featured on the show.

Another useful tool is iTunes. You might already be familiar with iTunes if you own an Apple product or download and listen to a lot of music. But what you might not be aware that behind all of the iPhone updating and popular tunes is the capability to access educational podcasts from major universities and organizations, along with the ability to submit your own podcasts. If you want to listen to podcasts on iTunes, it is best to visit the iTunes Website and download and install iTunes on your computer. Or you can access iTunes through your Apple mobile device.

The podcasts uploaded by Ty Whitman, the Water Sifu are an example of industry related educational material you can access through iTunes. Whitman has created and posted 28 different podcasts on iTunes covering many aspects of water treatment including topics on pumps, valves, meters, and chemicals. There are many more resources hosted by major universities and organizations offering information and training in areas such as transportation, wastewater, and civil engineering that you can check out for yourself and your staff.

If you are thinking about uploading and hosting your own resources for the public, you can get some ideas and check out what others are doing by visiting a few sites created by other governmental agencies. Iowa City has submitted numerous podcasts of its city meetings. You can listen to some of its broadcasts at Iowa City iTunes Podcasts. The City of Bend, Ore., iTunes page has examples of podcasts offering information to citizens about city-related news and services. You can listen to its podcasts here: City of Bend, Oregon, Podcasts.



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About the Blogger

Pam Broviak

thumbnail image A former senior editor of PUBLIC WORKS, Pam Broviak publishes the Public Works Group Blog at (All views expressed in this blog are her own and not those of PUBLIC WORKS.)