Since the iPod was launched in 2004, Apple has sold over 40 million units. That’s a huge market, and because of the development of the podcast, it’s also a brand new marketing arena for companies to conquer.

Video podcasts are video broadcasts that people can download and watch on their iPods. They transform the gadget into a mini-TV, ideal for people on the go (and in this day and age, who isn’t?).

Video Podcasts, like television shows, cover a wide range of topics and serve numerous purposes. Some are pure entertainment: comedy acts, music videos, short films. Others inform and educate: cooking demonstrations, documentaries, news and current affairs updates, language tutorials, business seminars and self-improvement seminars on everything from How to Improve your Selling Skills to Getting Over a Breakup.

The specific content of podcasts, and the fact that they’re downloaded by individuals who are clearly interested in the content, opens an incredible opportunity for niche marketing.

The most basic way of participating in a podcast for brand awareness is to sponsor a podcast related to your product. For example, a sports apparel company can advertise on a podcast on the most exciting plays, or an interview with the coach of a winning team. This works for both the advertiser and the website that carries the podcast: if they carry the costs of creating and maintaining the site, they can offer the podcasts for free, for the opportunity to run a 10-second ad at the start of the video. The best thing about podcast commercials is that obviously the user can’t change the channel. You have a captive audience of sports fans–the people most likely to buy your merchandise to begin with.

Another way of marketing your product through podcasting is to create your own. You can tap one of your own experts or endorsers to create valid content that would be interesting to your buyers. Let’s say that you’re a site that sells designer bags and shoes. Tap a stylist to create a short podcast on the latest styles of the season, and how to pair it with other items in your wardrobe. Your “trend report” is of obvious interest to females, who are more likely to invest in accessories if they know how it fits into a particular look.

You don’t have to go hardsell: podcasts can be part of an overall PR campaign to build relationships with your community, thus enhancing your brand equity and reputation as “a company that cares”. Since podcasts are relatively inexpensive to create, this may be an alternative to large-scale social marketing efforts. For example, if you are a pharmaceutical company that sells diabetes medication, your podcasts can be an information campaign on people who have successfully controlled the disease to lead very successful lives. Farm this video to podcast websites and your campaign reaches millions of people worldwide.

You can also use podcasts to enhance the mileage of an existing PR event. For example, if you are a restaurant that wants to be known as the hottest and hippest place in the city, and hold regular parties that attract celebrities and models, then release podcasts that banner this benefit to the world. It’s pointless to hold an event if people don’t know about it; podcasts make sure that they do.