[IMGCAP(1)]CHICAGO—Locally based Jones Lang LaSalle attracted attention recently when it announced it was bumping up its technology initiative with the launch of the industry’s first podcast program. “We’re the first real estate company to share individual perspectives in this convenient and succinct format that subscribers can review and evaluate at their own convenience,” says Lauralee Martin, chief financial and operating officer.

JLL reports its OneView PodCasts generated more than 1,000 subscriptions within two days. However, the boast that the digital media files were an industry first wasn’t entirely accurate.

A podcast, for the uninitiated, is a buzzword for technology that allows users to download audio and video files from the Internet to their computers, iPods, mobile phones or PDAs, They’re sort of like radio or television programs you record in advance to listen or watch whenever–and often, wherever–you want.

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A handful of commercial real estate groups have earned recognition as podcast pioneers, including Starboard TCN Worldwide in San Francisco. They’re using podcasts on a regular basis as general business and marketing tools. Starboard, for instance, has been producing weekly podcastssince Sept. 2005, sharing office vacancy rates, rental rates and new listings for office space in San Francisco and the Bay Area. “We beat Jones Lang LaSalle by more than a year,” says Hans Hansson, a Starboard principal and its chief podcaster.

Several real estate trade organizations, including the Beverly Hills, CA-based International Real Estate Trade Organization and the locally based CCIM Institute are also producing podcasts.

So contrary to the company’s claim, JLL isn’t the first commercial real estate organization to get into podcasting. But it is on a short list of firms and organizations that have–gaining, at least temporarily, a competitive edge over rivals like CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., the world’s largest commercial real estate broker, and Cushman & Wakefield Inc. Neither is currently offering podcasts on their websites.

It’s somewhat surprising that podcasting is still cutting edge technology in commercial real estate circles, especially since it has been popular in the residential real estate sector for years. As early as 2004, Miami Beach Realtor Zahara Mossman was using podcasts to promote her residential listings.

Mossman makes audio recordings featuring both fact and impressions about the listings, converts those recordings to MP3 audio files and distributes them to subscribers using really simple syndication (RSS) technology. She also posts the files, along with photos of the homes, on the websites of two of her businesses: Podcast Realty and Zahara Properties . “The reaction has been phenomenal,” she says. “We are the buyers’ eyes and ears.”

Podcast enthusiasts describe them as convenient, cost-effective ways for commercial real estate professionals to communicate with clients, attract potential new clients and showcase the expertise of brokers, department heads and other employees Businesses also can use podcasts to share information and train employees.

[IMGCAP(2)]JLL calls podcasting an “effort to leverage innovation and technology to serve client demand,” a response to the firm’s research that indicates “clients want relevant and timely information at their fingertips.”

It’s offering short, concise audio and video clips, most lasting less than two minutes, featuring non-promotional thoughts on trends, market statistics and other industry issues. The podcasts are available by subscription on the JLL website. Subscribers can select one of three formats–e-mail, over iTunes or as an RSS feed. They can also go back to the JLL website for links to white papers, articles and research for greater context on the podcast topic.

Right now, JLL expects to add one to three podcasts each week. The podcasts, which feature brokers, managers and other employees from offices nationwide, will focus strictly on the US market. Later this year, JLL plans to launch international podcasts exploring global real estate issues.

David Johnson, executive vice president and chief information officer at JLL, says the challenge for commercial real estate businesses is to incorporate technology without depersonalizing the services they provide. “It’s a very relationship intense business, and you don’t want technology to come between the broker and client,” he explains.

“But the podcasts are a way to connect,” Johnson notes. “They give people who are very busy the flexibility to hear–at their convenience–a quick hit on our thoughts about a particular topic. They’re easy to use and build on those personal relationships that we think are so important.”

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