Podcasts

Podcasting (still) lives!

I first discovered podcasts and podcasting somewhere around 2006, and my mind was blown. The first podcast I came upon was all about production, technology, communications- in short, everything that was of interest to me. It blew my mind because of the obvious potential to narrowcast and reach large audiences which  were not quite large enough for traditional radio or TV. One million podcast listeners is huge. One million TV viewers gets you cancelled before the second episode airs.

In the years that followed, it seemed like everyone with a mic and a laptop started releasing podcasts during this chaos period, but now it is clear that podcasting has reached a new and exciting level of maturity.

 

My enthusiasm for them has not waned one iota. In fact, I receive the vast majority of my news, information and entertainment from podcasts. Because it is such a personal medium, it feels very “one-to-one” and that appeals to me.

One area that has experienced a huge boom, and resultant ripple effect, is comedy. A few years back I happened upon Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, which led me to Greg Fitzsimmons’ Fitzdog Radio and on and on. Both of these shows are essentially interview shows, not comics doing their acts. Maron’s self-revelatory style over 300+ episodes has won him a huge following and a TV deal for an upcoming show on IFC. To hear him tell it, it has also resurrected what was, by his own admission, a dormant stand-up career.

Fitzsimmons’ career seems to be on the upswing, too, as a result of his podcast, although he often riffs on how hard he has worked to arrive comfortably “in the middle.” He says he gets recognized on the street occasionally, but mostly he works steadily in Hollywood, which is the dream of any creative type.

Two back to back articles in the NY Times this past week about the comics Chris Hardwick and Rob Delaney,  and the “direct-to-audience” model pioneered so expertly by Louis CK are further evidence of the power of podcasting to speak to your audience directly, and find new audiences in the process.

I made a blog post back in 2007 (Good God, have I been blogging that long?) about the huge potential I saw in podcasting. While NPR and other mainstream content providers have used podcasts to great mutual benefit for themselves and their audiences, there is still plenty of room for growth.

I think it’s time for me to get back to my podcast. I’ve been too lazy.

So, do you listen to podcasts? If so, got any good recommendations?

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Right-brainers and a Start Up mindset

On May 30, 2011 I had the unique honor of giving the Commencement address at St. Mark’s School in Southboro, MA. I graduated from there in 1984, so I was humbled (and maybe a little freaked out) to have been selected to be the speaker.

In it, I talk about the need to have a start-up mentality in order to succeed today, how right-brainers will carry the day, and I may have even squeezed in a golf anecdote or two. I decided to release it as a podcast, since I have been somewhat remiss in podcasting this year. (Podcast link here) Also, Thomas Friedman’s recent column basically stole everything I talked about during my address six weeks ago, even though I did not notice him in the audience takin notes. (Just kidding, I realize it’s just a coincidence but it begs the question, “Where’s MY NY Times column?”)

Would love to hear your comments and if you agree or disagree with my overall thesis. Oh, and I’ll try to be better about podcasting…

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Is “good enough” good enough?

Is “good enough” good enough?

Long before I made the move into social media, most of my career has been spent in the entertainment business. I started in radio, moved to the music business (as both a performer and executive) and then onto TV (never as a performer, thank God).

I have always been fascinated by trends and how sometimes you can have two diametrically opposed trends developing simultaneously. I still produce, direct and write lots of video content (here’s a picture taken two days ago from a client shoot to prove it), and this has kept me thinking about one of these two-way trends a lot.

Quality. How important is it, as it pertains to audio or video content?

First let me identify the trends, as I see them. On the one hand, there is this breakneck race to the top in terms of HD televisions, HD video cameras, even HD radio. Everything needs to be as life like as possible, and we all want high quality HD monitors at home to watch the, arguably, low quality content on TV. (Hey, it’s my blog. I can editorialize all I want.) But, seriously, video production and delivery quality is going up up up while the prices of TVs and cameras keep coming down down down.

On the internet, however, high quality video delivery is still hampered by bandwidth issues, among other things. Flip cameras, iPhone 3GS and other low cost video cameras are gaining in popularity, and with good reason. You Tube, uStream, facebook and other outlets allow you to then share that content quickly. But that, in my view, is the disconnect. Online video and user generated content tends to be of very low quality. The video needs to be compressed in order to be uploaded, and good audio is almost always an afterthought, if it’s thought of at all. I have long maintained that the democratization of content creation and distribution is both the best thing and the worst thing about the internet. The great thing is, ANYONE can make a video. The bad thing is, ANYONE can make a video.

So, to restate it: We demand high quality audio and video at home, but we give online content a pass. I wonder how long will that trend last? And, more importantly, if your business chooses to use video, does the TECHNICAL quality of the content you put out there send a subconscious message to your audience? You might not realize it, but when people try and watch a video that has terrible sound, they make a LOT of judgments. You do, too. There is an old saying that “Video is easy. Sound is hard.” I understand that there are situations where a company might CHOOSE to go the UGC route, and there are tons of valid reasons for doing just that. But my question is a deeper one. Has expertise been devalued? Are all decisions coming down to dollars and cents? If so, is it penny wise and pound foolish? Something you post on the internet, as I say every day of my life, is there forever. There is no delete button on the internet. So is putting out content for content’s sake a sound decision?

Obviously, quality has always carried the day in all walks of life and in all endeavors. When both audio and video podcasting were new, there were zillions of podcasts being produced and thrown up onto iTunes or onto people’s blogs and websites. There is less of that now because people have realized that creating regularly scheduled, quality content is hard, and expensive work. Expensive in terms of the time investment and, yes, the dollar investment.

But here’s the question I have rolling around in my head that I don’t have an answer to: have we reached a point where “good enough” is good enough? Our attention spans are being vied for every minute we’re awake. So is “yeah,yeah, I get the gist of it” where we find ourselves today? And if the answer to either of those questions is “yes,” then where does that leave professional content creators?

My sense is that the quality of internet audio and video is improving because people are tired of wading through stuff shot with shaky cameras, bad sound, no edits, no titles, no opens or closes- no expertise. In other words, maybe the new way is trending and becoming more like the old way. For every uStream video, there is a Hulu video. I realize it is an unfair comparison to compare UGC with NBC, but I hope I make my point.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Has good enough become good enough? If so, do you think it will always be this way? Am I totally off base with this post? I’m really interested in your comments, so fire away in the comments section.

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Social Media for Your Business- a free seminar

Social Media for Your Business- a free seminar

I have to apologize for falling down on the job a bit as far as the podcast is concerned. I had pledged at the beginning of the year to release them more regularly since I noticed, to my delight, that the previous episodes from 2008 had been downloaded in surprising numbers. No excuses- I just have not gotten it done.

SO- to try and make up for some lost ground, I am releasing a slightly longer podcast, but one that I hope will bring some real value for those business owners, PR people and marketers who are looking to figure out the best way to incorporate social media into their overall communications plan. I have been speaking at a lot of conferences around the country delivering this message in one form or another, so I have decided to post it as a podcast for those of you who might be looking for a quick primer. The slides that go along with it can be found at at Slidshare.net and are available as a free download.

Here is the link to the podcast in iTunes. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

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What’s the deal with podcasting in 2009?

What’s the deal with podcasting in 2009?

I was in San Francisco last week for two conferences (this one and this one). At one of the evening get togethers, the conversation turned briefly (and I do mean briefly) to podcasting. It went a little like this:

“So, how come no one talks about podcasting anymore?”

“Because it’s not new anymore. Everyone’s doing it. It’s totally mainstream.”

I guess I agree and disagree. A couple of years ago when I launched the company, I anticipated that podcast production would be a big part of the business model. With my years of experience as a video producer and director, it seemed like the next logical step in the evolution of online media creation. I was, and continue to be, a HUGE consumer of podcasts, many of them courtesy of NPR. But I was wrong about the production part being a big segment of my business. Aside from my own, we only produced a couple of others.

But back to the topic of podcasting and NPR…Tom Webster from Edison Research had some interesting stats that he presented at IMS. 43% of Americans are aware of this thing called podcasting, up from 22% just three years ago. And about 27 million Americans listened to a podcast in the last month. Chances are, a lot of them were from NPR.

While stories about the contraction of mainstream media outlets abound, an underreported story is how much NPR has grown, thanks largely to their bear hug embrace of new media. They consistently have several programs in the iTunes top 10 and traffic on NPR.org grew 78% from 2007 to 2008. There has been some internal conflict from member stations that they are essentially cannibalizing themselves. NPR member stations have to pay the mother ship for programming, but if all that programming is available online on matter which affiliate you listen to, you might be less inclined to give during pledge drive time.

Or maybe not. According to a recent article in Fast Company, the NPR audience “is perhaps more ready than most for the radical concept of paying for the content they consume… When we had to announce layoffs and cuts in December, there were comments on some of our stories: ‘How can we help? Where’s the give button?’ There’s a sense that the organization is leaving money on the table. People would like to contribute more to this service that they adore and depend on.”

Compared to traditional media, podcast audience numbers are still small. Yet, as we say over and over, it’s not about the quantity of your audience, it’s about the quality. 50,000 highly motivated listeners (or viewers) is preferable to 1 million indifferent ones.

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How to get started with your social media marketing strategy

How to get started with your social media marketing strategy

We want to use the podcast as a complement to what we post here on the blog, as it allows us to dig down a little deeper, offer more advanced tips and practical information and it can be an alternative to those of you who prefer passive learning by listening.


In this episode, we wanted to direct your attention to a few great blogs, a couple of indispensable books and a brilliant website that, taken together or separately, will give great insight into the “hows” of implementing a social media marketing strategy.

Referenced resources:

Blogs- Jason Falls’ Social Media Explorer

Chris Brogan’s blog

Amber Naslund at Altitude Branding

Books- Groundswell and The New Rules of Marketing & PR

Website- Common Craft

Please go get the podcast in iTunes, or you can listen right here on the blog.

Download How to get started MP3

And please make sure to post your comments here on the blog. Was this useful for you? Too much information? Not enough?

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