SSDD – Podcasting is just a word!

Post ImageI don’t know how many times this is going to come up, but I’ll keep posting about it until I don’t have to anymore. Podcasting is just a word. It means different things to different people. All that matters is the idea or technology or process that we use the word podcasting to refer to.

PodZinger recently renamed themselves to EveryZing, prompting Ivan at Vecosys to proclaim that podcasting is dead (via Podonomics):

You know that Podcasting is over as a bankable concept when companies start rebranding themselves to escape the word.

Absolutely incorrect. The concept is alive and well. The word podcasting – well maybe it is starting to fall out of favor. The two should not be confused, however! We can use any word we like to refer to the concept, and it remains as valid today as it was three years ago.

(By the way, if you’re unsure of what SSDD means, here’s the definition.)

Read: Vecosys

Why is Facebook so addicting?

Post ImageFor those of you who use Facebook this will come as no surprise: I’m addicted. I don’t know what it is about the site, but something has me completely hooked. Lately when I think social networking, I think Facebook – it seems to me they have found the magic formula. And I really want to understand what that formula is.

Here are a few “magic ingredients” that I have come up with:

  • Human Connection. I think it’s human nature to want to be connected to other humans. Obviously, this is the core of Facebook’s product. Sure you can share links and write notes and such, but the core idea is connecting with other people, and everything seems to be designed with this in mind (you can tag people in photos, notes, etc.)
  • User Interface. With the exception of the ugly banner on the left side, the site is clean and the layout is mostly consistent. I think for the same reason people love Google’s simple front page, people love Facebook’s simple interface.
  • News Feed. Aside from being an efficient way to display information, the news feed makes logging into the site many times a day worthwhile. There’s always something new to see. Try to imagine Facebook without the news feed…it’s hard isn’t it? This is a key feature.
  • Almost Live Casual Communication. I think Facebook is great for communication that falls somewhere in between instant messaging and email. Like a simple “hey how’s it going” that doesn’t require an immediate response, nor an entire email message (which would appear in your inbox alongside important messages and spam). The wall is definitely another key feature.

When they first decided to open the site up to everyone, expanding away from their original audience of college students, I wasn’t sure if it would work out. I figured it might make Facebook seem less attractive. Turns out my suspicions were wrong. Facebook is definitely going mainstream.

I’ll think about this some more, but what you do think – why is Facebook so addicting?

Oh, and if we’re not friends on Facebook yet, add me! Here’s my profile.

What we have is a failure to communicate!

Post ImageTom Webster of Edison Media Research was on hand at the recent Corporate Podcasting Summit in London, where he talked about a new research report that shows podcasting isn’t growing much. There’s been a lot of discussion about the findings, but I don’t think they are cause for concern. I think Tim Bourquin has nailed it:

I think the survey is flawed from the get-go Frank because if they used the word “podcast” I guarantee most of the general public assumed they were asking “if they had ever listened to one of those homemade talk shows on an iPod.”

So I think it truly is a failure to communicate what we’re talking about. We all still have a lot of work to do.

Ever since day one, we’ve had an “Other Names and Similar Activities” blurb on Podcast Spot. I had an entire slide devoted to the name issues in my Podcasting & Marketing presentation back in January. I blogged about the issue again in February.

Podcasting is just a name. A word we use to refer to an idea or technology or process. That doesn’t mean it’s the only word to refer to those things, or even the best word. And it’s certainly not the first word that will come to mind for the vast majority of the population.

Have you ever listened to or watched a podcast? Wrong question to ask most people. You need to ask them in such a way that you don’t have to use the word podcast. I don’t think the word “podcast” will ever become as widely adopted as the word “blog” has.

If you take a look at the presentation slides (PDF link), stop and think about slide #5. I think I understand what they are going for with the second point, “Podcasting does NOT refer to the downloading of individual MP3s or songs,” but it doesn’t work. It just makes the whole thing confusing. Are they saying a podcast can’t be an MP3? I don’t get it…that’s what the individual being surveyed will probably be thinking.

Podcasting is all about communication. It doesn’t matter what we call it though.

Read: Frank Barnako

Txt Msg Troubles on Telus

Post ImageI guess you could say I’m a bit of a text messaging addict. It’s a very useful technology, and I try to make the most of it. So when something went wrong on Saturday that prevented me from receiving messages, I almost went crazy! In the morning, Dickson had sent me a message. Throughout the day I continued to get the same message, over and over, until I stopped receiving messages altogether around 6 PM.

I called Telus today to get it fixed, and after a quick phone call, everything was back to normal (I then received 23 text messages and 3 voice mails all at once). The lady that helped me was very friendly, and certainly seemed to know what she was doing. I asked her what went wrong, and this is what she said:

Sometimes if you are sent two messages at the same time, it causes problems with the queue. I was able to send two test messages to your phone that cleared up the jam.

Now I can only assume that she was trying to answer my question in layman’s terms, but still, doesn’t that sound like an odd reason? I mean what is the point of having a queue in the first place? The queue is there so that messages can be sent reliably, even if they are sent at the same time!

I’m really kind of curious about how the system works now. I also wonder if Telus is using an in-house system or a solution provided by a third party. Either way, it seems some improvements could be made!

Also: I should note that there was absolutely no wait time to talk to someone (minus the stupid speech recognition menu which took a couple minutes). This is a BIG improvement for Telus…normally you have to wait forever!

More podcasting misconceptions

Post ImageWhenever new podcasting related “research” is released, you can be sure of only one thing: there will be mainstream media-like rhetoric against podcasting. A new report was released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that suggested just 12% of Internet users have downloaded a podcast. The misconception is to see that number and conclude that podcasting just doesn’t have any value. From MarketingShift (via Podcasting News):

Podcasting probably will never become an “impact media” like online video or satellite radio, and deservedly so.

The multitude of independent podcasters will scratch and claw for the occasional hour when people want to hear about a niche of their interest, but podcasting will have about the same long term business impact as e-books.

They are correct in saying that podcasting will never become an “impact media” but they are wrong in implying that it has to be for it to be successful. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth mentioning again – the vast majority of podcasters will not be in it for the money! I call it Average Joe Podcasting.

Podcasting is all about communication. It levels the playing field between average users and much larger (and richer) mainstream media organizations when it comes to distributing audio and video content. That’s why it is useful, and that’s why it is here to stay.

Read: MarketingShift

Google is missing that human side

Post ImageTough times for Google right now. They were called out in BusinessWeek recently for creating lots of hype with few results. Scoble noted that they were completely missing from Gnomedex. Even I’ve made mention in the past that Google seems confused about themselves. And despite the fact that they only have one revenue stream, have grown too big too fast, and have dozens of other problems, I think a really important one is that Google seems to entirely lack a human side. An email I got from Google Checkout’s support team today really confirmed it for me.

I have read many a blog post citing Google’s complete inability to respond to emails or support requests, but I figured I’d try my luck and send one anyway. I emailed Google Checkout support, asking when Canadian merchants would be able to use the service (as we’re currently unable to). I wasn’t asking if, but rather when. This is the response I got:

At this time, only merchants with a United States address and bank account can integrate and process transactions through Google Checkout. We look forward to making the service more widely available in the near future.

Compare that with the help page on their website that I had already read:

At this time, only merchants with a U.S. address and bank account can process transactions through Google Checkout. We look forward to offering more options in the future.

Thanks Google, but I can read! Now to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a date or anything, but that’s not the point. This response could very well have come from an automated system (and who knows, maybe it was) as only the last sentence has been changed. And that is what is wrong with Google.

Google needs a human side. They need someone to maintain a regular blog, talking about everything, not just Google (a la Scoble). They need support people who can type a human response, something like “Hey, we love Canada, and oh btw, Happy Canada Day! We’re doing our best to bring you Google Checkout, so stay tuned!” They need real people to help launch and talk about new products. They need to become part of the community, they need to join the conversation, they need to act like humans instead of robots.

Microsoft and Yahoo! are so much better at this than Google. With all those smart people at Google, you’d think they would realize it’s better to participate?

Communication with Podcasting

Post ImageLots of the podcasting-related discussion taking place in the blogosphere over the last week or so has been about whether or not you can build a sustainable business around it (or even just whether podcasting is here to stay or not). No doubt Scoble’s move to PodTech has fueled some of the discussion, as have comments like Larry Borsato’s:

People talk about podcasting as if it is some amazing new technology, forgetting that we’ve had radio and books on tape for decades. The only difference is that we store the thing in a digital file now.

To say that podcasting is an “amazing new technology” is far too broad a statement to make, I agree. I would argue, however, that podcasting is a great new communications technology (or more accurately, the repackaging of existing technologies (MP3, RSS, the web) to create a great new communications technology). I touched on this idea in my National Post article in May, but I actually developed the theory much more completely back in March of this year. During that month, Paramagnus was heavily into our two business plan competitions, and one of the things I wrote was a introduction to podcasting, which explained how the technology fits into the overall communications picture:

Podcasting is, at its heart, a communications technology. The essence of podcasting is creating audio-visual content for an audience to listen to or watch when they want, where they want, and how they want.

Around the same time, I wrote an essay for a class at the University of Alberta, which explored the impact of the diagram above:

Communication can be broken down into four main methods: real-time text, real-time audio/video, time-shifted text, and time-shifted audio/video. Until very recently, only the first three of these methods had been made available to the masses in digital form by modern technology.

Podcasting fills a great void in communications technologies by enabling everyone to communicate digitally using time-shifted audio and video.

In the diagram above I chose videoconferencing (because of the ability to include both audio and video, and the ability to communicate with more than one person at a time), but you could just as easily stick the telephone in there as well. You might find the diagram simplifies communication, but that was kind of the point. When the average person is going to communicate with someone else, they’re either going to see them in person, call them, email them, maybe instant message them, perhaps post something to their blog, or something similar. Until podcasting came along, it was really hard to use audio and video to do any of this.

As for sustainable business models around podcasting, I think they exist, even if they are hard to see at the moment. Unfortunately, everyone seems to be focused on podcast directories and podcast advertising, the two models I don’t see as being very sustainable (at least not for the incredible number of companies each segment currently has). Advertising is for content companies, which might choose to use podcasting as a delivery medium. I don’t think to be a podcasting company you need to have a strategy to sell advertising. Like most communications technologies, I feel the bulk of the money in podcasting will be on the creation side.

Basically what I am saying here is that podcasting is all about communication, and that’s why it is relevant/important/going-to-stick-around. I don’t think we’ll ever have too many solutions to the problem of communication. And what I said in my last podcasting post still applies – you’ve got to choose the right tool for the job. Sometimes, you’re going to use email or blogging or instant messaging. Other times, you’re going to use podcasting.

Podcasting or Text?

Post Image“Why listen to a podcast when you can get ten times the content when you read?” That’s the question Peter Davis recently asked, and I’d like to attempt to answer it. Scoble chimed in with his response, essentially saying with communication, you should use the right tool for the job. Maybe that’s text, but in other cases, it might be audio or video.

Here’s why I think you should listen to or watch a podcast, even if you can get ten times the content when you read:

  • The Right Tool For The Job
    Like Scoble, I think that sometimes audio or video is better suited to the job than text. I’ll just cite his example too – I’d much rather watch a short video about Halo 3 than read an essay on it. It really depends on what you’re trying to communicate.
  • Mobility
    Can you read an email or the newspaper while you’re driving your car? I certainly can’t. But I can listen to a podcast. Do you carry all your books and magazines with you everywhere? Probably not, but I’ll bet you carry an MP3 player! There are a lot of scenarios where podcasting on the go works and text simply doesn’t.
  • Show Some Emotion!
    Try to write a really emotional blog post. Or a post that is sarcastic. It’s not as easy as you’d like to believe! Most times, your emotion or sarcasm will be misinterpreted. Audio and video allow you to convey emotion, sarcasm, and other things using tone of voice and body language. Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it.
  • Ease of Creation
    You’re probably thinking I’m nuts, saying that it’s easier to create a podcast than write a blog post, but in some cases it’s true. The tools to create a podcast will soon be as easy to use as blogging tools, and when that happens, the creation time really depends simply on the content. Most people can talk a heck of a lot faster than they can type, and with regards to video, a picture really is worth a thousand words! Sometimes it might be easier to get your message across in a podcast. Heck, I should be podcasting this post!
  • Multitasking!
    I’ve always got some sort of background noise going on, as it helps me concentrate. Sometimes I just block it out, while other times I’ll sort of half listen and if I hear something interesting, I’ll pay attention. The idea here is that I can play a podcast in the background and continue working, and if something being said catches my interest, I might pay a little more attention. Can’t do that with text. I’ve called this multitasking, but you can think of it as passive podcasting consumption!

Don’t be fooled by the comments on Peter’s post and elsewhere – this discussion is about more than just those who listen in the car and those who don’t. Podcasting is an extremely viable communications technology, for a wide variety of scenarios.

To be clear, I’m not saying one should always use podcasting. The most important of the reasons above is to use the right tool for the job. Developers are told this all the time – use the right programming language for the task at hand! Same holds true with communication. If you can communicate something better using text, go for it. If some sound or a short video is better, maybe podcasting will work for you.

Peter is correct in stating that podcasting is not as efficient at delivering information as text is. However, if you consider the amount of overlap that exists in text (look at Google News for a news story, or the hundreds of blog posts on a given topic) it might start to even out. At least for the time being, podcasting does not suffer from the same “echo chamber” as text does.

Now hopefully I’ve offered some good reasons for why you might use podcasting over text. There are many more reasons that podcasting is great, but they go beyond a comparison with text, so I’ll save them for another post. There’s still a long way to go to make podcasting incredibly useful, but it definitely has some inherent properties that make it pretty attractive.

Read: Peter Davis

Gmail Chat

Post ImageFor years Hotmail and Yahoo Mail have showed the connection status of your Messenger buddies in the web mail interface. A simple icon depicts whether they are online or not, and a simple click can launch a chat window or do other things. Google has taken that idea one step further, enabling conversations to take place inside the browser itself:

Google on Monday was set to launch Gmail Chat, which will let users send instant messages with one click from their e-mail account, see when contacts are online and save the chat history like an e-mail message.

The application’s Quick Contacts list is synchronized with a user’s Google Talk friends list and automatically displays the people a user communicates with most frequently and shows their online status. Clicking on a contact listed as being online opens a chat window in the browsers.

I think this new Chat feature will be played up as “Google innovating in the email space yet again” when really, it’s a poor man’s version of MSN’s Web Messenger. I mean, when you cut through the crap (read: beta label) that’s all it is! And even then, a web messenger is really only useful if you’re on a public computer or something.

Considering I don’t use Google Talk, this new feature is pretty much useless for me.

Read: CNET