Happy Birthday Podcast Spot!

Post ImageThe big news today of course is the launch of Halo 3, but it’s also important to me for another reason. It’s kind of hard to believe, but it was on this day a year ago that we launched Podcast Spot. We had no idea what to expect for our first year, but I think we can call it a success. Not a massive success, but a success nonetheless. Here’s what I wrote back in 2006:

That said, it’s just the first step, and there’s still a long way to go. We’re eager and excited to continue improving the podcasting experience, with Podcast Spot and other products too.

I’d say that still holds for today. We’re going to spend some time going through what we’ve learned over the last year, and combined with our ideas and plans, we look forward to making our second year even better.

As I said on the Paramagnus blog, thanks to everyone who has supported us and especially to the podcasters who call Podcast Spot home. It’s still pretty cool to me that people are using something I’ve built.

Read: Paramagnus

Flash, Silverlight and H.264

Post ImageAdobe launched a new version of Flash on Monday. The update is codenamed “Moviestar” because it adds support for H.264, a video compression codec. The release is significant because it allows Flash to play really high quality video. Adobe expects the final version to be ready this fall.

I think it’s clear that Adobe added H.264 support to Flash as a way to compete with Microsoft’s Silverlight and VC-1. SmugMug’s Don MacAskill thinks the announcement gives Adobe the edge:

Silverlight 1.0 is focused almost entirely on video, including HD, and clearly gunning for Flash. So why wouldn’t they go right for Flash’s big Achilles heel – no H.264 support?

Oh well – that opportunity is now lost, and I believe this basically nails Silverlight 1.0’s coffin shut.

Don goes on to say that he had high hopes for strong competition among Rich Internet Application frameworks. I really value Don’s opinion, and I think he’s a really smart guy, but I think his comment is somewhat misleading and I have to disagree with him here. Why? Because it’s only August 22nd, 2007, that’s why.

I realize that Don specifically mentioned “Silverlight 1.0” but I wouldn’t fault you for skimming over the version number, and that’s what needs to be addressed. First of all, Silverlight 1.0 hasn’t even been released yet. Secondly, the first real release is going to be Silverlight 1.1, which is currently in alpha. There’s a lot of time left before the final version of 1.1 is released. Who knows, maybe Microsoft will even add support for H.264 before that time (though Don says he has been told by MS employees that no more codecs will be added).

The point is that it’s still early. Don’t count Silverlight out just yet. Lots can happen between now and the final releases of both Flash “Moviestar” and Silverlight. I think it’s safe to say there won’t be a lack of competition in the RIA framework space.

I completely agree with Don’s last statement though:

You’re going to see a massive boom in the online video space shortly. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Exactly. Lots to come still. It’s an exciting time!

Read: SmugBlog

Some Thoughts on the Association for Downloadable Media

Post ImageLast week a new organization calling itself the Association for Downloadable Media launched. The ADM aims to provide standards for advertising and audience measurement for episodic and downloadable media. From their press release:

The ADM will focus primarily on the world of podcasting, downloadable media and portable content monetized by advertising and sponsorship. The ADM will create a landscape that facilitates the commercialization of this growing audience.

Monetization of podcasts is a growing opportunity for these parties, and the ADM supports the momentum of this channel through the collective mindshare of its members.

They have sixteen organizations already on board, including Apple and NPR. Individuals can join for $150/year, for corporations the price is $1000/year.

First of all, I’m not sure the organization is needed. Where are all the content creators and advertisers complaining about the lack of standards? Furthermore, none of the member companies are bound to do anything anyway. They can, however, point to the ADM as an example of how they are “participating in and improving” the industry. Take the five “initial” committees they have already created – isn’t it kind of early to have such committees? Probably, but it makes them look more legitimate.

More importantly, will the ADM really be able to accomplish anything? Aside from Apple and the NPR, the organizations currently on board are small fish in the grand scheme of things. Yes even venture-backed companies like Podshow, PodTech, and Revision3. What happens when NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox jump into the downloadable media market? Or perhaps even other media outlets like the New York Times? The ADM will drown in the ensuing splash, that’s what. The big fish will be able to do whatever they like, regardless of what the ADM has already “standardized.”

One other thing – downloadable media is a fairly broad term, don’t you think? Fairly ambitious of the group to proclaim themselves the association for such a thing.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope the ADM will accomplish great things. I don’t think it’s going to happen though. I suspect the ADM will be nothing more than a distant memory come this time next year. Time will tell!

Read: ADM

Edmonton's local media should embrace the web

Post ImageEarlier this evening I attended a panel event called Edmonton’s Image in the Media: A Fresh Perspective. The event was put on by Next Gen Edmonton, and took place at City Hall. I find myself becoming more and more interested in the Next Gen project, so I decided to check out the event. The panelists included: Bridget Ryan from CityTV, Mari Sasano from the Edmonton Journal, Jason Manning from Sonic FM, and Ted Kerr who is a freelance writer/photographer. Allan Bolstad from MacEwan moderated.

The subtitle was the only place a “fresh perspective” could be found at this event. I went in hoping for some great insight from these professionals, and instead I heard a bunch of mainstream media representatives who simply don’t get it. I twittered my disappointment – not that I’d expect any of the panelists to have a clue as to what Twitter is. I completely understand that Twitter is a fairly niche product at the moment, but the panelists talked about email like it was a brand new invention. It took over 45 minutes before anyone mentioned the web – Ted talked about blogs and websites in response to an audience question.

Some of the questions the panel was supposed to explore incuded: Is Edmonton portrayed fairly in the media? How could we improve Edmonton’s image to the outside world? Do Edmontonians themselves need to be educated about their city? What could the media do to help?

I took some notes during the event; here are my thoughts:

  • Jason loves Edmonton but apparently isn’t capable of answering a question without referencing “the music scene.”
  • Bridget thinks the media is doing a great job and is afraid to walk downtown alone at night.
  • Mari wants you to do her job for her – send her information about your events! She also was extremely annoying to listen to.
  • Ted claims his “online reading capacity” is no more than a single page.

Event organizer Daniel Eggert asked the last question, and it was about what kinds of media the “next generation” uses and trusts. He explained he was thinking about the web – “blogs, YouTube, Wikipedia, and others.” The panelists did an excellent job of not answering his question. Such a waste.

In my opinion, the biggest problem with Edmonton’s image in the media is that Edmontonians themselves don’t know enough about the city. How many Edmontonians, for example, know that Edmonton is the cultural capital of Canada? Probably not very many. I think the only way to solve this problem is through the web. Television and radio are great, but audiences are slowly disappearing, and the “next generation” spends far more time online. Newspapers are considered archaic by myself and many others my age (note to newspaper companies: move the content online, ditch the horrible format).

The local media and the city itself both need to embrace the web – they simply aren’t doing their jobs if they don’t. The Journal launched blogs a couple months ago and dropped the pay-wall, but there is lots of room for improvement. The City of Edmonton website contains lots of information but is a complete mess. In addition to fixing what’s already there, why not explore the unknown? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a City of Edmonton sponsored group on Facebook and use it to create events. There are, after all, over 140,000 Edmontonians on Facebook.
  • Even better – endeavour to make one de-facto online event calendar.
  • Build a local news aggregation site – kind of like TechMeme for tech.
  • Learn how to use RSS effectively to monitor what’s going on in the city.
  • Make it easier for citizens to submit photos, videos, and other content all using the web.

To be fair, online local news and resources are a big problem everywhere (except for huge cities like New York). Embracing the web would not only educate Edmontonians and improve our image around the world, it might even make us a leader and trendsetter.

What do you think? I’ll post more on this later after I’ve given it some more thought.

Bloomberg for President?

Post ImageI don’t know about you, but when I think of “Bloomberg” I generally think of money. Maybe that’s because Bloomberg L.P., the company that current New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg started back in 1981, is the largest financial news and data company in the world. Or maybe it’s because Mr. Bloomberg is filthy rich! Either way, it takes more than money to run for President doesn’t it? Okay, okay, money is important. Still, that’s pretty much all the press has to go on at the moment:

The announcement by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York that he was leaving the Republican Party to become an independent was made after nearly two years in which his aides had laid the groundwork for a potential independent run for president.

Oh no, not the aides laying groundwork! That means he must really be planning to run for President! Nevermind that he made it clear he wants to finish his term as mayor:

“My intention is to be mayor for the next 925 days and 10 or 11 hours,” he said. “I’ve got the greatest job in the world, and I’m going to keep doing it.”

Ah I can just imagine what the reporters were thinking – he has money, so he must want to run for President, let’s find information that proves us right! Maybe I am just being naïve, but if he says he isn’t running, don’t you think there’s a small chance he is telling the truth?

Bloomberg becoming an independent is interesting, for sure, but I find it kind of comical that the media want to make becoming an independent mean running for President. Perhaps Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have become boring?

Read: NYTimes.com

New RealPlayer – Who Cares?

Post ImageThere aren’t many technology companies that I try to stay away from completely, but there a few, and RealNetworks is one of them. I have never liked their software, and frankly, I’ve never quite understood their reason for existing. I mean besides Rob Glaser getting to do his own thing, what has RealNetworks accomplished? They created media formats that no one wanted to use, so they switched to reverse-engineering their competitor’s formats. Oh and they took Microsoft for $460 million for beating them with “monopolistic power”. Nevermind that Microsoft’s software/technology was and still is superior.

Anyway, after a relatively long period with no news, RealNetworks has announced a new version of RealPlayer:

How is the new RealPlayer different from previous versions? Let’s touch on a few highlights: The most notable difference is visible across tens of thousands of web sites immediately after installation. On-demand and live streaming and progressive video in the four major formats – Flash, Windows Media, QuickTime and Real – is now downloadable through a very simple download button that temporarily hovers near video content as it plays.

Ignoring the fact that there are already dozens of ways to download YouTube videos, why would I want to? The quality is usually pretty horrendous. I suppose downloading live streaming content is cool, but not when you consider that most live feeds are posted in downloadable form later anyway.

Seems to me like this is a last-ditch effort to make Real relevant. If you’re really interested for some reason, Scoble has a video interview and demo with Vice President Jeff Chasen.

I think Jason Cox said it best in a comment on Scoble’s post:

Real? How about no. Friends dont let friends use Real.

Agreed.

Read: RealPlayer Blog

Podcast Advertising Report Roundup

Post ImageeMarketer has managed to garner a ton of buzz today about their forthcoming report on podcasting and marketing in which they estimate that $400 million will be spent in the space by 2011. My only real comment on the report (since I haven’t seen it) is this wonderful quote from NewTeeVee (on an unrelated post):

“The great thing about forecasts is that no one remembers the exact amount when the future finally rolls around.”

Here is a quick roundup of some great quotes from posts discussing the report:

“If you build it, they will come! Or in other words, concentrate on bringing podcasts to a bigger audience, only then can you make advertising work.”
Marketing Pilgrim

“The increase of video podcasts, which lend themselves to the kind of video ads that marketers are accustomed to developing for television, has also increased advertiser interest.”
BusinessWeek

“Show me an advertiser that wants to generically market to Podcasts with listening audiences of dozens.”
Paul Colligan

“Currently, despite some 90,000 podcasts available on the Web and close to 90 million iPods in the market, podcasting is universally thought of as a supplemental medium by advertisers.”
Mediaweek

“Every once in a while someone accidentally runs into a magic lamp and a guru pops up telling us that Podcasting has already had its 15 minutes and is a fad that is ready to pass.”
901am

“Unfortunately, for all you indy podcasters out there, this does not bode well. With all of that competition for ad dollars, the money is going to flow to folks who have ad sales reps.”
Micro Persuasion

“While I would love to see 400 Million dropped annually into the space, the podcasting listening and producing community is going to have to get a lot bigger.”
Geek News Central

“As I’ve said before, I think the bigger growth could come from simply making the entire creation process easier.”
The Viral Garden

I like the last two comments best – they are spot on.

Return of the portal? Not exactly

Post ImageOm Malik’s latest column in Business 2.0 deals with the topic of “hyperaggregation” – which is a fancy way of saying “aggregating the aggregators”. Basically, there is too much content available on the web from sites like YouTube and Flickr, and web software is evolving to help us consume it all. Om says:

Since the dawn of the Web, we’ve been plagued by too much information and too little time to consume it. It’s impossible to keep up with dozens of social networks, millions of videos, and thousands of blogs. Hyperaggregation is simply a way to do in the new-media world what old media has done for centuries: neatly package information.

Sounds a heck of a lot like the “portal” of the late 90s to me.

At least, that’s the first thing that came to mind. I thought about it a bit more though, and realized that hyperaggregation != portal. The main difference is that with hyperaggregation, you have control in most cases. Either explicit control, by entering tags or topics that you are interested in, or indirect control, by making a certain video the most popular. In the portal world, it was the portal alone that decided what content made it to the front page.

My gut “portal” thought wasn’t too far off though, as even Om admits:

Perhaps the biggest opportunity in hyperaggregation is for the biggest traditional Internet companies – the AOLs, Yahoos, and MSNs of the world.

I have to agree with Om. MSN shouldn’t be building their own video hosting service, they should be building the best video aggregator instead. Increasingly it will be the aggregator that people turn to first when looking for content.

Read: Business 2.0

Pocket HD Video Recording

Post ImageIn the marketing presentation I gave on Monday I mentioned that podcasting will increasingly take advantage of advances in mobile devices, as well as high definition recording. When I put that idea into my presentation, I was thinking about the mobile and high def parts separately, but if this little video camera is any indication, they might come as a package deal:

The research kids in Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute just announced a tiny new video camera capable of shooting at a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution and a variable frame rate up to 60 frames per second.

Pretty damn intense. The camera will be on display at CeBIT in March. I can just imagine the possibilities a small, high quality camera such as this would make possible. Bring it on!

Read: Engadget

Thoughts on Digg Podcasting

Post ImageOver at Geek News Central today Todd Cochrane had some harsh words for Digg’s newest feature, their podcast portal. Most of his argument is based on the traffic he apparently isn’t receiving from Digg:

Lately though I have come to the conclusion that for all the traffic Digg gets very little if any of that traffic in the way of downloads or pure referals [sic] comes from that site.

He goes on to offer some advice to podcasters:

My advice to podcasters is this, look at the directories you are listed in and figure out if they are doing anything to build your audience or giving you equal exposure on the front of their respective websites. If they are not find sites that are and support them in your shows.

That plan of attack might have worked when podcasting was just getting started, but we’re beyond that now. I would suggest that podcasters do in fact add themselves into Digg’s directory, flawed as it might be. Why pick one directory over another? The idea isn’t to play favorites, it’s to help the audience find what they want, wherever they might be looking. There’s more to being in a directory than just getting listed on the front page.

As for Digg’s podcast portal, here are my thoughts:

  • The way you add a podcast into the directory sucks. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and the feedback you get is really unhelpful.
  • Only iTunes-compatible feeds may be added into the directory. Why Digg felt the need to perpetuate Apple’s hegemony is beyond me.
  • It would be better if episodes had a “front page” as well, instead of just podcasts. Right now you can only look at episodes for a particular podcast.

The podcast section of Digg hasn’t been around very long, so I’m pretty sure they’ll be making changes over time. There’s definitely room for improvement, but the directory is not useless.

Read: Geek News Central