Northern Voice 2007

Post ImageI finally registered for Northern Voice 2007 today. The annual conference has become a tradition for me, and this year the timing is perfect as it falls on the tail end of reading week. The organizers posted the schedule yesterday, and even though it is still a work in progress, it looks good. I don’t see a keynote however – perhaps it will fill the time gap from 9:30 to 10:15?

If you’d like to attend Northern Voice, you can register here.

Read: Northern Voice

Thirsty for Podcasting News in 2006

Post ImageGoogle released their annual zeitgeist for 2006 recently, and the top searches proved to be quite different than those found on Yahoo’s annual listing. Google’s top ten terms are mostly technology-related, while Yahoo’s are entertainment-related.

Also different were the news searches. Coming in at number four on the top searches for Google News is podcasting! Who knew so many people were interested in learning about what is happening in the podcasting industry!

Here are my favorite podcasting news sites:

I also subscribe to a bunch of search feeds, and news feeds from individual companies too. And every now and then you get some news from more general sites like TechCrunch or Digg. I thought this list would have been longer though. Perhaps there is room in the news space for podcasting?

Read: Google Zeitgeist

Podcasting Metrics: Complete Downloads & More

Post ImagePodcasting consultant Jason Van Orden has been writing an interesting series of blog posts on podcasting metrics. In part 4 of the series, Jason tackles the issue of measuring complete downloads, and says that he doesn’t think measuring complete downloads is “absolutely necessary” and that something “more sophisticated and qualitative” is needed in addition to download numbers.

From part 4b of the series:

Scott Bourne and Tim Bourquin provided interesting and relevant responses. They both emphasize that podcasters have a responsibility not to let advertisers hold podcasting to a higher standard than other media (i.e. magazines and newspaper) that can’t measure complete content/ad consumption.

I have to respectfully disagree.

The way that magazines, television, radio, and other media sell advertising is flawed. Everything is based on assumptions (circulation numbers in the case of magazines, random sampling in the case of TV and radio). Don’t think for a second that advertisers are happy about this system – I’m sure they’d love to know exactly how many people watched or heard or read their advertisement. Why do you think everyone loves AdSense? Cold, hard numbers. The problem with magazines, TV, and radio is that the technology to accomplish this is prohibitively complex and expensive.

Podcasting doesn’t suffer from this problem. Measuring exactly how many people have downloaded an episode is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, and while not 100% accurate, it is fairly close. I think the strategy that Scott and Tim suggest would be bad for podcasting. As the saying goes – you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Podcasting needs to be stronger than other media.

A Better Strategy

I think podcasters who wish to generate advertising revenue should provide as much data as possible, even beyond complete downloads if such data is available (more on this in a second). There are a number of reasons for doing so:

  • There would be less waste, as advertisers could spend money only on podcasts that generate views or listens of their ad.
  • More data could also allow advertisers to more appropriately target their ad, making it more effective, enjoyable, and useful.
  • In the long run, advertisers would move more dollars away from media that uses flawed assumptions to media that provides useful data. That is, podcasting’s piece of the advertising pie will grow.
  • The valuation of a particular podcast will be much more realistic.

I am sure some podcasters are bristling at my suggestion. They think that if they have to provide actual numbers, they can’t make as much as if they sold ads based on assumptions like the other media do. This idea is wrong too. Providing more data will allow advertisers to spend targeted dollars. Unlike general advertisements, an advertiser will pay much more for the ability to target an ad. The podcaster may actually end up making more money!

Podcasting’s enemy (if we need to have one) is not the advertisers as Scott and Tim suggest, it’s the other media. Give the advertisers what they want, and podcasting will prevail.

Beyond Complete Downloads

I think complete downloads are quite important. We are putting the finishing touches on a big update to Podcast Spot, and one of the new features we have added is complete downloads. We parse the request logs for you automatically, so you’ll see the number of complete downloads for each episode, usually within two hours of the download. Right now these numbers are best effort, meaning that we aren’t yet at 100% accuracy. We’ll continue to work on it though.

As I mentioned above, podcasters should strive to provide as much data as possible to advertisers. There are the obvious things like complete downloads, page views, geolocation stats, demographics, etc. There are also the less obvious things. What if you could determine if someone actually listened to or watched your entire episode, or if they skipped parts of the episode? That kind of information would be extremely valuable.

These are the types of metrics that podcasters should strive to measure. Podcasters don’t have a responsibility to hold podcasting to the low standards of other media, they have a responsibility to set the bar higher and higher.

How could Zune's software suck so badly?

Post ImagePerhaps you’ve heard on the news recently that Microsoft’s new digital media player, the Zune, is hardly flying off the shelves. I guess that’s not too surprising given the early reviews the device has received. Now I know Microsoft is pretty good at hardware (Xbox, mice and keyboards, etc.) but they are still a software company. How is it then, that they could have screwed up the software side of the Zune so badly?

Now I haven’t seen or tested a Zune, so I can’t say I have had similar experiences. And granted, not all of the reviews are so negative (indeed there are quite a few positive ones), but still. A software company should have gotten the software part absolutely right, don’t you think?

Xbox 360 to offer movies and television via Live

Post ImageMicrosoft has announced that starting November 22nd, which just happens to be the one year anniversary of the Xbox 360, users will be able to download standard and high definition TV shows and movies. This is a big deal, make no mistake about it. Engadget has some more details on the service, dubbed Xbox Live Video. Pricing has not yet been announced, but we do know payment will be made in Microsoft points.

Here are some choice quotes from around the web. From Microsoft Monitor:

Rental is something Microsoft offers that Apple doesn’t. And Microsoft will offer HD content, too, which is really smart. It’s not just differentiating from iTunes or other services, but preserving the user experience. Xbox 360 is very much about the HD experience.

From Don Dodge:

Stay tuned for more Live services. It is going to be tough to keep up with all the announcements coming from Microsoft over the next few months. It just gets better every day.

And not as positive, from GigaOM:

With just 20 gigs in the consoles standard hard drive set-up, youre talking about 10 high definition TV episodes or five HD movies. Most gamers can churn through that content in days.

I would not be surprised if Microsoft announced a larger hard drive in the near future.

All of a sudden, owning an Xbox 360 is about more than being a gamer. It’s great news for people like me, a fairly casual gamer. I knew the 360 would be big on media when I bought it, but I had no idea this was coming. I can’t wait to see what they launch next!


Windows Media Player 11: Not Impressive

Post ImageOn Monday, Microsoft released the latest update to Windows Media Player, affectionately known as version 11. Apparently the release was supposed to happen a week earlier, but was delayed due to concerns about the quality.

They should have delayed the release even longer.

I wrote about Beta 1 and Beta 2, and in general, the final release hasn’t changed my opinion about the software. Here’s what I like about it:

  • The interface is clean and looks modern and attractive.
  • Searching is excellent, and really becomes the main way you interact with your media library.
  • Synchronization with portable devices is superb.

And pretty much everything else falls into the “indifferent” or “don’t like it at all” categories. They have tried to make the app easier to use, but as a result, they have taken out some of the functionality that advanced users such as myself want. The best example here is adding media to the library. I want to have explicit, tight control over what goes into my library and what stays out, so forcing me to monitor folders or play a file completely sucks. Give me multiple different ways to manage this kind of thing!

What else: lots of visualizations are missing, there aren’t any Canadian stores supported, sometimes it appears to freeze, and a bunch of other minor things.

The biggest problem of all? Windows Media Player 11 is not an “oh my god you must get the latest version” kind of update to previous versions. As far as I am concerned, WMP11 is the first such release of Windows Media Player. I think WMP9 was an excellent improvement, and WMP10 was better still. It sucks that I can’t say the same about WMP11. I was really hoping for something better.

I guess I’ll have to wait for version 12.

Read: WMP11

Teenagers listening to less radio? I'm shocked!

Post ImageIn case you missed it, that was sarcasm in the title. A sort of recent study by Edison Media Research shows that people aged 12 to 24 are listening to far less radio than they used to. I found this study via Podcasting News, but I hate the fact that they do not link to their sources, so I am not linking to them. Instead you can read about the study right from Edison Media Research (because they deserve the traffic):

A new study by Edison Media Research shows sharp declines in Time Spent Listening (TSL), Persons Using Radio (PUR) and most importantly attitudes about radio among the 12-to-24-age group, the listeners who represent both terrestrial radio’s future and its greatest challenge.

Perhaps of most concern, tracking of questions on attitudes about radio among this crucial group trend down as well. Fewer young people expect radio to be an important part of their future lives.

Almost every teenager I know owns an iPod or some other sort of portable media device. I don’t find it surprising at all that time spent listening for this age group is down. Teenagers today make their own radio station every day by creating playlists.

Read: Edison Media Research

Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion

Post ImageThe ramifications of this deal will be felt for quite some time. CNET is reporting that Google has purchased video sharing site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. The deal has been rumored for some time, but I didn’t think it would actually go through:

“This is one of many investments that Google will be making to put video at the heart of a user’s online experience,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt on a conference call after the deal was announced. “When we looked at the marketplace and saw what was going on, we saw a clear winner in the social networking side of video, and that’s what drove us to start the conversations with YouTube.”

You can listen to an audio interview with Eric Schmidt and YouTube CEO Chad Hurley here.

Also today, YouTube announced some major distribution deals with the big record labels. All of a sudden, the threat of a lawsuit looks much less likely, doesn’t it? I wonder what the MySpace people will think of this deal. I’m sure they are a little scared now that YouTube has Google’s backing.

So the deal is done, Google is now king of video. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a simple, exclusive ad-deal with YouTube would have been a better investment for Google? I guess time will tell.

Read: CNET

Has TechCrunch lost its edge?

Post ImageI’ve been subscribed TechCrunch for quite a long time, and I rather enjoy reading about the various companies and technologies they profile. Lately though, I’ve noticed that TechCrunch seems to be reporting on “big company” or “big media” things far more than the little stuff. A good example of this is what happened today. I opened up my aggregator for the first time today, and there were five posts in the TechCrunch feed:

  • and Yahoo! bulk up for local search brawl
  • Zune Unveiling Tomorrow
  • NBC to put new primetime shows online for free
  • Major Google/Intuit Partnership
  • Skype Video For Macs Launches Today

See what I mean? These look like headlines from CNET, not TechCrunch! Now don’t get me wrong, these are all very interesting posts, and TechCrunch always has some inside information or extra analysis which is worthwhile, but they didn’t get to 113,000 subscribers by covering the big guys. They got there by finding and sharing the smaller companies and products that no one else could find.

Which begs the question – is TechCrunch becoming more like a mainstream business news site? Can we expect more of the “big company” type posts? Has TechCrunch lost its edge?

I still like magazines!

Post ImageDon Dodge asks whether newspapers and magazines are dying. I’ve been in this discussion before, at least for newspapers:

I hate almost everything about newspapers. I don’t like the size of the paper. I don’t like the way it makes everything black. I don’t like that every page has to be jammed full of stuff. I don’t like that the pages are not full color. I don’t like that once I find something interesting, I can’t do anything with it (like send it to a friend, or blog about it with a link, etc).

Needless to say, I think newspapers are a dying breed. Or if not dying, at least drastically changing (I still read newspaper websites online, for instance). The physical newspaper as we know it, won’t be around too much longer.

Magazines, on the other hand, will be around for a while I think. I’ll give you two pieces of evidence to support this. One is Chris Anderson’s mainstream media meltdown which shows that while newspapers, television, music, and others are losing eyeballs and subscribers like crazy, books and magazines are somewhat mixed. This suggests to me that people find magazines more valuable than say, a newspaper. Not the content itself (I am not suggesting that people don’t find a TV show valuable) but the medium – I think people like physical magazines and books.

Which brings me to my second piece of evidence – the magazine itself! Despite still not being able to do anything with the content in a magazine, the size is usually comfortable, and the pages are cleanly laid out and colorful (and don’t make my hands black). I often will refer back to a magazine article (and the articles themselves are usually longer and more indepth than your typical newspaper story). Don thinks the outlook for magazines might be worse than newspapers because newspapers are local focused. Perhaps he’s right, but I think it takes longer for a magazine article to be out of date than a newspaper story. There’s hope for magazines yet.

Don also asks: “What are your reading habits? How do they compare to your parents reading habits?” Probably not fair for me to answer that question, as my parents are fairly young and very tech savvy. My Dad subscribes to the Edmonton Journal online, and I doubt they read any other physical papers except the local “Inuvik Drum” (which I think is probably the norm in towns of only 3000 people).

Bottom line – newspapers will disappear and I won’t be sad to see them go. Magazines may disappear too, but it will take longer, and until we have digital books or magazines*, I’ll be sad to see them go.

Note: I’ve never actually subscribed to a magazine. I’m very a much a “buy on the spot when I see one that looks interesting” kind of magazine shopper.

* – by this I mean a physical book or magazine that looks like one today, except that it wirelessly connects to the Internet to update the content to be whatever I want to read. So pages don’t have “print” on them per se. This gives you the full benefits of say, a laptop, but with a form factor that is more natural and easy to read. And believe me, it’s coming.

Read: Don Dodge