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

Podcasting Lectures at the U of A

Post ImageDuane Szafron is a Computing Sciences professor at the University of Alberta. He’s also a podcaster. Sadly, being both a podcaster and a professor is currently a fairly rare combination, but I hope the work of Szafron and others will change that:

“I think it makes it harder for people who give fairly boring lectures. I think more students won’t show up for those,” he said. “And I guess my attitude [as a professor] is, if you can’t deliver anything extra than what you would provide online or whatever, then what’s the difference if people don’t show up for class? Is that really bad if people don’t show up?”

Spot on! I’ve written before about podcasting and boring lectures, and I completely agree with Professor Szafron. Recorded audio and video lectures are not a replacement for class time, they are a complement.

It sounds like Szafron’s podcasts have been a hit, at least based on an informal survey of his students. Currently he makes lectures available in MP3 format, though he apparently experimented with video as far back as 1999. Both have their place, but I think audio is a much more appropriate format for lectures – they are easy to listen to on the bus, train, or while doing something else.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we might be able to help educational institutions take advantage of podcasting. Maybe I’ll have to pay Professor Szafron (who I never had as a prof) and his colleagues a visit!

Read: The Gateway

Odeo bought by SonicMountain

Post ImageBack in February I posted about Evan Williams and Obvious Corp. trying to sell Odeo. I hadn’t heard anything since then, so I kind of figured they were unable to find a buyer. Turns out they did though. From TechCrunch:

Details are just coming out, but New York based SonicMountain, a new startup, has acquired Evan Williams’ Odeo. The announcement will come sometime tomorrow. The price is not being disclosed but is in excess of $1 million, and the deal was all cash.

Mike Arrington isn’t joking when he calls SonicMountain a new startup – their website is plain and empty. The only thing of interest is the news release:

SonicMountain intends to incorporate exciting enhancements to the Odeo community within the next few months. Improvements in content organization, search, crawl, plus podcast hosting of both audio and video are only a sampling of upcoming upgrades planned for the site.

Evan Williams will work with SonicMountain as an advisor for the next six months or so.

I’m interested to see what SonicMountain actually does with the site. Intentions are one thing, actions are quite another.

Read: TechCrunch

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

Download Requests Alone Are Pretty Useless

Post ImageBack in December I said that podcasters should gather and share as much statistical data as possible. It is now exactly three months later and, surprise-surprise, I still feel that way. The topic resurfaced on Saturday when Adam Curry from PodShow posted about the number of download requests the PodShow network has received:

For the record, In December 2006 the network produced 52 million download requests.

Earlier today, Paul Colligan picked up on the story, and said:

Yes, Virginia, Podcast download numbers are important. And these are important numbers.

Yes, they are important. And 52 million is an impressive number, especially for just one month. But stating download requests alone is useless. I think they are important to track, but you need to pair them with something else. Something like a completed download.

Understanding the difference between a download request, a partial download, and a completed download can be somewhat confusing, so let’s try this metaphor on for size.

Download Request = Walking into the grocery store with a shopping list in hand
Partial Download = Filling your shopping cart with some of the items on your list
Completed Download = Filling your shopping cart with everything on your list
Partial Play = Eating some of the things you purchased
Completed Play = Eating everything you purchased

It’s important to note that each one is harder and harder to measure. It’s fairly trivial to count the number of people entering the store. It’s a little harder, but still fairly easy to count the number of people who have at least something in the cart. It’s much harder to count the number of people who have everything on their list. And to count the number of partial and completed plays? Much, much harder.

When you have all of these statistics, you get a really nice picture, don’t you? You can see a nice comparison of how many people entered the store and how many people actually bought something. Having just the number of people who entered the store is not that useful though. Sure it has some useful implications – if tons of people come in but don’t buy, maybe we don’t have what they want, or they didn’t like what they saw, etc. That makes sense in the offline world. In the online world though, it’s not just people that make download requests – it’s other applications and services too. It’s like counting every person, stroller, cart, bag, and box that enters the store – and clearly, only people can purchase something! To make matters worse, some applications will make multiple requests for a single download. Imagine a person walking into the store, putting something in the cart, exiting the store and walking back in again to put the second item in the cart.

So download requests are interesting, but they are really only valuable alongside other information like completed downloads. Or a list of which applications made the requests (this would allow you to tell the difference between a person and a stroller, for instance). Citing just the number of download requests will do nothing but mislead.

Use podcasting to get your book published

Post ImageInteresting piece in the New York Times yesterday about authors using podcasting to get noticed and ultimately, to get their books published. founder Evo Terra was interviewed for the article:

“Compared to audiobooks these authors break every rule in the business, including using sound effects,” Mr. Terra said. The podcast books also use music and a full cast more liberally than traditional audiobooks. Still, what Podiobooks’ offerings might lack in polish, they tend to make up for in brash enthusiasm.

I’ve never been a fan of audiobooks – they are just too damn boring. Telling a story with a podcast makes perfect sense. I think it’s icing on the cake that these podcasters eventually get book deals as well.


Northern Voice Conference Day

Post ImageWe just finished recording the keynote session with Anil Dash at Northern Voice 2007, and I am now in the “Blogging 101” session. The recording is going fairly well, and the audio recorders have picked up the presenters better than I expected given all the background noise you get when everyone has a laptop in front of them! We recorded the keynote in video, and it looks very good. Dickson is uploading it now I believe, so it should be up soon.

Yesterday was a little chaotic for us, as expected. Moosecamp is a very ad hoc kind of event, so we weren’t sure about what to record. For that reason we ended up recording more than we planned, though some of it sounds kind of random. Fortunately the schedule today is well defined and static, so Sharon took the initiative and helped us decide who is recording what. Audio episodes will be up very shortly after the session, video will take slightly longer.

Hopefully I’ll get to blog more today than in the last couple days, but at the very least I wanted to get this quick update posted. Also, if you want to check out the quick interview I did yesterday after Moosecamp with Darren Barefoot, you can watch it here.

The welcome message is up!

Let the podcasting begin! We just uploaded a very quick (under 3 minutes) welcome message to the Northern Voice podcast to introduce ourselves and our plan for recording the conference. Here are the most important links:

I should also point out that you can find specific episodes by browsing our categories and our tags. And you can find feeds for all the formats we convert to here.


Read: Welcome Message

Podcasting Northern Voice 2007

Post ImageI am leaving bright and early tomorrow morning for Vancouver – Megan, Dickson, Sharon and I are heading to Northern Voice 2007. It’s a conference I look forward to every year. I’m especially excited about this year because we have volunteered to record all of the sessions! Here’s what I sent to Darren:

We’re hosting at, which is all decked out in the new Northern Voice theme. Currently we’re planning to record all of Saturday’s sessions in audio, and as much as of Moosecamp as we can. We’ve also got a couple video cameras to record some sessions and “roaming” footage. There’s four of us, so we should be able to get it all.

We’re probably not the only ones who will be recording stuff however – the people who attend Northern Voice are a creative bunch, so there will likely be lots of microphones and video cameras floating around. Bottom line: whether you can attend or not, you’ll be able to listen in.

We’re also offering a special Northern Voice promotion at Podcast Spot. If you enter the discount code NV2007 when you sign up, we’ll give you an extra 100 MB of upload quota for free! It’s just another way we’re celebrating our favorite Canadian tech conference.

If you have any feedback on our Northern Voice podcast, I’d love to hear from you. As Megan knows, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, so I’ll be doing my best to make sure everything sounds and looks good. We should have our first “introduction” episode up sometime tomorrow.

Read: The Podcast

Wanna buy Odeo?

Post ImageHard to believe that just two years ago Odeo was a star. Heck, they even have a star in their logo! Over that period of time, they have slowly but steadily faded from the spotlight. And now even Odeo’s founders don’t want to keep it around:

It seems likely Odeo is worth more to someone else than it is to us at this point, so we’re looking for a new home for it.

We’re open to a variety of scenarios – from cash offer to an equity position. Our main concern is the ability to focus on Twitter and to see Odeo live on in some legitimate form.

All of my criticism of the service aside, I’d buy Odeo if I had the capital. The way I see it, Odeo has two main assets: a huge database of media and lots of “online presence” – that is, lots of incoming links, good search engine rankings, etc. Tons of potential.

To his credit, Evan Williams says that Obvious will continue to run Odeo if they don’t get any attractive offers. Not sure if that’s the right thing for Odeo, but at least it proves that Evan and his team still care about it.

Read: Obviously