Pluggd is cool, but not yet perfect!

Post ImageExaggerations make for good headlines, but often are less than accurate. VentureBeat ran a post last night about audio and video search startup Pluggd, announcing that the company has raised $1.65 million in funding. The post also says that Pluggd declared it has “perfected the user experience” for audio and visual search. This morning, I came across this NewTeeVee post that sets the record straight:

While we like what Pluggd is doing, that’s a bit of an overstatement.

Video search is often attempted by analysis of the soundtrack, rather than the picture, and we expect that’s what’s going on here. But mainly, we take issue with the claim that anyone has “perfected the user experience” in this area, because a big part of user experience is having a product that works.

Writer Liz Gannes goes on to explain the obvious – that speech recognition technology is far from perfect (though it is getting better). I’m fairly certain that audio and video search will be perfected eventually, but not we’re not there yet.

To their credit, Pluggd commented on the NewTeeVee post:

Matt’s coverage of our technology on venturebeat.com is one of the most thoughtful and complete descriptions of our technology that I’ve seen, but I was also a little startled when I saw the word “perfected”.

While they have lots of work ahead of them, I am sure the new funding will help Pluggd improve their offering! I am looking forward to their technology going live.

Read: NewTeeVee

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.

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

Podcast: Making a Quiche

Post ImageIf you think I can’t cook, think again! I’m an absolute whiz with the microwave! Heh, but seriously, a few days ago my friend Sharon and I got together to make dinner. She suggested quiche, and I said what? Haha! It actually turned out pretty good. We took a bunch of pictures of the cooking process, mainly because we don’t cook with any regularity. The next day it occurred to me that I could turn this into an interesting podcast episode!

It turns out that I rather like the format of this episode, so I intend to use it for future episodes. I am calling them photo stories, for obvious reasons. Have a suggestion for a topic? Let me know!

Enjoy!

Read: MasterMaq’s Podcast

Podcast Spot on Neo-Fight.tv

Post ImageRecently I recorded an interview with Ben Freedman and Tiffany Young about Podcast Spot, and it was published today on their podcast. They produce the Neo-Fight.tv show, which they say is the tech show for the not so geeky. The neat thing about this interview is that it was recorded using Skype!

You can watch the video at Neo-Fight.tv, or at Podcast Spot.

Overall I am pretty happy with the interview, aside from one little blooper. The quality is surprisingly good considering it was done over Skype too. We don’t get into the details too much, but I think the interview provides a good introduction to our service. Thanks to Ben and Tiffany for having me on the show.

Ben posted this episode to Digg, so if you want to help us out, digg it 🙂

Read: Neo-Fight.tv

Zune doesn't hate podcasting after all?

Post ImageIt may be true that Microsoft’s upcoming Zune device doesn’t explicitly support podcasting, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t copy a podcast episode to it yourself. In that sense, it’s a lot like any of the other Windows Media based devices out there.

Until today, I was more worried that Microsoft and the Zune would snub podcasting altogether. No mention of podcasting in any literature, marketing, or other materials. No hope for future updates to the Zune to support podcasting. That sort of thing. Today however, Microsoft launched Zune.net and put my fears to rest:

Zap! You’re connected to your best friend and send the new song your band recorded in the garage last weekend. Another friend gets the hilarious podcast your kid brother made at school…

Emphasis is mine. See! They don’t hate podcasting!

Maybe there’s hope for V2 after all.

Read: Zune.net

Wizzard Software buys Libsyn

Post ImageThere isn’t much news on this story yet, except for the official press release from Wizzard Software. Today the company announced that it has agreed to acquire Libsyn, currently the world’s largest podcasting network. From Podcasting News:

According to the companies, the acquisition combines the world’s largest and fastest growing podcast network with Wizzard’s expertise in speech technology integration, creating a powerful new service for podcasters worldwide.

Wizzard has been pretty busy lately, snapping up Switchpod back on September 21st and Blast Podcast less than a week later.

So far, there is no word of this deal on the Libsyn blogs or forums. I’m interested to hear their comments, because I think they understood they had to do something. Wizzard gets the top hosting service, and Libsyn gets some financial support to improve their service (and more importantly, quality of service), so it’s a good deal for both I think.

Libsyn CEO Dave Chekan seems excited in the press release at least:

“We’ve had several investment offers in the past and we chose Wizzard due to its expertise in speech technology, its passion for podcasting and its desire to make money for our independent content creators.”

Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed.

Read: Wizzard

Odeo relegated from company to product

Post ImageYesterday, Evan Williams announced that he has formed a new company called Obvious Corp. which has purchased all of the assets of Odeo Inc. from the other investors and shareholders. Some people are probably surprised at the move, but I’m not. In fact, I saw it coming back in July:

Maybe it’s time everyone stopped calling Odeo a podcasting company. I’ve been critical of Google’s apparent lack of focus and direction many times in the past, but they’ve got nothing on Odeo. I mean here’s a company with some very smart people working for them, some substantial venture capital behind them, and yet very little to show for it.

I’d guess the investors are happy to have gotten out without any losses (TechCrunch thinks the buyout price is a little more than $5 million). Odeo is no longer a company by itself. Instead, it is now simply one of perhaps many products in Obvious’ new “model for building and running web products.”

The new model that Evan describes in his post is vague, but interesting. More importantly, he seems really excited about it, and he’s right, “from excitement and bold moves, great things often happen.” I wish him the best of luck with Obvious Corp.

So what does this mean for Odeo? A post on the official blog says that they are now “even more focused on giving Odeo the attention it requires.” Frankly, it would be difficult to be less focused than they are right now, so I guess that’s a good first step. It appears it will be business as usual for Odeo, at least for the foreseeable future. It’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, they change or add.

Read: evhead

Back in Edmonton: Trip Recap

As you probably guessed, we’re now back in Edmonton. Yesterday went pretty good in terms of our presentation and the networking aspect. We met lots of really interesting people. It’ll take some time to see how well it went in terms of funding though. The presentation was really short (only 10 minutes) so the questions that were asked were fairly general. In retrospect, I think it may have been better to present in the morning rather than the afternoon, as the investors would have been more awake and there would have been more time to chat afterward.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency downtown which is in the midst of major renovations. The lobby and common areas look excellent, as do the recently upgraded guest rooms. Especially sweet was the flat screen TV! And I love the lighting design too. It’s hard to get the same effect from pictures, but you can try! Here’s the photos I took. The dated hallways clearly do not match the rooms, but a little sign by the elevator says that they will be renovated too.

Here are some interesting facts (or maybe not) about the trip:

# of liquids confiscated at security: 1 for me, many for Dickson
Minutes until we missed our departure: less than 10 (we were the second last people to get on…we had to run after the final boarding call)
Total time in Vancouver: ~25 hours, 40 minutes
Number of blocks walked: ~24
Number of “random” security checks: 1 (Dickson was pulled aside again …it’s because he’s Chinese…the airport screeners have a very loose definition of “random”)
Number of Starbucks coffees I consumed: 2
Number of investors I didn’t like: 1 (the only reason I didn’t like him is that he sat in my presentation laughing to himself…very disrespectful and rude…you don’t have to agree with me, but show some respect!)
Hours of studying accomplished: 0 (but I studied today, I think the midterm went fairly well)

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