World Internet Population: Reading the fine print

Post ImageYesterday comScore released their global Internet traffic rankings for the month of May. Their research shows that 772 million people worldwide were online in May, which is a pretty large number. Still, as ZDNet notes, that’s only 12 percent of the world’s population. Here’s how the press release reads:

There were 772 million people online worldwide in May (defined as those individuals age 15 or older who accessed the Internet from a home or work location in the last 30 days), an increase from 766 million in April, representing a 16 percent penetration of the worldwide population of individuals age 15 or older.

And further down the page, we find the fine print:

** Excludes traffic from public computers such as Internet cafes or access from mobile phones or PDAs.

Seems to me that excluding mobile phones in particular would lead to a much lower number than the true online population. In the developed world, computers dominate access to the Internet, but that’s not the case in the developing world!

A quick search led me to this W3C press release (from September 2006):

According to the World Bank, more than two billion people own a mobile phone and 80% of the world’s population has access to GSM service. With one million new subscribers every day, almost four billion people will have a mobile phone by the end of 2010.

I suspect the vast majority of those phones are web-enabled. If anyone has a link to usage statistics, let me know in the comments!

Read: comScore

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

Ottawa to help Alberta energy go green

Post ImageHere’s something you don’t hear every day – the federal government wants to help Alberta with it’s oil and gas industry! I think it’s great, as long as the funding is actually used appropriately. From the CBC article:

Ottawa will spend $155.9 million to make Alberta’s oil and energy industry more environmentally friendly, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Thursday.

The money will also support a project in Edmonton designed to convert municipal waste into electricity. Efforts to design a coal-fired electricity plant that releases almost no emissions will also be funded.

Already the announcement has been criticized by The Sierra Club, and I’m sure many more critics will follow. Harper has good timing though, as the Alberta government today “introduced legislation requiring about 100 high-polluting companies to reduce their emissions output starting July 1.”

Maybe this is the Canadian government’s way of saying, “yes, we value the oilsands as a strategic Canadian asset.”

Read: CBC.ca

161 exabytes of data created in 2006

Post ImageThere’s a new report out from research firm IDC that attempts to count up all the zeroes and ones that fly around our digital world. I remember reading about the last such report, from the University of California, Berkeley. That report found that 5 exabytes of data were created in 2003. The new IDC report says the number for 2006 is 161 exabytes! Why the difference?

[The Berkeley researchers] also counted non-electronic information, such as analog radio broadcasts or printed office memos, and tallied how much space that would consume if digitized. And they examined original data only, not all the times things got copied.

In comparison, the IDC numbers ballooned with the inclusion of content as it was created and as it was reproduced – for example, as a digital TV file was made and every time it landed on a screen. If IDC tracked original data only, its result would have been 40 exabytes.

Even still, that’s an incredible increase in just three years. Apparently we don’t even have enough space to store all that data:

IDC estimates that the world had 185 exabytes of storage available last year and will have 601 exabytes in 2010. But the amount of stuff generated is expected to jump from 161 exabytes last year to 988 exabytes (closing in on 1 zettabyte) in 2010.

Pretty hardcore, huh? You can read about zettabytes at Wikipedia. I’m not too worried about not having enough space though, even if we were attempting to store all that data (which we aren’t). Hard drives are already approaching the terabyte mark, so who knows how big they’ll be in 2010. Then of course there’s also the ever falling costs of DVD-like media.

More importantly, I bet a lot of the storage we “have available” right now is totally underutilized. You’d be hard pressed to find a computer that comes with less than 80 GB of storage these days, and I can assure you there are plenty of users who never even come close to filling it up. Heck, even I am only using about 75% of the storage I have available on my computer (420 GB out of 570 GB) and I bet a lot of it could be deleted (I’m a digital pack rat).

Read: Yahoo! News

Oilsands research at the U of A

Post ImageI have written in the past that I think more research and development should go towards extracting more value from the oilsands. This R&D would ideally lead to better “green” technologies, and the profits we gain from the oil in the oilsands could also go toward sustainable energy. I’m sure there is lots of this R&D already going on, but a story about a new University of Alberta research centre caught my eye:

The Imperial Oil-Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Oil Sands Innovation’s mandate is to find more efficient, economically viable, and environmentally responsible ways to develop Canada’s oilsands resources, one of the largest crude oil deposits in the world. The centre will be led by scientific director Dr. Murray Gray.

The centre will invest $15 million over the next five years, will recruit more than 50 faculty, graduate students, and researchers, and will “apply the emerging tools of nanotechnology” to the oilsands. I guess that’s appropriate considering the National Institute for Nanotechnology is also located here at the U of A.

One of the main research goals of the centre is to reduce the amount of water used in the oilsands projects.

Read: ExpressNews

Podcasting is just getting started!

Post ImageAlex Nesbitt wonders over at Digital Podcast if podcasting is podfading. I don’t think it is, and I don’t think the graphs that Alex presents prove anything. Scott Bourne wrote a response today, but I think he sorta danced around the big point. He says:

Another reason that I think podcasting is still going strong is the confusion over the word. While people may not be searching the word “podcasting,” as often as they were a year ago, they are searching other phrases such as “online media.” Podcasting has never been a good word to describe what we do.

I do think it’s important to admit that podcasting, regardless of what you call it, is TEMPORARILY slowing down.

Scott is exactly right – the name is the root of the problem. Podcasting as a word is becoming both more encompassing and less unique. For example, we use podcasting at Podcast Spot to refer to audio and/or video, as long as it has an RSS feed attached. I have seen people use it more liberally than us too. This is quite different from 2005 when a podcast meant an MP3 file inside an RSS feed.

The heart of the issue though is not the name confusion itself, but the fact that because of the name confusion, we don’t have a good way to measure the growth of our industry. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, unless you try to measure it.

As a result, I have to disagree with Scott’s assertion that podcasting is temporarily slowing down. I don’t think it has slowed down at all – it has just become much more difficult to measure. Any “slowing” is merely an illusion.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the metrics to back that statement up. It’s an educated gut feeling at the moment.

All of that said, I think we’re just getting started. There’s tremendous potential for growth, and 2007 could be the year that it really takes off.

Read: Scott Bourne

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.

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

Invention vs. Innovation

Post ImageToday Don Dodge posted about a Wall Street Journal article that asks whether Microsoft is driving innovation or playing catch-up with rivals. If I were to ask myself why I read Don’s blog, today’s post would be the answer. Don is careful not to fall into the “Microsoft copies everyone!” or “No they don’t they’re awesome!” traps, and instead gets right to the heart of the matter:

People tend to confuse invention with innovation, as the WSJ has here. They use the words interchangeably, but they are very different.

Invention is the creation of a technology that is totally new. Innovation takes a collection of prior inventions to the next level by combining them with existing products or technologies, and producing a commercially viable product that solves a customer problem.

Both invention and innovation are vitally important to our industry. Microsoft does both but rarely gets credit for it.

I have quoted quite liberally from his post, but I wanted to get all the main points. In the post he also explains how R&D are related to invention and innovation. Definitely go read the entire thing, it’s worth it.

Read: Don Dodge

Xerox is working to reduce, reuse, and recycle

Post ImageI suspect that for most people, the term “xerox” conjures up images of paper thanks to the American document management company of the same name. Xerox (the company) is more than just photocopiers and printers though – the company has a long history of research and development. And they are at it again, this time trying to apply the Three R’s to paper:

[Brinda Dalal’s] research is part of a three-year-old technology development effort to design an add-on system for an office copier to produce “transient documents” that can be easily reused. The researchers now have a prototype system that will produce documents on a specially coated paper with a light yellow tint. Currently, the process works without toner and produces a low-resolution document that appears to be printed with purple ink.

The printed information on the document “disappears” within 16 hours. The documents can be reused more quickly by simply placing them in the copier paper tray. The researchers said that individual pieces of paper had been printed on up to 50 times, and the only current limit in the process appears to be paper life.

The idea makes sense to me. Companies have already reduced the amount of paper they need to use, so Xerox sees an opportunity to help them reuse and recycle it too. The end goal is to try to reduce the amount of paper that companies actually use.

Those of you who know me fairly well are probably confused because normally I am championing the death of paper, not reading about ways to extend its lifetime. As much as I would like to have everything stored and presented digitally, I realize we’re not there yet. And, as the article points out, a complete change to bits and bytes isn’t likely to happen anytime soon:

“People really like paper,” said Eric Shrader, a computer scientist who is area manager for printing systems at the Hardware Systems Laboratory of the research center, which is known as PARC. “They like the way it feels.”

Until e-paper is perfected, this paper erasing technology Xerox is working on might work quite well indeed.

Read: CNET News.com