Why not move to Edmonton?

Post ImageI’d like to take a moment to share with you some figures, statistics, and other information about the city of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. As most of you reading this are probably aware, I live in Edmonton. I was born here, moved away for most of my youth, and have been back since 1998. I love the city, and while it is not without its faults, there are much worse places to live.

  • Edmonton is the capital city of the province of Alberta.
  • Edmonton is the sixth largest metropolitan region in Canada according to the 2006 Census, with a population of 1,034,945. (Source)
  • It is also the northernmost North American city with a metropolitan population over 1 million. (Source)
  • The population density of the Edmonton region is just 109.9 persions per square km. This is half the population density of the Calgary region, 1/7 of the Vancouver region, 1/8th of the Montreal region, 1/2 the Ottawa region, and 1/8th of the Toronto region. (Source)
  • Edmonton is home to West Edmonton Mall, North America’s largest shopping mall, and the third largest in the world. (Source)
  • WEM also holds the world record for the largest car park. (Source)
  • Edmonton receives 2,289 hours of sunlight each year, making it one of Canada’s sunniest cities. (Source)
  • There are more than 60,000 full time post-secondary students studying at schools in the Edmonton area. (Source)
  • A very impressive 66,000 new jobs are projected to be created in the Edmonton region between 2006 and 2010. (Source)
  • Edmonton did not make the 2006 list of most expensive cities in which to live (the list contained 150 cities). Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal all made the list. (Source)
  • Edmonton was named the Cultural Capital of Canada for the year 2007. (Source)
  • The annual Fringe festival is the largest alternative theatre event in North America. (Source)
  • Edmonton’s 60,000-plus elm trees make up the largest concentration of disease-free elm trees in the world. (Source)
  • Alberta is North America’s only rat free area (not including the territories). (Source)
  • Edmonton has 225 kilometers of designated bikeways, and 41 off-leash parks to walk with your dog. (Source)
  • The River Valley park system is the longest urban park in North America, 21.7 times larger than New York’s Central Park. (Source)
  • Edmonton is home to five professional sports franchises, including the very successful Edmonton Oilers and Edmonton Eskimos. (Source)
  • Air quality in Edmonton is rated as good (the best level) at least 90% of the time for any given year. (Source)
  • Edmonton leads the nation in effective waste management. For example, the city’s curbside recycling program has reduced by 60% the waste sent to landfills. (Source)
  • Edmonton is down right beautiful at times, as you can see in the thousands and thousands of photos available at Flickr. (Source)

I could go on, but that’s a good start.

I look at #4, the population density, as a good thing. It may be a negative thing for hockey players and other celebrities seeking anonymity, however. One other negative that comes to mind is that we have a relatively high homicide rate, though it’s not as bad as rural regions of Alberta. Aside from that, what’s so bad about Edmonton?

Why do the wives of hockey players not want to live here? Is it just that Chris Pronger and Michael Nylander married nutcases, or is there more to it?

I don’t get it. However, unlike a lot of folks out there, I don’t think the blame falls entirely on Kevin Lowe’s shoulders. There’s got to be more to it. I’ll have more on this at SportsGuru this weekend, and I suspect my Dad might too.

What’s missing?

Is Facebook the king of photo sites?

Post ImageI use Flickr to host my photos and I love it. I haven’t had any problems with the site, and I’ve been a happily paying customer for a couple years now. There are tons of photo sharing sites available though, and it seems Flickr is far from being the clear winner, despite having lots of positive brand recognition.

In fact, I think Facebook is probably the largest photo sharing site on the web.

Here’s what I have been able to find:

Notice how for Photobucket I said “images” – that’s because they host a lot of icons, graphics, and other kinds of items that aren’t really photos. There are a bunch of other sites that fall into that category as well. Another site that probably should be on the list is Zooomr, but I couldn’t find any stats for them. I suspect they are somewhere between SmugMug and Flickr.

Clearly, based on the number of photos stored, Facebook is the winner. They have incredible growth too (over 60 million photos added per week) as outlined in yesterday’s post. Certainly just hosting the most photos doesn’t make one site better than another, but it is still pretty interesting to compare. SmugMug’s Don MacAskill is always talking about speed and performance, and for good reason – SmugMug is the clear winner in terms of load times. There are a lot of other metrics that could be used to compare sites.

The one disadvantage Facebook has (depending on how you look at it) is that all the photos are behind their walled garden. Otherwise, you could almost consider them a photo sharing site instead of a social networking site!

For me, the most interesting thing is the total number of photos across all these sites – over three billion ignoring Photobucket, just from the sites I listed. I find it unlikely that there are many duplicates (ie, most users don’t post photos to multiple sites), so the number is particularly astounding.

Just imagine what the first photographers back in the 1800s would think of this photo sharing craziness!

UPDATE: Turns out my estimate for Zooomr was horribly off the mark. Don points out in the comments that they have 1 million photos – and that getting to the million mark is a big deal (Thanks Don for the info). I think I guessed so high because of the many TechCrunch posts covering Zooomr! Oh well.

Analyzing my posting habits

I have been blogging for about three and half years now, and lately I’ve been wondering about my posting habits. Do I tend to post at a certain time of day? How about a certain day of the week? I certainly don’t try to – I just post when I have something to share.

I ran the numbers tonight, and here’s what I found (click on a graph to enlarge). The percentage on the Y-axis means “percentage of my posts”. For days of the week:

Looks like my post frequency drops off on the weekend, but not as much as I thought it might. For hours of the day:

Looks like I am definitely a late-afternoon/evening blogger! This is quite a bit different than the blogosphere as a whole.

When I do these numbers again, I’ll have to figure out how many posts are made on days where I post more than once. I’d also like to find out what the average number of words/characters per post is, but that calculation is a little more involved.

Kind of a neat exercise, I have to say. It’ll be interesting to see how these statistics change in another three and a half years!

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.

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

Engadget Numbers and Misconceptions

Post ImageAs you probably know, Engadget is one of my favorite blogs. I read it all the time because I know I’ll find something new and interesting. And as last Tuesday proved, I’m not the only one who reads Engadget! It has been widely reported that Engadget had 10 million page views that day (with CES and the Steve Jobs keynote going on). Managing editor Ryan Block says the numbers were actually higher than that, and sets a few things straight:

Again, we quoted that traffic was “into 8 figures”, counting the rest of the Engadget network (Mobile, HD, Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish) and that’s even more still. I’m not going to discuss numbers, but I was very proud of what we accomplished, and I’d have been proud if we only did 10m.

He also says they had increased uniques, suffered absolutely no downtime, and attributed most of the reliability and performance to WIN’s Blogsmith platform. Whatever the actual details, it’s clear that Engadget did amazingly well on Tuesday.

Congrats to Ryan and team, and keep it up!

Read: Ryan Block

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.

Podcasting Growth by Subscribers

Post ImageBlogging is a pretty open, flexible medium and each blog varies greatly from the next, but if there’s one thing that holds true (usually) it’s that some of the best insights are found in the comments. I was reminded of this today when reading Frank Barnako’s post about the latest podcasting stats from FeedBurner:

Rick Klau, vice president, business development, said that at the beginning of the year Feedburner had 1 million subscriptions to podcasts it helped deliver. That number has now grown to 5 million subscribers for 71,000 podcasts. For you math fans, that means the average podcast has … ta da!!! … 70 subscribers.

That stat is interesting all by itself, but when Rick Klau himself dropped by and left a comment, it became really interesting. Here’s what Rick had to say:

I hadn’t realized it (I never do the average thing – must be my life-long aversion to math), but now that you point it out: this average number has doubled in just the last six months.

Indeed it’s right in the headline for the previous article that Rick linked to, in April of this year FeedBurner said the average podcast had 35 subscribers.

I think this is an important statistic to keep track of. Usually when trying to measure the growth of podcasting, you might look to the number of podcasts or the number of episodes created in a given period of time. But just as important is the number of people listening to or watching those podcasts and episodes.

That said, the rate of new podcasts appears to be increasing as well. In the April article, FeedBurner was adding an average of 2278 new podcasts each month (based on the numbers provided). That number has since risen to 4000. Not bad at all!

Read: Frank Barnako

Podcasting is not more popular than blogging

Post ImageI want podcasting to be as popular as anyone else does (hey, my business depends on it) but at the same time, I am not naive enough to think that podcasting is more popular than blogging. That’s precisely how Podcasting News interpreted some recent Nielsen/NetRatings data however:

Nielsen//NetRatings announced today that 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population, or 9.2 million Web users, have recently downloaded an audio podcast. 4.0 percent, or 5.6 million Web users, have recently downloaded a video podcast. These figures put the podcasting population on a par with those who publish blogs, 4.8 percent, and online daters, 3.9 percent.

The key word there is “publish” – not people who have read a blog, but people who actually create one. You can’t compare listeners for podcasting to creators for blogs and call it a fair comparison! When the number of people creating podcasts gets to be the same as for blogs, there might be a story.

You’ve really got to think about what you’re reading these days.

Read: Podcasting News