Friday, December 30, 2005

Show Me The Data

I'm growing tired of arguing about podcast usage without having any data to back up any claims. I'm using Bridgeratings' November forecast of 6m individuals having downloaded a podcast in 2005. Other than that I'm at a loss, and it's not for a lack of looking. It's making it damn hard to move the ball forward on a few fronts.

The biggest ongoing debate we have is about who is listening to podcasts and where they get them. I continue to argue that iTunes is responsible for about 40% of all podcast downloads, based on some data that Rob came up with. But for every weakly substantiated point there's a weak counterpoint. And we have folks in the company who have to be right so they can't just accept that the data, as flawed as it is, might just be good enough.

What I need is for the reputable analysts - Gartner, Giga, IDC, Juniper, Jupiter, etc - to do some hardcore research around podcast usage. Who listens, how often, what sources, what percentage is on a PC v. a portable device. It's surprising that none of these guys have jumped on the bandwagon yet. Time to try to fix that.

Tags Gartner IDC

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Simplicity Rules

Read two interesting articles today, both dealing in some way with simplicity. One was from November's Fast Company called The Beauty of Simplicity. Theme was how there are lots of people out there trying to make the products we use less complex.

The other was Walt Mossberg's column for today, Computer Makers Cater to Big Business, Slight the Rest of Us. Walt's theme isn't simplicity per se, but he does make the point that PC makers have made PCs more difficult to use by optimizing for companies that have IT staffs as opposed to consumers or small businesses which don't.

Today I spent some time with Mobilcast and our competitors' products, thinking about simplicity. I think we've done a good job keeping our stuff simple, but there's a lot more we can do. Our competitors' stuff varies in simplicity. I don't want to comment much more on that other than to say they can greatly improve as well.

The one area where each of us is challenged is getting the application onto the phone itself. The processes are good. The phones and the carriers have made it harder than it should be to deliver an easy solution. Let's break that down:

In terms of phones, our stuff runs on higher end phones. These phones are designed for more than phone calls, and thus have more advanced features. At the same time they are phones, which means they have limited screen real estate and few keys. These phones are designed for experienced users. Never mind what application you're trying to run. The phone manufacturer assumes that if you own one of these phones you are more savvy and can deal with complexity. A buddy of mine was extolling the virtures of his Treo yesterday, saying "once I got it figured out, which included a 1 hour support call, it's great." The point is that he shouldn't have to go through a lengthy figuring it out stage. But that's just what the phone manufacturer has forced. The worst offender is Motorola, who can't seem to design any two phones the same way. Nokia is probably has the shortest learning curve, but even they are starting to fall into the complexity trap.

When you talk about the carriers it gets worse. I've had to configure and reconfigure half dozen phones to run on Cingular's MEdiaNet network. It's hard. T-Mobile isn't much better. Granted if you buy a phone directly from one of the carriers there's a higher likelihood it'll work just fine out of the box. Assuming you purchased the data plan at the same time. If you add the plan later the chances are you will need to do some manual configuration. That's not something the average user can easily do. Again, it seems the carriers assume only experienced users who are OK with some pain will have data plans so they aren't worried about making it easy to configure the phones for web access.

So what's the point? The point is that this need to simplify permeats more than just traditional software and hardware companies, which is the focus of the articles above. The cell phone manufacturers and carriers need to take a hard look at themselves and follow suite. Particularly considering the growth of cell phones each year.

I promise you we're doing all we can to keep Mobilcast simple.

Tags Mobilcast Wall Street Journal Nokia Motorola

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Alaska Airlines Flight #536

Turns out one of the guys on Alaska Airlines flight #536 was Blogebrity's own Jeremy Hermanns. Read his account of the incident.

What I find interesting about this isn't so much who was on the flight as the fact that details of the incident have hit the blogasphere so quickly. And that major news organizations have picked up the details from the blog. The immediacy of coverage is impressive.

I've been reading a lot about how bloggers have changed the face of reporting - coverage is more candid, and more immediate. Reminds me a lot about how online reporting changed the game a few years ago when I was doing a lot more press for MSFT. Jeremy's post takes this to a whole new level, more of a "and you were there" type of thing.

Tags Alaska Airines blogging blogs

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Personal Connection

I've been re-reading Rob's post from Friday. Two important things come out here. First, personal connection. Second, podcasters make up the majority of podcast listeners.

At the risk of sounding pessimistic for a moment, there is no pent up demand for podcasts out there. Yes it's growing, and sure it's the buzzword of 2005. But we're not at the peak of the hype curve yet. Only 6 million people will have downloaded a podcast by the end of 2005. That's 2% of PC users. Not an overwhelming number. But the forecasts are encouraging. The number of podcast listeners should more than triple in 2006.

Content will drive the growth. But to make this happen it needs to be relevant, and there needs to be the connection Rob talks about. This is true on both the PC and the cell phone, but perhaps moreso on the phone because it's the newer device for listening to podcasts.

Rob's taken on the responsibility for driving Mobilcast content partnerships, and thus far is doing a great job - we'll have some cool announcements in early 2006. One of his challenges, th0ugh, is finding content that is well suited to the phone and how people use it. He's making great progress, but we have more to do. He has the right priorities.

Tags podcast podcasting Mobilcast mobile podcasting cell phone mobile phone

Friday, December 23, 2005

Mobile Internet Access Enables Personal Mobilcast Connections

I got a Nokia N90 review phone from Nokia a few weeks ago and I have been pondering the realities of accessing the Internet on my cell phone. I signed up for Cingular service and had them add their MEdia Net unlimited Internet access plan for $19.95 per month to the phone. This seems to be rather expensive, but considering how much you might spend on data to the phone with a per KB transfer plan it is cheap. The 1 to 3 cents per KB plans cost much more if you listen to Podcasts.

I have been actually using the Nokia N90 to visit websites and have been using the Mobilcast software to listen to great Podcasts; CNN Hourly Updates, ABC News Nightline and NBC’s Meet the Press. I also feel myself compelled to find and listen to Podcasts about my profession of Marketing and Podcasts done by my friends. These friends Podcasts range from Todd Cochrane of the Geek News Central podcast, Andy McCaskey of Slashdot Review to my wife Dana Greenlee’s CBS.com Netcast Podcasts. The thing that is interesting is that I have a deep level of personal connection to this content. I am compelled and want to listen to these programs on a regular basis. I want to keep up with what they are doing and at the same time learn a lot from the content that they produce. I think this is a key distinction about podcasts in general and what motivates people to listen to independently produced podcasts.

What is important to me is both major media Podcast content and other Podcast content that I have a personal connection. This personal connection to the people who voice the content goes back to the basics of broadcasting, the host that pulls a big audience has the ability to connect at a personal level with the audience or the numbers will never develop. Just look at Howard Stern as he is the classic example.

The bottom line for me is that mobile Internet connected cell phones are today able to extend our ability to communicate with each other and that Mobilcasting can be a great way to stay up to date with friends who may be experimenting with making Podcasts. The number of people and companies making audio Podcasts is growing fast and thus the listeners to Podcasts are also growing fast. I am a firm believer that podcasters listen to Podcasts and maybe the largest group of Podcast listeners. I think the growth in Podcasting is more about creation and personal connection.

I have been producing a weekly podcast called WebTalk Radio for over a year now and to me it is about learning, meeting great people when I do interviews for the show and sharing my knowledge. I am at Mobilcast to help the company extend this personal connection between the listener and the content creator who is also the listener. Doesn’t this sound more like a personal conversation? Interesting question. Hope you and your family have a great holiday.

Tags podcast podcasting nokia N90 mobilcasting rob greenlee cingular mobile internet access

Happy Holidays

From all of us at Melodeo and the Mobilcast Network have a happy holiday. We'll be talking again after December 26.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Google, AOL, Microsoft and Buying Share

Had lunch today with a buddy who used to work in MSN Search. He told me that his contacts said that the Microsoft/AOL deal fell apart because of money. He went on to say that he coudn't believe that a company that is a distant #3 in search, with more cash than most small countries and no debt allowed money to be an object.

I played devil's advocate by saying that Microsoft probably set a valuation for AOL and a top price they'd pay and they stuck to their principles.

He went on to remind me that Microsoft at one point valued Overature at $90m, but Yahoo paid $0.5b for it. Sure Yahoo may have over-valued Overature. And we were both sure that Google over-valued AOL. But his point is sound - if you're lagging in a market and can buy your way out of the hole, why wouldn't you?

Tags Google AOL Microsoft

Apple Podcasting Server

Apple has a podcasting server integrated into Mac Server OS X 10.4. Appears on their education page. According to this it supports blogs and podcasts. Wonder when they'll make it available more broadly through iTunes.

Tags Apple podcast podcasting blogging

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Community

Yesterday we were debating the value of community, podcasting, and mobilcasting. I argue that we need and want to build community because that's what the podcasting world is today - a big and growing community. We're tapping that. Our ever growing affiliate list is evidence of that. And it's just going to keep going. Which is one of the things I love about this business.

I was looking at my bloglines this morning and ran across a post on Miss Rogue's blog about a new site, Can I Crash. Talk about community.

Technorati tags blog community community blogging

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

AOL Valuation

Been reading some quotes about the AOL/Google deal. This one, cut from the Seattle Times today really jumped out at me.

"This will require all of us on the sell side to revalue the AOL piece of Time Warner," said Laura Martin, an analyst at Soleil Securities, in Pasadena, Calif., who has a "buy" rating on Time Warner and values AOL at $14 billion.

Um, did it ever occur to anyone that maybe Google overpaid?

Technorati tags Google AOL Google and AOL

The Great Ad Debate

First, a little dirty laundry. One of our developers told me yesterday that the only way he finds out about what's going on at the company is by reading the blog. Um, we're a 40 person company. And I know this developer and he's here every day, talking to people and such. File this under "things that make you go hmmm."

On to business.

Yesterday's great advertising debate was around whether and to what extent advertisers want and need demographic information. I maintain that potential podcast advertisers need and want demographic information. They don't get it today in most online podcasts so we mobilcast guys can add additional value, and in turn we can get higher value per click.

The other side of the table argued that Google doesn't provide any demographic info, and in fact doesn't know its users at all. Yet they make a bunch of money on advertising.

So the question is whether podcast and mobilcast advertising is more like Google. If so then it's not necessary for us to gather any demographic info.

I argue that podcast and mobilcast advertising is like radio and other broadcast media. As such it is imperative to have good customer data to help advertisers target their ads, which in turn allows the podcaster/mobilcaster and the aggregator to place a higher value on each click.

I say this because I believe the usage model is different. When someone uses Google they are searching for specific information. The key word here is search. The ads are simply part of the result set. They are targetted of course, but the user has the option to follow the link.

Contrast with podcasting, which is a subscribe model. True one often searches for a specific podcast to get started, but once the podcast is found and subscribed to the listener generally stops searching. Subscription assumes the listener comes back regularly. In this model the ad is inserted into the podcast (audio or graphically) on a somewhat targetted basis. And if the advertiser is smart they will purchase insertion into multiple episodes to maximize exposure.

And what makes an advertiser select a given podcast? Demographic information. Someone selling Geritol is not going to advertise on Dawn and Drew. It's not the right target.

Advertisers will pay more for better targetting. Better targetting leads to better follow through and more qualified leads, which in turn means better chances of making a sale. Which brings it all back to demographics.

The beauty of this is that it's all new ground. We as a distributer of mobilcasts have an opportunity to create the model that works. To work it needs to be high value for the advertiser, and relevant to the listener. By relevant I mean fit their interests and integrate with the way they manage and listen to podcasts on the phone. If we try to force the wrong things on them they will vote with their feet.

Technorati tags advertising advertisers podcast advertising podcast marketing

Monday, December 19, 2005

Video on a Cell Phone

Our CEO is a TV guy by trade. So this weekend he purchased a Samsung A900 on the Sprint service so he could run Mobilcast. And because he's a TV guy he starts playing with video. And you know, it's pretty darn good.

The UI to get there is confusing. And even though he has an all you can eat plan every download pops up with a payment requirement (says it'll be waived when the bill comes due).

Vidcasting on the phone is not far behind.

Mobilcast.com, Again

www.mobilcast.com now points to the right place. It's soooo nice to finally have that URL. So much easier than the alternative.

We're also cleaning up some of the stuff on the site so it'll be a little simpler to navigate. A new look will come along in January.

Content Just Keeps Getting Better

Our content just keeps getting better and better. I just finished listening to The Ricky Gervais Show. On my cell phone. What could be better.

Technorati tags: Ricky Gervais The Office

Friday, December 16, 2005

2005 - Year of the Podcast

Law.com has declared 2005 Year of the Podcast.

Not quite sure how I feel about podcasting as a tool for training lawyers. On the one had, gotta love the intersection between podcasting and education. On the other, do we really need more lawyers (love ya, Noel :>).

www.mobilcast.com

We FINALLY have www.mobilcast.com as our URL. We're redirecting to mobilcastnetwork right now. How great to have a simple, descriptive URL.

And it only took, oh, 6 weeks of negotiation and sabre rattling with a Korean squatter to get it.

I Love Competition

Back when I was with Microsoft I was in a meeting with a guy named Jim Allchin. When the meeting broke up he and I were talking and I made some reference to Netscape. Jim slapped the table and said, "I love those guys. I love having competition. It keeps us focused." That's always stuck with me.

I love competition.

We're part of a nascent market. We have a couple guys starting to come into the space. One of them has some very cool features they are just talking about. We've looked at them and found some gaps that we need to fill to stay ahead. And one of our guys went out yesterday and built a widget that'll allow us to do just that.

So you're reading this thinking "yeah, so? what wouldn't he do that?" It's a long story best told over beers, but the summary is that it's not necessarily part of our culture for a business guy to program a widget and pass it to development. But having a competitor stir things up changes your attitude.

That's not to say you plan products and make business decisions around or in response to your competitor's moves. But you do need to think hard about the smart things they are doing for customers and work like hell to leapfrog them. Honestly we've built a damn good product. But we were getting a little complacent because we had nobody pushing us for the hearts and minds of the customer. Now we do. That'll lead to more fire. Which will lead to more cool stuff happening like this widget being developed. And that in turn will be how we win.

It's an encouraging sign.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

All I Want for Christmas

I'm violating one of the rules I learned in college, which is always site your sources. But I can't remember where I picked up this tidbit of knowledge nor who initially said it. Which of course won't stop me from repeating it....Anway, read that the hot must have gifts this Christmas are portable media devices. iPods, PSPs, etc.

That must be why my 5 year old son, a trendsetter if ever I've met one, wants to ask Santa for a Shuffle.

So how many of those devices will be cell phones I wonder?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Macrovision and Melodeo

Another announcement that has nothing to do with podcasting, at least not today.

Melodeo and Macrovision have teamed up to form an alliance that offers mobile DRM and IP protection to service providers who want to offer mobile content services. Things like music downloads, games, etc. Considering the state of play in mobile DRM today this is an important thing.

The press release is on Mobilcast Network.

Technorati tags: mobile drm DRM mobile content

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Who Listens to Podcasts?

Today's discussion topic - who listens to podcasts? Some of us say it's mostly other podcasters and bloggers, early adopter types. A couple said "everyone" (hmmm...).

Important question because it drives content decisions, product decisions, marketing decisions....The one thing I know is that the data pretty much sucks, and if you try to base the answer on what shows up in the top lists you'll be even more confused.

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Podcaster Taxonomy

OK, I'm a product marketing guy. My job is to define products and drive marketing. In order to do that I have to have things like a target audience, maybe a user or customer taxonomy. These are kinds of tools of the trade. Not glamorous or sexy, but at some point necessary for the job.

I've been working on a taxonomy for podcasters. At some level I don't like categorizing podcasters because the space is moving too fast and I don't know anyone who really likes to be labled. But again, it's a necessary thing for the job so I'm doing it. I'm the first to admit that the taxonomy isn't perfect - in some ways it's too broad, in others it forces a categorization that some may find uncomfortable. We'll consider it work in progress. Here goes...

Using broad strokes I'm thinking of the universe of podcasters as having 3 groups:

1. Major Media, which is the group of major media companies who are doing podcasts. Guys like CNN, NPR, ESPN, etc. These are guys who have multiple other media types under their umbrella and use podcasts as a way to extend their reach. My back of the envelope math says that this group comprises about 25% of all podcasts, and accounts for maybe 1/3 of all downloads.

2. Grass Roots Professionals, who I count as being individuals or small media companies who use podcast as their primary, or only, media property. What this group has in common is a professional quality and a regular schedule, making them closer to major media than not. I don't think you can categorize them into any single genre as they span technology to comedy, social commentary to general interest entertainment. My estimate is that this group makes up 65% of total podcasts, and accounts for close to 2/3 of downloads.

3. Individual Hobbyists, who are exactly what the name implies. Hobbyists are the long tail - folks who have something to say and are going to use a podcast to say it. They don't get into podcasting to build a brand or anything like that, though sometimes that happens. They don't always put out high quality, and they don't really have a regular schedule. It's a fast growing segment, though right now it only makes up somewhere around 10% of the podcasts out there.

So by now you're asking what any of this has to do with anything. We build cool software to help people get podcasts directly to their cell phones, as you know. To build a successful company we need to focus. We have to know what, really who, to focus on. That's why I spent time with some of the smart guys I work with developing a taxonomy.

And it'd be great to hear what you think about this. It's work in progress, and definitely needs some vetting.

Friday, December 09, 2005

BlogsnDogs

Eric Rice posts about BlogsnDogs today. Love the last line:

"I'm going to put out a challenge to my fellow experts, A-listers, and visionaries. Get your butts out of your ivory towers, get off your high horses of entitlement, and think about the Long Tail. Truly, truly engage the Long Tail. Some folks out there do a great job of this; others don't. Some debate, quarrel, and otherwise spin the tires upon deaf and perhaps, bored ears. Find your inner fire and share it with someone else. Someone new. It might be the single biggest difference you make, and not for yourself, but for someone else."

It's not just the A listers, visionaries, etc. who need to do this. It's any small, scrappy startup trying to make a go in this new world. You have to engage customers directly. Ask them what they think and what they want, and really listen to the answer.

On a somewhat related topic, earlier this week I posted on a related topic, asking if people would mind getting a call from us to ask about their experiences using the product. I had convinced myself that customers would hate that so we shouldn't try it. Call me a flip-flopper but I'm changing my view. Call 'em. If they don't get pissed call more. And so on. What better way to connect.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Mind Block

Today I have mindblock so I'm afraid I don't have anything really meaningful to write about. Guess I'll just give a short update on things:

Expect a revision on our web site end of next week. Mostly content tweaks.

Next week we will make it possible for anyone to download Mobilcast to their phone, even if we haven't tested that particular phone. Essentially it's a real beta program.

Still on track for a new release of Mobilcast at the start of the new year, sticking to our goal of releasing a new version every 6 weeks.

Still adding fresh content. Be sure to "Look for Updates" when you start the client. There's some really cool new stuff in there. Check it out.

You know, it's pretty easy to look at what's wrong. Sometimes it's nice to take stock of what's going right.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Knightrider on my iPod

NBC is licensing a bunch of shows to iTunes. Now I can get all those Knightrider reruns on my iPod. That K.I.T was loaded with talent.

Is It SPAM to Call Customers for Product Feedback?

When you download Mobilcast you give us your cell phone number so we can send you an SMS with a link to the product files. We ask for permission to contact you with marketing and promo info, and if you say no we won't do it because we hate SPAM.

But is it SPAM to call you and ask for product feedback?

This is the debate we had yesterday. I won't bore you with the details. I'll just ask the question and see what people say.

Incidentally, the alternative was not to call but send an SMS and ask you to call us.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

DRM and Podcasts

Yesterday I said that the Verisign deal wasn't really about podcasting, and I maintain that's the case because it is specific to full track music downloads and subscription. But there has been some debate starting about wrapping podcasts with DRM. In many ways this is in direct opposition to the spirit of podcasting, where the content is free and accessible to anyone with a PC (or, in our case, a cell phone).

But what about podcasters who want to make subscription money off their podcasts? Lots of big media companies are creating podcasts, and the monetization plan today is advertising. I think it's within the realm of possibility for some media company to segment their content into free and paid, and if some content is paid you need a way to make sure only those who pay get it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Google's Rules for Success

MSNBC posted Google's 10 golden rules for getting the most out of knowledge workers. Interesting read. Nothing really novel, though. Even with a thinly veiled shot at their friends in Redmond....Still makes for a good, quick read.

Christmas for Mobilcast

Check out the new Christmas channel in the Mobilcast directory. Letters from Santa, all kinds of great stuff.

Verisign Licenses Melodeo DRM

It's not really about Mobilcast or podcasting, but this is a significant announcement so I thought I'd mention it.

Verisign has licensed Melodeo MobilDRM to use in a full track music service they are developing via their Jamster unit. MobilDRM will allow Jamster to develop and roll out a service that does either download or subscription as a result of using our DRM. The subscription play is interesting - most carriers want to go that way because it's a better revenue opportunity, but there was no way to do it in truly mobile fashion until now because of a lack of DRM. We've fixed that.

The press release can be found on Mobilcast Network.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Shout Out to SDR

Want to give a shout out to Andy Mccaskey at Slashdot Review for giving a should out to Mobilcast in today's show.

Adam Curry Busted!

I've never met Adam Curry and have no opinion one way or the other about him personally. He did some smart stuff to create visibility around podcasting. And he was a fair VJ (though I was more a Martha Quinn/Nina Blackwell guy). So my bringing this up is in no way because I'm trying to trash anyone's reputation or take sides in an argument.

But this post from Workbenchcracked me up today. Forget about the acrimony and vitrol about what was supposed to have happened. It's the comments that just broke me up.

Slow News Day, But...

Slow news day today. Probably because it has been snowy in Seattle and, while nothing stuck in the city, it paralized the entire region. Fortunately the local news outlets were right there, showing every snowflake and warning us that if it doesn't let up we may well be buried under an inch of snow!

Anyway, some good stuff to report. The Wall Street Journal article from Wednesday is now live on Mobilcast Network. Have a read.

Our affliliates list is growing by leaps and bounds, we're adding new phones weekly, and we have some other cool stuff in the works that I'm looking forward to sharing later.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Microsoft Classified Ads Beta Barfs

We're always thinking about a) how to extend podcasting, particularly on a phone, and b) how to make the phone a more useful device for stuff other than phone calls. That's one of the guiding principles behind Mobilcast. So when I read about stuff like Google and Microsoft getting into areas like classified ads in the online world I have to check it out.

This morning I linked to Microsoft's test site for "Fremont", their classified ads beta. Got a runtime error. Thinking it's a Firefox thing I try in IE. Same error. Guess it's not ready for primetime. Yeah, I hear you saying "it's beta, what did you expect?" Maybe....

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mobilcast in the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal (no link - subscription only) published a good article about Mobilcast today. Included are some quotes from Dave Disser and an reference to Croncast. Thanks Dave!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Rules to Live By

Ev Williams has posted ten rules for startups over on his personal site. Miss Rogue added some additions of her own. Makes for good reading.

The start up world is still crazy after the bubble, maybe getting more crazy if you agree with the notion that we're starting to see another bubble. We're seeing new guys come into the mix who (like me) are long time vetrans of the big companies. We're seeing some of the old guard who made money in the first bubble stay in the mix even after they've lost their edge. It's good to have some opinions or reminders about what it takes to be successful to keep the new start up guys energized...and maybe encourage some of those who don't have the passion and energy any longer to move aside.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Welcome Rob Greenlee to Melodeo

Rob Greenlee has joined Melodeo to work on Mobilcast. Some of you may know Rob from his podcast - Webtalk Radio. It's great to have someone who has practical experience as a podcaster on the team. And yes, he's assured me he's still going to do the show. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I expect he's going to start contributing to the blog as well. Additional insight, opinion, commentary, and bad jokes are always welcome.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Technorati Tags

Just returned back from Thanksgiving. Actually didn't go anywhere, just disconnected. Good time to think about aboutthe business and the industry while recovering from the food coma.

Finally added Technorati tags to this blog. Will be interesting to see what effect, if any, they have on traffic.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Feedback from the Road

Interesting 2 days with the press. Much of yesterday echoed what I wrote about on Tuesday. Further solidified a number of things in my mind:

We need to press our advantage with the downloadable app. Nobody likes WAP and I feel personally vindicated for fighting against a WAP version. But we need to put even more distance between Mobilcast and the WAP oriented competitors.

Our content approach is sound, but we need to deliver on the promise of parity with what you find online. We're going fast and hard after this. Gotta keep pushing.

The first time user experience is invaluable and we need to keep gathering that feedback. The new Mobilcast forum will help greatly.

Handset coverage is key and needs to accelerate. We're committed to adding 2 mass market handsets a week. We're looking at new platforms. I have become convinced that we need to stop downloading only to mass market phones that we have tested internally.

Finally, everyone things there's upside to this business. It's a new space and it requires ongoing definition and tuning. But there's upside.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Meet the Press, Eastern Edition

Monday and today I'm on the East Coast meeting press to talk about Mobilcast. Yesterday I met with 2 of the most influencial press people out there. Because they may write stories I can't say who they are, but I can give some details about the meetings themselves. Basically I'm feeling pretty good right now.

Highlights were our client simplicity, particularly when you stream the podcast to the phone. Our content plan - bring it all in to the server, show the relevant content for the mobile professional on the phone, and make the rest discoverable on the server - was met with agreement.

One of the guys thought we should lift the "certification requirement" for downloads and just let people download at will to any phone they want to try. With the caveat we document what will happen if the download fails.

It's clear that we have some challenges with some phones when it comes to downloading podcasts. We knew this going in, and we are trying hard to work around it. It's the tradeoff you make when you write a Java app to the lowest common denominator.

It's also clear that we need to quickly get Mobilcast running on more phones, particularly phones that are typically found in the hands of mobile professionals. It's on the roadmap for the next couple releases so stay tuned.

Finally, one of these folks asked me about the competition. I said nobody has a downloadable applet, and that our only competitor in market uses WAP. That got a dismissive nose wrinkle. Made me feel much better about my own ardent stand that we not do a WAP version of Mobilcast.

Hopefully we'll see some coverage over the next couple months as a result of this.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Thanks Again, Eric

If Eric Rice keeps on being such a great spokesman for Mobilcast we'll have to put him on the payroll.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Feedback Needed - Testing Phones for Mobilcast

We've been kicking around an idea and I want to get your feedback. Comment here or shoot us mail at mobilcast@melodeo.com.

Today you can only download Mobilcast on phones that we've certified, which means tested. This way we know that Mobilcast will work on the phone. We test and add a couple new phones a week.

We want to increase the number of phones because that gets Mobilcast out to more people. The more people that have it the more podcasts they download...you get the drill. The idea is to stop restricting the downloads to phones we've tested and open it up to anyone. We'd still have a list of tested phones, but we'd allow anyone to try it. Once a phone successfully downloads, installs, and runs the client the first time we'll know because it'll be tracked in our database. Then we'll add it to our list.

The downside is that guys may have a poor download experience - failure to install, railure to run. The app is built so that it won't screw up the phone, so there's minimal risk

The upside is that it runs on a bunch of phones and we are able to get Mobilcast into the hands of a whole bunch of new people.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Apple iPhone?

Forbes.com just posted an article saying that Apple is expected to build and ship an "iPhone" sometime in the next 12-18 months. Have heard this rumor before. Heck, talked about it last week with a journlist who covers Apple for a large national publication. So it's not really new news.

The question is which carrier will get into bed with Apple on this. Apple is notorious for wanting to control the entire pipe to the consumer. Carriers want to do the same thing. Only way for Apple to do this is to back off the control issue, convince a carrier to back off the control issue, or...become a carrier itself.

Considering the egos at Apple and the carriers, and the proliferation of named cell phone services-ESPN, Disney, etc--which would you guess to be the path of least resistance.

Apple ROKR Back in the News

I didn't blog yesterday. Rich Tong told me once that I should be blogging daily...FUMBLE!

Anyway, the ROKR is back in the news. Now Apple says they want to increase the hard limit on phones to 1000 songs. Looks like they'll still force you to tether to the PC so it's not really a mobile music device. Maybe someday they'll get it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

We've Released Mobilcast v2

Today we released Mobilcast v2. We think it's a great product, and believe consumers will, too. When we approached v2 we set 3 priorities: 1) make it easy to get Mobilcast on a phone; 2) make Mobilcast even easier to use; 3) make a lot of content available. We believe we've succeeded.

Make it easy to get: We introduced SMS download of Mobilcast a few weeks ago. We're continuing that method, and soon will add a short code so you can SMS us. We've also added a bunch of phones to the mix, bringing our total up to 12 today. And we're going to do our best to add 2 a week. We've also added a cool feature called "Share" that allows you to SMS the download link to your friends.

Make Mobilcast even easier to use: We've tuned the UI so that Mobilcast is even more intuitive. We've also added streaming capability. So now you can chose to download the podcast, or listen to it right away be streaming it to your phone. Streaming gives the immediate gratification consumers want.

Content: We're adding new content all the time. Streaming lets us pull in longer podcasts. And we have guys making Mobilcast specific podcasts. We think we'll match the content found online very quickly.

Coming back from PME the guys were super excited about the opportunity for Mobilcast. This release will help deliver the promise. And we'll keep on pushing the envelope and building the product you want us to build.

Send us your feedback - mobilcast@melodeo.com We want to hear from you.

China: showing us the way in mobile stuff

Arrived in Hong Kong today, after two days in Beijing. Over 400 million mobile subscribers in this country, adding 50 million new ones annually. Astonishing factoid: over 50% of web commerce in China happens from a mobile phone - not from a PC. That speaks volumes about the prospects for distribution of digital media in the largest, and fastest growing wireless market on the planet. If there is a bigger opportunity for mobile podcasting, I don't know where it is.

On arriving in Hong Kong, I note that the technology section in today's South China Morning Post (one of the great newspapers of the world) is all about digital media on mobile phones: video, music, games, blogging, advertising, user-generated content, porn, etc., etc. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven, and wonder when US carriers are going to get with the program. BTW, it appears that half of the articles appearing in the South China Post are available in podcast form. The future is here in Asia, folks. Watch this space.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

When is a Podcast a Podcast?

Dave Winer has blogged on whether proprietary audio formats, such as those Apple and Audible push, constitute podcasts. Interesting read. Dave suggests that a) if it's not MP3 it's not podcasting, and b) MP3 was chosen to keep spurious corp types from co-opting the medium.

Two comments. First, saying a podcast must be MP3 to be, by definition, a podcast is a little restrictive. Yes, MP3 is a great, well understood format. But it's not an all purpose format. MP3 is terrible for over the air downloads to mobile phones, for example. Which is why we use AMR, which is much more mobile-friendly and is on nearly every cell phone sold today.

I'd offer up, then, a slight tweak to Dave's thesis and suggest that by definition a podcast must be recorded and played back in an open medium.

Second comment: I don't think we as a community should spend to much time worrying about companies co-opting podcasting. Companies will try like crazy to co-opt podcasting just as they tried like crazy to co-opt the web. Eventually models shook out that are today generally accepted. Those models are mostly based on standards that promote interoperability. The guys who focused on proprietary technology are mostly gone. I predict a similar thing happening with podcasting.

More to that point I read Audible's announcement with some interest. Audible is trying to do just what Dave is worried about (and what I think prompted his blog entry), create a proprietary thing to do something businesses want and thus corner the market as it develops. Feels like it's fighting an uphill battle. Yes, corps want an ad model and that requires fine tuned tracking. But building a method of doing that which requires redoing the way you use technology today? C'mon. I'm Dave on this one.

It doesn't hurt either that we can offer a similar service to companies using Mobilcast without forcing them to do anything different. Remember, our consumers are mobile phone users and they give us their phone numbers before they download the client. We know when a podcast is downloaded and we can even give fine grained location data (NOTE: We DO NOT provide names or phone numbers of consumers and we NEVER WILL). And we can provide this without asking the podcaster to do anything differently than they do today.

I'd be interested in hearing from Dave whether he'd agree with the standards-based modification to his point.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Portable Media Expo Update

Brent just called from PME with an update. He's met with a bunch of podcasters and online aggregators. Most want to work with us. Podcasters in particularly are really excited about Mobilcast. Want to find out how their podcasts always sit at the top of our channels. We're going to think on that one for a day and put something together.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Portable Media Expo

Tomorrow Portable Media Expo starts. Wish I was going to be there, but other commitments got in the way. Brent van Wieringen and Frank Paganelli will be there from Melodeo. Meeting and greeting, showing Mobilcast. Maybe even doing a shootout with Pod2mob (I hope). Should be a good show.

The Wired Generation

Bunch of years ago I worked in higher ed. Read an article arguing that computers limited creativity, which may have been correct in the late 80s. It went on to say that kids shouldn't spend too much time in front of the computer, but be encouraged to read/write/draw/play. And most importantly interact.

Fast forward 17-18 years. The Guardian, a UK paper, has an article saying that today's kids spend too much time online. Interestingly enough they are interacting, but it's all virtual. The article doesn't make a claim as to whether this is good or bad. It does say that interaction is more pervasive and immediate, and has a bunch of different levels or aspects.

I do wonder if this constant online interaction is a problem. On the one hand the community is huge and growing and completely dismisses geographic and temporal limits. On the other hand, I don't think one really learns how to interact with people unless one does it in person. Too many nuances that you can't get online.

I love the growth of community. At Melodeo we're right in the middle of it between our media platform and Mobilcast. I just hope we aren't helping create an entire generation of people who can't function in face to face situations.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Carrier End Run

When we rolled out Mobilcast we thought one of its great advantages is that it didn't require a carrier offering in order for consumers to get it and use it. Some called a carrier end run. At least one of my colleagues warned that no application in the history of mobile has been able to work around the carriers. Indeed we're talking with carriers about creating Mobilcast-basd offerings.

Google is going to change the carrier equation, and cut carriers out of the mix entirely. Google has the clout and brand to bring users in directly, using the carriers as dumb pipes only. Carriers may resist and try to apply extra data charges or lock users out of the Google services entirely but it won't work because consumers will rebel. Ultimately the carriers will try to work with Google to create some type of deal, but again Google won't do it. They don't need to.

I can only think of 2, maybe 3 companies that have the type of clout to pull of a sustained carrier end run like this. I think most companies ultimately take the path of least resistance. Google won't. I suspect they'll eventually create a model that even us smaller guys can emulate to as extent.

Back on the grid

Just returned from 5 blissfully disconnected days hiking the red-rock canyons of Sedona Arizona. No, I didn't get my brain cells re-arranged/rejuvenated by the Sedona Vortex, but did enjoy watching the steady stream of spiritual travelers emptying their wallets in the crystal shops. We obviously need to create a channel (pun intended) for these folks in our Mobilcast catalog.

On reconnecting with the world, I note that two events occured that will be seen in the future as watershed happenings in the media industry: NBC and CBS offering on-demand versions of their regular TV programming, and NPR launching new programs created in original form as podcasts. Wow, was I only gone 5 days?

iTunes Phone, Redux

Apple and Motorola are going to try this iTunes phone thing one more time. The new RAZR v3i will include iTunes on some models, based on market conditions. If at first you don't succeed....

Bet the good folks at Apple and Motorola haven't really addressed the reasons why consumers were dissatisfied with the ROKR. Looking at the video from the article above it's still a Moto-looking UI rather than an iPod UI. It's not clear but I bet there's a hard storage limit because Apple doesn't want the RAZR to cannibalize the Shuffle. And no doubt you won't be able to do real mobile music because over the air downloads aren't available.

On the other hand, you can watch music videos.

I think Apple is just using these Motorola phones to figure out what it takes to make a great music phone and to learn as much as they can about the mobile space. iTunes phones like the ROKR and RAZR v3i can't possibly be their mobile play. There's something more going on here. Lots of industry speculation that Apple will ultimately build their own phone. Or start their own MVNO. Or both. Once that happens they'll really change the game. Until then, they're just creating more visibility and market opportunity for the guys who really deliver mobile music.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Yahoo and Google Go Mobile

Big day in the mobile space. Yahoo releases a mobile version of itself. Depending upon my phone I can get all my Yahoo services on my device. Played around with different phone models and found they've done a good job factoring features by phone, so if I select my Nokia 6620 I am shown all the features, but my Nokia 6200 has fewer. Smart, and very user friendly.

Google released, among other things, local search for the phone. Now that's a useful thing. I want to go somewhere, don't know how to get there, so I search it and get a map. I think it's a stake in the ground for something much more. And if they are true to form they'll allow others to build on this free technology, just like they do with Google Maps today.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Podcasts and Advertising, The Sage Continues

Maybe I'm the master of timing. My buddy Alex Wiliams over at Corante's podcasting blog wrote about Fruitcast, who looks like they are trying to be the AdSense of the podcasting world.

We know the AdSense model works on the web. Theoretically it should work with a podcast. What wasn't clear is how they match advertisers and podcasts. Then again I didn't register as either. Catalog is limited, but they just launched. I checked out a couple random podcasts but no ads.

This is one to keep an eye on. I've said a couple times that the ad model for podcasts is still being developed. These guys are out there trying to make something happen.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Podcasts and Advertising, Part Deux

Business Week has an article about podcasting and advertising. The debate continues, though this time around it's becoming clearer that there's a model to be had. Trick is to figure it out.

I met with a worldwide ad agency earlier this week to discuss this very issue. Their initial reaction was "it's just like radio advertising", something I don't necessarily agree with. As we drilled deeper it became clear that they didn't really have a clear idea about how to leverage podcasts for their clients, and most certainly couldn't assign a CPM value to a podcast ad.

Therein lies the issue.

In radio, tv, and web have cost per impression models. That allows you to put a value on air time or space. No such model exists in podcasting. But it's there for the creating. The web model in this case is probably closer to accurate than tv or radio because the web provides slightly better demographic data.

Demographics become interesting. With an online podcast you don't have a really good sense of who downloads your stuff. You can take an educated guess and be close to right, but you don't really know. Mobilcast gets better data because we know the phone number for every person who downloads a podcast, and we ask for additional info as well (to be clear, we will never share individual info with anyone). This granularity will actually increase the value for an advertiser.

It may be that a couple models start to emerge. One for online and one for mobilcasting. But they need to be close, I'd argue complementary, to make it a business.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

President of the US Joins Melodeo Board

Catchy headline huh...

Dave Dederer, guitar player for the Presidents of the United States of America has joined Melodeo's advisory board. This is very cool. Dave is a super creative guy with a lot of great contacts in the music biz, is hot on podcasting and mobilcasting, and is just an overall highly creative guy who loves technology. Read Dave's journal on the official PUSA site.

We're excited to have Dave on board, and on the advisory board.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Announcing Mobilcast Network

Today we're announcing Mobilcast Network. Mobilcast Network is the place for consumers to get Mobilcast, recommend podcasts for the Mobilcast catalog, and ultimately be able to manage their own preferences. And for podcasters it's the place to become a Mobilcast Affiliate.

Mobilcast affiliates are folks whose podcasts are distributed through Mobilcast. In exchange they agree to help distribute Mobilcast by putting a download badge and link on their web and wap sites. Signing up is quick and easy--simple check box form on the web. Check it out.

We've also made it a lot easier to get Mobilcast on your phone. Just go to the web and enter your phone number on a form. We'll send you a SMS message with the link to download Mobilcast. Click it and you're ready to go. And we'll make it easier still by adding a short code later this month.

As I said in yesterday's post, we have 3 priorities for Mobilcast: make it easier to get, improve the user experience, and add lots of content. Mobilcast Network gets us two of three. And it just keeps getting better.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Eric Rice Mobilcasts

Check out Eric Rice's Mobilcast promo. Spent time with Eric on Friday and by the end of the talk he was ready to rock on mobilcasting. Can't wait to hear the show.

I spent the day with press in the Bay Area. Spoke with them about the 3 things we need to do in order to win with Mobilcast: 1) make it easier for consumers to get the software on their phones, which we are doing; 2) address the latency between starting a download and being able to listen to it; 3) content, content, content. The press agreed.

Which leads to the issue of content itself. We're working with the big media guys. But it feels like it's equally as important, maybe moreso, to work with the grassroots guys. Sure, a CNN or BBC may have more listeners than Eric or Chris Pirillo or Chris Cron. But a huge number of the listening audience is influenced by these fellas. And frankly I think these folks know more about what makes a great podcast than the big guys. So it follows that they are critical to our success. And besides they're great guys!

So what we should do is work with these guys to both develop mobilcasts, and to help us better understand what makes a great mobilcast so we can evangelize to more podcasters. That's the plan.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Mobile-specific Podcasts

Over the past 2 days I've had a chance to speak with Eric Rice and Andrew Sims of MuggleCast about making mobile specific podcasts. This is as opposed to simply re-using the stuff that exists today. In both cases we've agreed that there's a need for something optimized to the experience on the phone.

These conversations have led us to ask what makes a good mobile-oriented podcast. Since mobilcasting is new, it's an open field for listeners, podcasters, and us to define. Are they simply shortened versions of existing podcasts? Are they the same podcasts you have today but in AMR format with a lower bit rate? Or are they, as the Maestro likes to say, "digital hors d'oeuvres" or small snippets of information served up for easy consumption?

A related question is our role in the mobilcasting world. As I've written in the past I'm in the "entire ecosystem" camp, where we not only make the content available but we enable it's creation and include the web experience. If we are going to take on the task of helping define what makes a good mobilcast I think it's our responsibility to be involved across the board.

A mobilcast is an extension of the online podcast world. It's a unique experience. We need to treat is as both as we work towards defining the what and the how.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Podcasting Conferences

First, I've made a change and am (hopefully) blogging under my real name. Someone said "mobile podcast" was too impersonal. And I'm nothing if not personable.

Spent time today with a group of guys debating podcasting conferences. We're involved in a very cool one (announcement to come) and were meeting with the organizers. Spirited debate about what a podcasting conference should be. Main topic was around whether the podcasting world is ready for something akin to a Comdex, or if the most successful conferences would be more grass roots oriented.

Look at Portable Media Expo, happening next month (and where Melodeo will be). It looks like a great show, but feels more like Comdex than a grass roots show. Not finding fault with it, and maybe the time for that is now while this stuff is evolving. I do wonder how much room there is for more than 1 conference like that a year.

The conference we're working to co-sponsor will have a more grass roots vibe to it. We'll have more info as it develops.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mobilcast Affiliates

When we, Melodeo, announced Mobilcast in August we talked about Mobilcast affiliates. The reception was good, not great. Time for us to kick it in the tail.

A Mobilcast affiliate is a podcast producer, provider, or aggregator you can become an affiliate. It's easy. Podcasters, shoot us a mail at mobilcast@melodeo.com and tell us your podcast name, RSS location and web page or blog URL. If you have a graphic send it as well. We'll get your podcast into the Mobilcast catalog, we'll post you on our web site. In exchange we'll send you a graphic and link to the Mobilcast download page and ask that you post it on your site or blog. We'll also send you an MP3 file you can use if you want to tell people your podcast is available on your phone.

Producers and aggregators, same thing. But instead of sending us specific podcast info let's talk about your catalog and making it available to your listeners on the phone.

So, what's in it for you? More listeners, and an easier way for listeners to get your podcast when they want it.

You'll hear more about this in the coming days. Meantime we know the mobile phone is the thing that will help get podcasts out there to more people. We want to do this with you.

Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Did VCs Learn Lessons During the Bubble?

The Seattle PI published an interesting article saying that there are concerns that VCs didn't learn any lessons from the dot-com bubble days. While a couple guys quoted in the article said that the enthusiasm isn't at fever pitch like it was during the bubble, there is some concern that the consumer space is "overheating."

Most interesting quote is from Bill Gurley at Benchmark Capital:

"You have to be careful," said Gurley, an early investor in OpenTable, Shopping.com and Jamdat. "I see what I would suggest are features being funded as companies right now."

Lots of risk of that in the mobile space and the podcasting space I think. I also tend to think that in new spaces markets fragment then consolidate. The consolidation is going to be very interesting to watch in our space. Personally, as you know from a couple of the posts here, I'm a fan of consolidation as long as it's good for consumers.

And to Gurley's point--if you're a startup pitching a feature as a product and you get funding, more power to you. I'd think any smart VC would do lots of diligence before making an investment like that.

No Love for the ROKR

Mobilcast makes the ROKR behave more like a real mobile media device. But it's apparently not enough. Bloomberg reports that sales of the ROKR are disappointing, and returns are higher than expected.

Not surprising.

We use ROKRs here to show off Mobilcast, and it does a good job of highlighting the product. It even has easy access to one of our favorite features--Tell a Friend, which allows me to SMS the link to the client between phones. But as a music device the ROKR is poor execution of a great idea. Counting the missteps:

1. Hard coded limit at 100 songs. That's quite a few, but far less than a comparably priced iPod.
2. No over the air download. Mobile music means over the air download. No way Apple is going to allow that because they haven't figure out how to monetize it yet.

Let's stop there.

Looking at this I think the blame is more with Apple than Motorola. Apple is trying to protect its iPod turf. In fact a well placed source of our's said that Apple views the ROKR as the low end device, followed by the Shuffle, Nano, and iPod. No way the ROKR can win when it's being nitched behind the shuffle.

There's a bright side for us in that every time someone sees a ROKR then sees our platform we win hearts and minds. But it's disappointing that the industries first big, visible music phone push falls well short of expectations and promise.

Monday, October 24, 2005

University of Washington Podcasts Lectures

News from the University of Washington, where they are starting to offer lectures as podcasts. Not intended to substitute for attending class, but as a way to let students review the course material.

In other places in this blog we've commented on the roll of podcasts in education. This is further proof that there is a great fit between podcasting and education. Hats off to the UW for quickly jumping on the bandwagon. And to those professors who have the foresight to try the technology.

Download v. Streaming

First, a shout out to the Seattle Times for pointing to our blog in today's business section. Thanks, Tricia.

Spend part of the weekend playing with a streaming solution for mobile podcasts. Interesting experience, and while I tried to keep an open mind and not think like a competitor I found it hard to think that streaming is the better way to listen to a podcast on a phone. At the same time streaming has some differences that consumers might find preferable.

Streaming allows more handset coverage because, at least this solution, uses WAP. Because it uses WAP it pushes consumers to a web page for customization, which is more familiar. Because there's no file download there's no podcast size restriction.

On the other hand, the streaming solution forces the consumer to make some choices they may not understand. Before I could play a podcast I had to select my preferred codec. OK for me, not for my mom. To play a podcast I have to enter the WAP address in my phone browser, and I have to do this every time I want a podcast. Cumbersome process made harder based on the phone.

We did some user testing with Mobilcast this past week. Other than the headache of entering the download address into the phone browser the user experience was pretty good. Consumers had no problem finding and launching the app, searching for a podcast, and downloading it to the phone. Gave us confidence that we were making the right choices.

I think the next step is to find some consumers and have a shoot out with the streaming solution to determine which one provides the most user friendly solution, and to continue to understand consumer expectations so we can exceed them.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Podcasting's Role

Healthy debate yesterday about mobile podcasting, how consumers will consume podcasts, and podcasting's overall role in Web 2.0. There wasn't clear agreement, in particular around the notion of how consumers will consume the material.

I'm a believer in the power of the mobile phone and its role in podcasting. That's why we're doing Mobilcast afterall. And the response has been great. But the phone has some practical limitations, which means that nobody should expect it to become the device for consuming podcasts. Consumers will want the mobile phone to be part of the podcast ecosystem, a complement to the PC world.

More importantly we need to fully consider podcasting's role in Web 2.0. At the risk of oversimplification, Web 2.0 is about connecting and creating. Web pages, blogs, Wikis, and podcasts are all complementary components of this world. Mobilcasting needs to fit into this world, extending podcasting's reach while not isolating the PC experience. We do that, consumers win. Consumers win, we win.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Phone, Cable Operator and the Internet

The Wall Street Journal published an intereting article about how phone and cable operators are trying to throttle network usage. Things like BitTorrent, Skype, Vonage and network intensive services are chewing up bandwidth. The cable and phone guys contend this has a negative impact on "normal" or lighter use customers. Placing throttles on heavy use technologies is customer friendly, they contend.

Right. Sure, there is some truth to this. But the reality is that these companies have based their rate plans on an average number of bytes per user per day. Bandwidth intensive apps blow the numbers away, and ultimately, if enough customers chew up more bandwidth than forecast, the companies leave money on the table.

I can't blame the phone and cable companies for wanting to maximize revenue. As a business guy I get it and appreciate it. As a consumer I can sort of get it because I want a fast network. But the reality is that many of these guys are a monopoly. So if they throttle my IP phone network (or worse, turn it off entirely) I am forced to use their higher price service. I don't have any choice. Kind of flies in the face of the "we're only trying to help our customers" argument.

Feels like there should be an opportunity here for the cable and phone guys to use the heavy usage models to understand how to improve their networks. I'm not holding my breath. But imagine if the network operators really figured out how to improve network throughput such that all the services--today's and those that are coming--could co-exist. That would be customer friendly.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

iPods and Podcasting in Schools

This article from the Washington Post is an interesting read. An elementary school in Arlington, VA is integrating iPods and podcasting into the curriculum. The teachers are working with students to download podcasts and discuss them in class. Makes sense--most of these kids are addicted to their iPods and bring them to school. May as well use them constructively.

The potential here is obvious--podcasting is ready made for education. Remote learning, tutorials (the guys at 5th Digit in Europe do language lessons), lectures for later replay, thesis presentations...the list is large. Adoption will be slow and niche oriented, but when it tips it'll tip big.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Convergence

Sat on a panel this evening in Seattle, hosted by WSA (Washington Software Association), discussing the topic of "convergence" . Sitting next to me was Chris Pirillo. I won't need caffeine for a few days!

I was pleased to hear Chris agree with me that the mobile phone is the ultimate convergence platform, though he did offer some pointed remarks about how the wireless operators are doing their best to prevent subscribers from having ready access to the wealth of digital content available on the planet. (Actually, Chris's comments were a few shades more pointed than my summary - he doesn't pull any punches)


Content creators, from the solo blogger/podcaster to the Hollywood-slick production houses, all want nothing more than to freely offer their stuff to mobile consumers. Wireless carriers need to rationalize their mobile data plans, and demolish the "walled garden" mindset that inhibits true convergence. Set my content free!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

60 Million podcast users in 5 years?

The Diffusion Group (TDG) projects 60 million podcast users in the US within 5 years (http://www.tdgresearch.com/press044.htm). Will all of these people be using an iPod to download/transport their podcasts? Steve Jobs would like us all to think so, but I'll hazard a bet that the most ubiquitous mobile computing device on the planet - the mobile phone - will be the dominant platform for downloading and sharing podcasts. By 2010, annual shipments of mobile phones will be well over 1 Billion, the overwhelming majority of which will have gigabytes of memory, persistent broadband connectivity to the Web (and Bluetooth connectivity to each other), powerful processors, etc. In short, a perfect marriage between device and creative content.

Podcasts Exclusively for the ROKR

Motorola is going to start doing music podcasts just for the ROKR. Hey, podcasts on a mobile phone...welcome to the party.

Unfortunately you can only get these podcasts by going through iTunes, then tethering your ROKR to your computer. Which begs the question of how this is unique or different than the experience you have with an iPod. The Moto quote says "[w]e feel like we're helping to shape the future of podcasting...." Not exactly. To shape the future you need to offer something unique, not another sideloading solution.

Will give Moto credit for helping drive the visibility of podcasting. That's a good thing and we're glad to have them on board. But they stop far short of offering a true mobile experience. Guess if you want that for your ROKR you're going to have to download Mobilcast.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mobilcast Available on RAZR, More Phones

In September Melodeo announced it would have a version of Mobilcast availalble for the Motorola RAZR and ROKR.

That software is ready for free download from our web site. But wait, there's more. The software runs on 5 more phones in addition to the RAZR and ROKR. That's 7 phones in all!

We are really excited about this because it means that more of you can download Mobilcast and start downloading and listening to podcasts using your mobile phone.

And we are going to keep cranking out updates that have been tested on more phones, so stay tuned because it's only a matter of time before we have a version for you phone.

Apple--Lots of Mouths to Feed

Read in yesterday's Seattle Times that the unions representing the screenwriters and such who create those TV shows Apple is selling on iTunes--"Lost" and Desperate Housewives"--are demanding they receive a cut of any money made selling the shows via iTunes. This is in addition to the studios, Apple, plus any other publishing fees.

And we thought there were a lot of mouths to feed in the music business.

Interesting precedent here. What if you sell a movie on iTunes? Do you have to pay everyone involved like you might with a studio release? How will it impact music videos? We'll be watching this one with some interest.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Big Media votes on podcasting

Acres of print this past week on major media companies and their embrace of podcasting - both online and mobile. Some might view this as unwelcome encroachment on the "people's new media" by corporate types. I find that for the most part they "get" the distinct flavor of podcasting vs broadcasting, and are producing pretty entertaining stuff; digital hors d'oeuvres that whet my appetite for more. Mobile is as different from the Web as a publishing medium as the Web is different from print; smart podcast creators that get this distinction will thrive. I've always enjoyed a well-crafted short story more than a ponderous 600-page novel, and look forward to hearing digital gems created for the mobile phone.

3G Comes to the US

The good folks at Cingular are rolling out their 3G network in selected US cities in November. Endgadget has some more details.

Great news for Mobilcast and mobile podcasting overall. Not only does Cingular have the largest US subscriber base, but also a number of phones that do and will run the Java version of Mobilcast. This means a much larger audinece, which is all good for the podcasters who are getting their stuff out there for phones. Add that Cingular seems to have a pretty good all you can eat data plan, meaning you can download all the podcasts you want without running up excessive charges.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Yahoo Making Podcasting Easier

Spent more time on the Yahoo podcast site this morning. They have a cool how to section that explains how to podcast in a way that takes the intimidation factor out. They even suggest topics. So while Apple is making it easy to find podcasts, Yahoo is making it easy to find and create them. Very smart.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Podcasts and Music, Continued

Ran across this article on TechWeb: http://www.techweb.com/wire/ebiz/172300219

Podcasts are a clear way around using the major labels for distribution. And the major labels know it, which is why we're starting to hear about their wanting to jump into the mix. Their challenge will be changing the way they think about the business. Distributing music via podcast is more like the original peer-to-peer approach--viral distribution--than any of the current models. The labels will need to acknowledge that and embrace it in order to take advantage of podcasting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Music and Podcasts

The intersection of music and podcasting continues to grow. The guys at Rabble just announced that a number of indies have jumped on board and begun to publish their music via podcast. Our friend Alex Williams of Podcast Hotel (www.podcasthotel.com) always tells us that music will be the big driver of podcasts. This seems to support his claim.

Read the Rabble announce at http://home.businesswire.com/portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20051010005701&newsLang=en

Yahoo Podcasts

Yahoo has started aggregating podcasts, ala iPodder and iTunes. They did a nice job on their site. But I have to wonder, with so many online aggregators now out there how will they differentiate themselves? iTunes will always appeal to the iPod crowd. But the others? I supposed usability will be a key differentiator. And I'm willing to bet that exclusive content and a subscription model aren't too far behind.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Advertising revenue for mobilcasting

The rise in advertising revenue on the internet (estimated at $358B for 2004, with a growth rate of 33% and rising) is due to (1) always on connectivity, which enables (2) paid search. These two things make it possible, pleasurable, and productive to use a computer as a substitute for the yellow pages. Of course, none of this would have happened without enough compelling content (Pamella Anderson, free music) to make it worthwhile for consumers to pay their monthly access fees.

With porn and free music taken off the table by the more controlled and less anonymous nature of cell phones, podcasts represent the first examples of content compelling enough to get people to open their wallets. Will it be enough? Don't know. Will the experience be pleasurable and productive? Not at first, but it will get better as bandwidth increases. The other pieces (data plans and search technology) are in place. There is huge potential upside for those who get in early and have sufficient longevity to weather the pack of imitators.

Clipcast, Part Deux

I can't get over the phrase "clipcast" to describe podcasts to mobile phones. A quick Google search reveals that clipcast is actually the name of Windows software used to link the clipboards of 2 or more workstations together. Doesn't feel very podcast or mobile centric. I think we stick with mobilcast.

Wall Street Journal on Podcasting

Today's WSJ has a page 1 article on podcasting. Our friend Nick Wingfield was one of the authors. Good article. Confirmed a few things we've been saying:

1. People are treating podcasts as radio on demand.
2. Big media companies and content providers are jumping on board like crazy
3. These same companies do see a business here, though they can't put their arms around the specific business model
4. Advertising it top of mind for most as a way to get revenue

Article also points out that some content providers are charging for premium content. No word on how this is going.

It's interesting to read that these media companies realize that podcasting will cannibalize their radio properties, but they consider the risk worth it because it's better to cannibalize than lose a listener entirely. I think of it a little differently, though. Rather than just protecting the current listener base podcasting should be about growing that base. Radio is bound by geography. Podcasting isn't. Mobilcasting extends the podcast reach beyond the desktop/PC. Once the media companies really get this (and some do) it becomes a very interesting world that benefits listeners and companies like ours.

I was also struck by the phrase "clipcasting" to describe the delivery of podcasts to mobile phones. Haven't heard that one before. Not a very descriptive phrase, and doesn't at all relate to the mobile device or space. Call me biased, but I think mobilcasting works better as a descripter.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mobilcasting Blog on Google Search

Got pat ourselves on the back for a second. Did a search on blogsearch.google.com for "podcasting+mobile". Got this back:

Related Blogs:
Mobile Podcasting - http://mobilcasting.blogspot.com/

This has been the week for discussions around whether there's money to be made from podcasting and, if so, how to do it. Couple press interviews, some discussions with other 3rd parties. Our view is that there is money there and there are a number of ways to make it, and a number of folks who will benefit. Lot of that has been blogged already so it's not worth repeating it all here. Key point is that there is a lot of energy from all sorts of people and companies around podcasting, and the realization that mobilcasting is a great way to extend a podcast's reach is becoming clear.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Welcome to Mobile Podcasting

Welcome to the Mobilcast blog. Mobile podcasting has the potential to be huge, and we figured it was time we had a blog dedicated to it. Look forward to sharing our thoughts and progress and hearing (seeing?) what others think.

At the risk of shameless self-promotion if you want to see a little more about Mobilcast you can see http://www.melodeo.com/mobilcast If you have a Nokia phone download the Mobilcast client and play with it (and send us feedback). It's free, other than carrier data charges.