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.