Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"What Could Go Wrong With Podcasting"

Interesting column on DMNews poses this question. The author, Frank Salerno of River Communications in NJ, hits a couple salient points that are worth repeating.

First, you don't need an iPod to listen to podcasts. In fact, the majority of iPod owners haven't downloaded a podcast, and the majority of podcast listeners do so on a PC. It's the PC centric nature of podcast listening that creates challenges for Mobilcast as well, because we are trying to break a listener's habit. It's hard work.

Second, a number of podcasts are long form. But the audience is oriented around short form content, specifically 3-5 minute songs. Salerno makes vague reference to the MTV Generation, those with short attention spans and no patience for story or plot development. This is where Mobilcast gets it right. The very nature of mobile phone usage makes long form podcasts hard to listen to. So we orient around short form, and via Mobilcast Studio try to get our content affiliates to do the same. Interestingly about 90% of mobilcasts downloaded are 10 minutes or less in length. Perfect for the short attention span in addition to the mobile phone user.

The challenge that is ignored in the article, however, is general awarness of what a podcast is in general. More on that in another post.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Vertical Data Plans

Mobilcast Maestro Bill Valenti just asked the Podcast Hotel audience whether they'd be willing to pay something like $5 per month just for podcasts. Resounding yes. Confirming that the approach Rogers has taken, and others seem to want to take, is the right one.

Podcasts Driving iPod Sales?

One of the guys on stage here at Podcast Hotel just claimed that the growth of podcasts, brought on by the availability and simplicity of podcast creation tools, is driving iPod sales.

I agree that the tools are getting better and this is leading to the creation of more podcasts. But I can't get behind the assertion that increasing podcasts are driving iPod sales. Couple reasons:

1. Most podcast listeners don't synch podcasts to their iPods. They listen on their PCs.
2. Podcasts are not the most downloaded content on iTunes.
3. iPod sales increases track to the release of new devices and price drops.

Greetings from Podcast Hotel

People are just starting to trickle in to Podcast Hotel. Late night party does not lend itself to ontime arrival, even with a 10 am start.

On my way here this morning I kept asking myself a question - is podcasting ahead of its time? I don't mean technically speaking, but in terms of user awareness and acceptance. Events like this help drive awareness among ourselves. Not clear how we get the masses to really get it. Maybe some good ideas will come out of today.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

1,000,000 Minutes of Podcasts

Today we passed our 1,000,000th minute of podcasts in the Mobilcast catalog. Since our podcasts come from user requests or content deals that's a big accomplishment. I'd argue it put our catalog on par with any of the major online aggregators.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Paidcontent.org Seattle Mixer Tonight

Rob and I are heading to the Paidcontent.org Seattle mixer tonight. Looking forward to meeting up with some of the folks whose blogs I've been reading, talking with them about the state of the world...maybe showing a little Mobilcast.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Eric Rice Comes a-Callin'

Eric Rice came to hang with us for a while this morning. He's speaking Friday at Podcast Hotel. We had a far ranging conversation that ranged from social podcasting and audio blogging in Mobilcast to Second Life.

The latter was particularly interesting. The big takeaway - It's the content, stupid.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Podcast Hotel Next Week

Podcast Hotel is next week in Seattle. A press release hit the wire today with some additional details.

Melodeo is a sponsor. We'll be there. It'll be very cool.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Olympic Alerts

I love my Olympic alerts. Not the podcasts, but the ability to get an SMS telling me that my updates have been...updated.

It works like this - I go to Mobilcast and sign up to get an alert for one, two, or all of the Olympic podcasts. When they are updated I get an SMS in my phone inbox with a link to the podcast. Click, it starts to play.

It's simple. It's cool. And it's fast.

Mobile Podcasting

This post from marketing consultancy Room214 caught my eye. Further commentary on the expansion of podcasting from the PC to the mobile.

And yes, we are the company they spoke with the other day. I supposed that makes me biased towards their point of view.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Nokia Java App Settings

One of my phones is a Nokia 6620. Great phone, but it was experiencing some strangeness with Mobilcast. Specifically every time the app made a call to the server I was asked to OK the connection. It was driving me nuts because I had to select OK every couple of minutes during a podcast.

I mentioned this to one of the program managers here who told me that all I needed to do to fix this is change the Java app settings for Mobilcast. I thought I had done that before, and it turns out I had. But it was on an earlier instance of Mobilcast and when I downloaded the latest client the defaults all kicked in.

So, for those of you with Nokia phones here's how to change the settings:

From the main menu go into Tools, then Manager
Highlight Mobilcast
Select Options, then Settings
Select Network Access, then Options, then Change. Select Ask first time.
Repeat this step for App auto-start, Connectivity, and Multimedia.

If you don't have the option of Ask first time on one of the settings it's because the Java implementation on the phone doesn't allow it. We haven't seen that for these settings, but you never know.

Good luck and happy Mobilcasting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What the brrreeeport?

You read that right. If you really want to know, ask Scoble.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Yahoo & Motorola Team for Mobile Podcasting

Today Yahoo and Motorola announced that they are doing mobile podcasts on a RAZR.

I love this. Any time a couple big players enter your space it validates the market.

The announcement is vague on details so I'll withold judgement until I see what they are doing. But as a guy who loves to compete this is a great thing.

Olympic Alerts Without the Tape Delay

I spent the weekend following the Olympics. In my house the halfpipe is a huge event and my boys were asking throughout the day when they could see Shaun White win the gold, and Danny Kass win the silver (my oldest is a big Kass fan).

Now ask yourself "how did they know that Shaun and Danny were medal winners?". The power of the Internet of course. They went out to the web and looked up who won the halfpipe about 8 hours before TV here in the US showed the event.

TV is a great medium for watching the action of the Games. But it stinks for staying up to date as the events are happening. If you are relying on TV for your Olympic updates you're out of touch.

This is the benefit of using Mobilcast to stay up to date. The collection of Olympic updates we have are ideal for the phone. They are no more than 7 minutes a piece. They are updated regularly. Perfect for playing while walking to the car, waiting between meetings, listening in the coffee line or at lunch, sitting on the bus...you get the picture. I listened to 4 of them during my drive in to work this morning.

I get asked a lot why I'd want to listen to a podcast on my phone. The Olympics prove why it's a good thing. I can stay up to date on a topic I'm passionate about, when I want to be updated.

Without being held hostage by the whims of TV execs who are thinking about ratings.

Check it out.

Friday, February 10, 2006

"Can MTV Stay Cool?"

BusinessWeek cover story for this week asks this question. The article is all about how MTV is trying to stay relevant in a changing world and to a core audience with changing tastes. Particularly interesting read as we continue to question what will have the most relevance to our Mobilcast listeners, both in today's early adopter phase and as we move forward into broader acceptance and use.

We're Going to the Olympics

Mobilcast is going to the Winter Olympics. Starting today you can get Olympic Updates using Mobilcast. We're created a new channel and put it at the top of the directory to make it easy for fans of the Games to find. Included will be a daily medal count as well as updates from some world-famous content providers.

One of the parners we're working with is Fan590, Toronto's #1 sports station. Fan590 is doing a couple podcasts, and the one I am most excited about is the "Road to Turin Update", a short podcast done by announcer Howard Berger from Torino at least 3 times a day. Those start tomorrow.

I'm really excited about these podcasts - from a business point of view I think it's great to be providing such topical content to listeners. From a personal perspective, I'm a huge fan of the Winter Olympics.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Corporate Blogging in The Economist

The Economist ran an interesting article about corporate blogging. If you needed any more proof that blogging is hitting the mainstream, this is it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Introducting Mobilcast Beta 3

Today we announced the availabilit of Mobilcast beta 3. This is a very cool release with a number of feature improvements. I've pasted the list as it appears in the market update.

Player memory – If a listener has to quit a podcast before a podcast finished Mobilcast now remembers where she left off and starts from that point.

Add to/remove from favorites – Mobilcast allows listeners to add or remove a podcast to their favorites folder.

New player controls – Listeners can control player volume, fast forward, rewind, pause, and skip to the next podcast using the phone’s keypad.

Listen all – Selecting listen all from within the New Today folder allows a listener to hear all of the day’s new podcasts in one download, rather than asking the listener to download one podcast at a time.

New catalog design – We have redesigned the Mobilcast catalog by reducing the number of channels and surfacing the most interesting and popular content, making it easier for a listener to find what they want. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the catalog you can search for it on the Mobilcast server. New folders include:

New Today, containing the latest updates.

Best of Mobilcast, where listeners will find Mobilcast’s most popular podcasts.

Recently Played, keeps the podcasts played most recently in one place so they can be easily played again.

Share – If you like Mobilcast, share it with a friend via text message.

We're proud of this release. Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

SLVR - Same Poor UI in a Cool Package

I had a chance to play with a Motorola SLVR today. If you haven't heard of or seen this phone yet it's the new iTunes phone offered by Cingular. It's a candybar style phone that incorporates the RAZR keypad. Unfortunately it also incorporates the RAZR UI. But I'll get to that in a minute.

The form factor is great. Slim, lightweight, fits nicely in a pocket. Screen is nice and big, and resolution is good enough. Sound quality is nice - I played a couple tunes and streamed a Mobilcast or two through it and with the ear buds it was about as good as my iPod. I made a phone call and it was just fine as well on both ends.

The iTunes interface is identical to the ROKR. Not nearly as good as an iPod, but clean enough to be useful.

The rest of the UI, however, is close to unusable. When on the main screen of a RAZR, when you hit the toggle you get the 4 most recently used folders. The stay on the screen for a couple seconds and you select the one you want. With the SLVR you hit the toggle and are taken immediately to a folder. It felt like dealer's choice. I wanted to get to games and apps, but kept ending up in settings. It was frustrating.

My pet peeve on a Motorola phone is the contact list, which doesn't function like any reasonable user would expect. Most of my contacts have 2-3 numbers associated with them. I can put all those numbers into a single contact and select the one I want to dial. With a SLVR I have to have a separate instance of the contact for each number. Which means I can have fewer contacts than in any of my other phones.

I also had a hard time finding the games and apps folder from the main menu. It was buried two levels down, maybe because they want iTunes to be the only app at the top level. Because Mobilcast installs to games and apps, though, I have a selfish interest in having that folder at the top level.

Oh, and in case it wasn't clear enough Mobilcast seems to run OK on the SLVR. I caveat that by saying that I did not run it through the full test matrix. But I was able to download the app and stream a couple podcasts. We will run a full text matrix soon.

The bottom line - if you want a sexy phone that plays music this would be a good tool. If you're looking for a more useful device that you can use as a business phone, you'd be better off with other options.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The New World

The only improvement I'd make to this picture would be to replace the iPod with a cell phone.

Mobilcast & Podcasters

Saw an interesting entry on the Pacific Canada IT blog today. What caught my eye was this sentence

Imagine if you are NOT on Melodeo's list of providers? You are out of the loop!

I appreciate the statement.

I know it'll be a while before anyone has that kind of influence in the podcasting market. But take our name out and the sentence means something a little different. If you are a podcaster and you aren't thinking about your mobile play you will likely end out out of the loop. Too bold a claim? Not if you consider the following:

  • There are 800m mobile phones in market today. While growth has slowed it's the law of large numbers, not a general topping out of the market. In fact, China is reportedly adding 45m new users this year. You can't ignore the fact that a podcast to a mobile phone has the potential to reach more users than a podcast that just goes to a PC.
  • As the number of podcast listeners grows, the number of listeners who spend the majority of their time at their PC will decline. Reaching these listeners means eliminating the PC middleman, which only a mobile phone can do.
  • We're seeing growth in the number of podcasts that update daily, if not multiple times a day. The only way to keep up, assuming you aren't at your PC all the time, is to have a solution that lets you get to your podcasts as they are updated. Again, that device is the one you have with you all the time and that does not require a direct network connection - your phone.
If you're a podcaster it will be in your best interest to develop a mobile strategy. Think about what it means to have a mobile-oriented podcast, then go out and create and deliver it. It'll pay off, I promise.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Motorola RAZR v3i

One of the perks of working in a mobile company is playing with new toys. A couple weeks ago we got a new Motorola RAZR v3i. I finally wrested it away from development and got to play with it the last couple days. Mostly listened to Mobilcast, but place a couple calls and tried to use it like I use my phone regularly.

It's a nicer phone than the original RAZR v3. Processor is a little faster. It comes with a removeable 512MB transflash card. It's supposed to have the iTunes software found in the ROKR but it doesn't appear to be on this particular phone. Or I can't find it.

Mobilcast runs well on this phone. Speaker quality in fact is a little better than the original RAZR. I didn't go through the install process because the app was already on the phone when I grabbed it, but the devs tell me it was as straightforward as on the original.

On the downside, it still has that horrible Motorola UI. In fact it may be that the iTunes app is there but the UI is so hard to navigate that I just can't find it.

The phone book still can't handle multiple numbers per person. I tried to copy my entire contact list from my Sony Ericsson z520a over to the v3x via Bluetooth, which worked well at first but errored out with a "not enough memory" error. I found out that it was trying to copy the contact list to the sim card, which is a default I couldn't figure out how to change. You can't synch contacts with your PC without paying $30 for an app. Note that Nokia and Sony Ericsson give this same software away for free.

The RAZR v3i is an improvement over the RAZR v3. If you're looking for a RAZR type form factor and haven't bought a RAZR yet I'd hold out for this one. And if you're looking for a slim form factor that offers a great Mobilcast experience I'd pick one up. You can find a better UI for contacts and calendars out there, but if that's not a key consideration go get this phone.

Podcasting Guidelines

One of the guys in the office found these guidelines and passed them around. Some good stuff in here.

For Mobilcast I'd add keep it short, direct, and to the point. Having a topic that can updated regularly and frequently is a bonus.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Rogers Wireless is First North American Carrier to Offer Mobilcast

Today Melodeo and Rogers Wireless in Canada announced the availability of North America's first carrier-sponsored mobile podcast service. The Rogers Podcast Service is powered by Mobilcast. We've been offering a beta version of Mobilcast directly to customers for a few months. Rogers becomes the first carrier in North America to offer the service directly to their customers.

This is significant for a couple reasons. First, it validates the market for mobile podcasting. Second, it will help bring Mobilcast to more people more quickly. This in turn means more exposure for the podcasters who have their content in the service. And most importantly it demonstrates that there is customer demand for mobile podcasts.

The Rogers Podcast Service is available exclusively to Rogers customers. There is a monthly subscripion fee of $5 Canadian. There's a a page further describing the service on the Rogers web site.

The press release is on mobilcast.com.

Oh, and for you non-Canadian customers out there you can still get Mobilcast. Just go to mobilcast.com, download the client to your phone, make sure you have a data plan, and you're good to go.