Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Advertising - On Your iPod, In Podcasts

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article titled "Marketers Aim New Ads at Video iPod Users" (sorry, subscription required to access online). The premise that that the growth in video iPods and the increase in video downloads have changed advertising dynamics. Fans of shows like Lost and Desparate Housewives can download complete shows to their iPods without the ads. Advertisers and agencies hate this, and are looking for ways to insert ads into those videos. While there's nothing game changing in here, as a marketing guy I appreciate that there's an attempt to think about the an iPod oriented video differently.

Let's translate that to a podcast. Some of my favorite podcasts have advertising in them. CNN is sponsored by Verizon, who does a 7 second ad at the end of each podcast. All NPR podcasts are sponsored by Acura, and there's a 3-5 second notice of such up front. Chile's does a 5 second ad after each Onion podcast. The thing I find interesting is that the only difference between these ads and what I hear on the radio is length. Which makes me think that most ad agencies haven't decided that a podcast is a new medium.

Some agencies are trying to think differently. I have spoken with the folks at McCann Erickson a few times about podcasting and they are thinking hard about how to best leverage podcasts, and are willing to think about them as unique from radio.

Of course this begs the question of whether a podcast really is different than a radio program. I'd argue that the very on-demand nature of a podcast makes it different. Which means the listener's expectations are different. Which means the advertising may need to be different.

A podcast provides a golden opporunity for an advertiser to do specific targetting. Seems that the ad should be targetted as well. And I don't just mean the product or service being advertised. I mean the format of the ad as well - what's the tone, voice, message, etc?

It's been proven again and again that people who watch TV using Tivo skip the ads. I would expect nothing less from a podcast listener. But if you can make the ads highly relevant - product/service, tone, voice, message - I am willing to bet there'd be fewer ads skipped.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Less Geek and Better Content Fit

We all spend lots of time talking about the next cool technology that will possibly impact how audio content listening will evolve. We don't seem to spend much time talking about how content will need to evolve to fit with the listeners experience on different new listening devices. Technologists and major media companies have focused on the whole Podcasting area as a new way to get on-demand audio content to listeners, extend the current media brands and give a voice to bloggers.

The existing radio broadcasting industry has been struggling to chart a new course with downloadable media. The key issue facing broadcast radio is whether they just repurpose existing content or extend into new content and will that content need to change. While everyone agrees that the mobile phone could be the next really big audio content listening platform, it is far from a proven extended use of the phone.

As one of the first podcasters and now one of the marketing folks at Melodeo’s Mobilcast which delivers podcasts to mobile phone via an on phone software client, we are starting to see some data come out showing that the listener has a different need and expectation around content on the mobile phone. The current active tracking data is showing over 50% of the content requests through the phone are 5 minutes less and 40% of listeners are listening to content from 5 min. to 60 min. The median length is about 15 to 20 minutes. While we are making long and short form content available to listeners on the phone, it is moving towards shorter form content as the dominant content format. This has implications for the broadcast radio industry on the content production side and whether repurposing broadcast content on the mobile phone will be successful. We are already seeing NPR learn this lesson and only offer NPR podcasts at a length of 15 min. or less.

I do feel that 5 minutes or less on the mobile phone will extend longer into 20-30 minutes or less as the new mobile phones gain in Internet connection speed, storage memory, processor speed, audio playback quality and listening options like bluetooth.

The real issue continues to be content and what types of content will drive the growth of radio-like content on the mobile phone. Is it shorter form segments from Howard Stern or is it a guy like Robin Williams talking about underwater basket weaving. The other question is whether audio content on the mobile phone needs to be interactive and integrate listener conversations. These are the issues that we at Mobilcast are pondering.

Rob Greenlee

New Mobilcast Catalog

We just published a new Mobilcast catalog. Now, when we think of a catalog we're talking specifically about the metadata that lives on the phone, not the entirety of podcasts available to Mobilcast listeners.

Our goal for the new catalog was to simplify and shorten. We had been trying a number of catalog formats during the past couple months. What we found worked best was having a smaller number of more descriptive channels and having a couple channels where we could quickly highlight what's new ("New Today") and what's hot ("Best of Mobilcast"). We have also made a conscious effort to keep the catalog to podcasts that top out at 20 mins or less - shorter form is more phone friendly, and better fits the user profile for a mobile listener.

Again this doesn't mean listeners don't have access to longer form podcasts. You can still search the online catalog. And remember that once you play a podcast it's added to your favorites ("My Podcasts") so you can find it easily next time.

I shared the new catalog with a first time Mobilcast user yesterday. He thought it was easy to navigate, that the channel names all made sense, and he was pretty quickly able to find a couple pet podcasts using search. Single data point, but I think it'll be the trend.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Podcast Education

Quick commentary on Rob's post from yesterday. Assuming the majority of people don't know what a podcast is, it is our responsibility to educate them. This doesn't just mean telling them what a podcast is but really explaining the value. Emotional connection, topical nature, etc all come into this.

This is what thought leadership is about.

I appreciated Alan Reiter's commentary on the updated Mobilcast site in part because he's making this same point, but more subtley.

We are stepping this effort up.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Mobilcast vs. Podcast Defined

It has been almost a year and a half since Podcasting was invented and most on this planet are still trying to understand what it is. Major media, blogs and Podcasts all over the world have hyped the Podcasting phenomena for over a year now and understanding still has not reached the majority of people.

It is interesting that I am hearing less media hype now about Podcasting and all the research is starting to show that only 30% of iPod users have ever heard a podcast. This same research is showing that a majority of Podcasts are being heard today from the PC via places like Yahoo Podcasts, iTunes and from websites via streaming media players like WinAmp and Wimpy flash based players.

I use the term phenomena because it implies a paranormal level of attention. We are seeing that most people just have not gotten the message yet about what Podcasting is and how it was intended to work.

Here is the most recent definition of Podcasting that I have seen online at the Wikipedia:

Podcast (pôd’kăst )
n. 1. A digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player

This definition is really not much different then regular streaming media or direct downloading of a media file to your computer and then dropped on your portable media player.

The part of Podcasting that really sparked the imagination and hype from the major media and technology geeks was the automated process of using an RSS feed to make the delivery of an audio podcast media file directly to a portable media player. This process was automatic and without any effort on the part of the listener. The truth is that very few people actually use this process to listen to Podcasts. Most listen to Podcasts as it streams from Podcast blog sites and Podcast aggregators like iTunes and Yahoo Podcasts.

I believe that the future will keep getting brighter for Podcasting as a automated delivery process to iPods and other mp3 player devices, but feel that the much more significant piece of the Podcasting hype is about content. We have seen an explosion of new content online. This is the real significant area of growth that has happened. We all know that Podcasting has helped Steve Jobs sell more iPods.

Where does Mobilcast fit into this mix of opportunity. Well, let's look at my definition of a Mobilcast:

Mobilcast (mobil’kăst )
n. 1. A digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for streaming or downloading to a personal mobile phone with an audio player.

Mobilcast Optimized Audio Program is shorter in length (up to 10 minutes) then a typical Podcast. Has high value topic driven content that needs to address an immediate, personal, professional, emotional or timely need on the part of the mobile phone listener. Mobilcast has high production quality and is structured to get the listener engaged early in content the listener is highly interested in hearing.

I hope you see the difference in positioning of the thought around Mobilcast and the variation on Podcasting. I see the difference as not a rebranding of Podcasting, but as a refocusing on what the listener needs in content for a truly mobile audio listening device --the cell phone.

We all see the mobile phone as a audio device today and a Mobilcast is an optimized audio listening experience on an interactive audio device. The concept of interactive listening is an interesting clue as to our future vision. Wow, what a concept to have interactive audio Mobilcasts on an interactive audio device.

Have you Mobilcasted Today? Give it a try.

Rob Greenlee

My Recommendations

One of Mobilcast's coolest features is that the My Podcasts channel is dynamically updated when I listen to a podcast. The geeky term I've used is "dynamic favorites." It means I don't have to go through a bunch of steps on my phone to save a podcast I really liked. Just listen once and it's added to My Podcasts.

Now, the Mobilcast catalog has thousands of podcasts in it, and we make a couple hudred available on the phone catalog at any one time. Admittedly they aren't all great (kind of like online). Some are poor quality, some are too long. But there are a handful that are both useful and interesting and fun. Thought I'd share my recommendations:

CNN News Update - a 4 minute update from CNN that is updated multiple times a day so you can stay updated.

CBS News Wired Magazine - 1-2 minutes of technology news from Wired

NOAA Weather - this is a cool 1 minute or less update from NOAA. Right now it's just for Seattle, but we're working to gather a bunch more cities.

The Onion Radio News - 1 minute daily story from The Onion. What else needs to be said?

Croncast - Kris and Betsy do a fun podcast. It's a little long for regular mobile use, but I do listen to it at my desk weekly.

The Ricky Gervais Show - definitely too long for mobile, but it's so funny that it's worth it. I listen to it at my desk, sometimes walking around downtown.

There are others I check out, but these are on my regular playlist.

Oh, and I know I'm breaking blogging norms by not providing links to each one of these. But the point is for you to listen to them using Mobilcast, not your PC.

Broke My Blogging Rule

Realize I didn't write anything yesterday, breaking my blogging rule. Ugh....

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Winning the Market

No, this isn't an attempt to be boastful. It's far to early to tell who's winning the mobile podcasting market.

Rather, I want to comment on Yahoo's comment about settling for maintaining search market share as opposed to trying to win the market. My question is simple - why settle? Sure Jack Welch says you need to be #1 or 2 in a market your get out. But I'm sure he didn't mean that #2 should stop trying to be #1.

Steve Rubel makes an excellent point when he says that Yahoo is not longer interested in being best of breed.

To my mind pushing to be #1 in market means you listen to customers, you innovate, you make your product better every release. You interpret "good enough" as "good enough right now, but for long." You don't settle for second best because your customers won't settle for second best.

I'm surprised any company would settle for being an also ran.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Nokia 6620 & Bluetooth Headset

One of the phones I use for Mobilcast is a Nokia 6620. Good phone. Great resolution on the Mobilcast catalog, processor is fast enough so that I can search quickly through large amounts of info, and the sound quality is good to boot. The only issue is the headset. It's darn near impossible to find a stereo headset with the proprietary Nokia headset jack. So I was listening to Mobilcast using the exterior speaker on the phone.

Until today.

I discovered that I can listen to Mobilcast through my bluetooth headset. Now, it's not stereo when I do that but it's sure easier to hear in the car and it's less intrusive when I'm in my office (in other words not everyone is forced to listen to my choices of mobilcast).

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Update to mobilcast.com

We're update mobilcast.com, giving it a cleaner look and providing a better download experience for customers. Look forward to your feedback.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Joint Venture in China

It's not a Mobilcast deal, but certainly worth mentioning.

Melodeo has gotten together with ACCESS China to form a joint venture in China. The JV will deploy the first secure mobile network for digital content in China. This is a huge opportunity for us. The 2 largest carriers in China represent 350m users. Each one is accustomed to using their mobile phone as a computer - it's the primary device for communicating, accessing the web, downloading data.

The music labels are also excited about this. As one of the major labels told us recently "we have huge distribution in China. We just don't get paid for it." Because the platform will use our MobilDRM we can limit piracy by ensuring the secure transfer of music over the wireless network and between phones.

As to the JV itself, Melodeo is contributing technology in the form of our client/server platform, MobilDRM, and PowerSearch. ACCESS is also contributing client technology, development resources, and contacts in country. It's a win/win for both.

This is a first for mobile in China. It's great to be part of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Music and Podcasting

Had lunch yesterday with Ben London, exec director of The Recording Academy in the Pacific Northwest. Don't know what The Recording Academy is? They are the group that produces The Grammy Awards. Besides the Grammys they do a lot of outreach with local artists and schools, promote music, etc.

Ben and I had a lengthy discussion about music and podcasting. We were fixated on a couple themes. First, how can podcasting help independent bands distribute their music and "get discovered." Second, how does one ensure that podcasts don't lead to pirated music. Needless to say both are topics that are starting to get more attention as the intersection between music and podcasting becomes more pronounced.

To the first point, podcasts are becoming a leading method for independent bands to distribute music and get noticed. Events like Podcast Hotel are dedicated to this effort. One of the things Ben told me is that the Recording Academy is looking hard at how they can bring their influence to bear on this topic. While it feels like a bit of an oxymoron to have an industry player behind a fiercely independent music push, I think this is what it's going to take to drive independent music and the convergence with podcasting. Remember that lots of these bands don't have the resources to get into podcasting.

Podcasting and music piracy is a thornier issue. There's no question that there is pirated music in podcasts today. I posted on DRM and podcasts last week. Currently the major labels are choosing to look the other way in many cases for a couple reasons. First, the music is mostly in the background. Second, the quality isn't good enough to prompt someone to pirate it. But that's going to change, and when it does the labels are going to get involved. I think an umbrella organization like the Recording Academy can help get ahead of this issue by developing a position on what podasters need to do in order to be sure the music they use is legal, and by working the labels to take a stand that is different from the hardnosed, all or nothing position they have today. Personally I believe an artist should be paid for their work, but would hate to see the same narrow-minded approach that the labels use in the current online world continue.

Have no doubt - music and podcasting is converging and I think that's a very cool thing. I'm happy to be part of it. I hope we've all learned something from the mistakes and missteps that we've seen these past few years to get it right this time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Product Update

Well, not really an update. But I did just come from the product meeting and I'm really excited about the next release. I just can't tell anyone why...yet...but soon....

3GSM in Barcelona

We're well into our planning for 3 GSM World Congress in Barcelona in February. I sent mail to a bunch of press folks today to start setting up meetings. We're hoping to be part of the Intel booth, where we will show Mobilcast.

Don Davidge, our Sr VP of Sales, and Lars Nielsen, Director of Business Development, will be there for the show. If you're going to be there and want to meet with one or both to talk about Mobilcast or Melodeo in general let us know.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Securing Podcasts

Melodeo has a product called MobilDRM. It's the first DRM designed specifically for mobile phones that protects content whether downloaded or acquired via subscription. The major music labels have all endorsed it. Verisign has licensed it. Macrovision formed a partnership with us around it.

Recently someone asked if we can apply it to podcasts. Sure, we can apply it to nearly any form of digital content downloaded to a phone. But this begs the question of whether podcasts should be DRM protected, and if so in what scenarios.

I realize this topic is going to upset a few people. Afterall there are those who believe that DRM is the evil and anyone who wraps their content with DRM is the spawn of the devil. The simple fact, though, is that people do have the right to protect their content if they choose. But this has not been the case in the podcasting world. In fact the beauty of a podcast is that it's freely available to any and all who want to listen to it. That's the entire point. Why would anyone want to restrict listeners?

Have you noticed how many record labels have podcasts today? And in those podcasts they will play entire songs? Then stop to think how concerned-ok, obsessed-about piracy the labels are? Doesn't it make sense, then, that at some point they will want to start applying DRM to their podcast?

Or what about the guys who decide that their podcasts are only available via subscription? I know of at least 2 mass media companies that want to offer premium podcasts. One sure way to ensure these podcasts go only to subscribers is to use DRM.

I'm not trying to suggest this needs to happen. But I know it is going to happen. And I know people are going to cry foul and revile anyone who applies DRM to their podcast. But ultimately the desire to "protect what's mine" is going to win out. At least for some part of the podcasts available, or soon to be.

Tags DRM security podcast

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hey Sprint - How About Using Some Common Sense

File this under social commentary, something I try not to do much of on this blog (I tend to use my personal blog for that, and note that my person al blog does not reflect the views of Melodeo). But this one strikes a chord with me.

Seems that Sprint refused to use the GPS functionality of a phone that was in a stolen car with a baby inside to locate the car. You can read the story and see a video snippet here. Now I completely understand Sprint's concern about people abusing the GPS capabilities. But this was clearly not the case here. Let's be very clear - THERE_WAS_A_BABY_IN_THE_STOLEN_CAR.

Sprint, you could have located the car and helped save the baby. But you stood by the rules, wellfare of a child be damned.

The reason this has me so bothered is that there was a child involved. To be clear, if the victims just wanted their car found I'd say "hey, rules are rules." But I think the rules on different when kids are taken against their will. I hope Sprint and the other carriers who have an ability to track phones and use the info to find people who abduct children figure this out.

Welcome MobileCrunch

Welcome MobileCrunch. This is TechCrunch's cousin. Will be good to have another good blog dedicated to the mobile space and the folks doing great things there.

Tags TechCrunch MobileCrunch mobile

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Old Time Radio Podcasts

Was exploring the Mobilcast catalog today and found an old time radio show - The Great Gildersleeve. I've been a fan of old time radio for years - Jack Benny, Fred Allen, The Shadow....Was fun to listen to one on my phone today.

Defining Podcast

Over at mobilepodcast.org there's a post called What Does Podcast Stand For. Apparently this could become a debate. Creative Labs has a definition, and it sounds like the Apple fan club is fighting against it.

My question is who cares?

Do we need a definition? I think we all have better things to do, including making it even easier to bring podcasts to listeners, and get caught up in a war of words. It smacks of pettiness and ego.

Tags podcast Apple Creative Labs

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Still Raining....Podcasts

Today is something like the 25th straight day of rain in Seattle. We're on pace to break the 33 straight day record set in 1953. Some records were not made to be broken.

Yesterday a group of us walked, in the rain, to one of our VC's offices to give our yearly update to their management group. We showed some stats to reflect the insane growth of podcasts. Did you know that:

In 2004 approximately 500k people downloaded a podcast. In 2005 that number went to 6m. And in 2008 it's forecast to be 45m. Oh yeah, that US only.

In 2005 there were approximately 375m podcasts downloaded. In 2008 that number will be approach 5b.

A Google search for "podcast" in 2004 got you 24 hits. Today it gets you 77.6m.

That's crazy growth. And nobody can say it's really going to continue. In fact it may reach equilibrium sooner rather than later. But today, right now, podcasting is growing like crazy and all of us who have caught the wave are having the rides of our lives.

That's so very cool.

Monday, January 09, 2006

TechCrunch - Words to Live By

Michael Arrington has a great post regarding betas. I recommend it to anyone who is approaching or in the beta process.

Tags TechCrunch betas

Daily Use

This weekend I was talking with another former MSFTy about "the good old days." He asked me when I was happiest in Redmond, and I said it was when I was working on Exchange. Sure I had fun working on SQL, but I related to Exchange. I was passionate about it, and I came to work every day focused on winning in that business. It got me thinking about why the Exchange experience was so different for me.

The answer became clear - because I used Exchange every day. As I said about I related to it because I was a customer as well as a part of the business. This led to an a-ha moment for me. I am more effective, and happier, when I am working on a product I use every day.

Now, how does this relate to Mobilcast? Easy. I use it every day.

When we first started to think about Mobilcast I admit I thought it was a distraction. We have a platform that we can license to companies on which they can build their own mobile media delivery products. It felt like a good business, and I was one of those saying we should go hard after that and not spend much time on this mobilcasting thing. Fortunately I was out voted.

After we made the decision I decided to get deeper into the blogasphere and podcasting (they are afterall tightly linked). It didn't take long for me to get hooked. I started sampling all kinds of podcasts. I started reading blogs and blogging myself. And I realized that what people were saying was true - this is an evolution of a way we communicate and it's going to be big.

Once we had Mobilcast up and running I did what any good product guy does and I started using it daily to listen to my podcasts. And again I was hooked. I'm one of those guys who forgets to synch his iPod to his PC regularly. And I'm not always able to listen to Podcasts on my PC. My phone is always with me, making it a useful tool for listening. And the more I listen the more addicted to mobilcasting I become.

I try not to over-analyze a good thing, so I never did spend a lot of time thinking about why I have this fire in the belly about Mobilcast. But my buddy's question did cause me to think. And once I did the answer was clear.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Creative Zen Highjacking Podcasts?

This story from Podcasting News. Apparently the new Creative Zen podcasting site Zencast changes the URL on any feed it serves up. Rob's normal feed for Webtalkradio is http://www.webtalkradio.com/rss2gen.xml. Zencast modifies it to be http://zencast.com/channels/showchannel.asp?cid=2667.

Now, is this podcast highjacking? I don't know because I think about highjacking as changing the feed, claiming it as your own, and extorting money or something. Zencast doesn't appear to be doing that. Looks like sloppy implementation to me.

UPDATE:

Rob just called me from CES to say that apparently Zencast has already addressed the issue. Hats off to them for jumping on this so quickly.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

CES

Rob is at CES today and tomorrow. Attending a VIP dinner tonight. Then he'll be walking the floor trying to catch up with our friends. Friday he flies to North Carolina for PodcasterCon. Lots of cool non-conference types of events coming up. We'll be at a bunch of them. Looking forward to it.

Tags CES Podcastercon

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Motorola iRadio

Motorola has unveiled iRadio. It's touted as being a Sirius or XM competitor. Reading the article this lined jumped out:

iRadio will let users download channels on the computer and transfer them to play on their phones or on car or home stereos, like satellite radio.

Um...that's not at all like satellite radio. Radio doesn't require going through a PC. But because Moto is using the ROKR as it's primary iRadio phone they have no choice. Personally I don't see myself sifting through 435 channels using the Moto UI, downloading my choices to a PC, then tethering my phone.

Why does this supposedly leading edge mobile phone company continue to ignore the mobile part of the equation?

Oh, and with Mobilcast I have access to more than 400 stations, we call them podcasts, and I can download directly to my phone. Over the air. The way a phone was designed to be used.

Tags Motorola Sirius XM satellite radio

Building a Great Web Site

We're hard a work updating our web site. Once we get it posted I think you'll like what you'll see.

The act of getting it revised, though, has been much harder than it should be. The key bone of contention is internal and I won't bore folks with the details. But it highlights a question, specifically who is the web site for? My contention is that the web site exists only for Mobilcast customers and potential customers. That being the case we owe it to our customers to build a great, easy to navigate, site that makes it simple to get and use the product. To do that you need to actually TALK with the people for whom you are developing the site.

Herein lies the rub - we have a bunch of guys who are out building a site without any customer input. Now these are some smart guys with great ideas. But they are inward focused. They think about customers, but they don't TALK with customers. As a result they are missing things, and I worry that this will translate to the site.

Part of my job as product marketing is to make sure we do right by customers, and to do that I am supposed to represent the customer view. I've been talking with customers and I think I'm developing a sense of what they want. It's not too far off what our dev team is building, but there are gaps. Bridging them is far harder than it should be.

So I'm turning this over to you. I'll blog when we post the new site. Have a look, then send us feedback: mobilcast@melodeo.com.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Maestro Podcasts

Check out Maestro Bill Valenti's podcast. Here's the link to the feed. It's his first podcast, hopefully the first of many to come. We'll have it in the Mobilcast catalog by end of day.

Tags maestro podcast podcasting Mobilcast mobile podcasting

When is Podcasting Mainstream?

When it makes it into Bon Appetit, or course. They call it Gastro Casting. The Seattle PI's Hsio-Ching Chao, reMARKable Palate, and Baking with the Bard (no link, but you can find it on iTunes) are all called out.

Tags podcast podcasting food cooking

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy New Year

We're back after a nice, though too short, new year's break. Other than being in the office instead of parked in front a a TV watching Ohio State whoop up on Notre Dame (sorry Jim) the year is off to a pretty good start.

Spent all morning in a planning meeting. Not that I like spending the morning in a meeting, but it's clear that our priorities are in order and we'll be firing all our guns at the right targets. The highest priority is to improve the user experience. We'll be putting a lot more energy behind improving the web site, the download experience, and the usage of the app. Plus a few surprises so stay tuned.