Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ideal Podcast Show Length: Short vs. Long?

I do not believe that length is a big issue at all, but is something that needs to be considered and thought about. Each podcaster needs to determine what his or her goals are for the show - overall format and depth of details covered in the recording will determine the length. You will find that half of your audience will want a short show and the other half will want a long show. So you cannot meet everyones desires.

Make the show length want you think is right for you and consider the value the audience is getting from the show based on the topic focus and segments. Do be concise, but have fun and give some of your personality over time as that creates a deeper personal connection with the audience. Over time this will create a friendship like relationship with your audience that will lead to the acceptance of longer shows. The comfort level you build over time will tend to cause your shows to get longer naturally anyway, unless you are rigid about it.

Always ask for audience participation and talk about emails or tweets they send you. Always think about what value you are offering and is it fun conversation, news or useful tips. All of these have various degrees of value based are your knowedge and talents. Most of all make a show that won't burn you out to do every week as it is common for podcasters to start a new show and podfade after 6-10 episodes then stop.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

What is Zune? So Misunderstood by Journalists

I keep hearing journalists write about Zune all the time and say that it is DEAD (see this example article in PC World). It is very frustrating because they are factually wrong as many writer or journalists don't know much about the things they write about these days.

Zune is far from dead as it is becoming THE entertainment platform for all of Microsoft properties (except for MSN). It is in Xbox, Win Phone 7, KIN phones, Win 7 Media Center, Win 7 PC Zune Marketplace media player software and now United Airlines. This fact should be obvious to anyone who is paying attention to the online media space, but many journalist now are lazy and don't do proper research before writing a story.

Many in the media just refer to Zune in connection to just the Zune media player hardware devices and it is so much more than that today.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Present and Future of Podcasting

Podcasting is becoming mature after almost 7 years now and it is starting to be taken for granted - not unlike broadcast radio or TV. It is interesting as awareness of podcasts still have not quite reached half of the online user base, yet podcasting still feels mature in many ways. I also know that it is clearly early days for podcasting and it needs to evolve.

The days of podcasting hype in the media are clearly over. It must be the fact that it is not as new now and online social media activities are dominating the attention cycles now. I have been working on platform distribution (Melodeo Mobilcast and Microsoft Zune) of podcast media content for almost 5 years. It is amazing that I have been able to build a 5 year professional career on podcasting. I am continuing to see podcast content growth and much podfading as well. Podfading is a common life-span issue as many podcasts start and then slowly or abruptly stop producing new episodes or just shut down entirely. Yet, the new ones contine to come in to fill those faded.

It is unclear about the growth in audience for podcasts in the absence of significant online and traditional media buzz. We still seem to have much confusion about what a podcast is still with a large portion of the online population. I believe that one significant trend that is hindering the growth of podcasting is the resurgence of online media streaming via content provider website or apps and the difficulty of getting easy access. I think that podcasts have matured on the distribution side and have leveled off. The reason for this leveling off is because new people are just not hearing about podcasts as much and the medium has already reached those that own a portable media player and have an interest in consuming audio and video content from an RSS feed. Sure, we are coming into a time when new smart phones have the ability to obtain and playback podcasts right on the handsets. This is a still rather undeveloped area, but will be getting better over the next few years. The new Windows Phone 7 devices will support Zune podcasts as part of the core mobile OS.

Yet, the future growth lies in two new areas. One is for video podcasts and that is reaching the large TV screen in the home. For video podcasts, the key to continued growth for many years to come is free and paid subscriptions that enable automatic notification of either the download of new episodes and or the availability to stream a new video episode to any device that plays video. I think requested TV and video podcast episodes should appear grouped together in my media listing on any service. Getting to my content should be as easy as going to a single page listing of all my DVR recordings in the old paradigm. This blending of DVR recordings is not unlike a possible list of subscribed and downloaded video podcasts that come in daily or weekly. These just show up in a list with my DVR recordings all on the same screen/page to offer an easy to find my media experience.

The other key growth area for podcasts is around the often forgotten area of audio podcasts, which I believe is still a very large part of podcasting and is at root where the majority of the content is today. Audio podcasts need to be easily available in the most obvious and heavily audio usage area and that is the car. Today, getting audio podcasts to play in the car is not that hard, but is a pain to do. I also think with the dangers of handling gadgets while driving, the opportunity to better integrate podcasts access, download and playback into car audio systems is key. This is another cloud-based opportunity and one that could be setup outside of the car and then the car just gets the content and plays it via 3G, 4G, LTE or even WIFI at the home.

Many still think that the name podcast is a bad and must be changed, but I think it is way past the point that it makes any sense to change the name. Far too many people know it as podcasting and we cannot go back now. The key is to evolve the platform and take the technical aspects out of the mix and get the great content easily available in the places and on the devices that makes it the easiest to find, get and consume. I think podcasting is on that track as video podcasts are part of Windows 7 Media Center and Zune podcasts on the new Windows Phone 7 and KIN devices will easily connect to car entertainment systems. Clearly, we are on the track to connecting with podcast users in better ways, but we have a ways to go in the car to make a better system for podcasts.

One last thought, we may also see audio and video podcasts being more blended in with regular download TV and Movie store experiences. This could blend the two worlds together as one day these all could just be called Video and Audio again and not really have to use special terms like podcasts to describe them. Thanks for reading.

I will soon post my thoughts on podcast monetization opportunities and issues.

Rob Greenlee

*This is not an official Microsoft statement or position, but my own personal thoughts.