New Media Expo’s Middle Year

Last week’s New Media Expo was, to a large degree, what I expected it to be. Frankly, I had hoped that my original expectations would be proven wrong, because I like attending this event, and I think its focus on the podcasting aspect of new media (despite the more inclusive name) is a valuable concentration for those who are more interested in making and producing audio and video than they are in finding new ways to market themselves in 140 characters.

Despite assurances to the contrary, it has seemed to me since the announcement that NME would move from the isolated Ontario California to the bright lights of Vegas, that the change would not produce the kind of cred the show needed in order to grow. I think I wrote at the time that a move was inevitable, and a good idea, but that I questioned Vegas as the next step in NME’s evolution. The basis for that conclusion, borne out by the 2008 show, was that a city like Vegas, with its myriad distractions, and a venue like the Las Vegas Convention Center/Hilton, with its cavernous spaces, could not hope to support the networking and community aspects of NME that most repeat attendees prize.

In my blog drafts folder is an unfinished post about the NME conference program. In it, I suggest that despite the innovation inherent in the Podcamp format, NME’s nuts and bolts attention to the tools and techniques of podcasting make the conference a better choice for serious (hobbyist or pro) podcasters than the most recent batch of unconferences. It’s fair to point out that many of NME’s speakers are repeat presenters, and that’s a bit disappointing, and frankly, indicative of the lack of growth in the podcasting world. But it’s also clear that at NME, marketing from the front of a seminar room is kept to a reasonable level, and that the focus is less on trendy “social media”, and more on making, distributing, and selling better content.

But a respectable group of speakers and an organzer who I sincerely believe wants to produce a conference that is good for podcasters (Tim Bourquin is a podcaster himself, after all) is not enough to leverage the successes of NME past. Like it or not, the community aspect of this event is integral to its success. It’s not merely a warm fuzzy for what Bourquin calls hobbyists. Podcasters have tended to create formal and informal alliances, reference one another in text and audio form, and evaluate the viability of attending a conference based on “who else is going”. Then too, a lot of podcasters think of themselves as “social media” creators, and that demands, well, some socializing.

Muchof this community-centricness was baked in at the crowded Ontario Marriott bar, and on an exhibit floor that served as a daytime mingle spot for those who couldn’t afford the sessions. This year, the usual social networking tools made it possible for people to plan meetups, but the lack of natural gathering spots, and a dearth of sponsored evening parties made it hard to find the people I wanted to see or meet, beyond a group of friends who communicated via Twitter and text message, all pre-arranged. The tepid show floor experience ensured that visits there were shorter, depriving attendees of another chance to see and be seen.

How to fix? Linda Mills of Podcast User Magazine twittered about rumors that the next expo might take place in San Francisco. And at this writing, no dates for a 2009 show are posted on the NME site. Further, Tim Bourquin, in a very informative post on the difficulties of running trade shows on a small scale, suggests that he might be leaving the business.

I for one hope that NME can be revitalized. San Francisco is a great choice for next year’s event. I would also like to see a Midwest (Chicago) or East Coast (Boston) event. Podcamp attendance patterns could provide good gudeance about locations that could best support a podcasting conference. Finally, I would like to see Tim hire a community-builder for NME. This person’s job would be to develop events and venues that would be condusicve to community-building. Two important parts of this job would be finding sponsors for open events, and seeking out affordable, public meeting places that would draw NME attendees willing to socialize on their own dime.

Have Reasonable Expectations of your Podcaster Guests

Note: I’m leaving out links in the following post because I do NOT want to aggravate a dispute between friends, and I don’t wish to call names. I realize that the curious among you can put the pieces together, but you’ll have to do that yourself. This is a cautionary tale for podcasters who invite other content-creators on their shows as guests.

A friend of mine produces a weekly podcast. He often invites guests (some podcasters, some not) onto his show. He has also appeared on other podcasts, including mine. My friend approached me recently to ask whether I might be open to having him on my show as a guest. He’s taking a little break from his own podcast to deal with burnout, but wanted to keep his feed active. Since we are compatible in interests and personality, I agreed. I don’t have guests on very often, other than my husband, but the break in format didn’t seem out of the realm of reason, and I thought it would be fun.

Here it’s important for me to tall you how I assumed things would go down after we recorded the show. Since what we recorded would be an episode of Shelly’s Podcast, I intended to publish it on my feed as normal. I would provide a link to my friend so that he could also publish the show on his feed. I assumed that he would add a link to my audio file to his RSS feed, and that he would probably do a blog post (plus the feed item) to let his listeners know what was coming.

That’s not what happened.

We recorded a show on Monday night. It went reasonably well, by which I mean that neither of us thought we were at the top of our game. But no worries. It was fun, and it was definitely a Shelly’s Podcast show. My friend and I skyped that night, and agreed basically that it didn’t suck. I uploaded the show with my usual tags and artwork. After uploading, I sent my guest a link to the blog post for the show, letting him know it was posted.

When I awoke the next day, I saw a new episode of his show in iTunes, with completely new ID3 tags AND artwork. My name appeared along with his in the Artist field, but my show logo, contact information, and other identifying info were all gone. No changes were made to the audio itself, not that I expected any. The file I received was hosted by my friend, meaning I would be without the additional downloads, or the ability to know how many extra downloads my episode had received from his subscribers or Web visitors.

Now let’s take these two issues separately, because one is more important to me than the other. Did I want the extra downloads? You bet. Do I also know that there is a decent amount of overlap between his audience and mine, and that combining downloads through his feed with my own downloads wouldn’t give me a completely accurate picture of how many extra listens I had received? Am I currently selling advertising on my show, and benefiting form any extra downloads I might get? No. So all in all, the issue of whether the file was hosted by me or by my guest is the smaller of the two.

My greater concern is the way in which my content, and the branding associated with it, was handled. Again, I’m not selling my podcast in any way. But it is my podcast, and this recording, while it was always destined to be distributed by myself and by my friend, was my creation. I use consistent ID3 tags to label my show. Each episode’s title (name) contains the episode date and my voicemail number. Listeners have told me that this makes it quick and easy for them to call with feedback while traveling with their MP3 players. My artwork is the Shelly’s Podcast logo. I occasionally insert a Flickr photo that is relevant to the show, but this week, it was the familiar logo. I also include my email and Web site addresses, and more info about the show in the Comments and Lyrics fields. In short, I want anyone who downloads that audio file to know what it is and where it comes from. and I want it to be especially clear, when a file of mine appears on someone else’s’ feed, albeit with my consent, that the program they’re hearing was created by me, And finally, I want them to know where they can subscribe to the show or send feedback, if they wish.

My advice to any podcaster who gives his or her consent to a show being added to another podcaster’s feed is to have a clear agreement beforehand. If proper tagging, or access to download stats are important to you, be sure that whoever intends to use your content understands your wishes. In most cases, this need not be a formal contract. I certainly would never have asked my friend to agree to one. If I had it to do over again, I would simply have asked specifically that he point to my copy of the show, with my ID3 tags, and ask that he provide a link to my podcast site on his. And had I been the guest in this situation, I would have asked my host about a link to my content within both the blog page and the ID3 tags of the audio file.

It’s always better to eliminate misunderstandings before they happen, even among friends.

Pod is a Dirty Word, Again

I posted this on my personal blog last week. Since then, the press release announcing PodShow’s new name has stirred up a bit of controversy around the Web, due to CEO Ron Bloom’s disparaging comments about user-generated content.

PodShow, the “media company” founded by Adam Curry, and the recipient of millions in venture funding, has changed its name to Mevio. Has the ring of one of those wacky Web 2.0 startup names, doesn’t it? Just vague enough to allow for a completely flexible business model.

Podcasting News linked to a video featuring PodShow co-founder Ron Bloom. In it, he described PodShow as a network of 15,000 shows. This, of course, includes the many externally-prdouced podcasts within the directory maintained by PodShow, along with the company’s own “entertainment properties”. Bloom went on to say, when asked about the name change, that podcasting seemed to denote amateurishness. He mumbled something about the Amateurville Horror. I think that was supposed to be a quote, but I’m not familiar. Irony is fun, isn’t it?

PodShow is not the first to ditch the “pod” from its name. While earlier name-changers struggled with the “do I need an iPod to listen?” question from potential listeners and viewers, my guess is that PodShow’s move, as underlined by Bloom’s emphasis on getting away from amateurism as a hallmark of the medium, had more to do with honing the message for the “brands” that PodShow must court in order to sell advertising within its programs. After all, Zune Marketplace adopted podcast when it opened its doors to RSS-based content last year, joining arch rival Apple, whose iTunes did not, after all, originate the term. On the consumer side, I think the word podcasting actually has meaning for people.

Podcasting News speculates that producers will leave PodShow. They may. It’s happened before. But I think the name change has mostly symbolic value on both sides. PodShow began to pull away from the original idea of podcasting as an independent form of media about the time it started pitching Madison Avenue agencies. Producers complained about onerous contracts then, and other podcast industry watchers noted that the company made a show of turning its metaphorical backside to industry organizations and events. I don’t know why being a part of the Mevio network would make people more likely to jump ship than what has gone before.

In the wider world of downloadable media, it’s another “podcasting is dead” headline to chew over and refute. Paul Colligan weighs in with a spirited and somewhat melodramatic defense of podcasting as an independent media form, particularly when compared to streamed content, or DRM-reliant offerings. Maybe that’s what the beleaguered folks who believe in podcasting (for business and/or pleasure) really need to hear right now. As for me, I’ll squirm a little uncomfortably, because my Libsyn referrer list shows a fair number of people find my podcast through PodShow. I sort of wonder why that is.

Podcast Pundit is on the Air

Welcome to a blog and Web site that will provide the latest news, best how-to articles, and hottest reviews. We’re bringing the very best information about podcasting to producers at all levels. If you’re a beginner, we’ll get you going. If you’ve been podcasting awhile, and need to sharpen your skills or buy that next piece of gear, we’ve got you covered. And if you’re an expert, you might just learn something. And if you have something to teach our readers, let’s talk. We believe that podcasting is a community, populated by people with lots of skills and enthusiasm. The more voices, the merrier.

Watch the site, or subscribe to the feed for more, or drop us a line at podcastpundit[at]gmail[dot]com if you’d like to be a part of what we’re doing.