Papal perspectives from a citizen-reporter priest

Father Roderick VonhögenThe eyes of many throughout the world are focused on the Vatican in Rome at the moment, as one hundred and fifteen members of the College of Cardinals deliberate in a papal conclave behind closed and locked doors to choose a new Pope.

It’s a simple matter to follow mainstream media reporting of the events for opinions and perspectives leading up to the moment when we see white smoke rather than black, and then learn who will be the new leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

But I recommend paying attention to some really authentic and passionate reporting by Roderick Vonhögen, a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Utrecht in The Netherlands, who has been posting a steady stream of content to his Facebook page and videos to YouTube from St Peter’s Square since the conclave began.

This morning, there was black smoke meaning no decision yet. Here’s how Father Roderick reported on that in a video he posted to YouTube a short while ago.

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

Father Roderick is a podcaster from the early days of social media when he started his Catholic Insider audio podcast. I remember when I first found his podcasts and how I subsequently described him:

Father Roderick is an outstanding podcaster, a natural communicator. As he often says in his shows, no boring sermons here. So I’m sure his podcasts in the coming days will be required listening, whatever your religion.

That was on April 1, 2005 and my comments were in reference to his reporting from St Peter’s Square about a previous Pope – John Paul II, who died the next day.

Now we’re on the cusp of a new papal era and await the news of who will be the chosen one. One thing the mainstream media is very good at is breaking news so expect the announcement of who will be that chosen one on your TV, radio or online news channel.

Then tune in to Father Roderick for some insider opinion from the perspective of a podcasting priest from The Netherlands.

Related reading: Sistine Chapel secured for first post-Vatileaks conclave, reports Reuters:

For centuries the Roman Catholic Church counted on the walls of the Sistine Chapel to keep the process of electing a new pope secret. But the Vatican must now turn to an electronic arsenal in the face of tweeting cardinals and a year of crushing leaks […]

Content, authenticity and engagement

The Social Media Show

I enjoyed listening to episode 5 of The Social Media Show with Ann Hawkins and Eric Swain, published yesterday.

Ann and Eric had invited me to be interviewed about what to do if you are not a natural writer or communicator and need to create content. A great topic that embraces elements such as measurable business goals, thought leadership and how to express it, social media use by the CEO and others in the C-Suite and counsel by communication professionals.

Fellow interviewee Sue Keogh describes how to use a professional writer to help create material that helps a business leader present a unique signature in what he or she says across the social web, whether it’s in the form of the written word, audio or video.

The Social Media Show is broadcast every Monday at 7pm GMT on Star FM, a radio station in Cambridge (UK), with the recording published as a podcast on their blog. It’s the only radio show of its type in the UK.

Subscribe via RSS to the show notes: The feed includes the MP3 file as an enclosure – so you can download and listen with your favourite podcatcher.

Head on over and take a listen – you might find this 30-minute show an enjoyable mix of commentary, opinion and insight that you’ll want to come back to.

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Show 5: Writing content for social media – The Social Media Show
For Immediate Release. It’s never been more important to write good content for your social media channels. In this show Neville Hobson talks about what to do if you are not a natural writer or commun…

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The key to podcasting is community

FIR Podcast Community on Google+Podcasting should be the PR consultant’s best friend, says Phil Szomszor in a good assessment of podcasts and their role in public relations.

Or, rather, the role podcasts ought to have in PR.

In his optimistic assessment, Szomszor cites the rise of smartphone use and growth of free or cheap tools to create podcasts, plus a focus on content marketing, that have created a mini-revival of podcasting in the UK.

He notes three specific reasons for public relations practitioners to take an interest in podcasts:

1. Listen: learn about your industry.

2. Reach out: get your clients or your company featured on leading podcasts.

3. Speak out: make your own podcast and reach your target audience in a different way, at a different time.

Phil asked half a dozen podcasters – Bernie Mitchell, Jon Buscall, Kelvin Newman, John and Ruth Arnold, and Neville Hobson (that’s me) – what they think “to get an insight into why they do it and ways PR people can engage with them, with some surprising insights.”

Phil’s captured some great comments and perspectives from each of these podcasters: read his post for the details.

One point I want to offer some additional thoughts on, to extend what I said to Phil, concerns his second reason for why podcasts should be of interest to PRs – get your clients or your company featured on leading podcasts.

I have a strong view that podcasting is not about setting up an interview for a client with the PR listening in, or 30-second ad or promo spots, or even looking at podcasts as traditional media channels.

If you really are interested in engaging with the listeners of a particular podcast – say, For Immediate Release, the show I co-host with Shel Holtz each Monday – your key to the success of your goal is to become a valued part of the listener community.

We welcome approaches from PR people with ideas and suggestions for topics to talk about or people to interview. But traditional pitching doesn’t work as we’re more interested in embracing a business as part of the community.

Nowhere is this better seen than the role our two sponsors play in the success of our podcast. Instead of treating their 60 seconds or so time slot in each episode purely as an ad spot to pimp their products – nothing wrong with that, of course – each has taken a different and more effective approach, one that puts them and their content at the heart of each show.

CustomScoop – our very first sponsor back in 2005 – has “The Media Monitoring Minute,” a regular slot in  which Jen Zingsheim talks about a newsworthy topic or issue that, broadly, is related to their business area and reflects the focus of our show. It doesn’t say anything about their business or their products and services.

Ragan Communications –  our primary sponsor – uses their time to talk about upcoming conferences and other events they do across North America. Jenny Fukumoto, the voice of Ragan on our podcast, is so engaging and genuine in her vocal delivery, geared specifically to the show, that you never think it’s an ad spot.

We also do interviews in a separate FIR Interviews podcast. While some of the interviewees have been proposed by PR agencies, the majority either come from contacts Shel or I make ourselves, or are suggested by listeners.

So if you would like a word of advice on how to get your client or product mentioned in our podcast, here are three connected tips:

  1. Listen to a few episodes to get a sense of what the show’s about and how we talk about brands, products, businesses and issues (especially our popular “kerfuffle” reports). Read the show notes in each episode’s blog post.
  2. Join one of the online listener communities on Google+ (currently the most active), Facebook or Friendfeed. Don’t lurk, join in and contribute. (Bonus tip: comment on a topic: almost guaranteed to be included in a show.)
  3. Then the big one: Have a genuine and compelling story to tell, one that is likely to engage with the listeners and the wider community.

Of course, as we all believe, content is king. In podcasting, though, that goes hand in hand with community and being an integral and genuine part of it.

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Podcasts are about community not audiences – advertisers note

Leo LaporteA podcast I’ve been listening to for the past five years, on and off, is This Week in Tech, started and hosted by American technology broadcaster and entrepreneur Leo Laporte.

Better known by its acronym TWiT, each episode is typically 90 minutes or longer – two hours isn’t unusual – and is offered in audio and video formats.

Without doubt, Laporte is one of the pioneers of new media, taking the original concept of audio podcasting as a means of individual and personal expression, with a zero barrier to entry, and converting it over time into a viable business. That business today comprises over 25 individual shows created and broadcast over the internet from a purpose-built studio facility in northern California that is projected to generate $7 million in revenue in 2013.

That’s just one fact that comes from an hour-long keynote speech Laporte delivered to the New Media Expo in Las Vegas last month – relevant but by far not the most important fact.

As a podcaster myself since 2005, I was interested in some of the other metrics Laporte mentioned, such as the number of podcasts you can find today in Apple’s iTunes store – 250,000 in 40 languages from podcasters in 155 countries.

That’s some growth in the eight short years since podcasting emerged.

A few of the points Laporte emphasised in his speech resonate strongly for me. I think the most significant one is the idea that creating a podcast is about building community not simply creating an audience.  Audience is about numbers, Laporte says: an old-media metric that’s about satisfying advertising measurement (how many eyeballs see your message, that kind of thing).

He argues strongly that podcasting is about conversation, a point with which I wholeheartedly agree. It’s about engagement with and within the community rather than delivering monologues, which is what traditional broadcasting tends to be and the advertising that goes with it.

And Laporte talks about how advertising can engage a community and get its attention if it recognizes that engaged people who see you the advertiser as an authentic ‘conversation partner’ are far more valuable than the traditional, passive content consumers – who will skip your ads if they get a chance because there is no engagement (nor, often, neither sincerity or even relevance) at all.

In a small way, this is exactly what my podcasting partner Shel Holtz and I have with For Immediate Release, the podcast series we created, and specifically our weekly show, The Hobson and Holtz Report, that we started in January 2005.

We have community, not an audience – a vibrant one today that extends across the social web, on Facebook, Friendfeed, Google+ and Twitter. Part of that community are other voices in every show in the shape of two regular correspondents: Dan York and Michael Netzley. We have sponsors whose voices also are part of the conversation each week – Ragan Communications and CustomScoop – not simply taking a 30- or 60-second spot to pimp themselves. The community, our listeners, like it – and I bet their unprompted recall of those sponsors’ conversational messages would be 90-plus percent if they were asked.

Points to ponder. Hear Laporte expand on those, and more, in the recording of his NMX keynote, embedded below. An hour of your time well invested.

Video streaming by Ustream

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FIR podcast: Eight years and counting

Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson

Eight years ago today – on January 3, 2005 – two communication professionals embarked on a voyage that was all about discovery and experimenting with a new medium: podcasting.

Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz started For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report as part of their keen interest in new communication technologies and platforms, and what impact they may have on organizations and people.

With Shel on the US west coast and Neville in Europe, it offered both of us a great opportunity to get together via Skype to talk about topics of mutual interest at the intersection of business, communication and technology; record our conversations under our self-description of “a pair of communication professionals who think they have something to say”; and publish those conversations on the world wide web for anyone who may be interested to listen.

The first episode of FIR eight years ago demonstrated the possibilities of an embryonic medium where the barriers to entry were so low, anyone could do it. Now, anyone who wants to is doing it, not only audio but also video.

As we mark this milestone in our labor of love, we’d like to say thank you to you, our listeners old and new, who ‘tune in’ once a week to hear not only Shel and Neville but also reports from our correspondents and the voices of our sponsors and listeners who contribute their thinking on the issues and topics that matter to them.

Today, the vibrant FIR community also extends across the social web, on Facebook, Friendfeed, Google+ and Twitter.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to our sponsors:

Ragan Communications

Ragan’s Jenny Fukumoto in Chicago brings news and highlights of Ragan events across the United States and beyond. Each week, FIR is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years,


The voice of Jen Zingsheim  – and occasionally, CustomScoop founder Chip Griffin – with the Media Monitoring Minute segment in each show. Save time with the CustomScoop online clipping service: sign up for your free two-week trial, at

And thank you to David Bator and Pollstream who sponsored FIR until the end of 2012. Pollstream helps you transform your communications goals into exciting strategies that will enable you to engage, educate and inform your customers and employees online,

An equal thank you to our two regular correspondents:

  • Dan York – based in Keene, New Hampshire, Dan is Senior Content Strategist at the Internet Society, reporting on communication issues from the technologist’s point of view.
  • Michael Netzley – Academic Director at Singapore Management University, Michael reports on the communication scene across a region extending from the Middle East to Southeast Asia to China, Japan and the Koreas.

A huge thank you to Donna Papacosta – an accomplished podcaster herself – whose voice graces each episode with the details of how to contribute your comments and get in touch with us.

And a special thank you to contributors over the years:

  • David Phillips – occasional reports from the shadows of Stonehenge in England.
  • Eric Schwartzman – occasional reporting from Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world.
  • Sallie Goetsch – doses of now-and-again reality from The Podcast Asylum in California.
  • Mark Story – insights from behind the scenes at the federal government in Washington, DC.
  • Bob LeDrew – hailing from Toronto, Canada, Bob reviews books as FIR’s Book Reviews editor.
  • Lee Hopkins – ‘our man in the Adelaide Hills,’ Lee was our first correspondent, reporting from Australia from 2005 until early 2008.

Thank you, one and all!

If you haven’t listened to FIR before,  why not give us a try next week when we start our ninth year with episode 685 on Monday January 7? If you can’t wait, check out this week’s 684, right here.

Finally, if you’re interested in a big picture, FIR is now a podcast series:

  • FIR: The Hobson & Holtz Report – a weekly show recorded on Mondays with commentary and opinion at the intersection of online communication, business and technology.
  • FIR Live – an occasional live call-in show recorded as a Google+ Hangout On Air where a topical issue is up for discussion by the two co-hosts and a panel plus anyone who cares to add an opinion in the chat room.
  • FIR Cuts – occasional clips from the virtual cutting room floor of The Hobson & Holtz Report.
  • FIR Interviews with newsmakers and influencers from the online technology and organizational communication worlds.
  • FIR Book Reviews aligned with our theme of PR/communications and the online world.
  • FIR Speakers and Speeches – occasional podcasts of speeches, keynote addresses, breakout sessions, and other recordings from meetings and conferences of interest to PR and communication professionals.

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

Podcasting in the long tail


Far from changing the radio landscape, podcasting has been commandeered by the radio industry, says Richard MacManus in his post Radio Killed the Podcasting Star.

As a podcaster myself, I’d say MacManus has written a fair assessment of a podcasting landscape that is indeed dominated by the mainstream media rather than by the independent voices with something to say that was envisioned in the audio medium’s early days eight years ago.

Then, podcasting was seen by many as the big challenger to homogenized playlist-driven radio in the US, a means to democratize radio broadcasting and enable anyone with something to say to, well, say it.

Today, for anyone wanting to make a podcast, the barriers to entry are about zero, even more favourable than they were when I started in 2004 (and they were pretty close to zero then). You don’t even need the bare-bones equipment of a laptop and a headset microphone – if you have a smartphone, you can use online services like Audioboo and iPadio. And it’s equally easy now to do a video podcast.

So why hasn’t podcasting broken out from the mainstream and into the mainstream, as it were?

Actually, who’s to really say it hasn’t? Take a look in the iTunes podcast directory, for instance, and you’ll find thousands and thousands of podcasts to choose from including many that are all about business.

With the exception of Leo LaPorte who MacManus holds up as a podcasting success story – with some clear justification – you won’t find any podcasting “rock stars”.

What you will find among the thousands of podcasts today are shows, series, episodes containing content on myriad subjects, any number of which can attract people looking for great content on subjects that interest them, created by people most of us have never heard of but who we will get to know as we listen to them.

Note the key phrase: “great content.” Yes, just like any publication in a saturated landscape, podcasting is much to do with content. As consumers, we are totally spoiled for choice and we will find what we’re looking for to meet our subjective needs.

If you’re thinking of adding to the long tail of content with your own podcast, here are some tips to increase your chances of discovery, being listened to, talked about and riding up that long tail:

  1. Offer compelling content
  2. Ask for listeners’ opinions
  3. Include those opinions in your next show
  4. Suggest frequent commenters might want to be contributors
  5. Talk about what listeners say
  6. Provide a platform for listener comments
  7. Make it easy for listeners to get hold of your show
  8. Build community

Focus on your content, your audience and what you’re helping them achieve. There’s room for anyone with something to say that others may find interesting. If you want to be a rock star, though, join a radio station.

Now, please do excuse me as I need to do some final prep for recording episode number 663 of The Hobson and Holtz Report today with my friend and colleague, Shel Holtz.

The long tail is huge…

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