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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The 2012 Olympics TV experiences look very good

Whatever else is going on about the London 2012 Olympics – border control  nightmares at Heathrow, cracks in the M4 motorway, cellular network outages, not enough security staff – it looks like mainstream broadcast media have things well under control to offer amazing experiences throughout the games.

The BBC already announced details of its blanket coverage for UK viewers, with live broadcasting every event in high definition available on multiple devices from traditional TVs to the web and mobile:

In the US, NBC is right out there with its plans for live broadcasting every game to US audiences:

And for mobile devices, news about a company called Elemental Technologies which has done a deal with the BBC to offer live streaming to mobile devices of every event:

Also see NBC’s mobile news of its offering in a tie-up with Adobe:

What a feast of experiences if you’re not at the games!

Embedded Link

Now Playing on Your iPhone: The Olympics
Elemental Technologies, a 6-year-old video start-up, is set to stream 27 channels of live Olympic games directly to mobile devices.

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Stream (and buy) music while you do the grocery shopping

If you do your grocery shopping in Tesco, you may already know that you can stay connected in the depths of the typical supermarket where no network signal usually reaches, thanks to Tesco’s own wifi network in most stores.

Now, you’ll be able to enjoy your weekly shopping by listening to streaming music to your mobile device from the We7 internet radio station that Tesco just bought. It’s free to listen to as it’s currently ad supported.

While this move is another step by the UK’s biggest supermarket chain to further develop its digital offerings, it’s also another example of how the retail experience for consumers is far more than just putting stuff in your shopping trolley and paying for it at the checkout. Look at rival Sainsbury’s, for instance, and its acquisition this week of e-book retailer Anobi.

So when will you be able to enjoy the tracks as you shop? Stay tuned…

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Tesco buys We7 online radio station
Tesco spends £11m on the internet radio station co-founded by Peter Gabriel as it bolsters online entertainment offering

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Product placement comes to UK TV and radio

productplacementBroadcast industry regulator Ofcom confirmed this week that product placement – paid-for references for products and services – will be allowed in UK TV programmes for the first time from next February.

[…] Ofcom has today [December 20] published the rules governing product placement, including what can and can’t be shown on TV screens. We have also relaxed the rules on paid-for references to brands and products in radio programmes. Both sets of rules will enable commercial broadcasters to access new sources of revenue, whilst providing protection for audiences.

The rules include:

  • restrictions on the types of products that can be placed;
  • restrictions on the types of programmes in which products can be placed; and
  • limits on the way in which products can be seen and referred to in programmes.

Ofcom makes it clear that product placement will be tightly controlled in the UK, so much so that TV programmes will have to prominently identify a programme segment which includes any paid-for references to products or services, perhaps in the way suggested in the image above that includes a prominent letter ‘P.’

Advertising Age has a good commentary on the new advertising landscape from next year, and explains how the ‘P’ idea might work:

[…] Broadcasters will be required to show an on-screen logo – most likely a “P,” but that’s yet to be finalized – to alert viewers to the fact that product placement is present in the show they’re watching. It will be shown for a minimum of three seconds at the start and end of programs, and at the end of each ad break.

Further restrictions include a ban on “undue prominence” given to any particular product, while any direct references to products must be “editorially justified.” These rules are designed to prevent programs from being distorted or created so that they become little more than vehicles for product placement.

AdAge also offers an insight into what the possibilities might be for monetizing old content:

With the use of technology, it will also be possible to place products into old shows, opening up further opportunities for broadcasters.

MirriAd, an “embedded advertising” company, expects U.K. product placement to be worth at least 5% of the TV advertising market, as it in the U.S., giving it an annual value of $232 million. Media analysts Screen Digest, however, estimate the value of product placement to be closer to $150 million in the U.K.

The new rules kick in on February 28, 2011. Note that product placement applies to commercial broadcasting, ie, it won’t be permitted on domestic BBC TV or radio which continues to be ad-free.

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First UK use of Twitter on live TV?

Did the first use of Twitter on live TV in the UK happen this morning? These tweets by ITV presenter Phillip Schofield certainly suggest so:

schofe-firstlive schofe-first

I did tune in to “This Morning” for a few minutes after catching the first tweet. I didn’t see the actual moment of tweeting, though.

Schofield’s show is not one I usually watch (I’m clearly not the desired demographic); if nothing else his tweets captured another viewer, albeit for a fleeting moment :)

While there’s been plenty of talk about Twitter on TV recently (and also, enthusiastically, by Phillip Schofield), no one’s actually used it on live TV as far as I know.

If this were radio, it wouldn’t be the first use of Twitter in these islands (stretching geography a bit) – Irish radio presenter Rick O’Shea first experimented with Twitter on his live RTE2 radio show last year.

An easy guide to destroying reputations

brand-ross-sachs-baillie The kerfuffle surrounding Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross and the BBC came to a conclusion of sorts a few days ago with Brand quitting, Ross suspended and the BBC’s head of Radio 2 resigning.

This story has many of the ingredients of the type of soap opera you typically see on British television these days including in-your-face foul language, mean behaviour masquerading as comedy, and sex.

If you’ve not been following the events that have been the top news headline in the UK all week, the BBC timeline can help you get up to speed with it all.

In brief, this is what it’s about:

  • Lewd phone calls made to actor Andrew Sachs (Manuel in TV show Fawlty Towers) by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Brand’s Radio 2 show on October 18 – calls regarded as distasteful, even offensive, by around 30,000 people who complained to the BBC – prompted an escalating and highly-public row that culminated in Brand quitting his show and the BBC and flying off to the US.
  • Subsequently, Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas resigned, and Ross has been suspended for three months without pay (he earns £16,000 a day from his BBC contract).

Yet it’s actually about much more than these bare facts, igniting as it has mainstream media editorials left, right and centre plus wide commentary and opinion across all sectors of society about moral standards, acceptable behaviours, overpaid radio and TV presenters, the generational divide, the role of a public service broadcaster in modern society and of course that hardy perennial, the television license.

The only thing I want to add to the mass of opinion out there is this.

I read the transcripts of the phone calls made by Brand and Ross. Be aware, they are extremely frank. If you haven’t read them, I suggest you do that before expressing an opinion. Otherwise, how can you have a considered opinion about them?

So, my opinion? I haven’t had the benefit of hearing what Brand and Ross said when they said it on Brand’s radio show, so I may be missing lots of context. All I have to go on are the bald words in the transcripts.

But I think both men are pathetic. If this is what passes for comedy on the radio, then I’m a banana, to adapt Ian Hislop’s famous quotation.

Be that as it may: it’s just one opinion among the many. But if Brand and Ross were still broadcasting on radio and TV in the UK, here’s one less listener and viewer they would have.

And what of the sequence of events and the communication angle?

One thing I felt was that events in what was undoubtedly a crisis were moving very fast indeed, much faster than any effective communication from any of the protagonists and in particular from the BBC.

As anyone who’s ever been involved in crisis communication knows, whenever there’s a communication vacuum from the subject of the crisis, others will rush in to fill that vacuum, which is exactly what happened repeatedly during this week.

So it’s timely that the BBC itself published How to manage a crisis, a useful article by Clarence Mitchell, probably best known for his role as official spokesman for Kate and Gerry McCann.

Mitchell nicely summed it all up like this:

[…] Common symptoms for bodies mismanaging a crisis are apologies, where obvious and appropriate, that are still seen to be slow in coming, grudgingly given or issued in stages, despite the rising clamour from stakeholders growing ever louder.

Equally damaging is the appearance that the organisation is being buffeted by events. Worse still, the public perception that its actions are merely reactive, responding to events rather than controlling them.

Yes, things this past week looked exactly like this.

While the debate continues about the BBC and its role as a broadcaster and in society, I’m thinking of what next for Jonathan Ross. Has he blown it entirely? Few would argue that his reputation has taken a massive hit.

Whether that’s terminal or not in relation to a continuing future with the BBC – and possibly any other UK broadcaster – remains to be seen.

Mitchell’s conclusion in his BBC article on crisis management applies equally to Ross:

[…] Reputational crises don’t die away any more, they just get posted online for posterity. That world is here and now and effective crisis management has never been more relevant or valid.

How Ross deals with his own crisis is likely to be a major influence on whether it’s ‘when’ or ‘if’ we see him on the BBC again.

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