Posts about podcasts

Monkey news!

The Ricky Gervais podcast has passed 2 million downloads:

“Usually, in order to be heard by millions of people you have to do a show on Radio 1 or Radio 2,” said Gervais. “The problem is, those stations expect you to be competent and professional. We had to find a way around that.” …

“To have such a huge success with a podcast so early in the medium’s development is enormously encouraging,” said Emily Bell, the editor in chief of Guardian Unlimited.

“Guardian Unlimited’s approach to podcasting, as with all new opportunities that the internet opens, is that we want to challenge assumptions and exceed expectations of what a newspaper website is and what it can deliver.”

Challenge assumptions, indeed.

: And by the way, a great new line from Pilkington delivering monkey news in the latest ‘cast: “A chimp off the old block.”

Guardian column: Prinzessin von Podcasting

I wrote my Guardian column this week about Annik Rubens (aka Larissa Vassilian), the podcaster behind Schlaflos in München and Filme und So, whose voice was a siren call that helped draw me to Munich on my way back home from Europe a week ago. The column is here; an alternate page is here. An excerpt:

I wanted to meet Vassilian to find out whether that voice was indeed authentic – it is – and to learn how she does it. In a Munich cafe, she told me she has loved radio since she was young. Instead of watching German TV, she escaped to her room and listened to the Voice of America because “it seemed wonderfully exotic”. As a result, she learned to speak flawless English and also how to make lively radio – how, in her words, to put laughter in her voice as she speaks into her microphone, imagining that she is simply talking to a friend on the phone. As a teenager, she worked part-time at a Munich radio station. Now, as a 29-year-old journalist, she can be, like any freelancer, chewed up and spat out by various German publications. And so she came to try podcasting.

This is a cautionary tale for media bosses: it’s hard for talent to rise and survive in your institutions. But on the internet, with her podcasts and her thousands of faithful fans, Vassilian has the freedom to be herself. Later, I asked her partner on Filme und So, Timo Hetzel, what he plans to do when he finishes his studies. “Podcast,” he replied, without hesitation. Beware: tomorrow’s stars are no longer necessarily interested in yesterday’s media.

We spent hours in a Schwabing cafe talking about podcasts, journalism, advertising, media, and that night, I got to meet Timo with other bloggers in a restaurant over great wurst (Eamonn Fitzgerald reported).

One tidbit I didn’t put in the Guardian column because it would have been meaningless to a UK audience was that one of the DJs who influenced Vassilian was Shadoe Stevens. See, he was good for something.

She was amused that one of the commenters here wondered, upon learning that I’d meet her, whether she was a “babe.” I’ve never been asked that about meeting bloggers. (Winer’s no babe.) Her smile is every bit as enchanting as her voice and, yes, she is as lovely as she sounds. But she doesn’t look like what you’d expect. And this leads to a funny media story she told me. Vassilian’s mother is Bavarian and her father is Armenian. She has long, curly, and dark hair — which is to say that she doesn’t have the blond hair and blue eyes you’d expect. She said that based on her cohost Timo’s voice, she might have thought in turn that he has blond hair and blue eyes but he, too, doesn’t look like he sounds. Anyway, Larissa said that the German TV magazines (more successful these days than TV Guide) seem to have a rule that they must have a blonde-haired, blue-eyed actress on the cover for every issue and she had to write some of those cover stories. One week, part of her story was how the actress had two different colored eyes and how bizarre that is. But by the time the issue came out, though that anecdote stayed in the cover, the actress’ picture had been Photoshopped so she had two blue eyes. In old media, you have to look the part. On the internet, nobody knows you’re a brunette.


As the kerfluffle over Audible’s podcast offering went on, I was wondering what Audible’s PR people must have been thinking, Cal Bruckner speculates that it was a form of new-age viral marketing. Mitch Ratcliffe says no but doesn’t back away from the stove and throws some more fuel on it. I still wonder what the PR people are thinking. There has to be a middle ground between disingenous flackery and flaming, just as there is a middle ground between messaging and listening. I’d like to see a Steve Rubel case study of this one.

How to ‘cast

O’Reilly comes out with a pocket guide on how to podcast.

Getting personal

There has been a very good and spirited discussion about Audible’s efforts to measure and serve ads on podcasts with many pioneers — Dave Winer, Doc Searls, Om Malik — giving their reaction and Mitch Ratcliffe, who helped create the Audible product, responding in turn. Audible should be listening to the marketplace to figure out how to make this work, for the marketplace is telling them they’re on the wrong road. Maybe they will. But it certainly doesn’t help when Mitch gets personal about Dave. Dave responds as well he should.

I understand what it feels like to work hard on a product only to find some people issuing Bronx cheers. The design of the first Entertainment Weekly sucked. I couldn’t say that out loud; I did need to defend our product. But we rushed the fastest redesign in magazine history because we listened. Audible: You’re trying to do something for and with the podcasting world and the podcasting world is giving you tons of good advice. Listen first. Turn off the microphone and leave your headset on.

: Doc also here and here and Mitch comes back here. The personal stuff is only noise.

: LATER: Ben Barren does a great analysis of Audible’s 3-cents-per price for measuring each listen of each podcast. I translated that into a $30 CPM and said it was insane. Ben shows how those numbers compute for one ‘cast, Keith and the Girl, to demonstrate just how insane it is:

Chemda (the girl) mentioned last week they had 500,000 listeners. Remember they have no advertising. Yet, Their Own Choice. They’re not even sure what Adam Curry does or what his business model is. Listen to their other LA episodes this week : Here and here. Times that by 3 cents per listen for the charge audible want for tracking stats and .AA conversion I assume : That equals $15,000 for one episode of Keith and Hurl. Times that by 5 shows per week. $75,000 a week. Lots of vig there. Ill give audible benefit of doubt and say 4 weeks per month. That’s $300,000 or $3.6 million per year for K+TG to get stats on listeners. (and remember you can listen to podcasts on your PC and not enter any user details so im not sure how audible really think they will get comprehensive user details) Im sure you can run your discount factors, non-active subscriber numbers, monthly churn rates, % of those that dont listen to the whole podcast – to get to a total KeithandtheGirl monthly usage number, but if you want my opinion, Audible just spent $35K on a Wordcast Sponsorship for the “Portable Media Expo” to build “negative brand equity” as they used to say in my DDB ad agency days.

See, too, Mike Arrington’s proper fit over Audible’s moves.

There are some interesting features that add to the podcasting discussion and normally I’d write about it over at TechCrunch. For instance, Much of what Audible is doing is goes way beyond what Fruitcast (TechCrunch profile) is allowing publishers to do. While Fruitcast allow insertion of ads into podcasts and tracks downloads, Audible is able to pingback listening metadata as well (albeit via a closed file format and crazy prices), something that will be very interesting for publishers.

But wow, did they ever screw up the follow up to the announcement.