How I Read a Blog

I was reading an article about AdSence optimisation, the case at hand was about Guy Kawasaki’s personal blog, How to Change the World. The fact that his blog had traffic that ranges in the millions and yet generated relatively little revenue as a result. The entry goes on to talk about optimising layout for the best ad revenue result.

I disagree with their assessment of the typical “blog reader”. Well it is certainly not me that is for sure. Here is the description that I am referring to:

“A typical blog reader behaves in the following manner – he will first read the entire blog article [provided it interests him]. Then he will either head over to the comments section to leave his feedback or look for links [at the end of the story] to external sites where he can learn more about related products or services.”

Guy Kawasaki Still Leaving Money on the Table [Adsense Case Study]

That would have to be so far from the truth as far as I am concerned (referring to myself that is). The pattern that I take when reading a blog is this. I usually read any blog from my RSS reader. Generally I don’t open up links in my reader as it uses Internet Explorer as the shell. There are at least 284 reasons why I don’t use IE.

So I open the link up in Firefox and take a look. Lets assume it is a blog. I skim read it, never read anything in full anyway. Plus I speed read most things as I have to get through about 3000 articles a week. The content falls into one of two categories. One, a good blog worthy of further attention. Two, good for the primary reference but not going to be a source of primary information around my interests.RSS Logo Large

Any blog that falls into the first category, I will go straight for the RSS button, feed link or whatever to subscribe. I then go back to the Feed Reader. Especially, since that is what opens up now with feed support in Firefox 2. I then finish the subscribing process and continue either reading the blog or what I was doing before the diversion. I may never visit the blog website address ever again and often don’t.

So for me the whole ad placement optimisation is wasted. I can not remember when I last clicked on an ad anyway, either on a blog or in an RSS feed. In addition to this I just don’t like reading blogs from the homepage. I am used to reading RSS, I like it. RSS might be ugly but it is the useful information without the crap and yes that includes ads. Anyway they don’t call it Really Simple Syndication for nothing.

One other thing I would ad is the fact that the blog reading demographic is such that I am surprised that advertising to this group is even effective. They are usually a tech savvy crowd that are far less inclined to click on any advertising. The reputation that advertising has is enough of a deterrent for anyone in my opinion.

But then again these techniques must be effective for bloggers to be talking about and they are mentioned a lot. So who then is it aimed at? I just know that it is lost on me, I am the valued religious reader that gives your subscriptions a boost. Personally I really value these readers as they are the ones that are genuinely interested in what you are saying.

In summary, I am not your average blog reader, given the above description. I am also not saying that these techniques do not work, they must. I would also question the target audience, is it the average blog surfer or reader or is it the accidental tourist? Or does this whole thing mean that I am not average and the argument is pointless?  What are you or who are you?

Marketing Podcasting

I was reading Don Thorson’s Blog today and he was talking about “Whole Product“. Marketing he says:

“…come[s] down to a few basic rules. They’re basically the same rules we were taught in our first marketing class.”

I am not a marketer, nor have I studied it in any great detail. I would however say that I do marketing. I have been marketing The Global Geek Podcast since it’s inception as well as this blog and the brands associated with them. So given Don’s formulae I thought that I might try to apply them to podcasting and see what I come up with.

The rules of marketing are simple enough:

  1. Does it solve a problem?
  2. Is it easy to understand?
  3. Is it easy to get?
  4. Is it easy to use?
  5. Is it easy to share?

Does Podcasting Solve a Problem?

In my opinion podcasting is an audio or content delivery system. So I would answer yes to this question. You have content that you want to share and “casting” it is a solution. Syndicating your podcast is a method that makes it available to your listeners. Although that statement is a bit of a weird one because podcasting is syndication of audio content.

Podcasting also solves the problem that radio does not always deliver the content that I want to listen to. More often than not the radio is terrible and contains content that I have no interest in at all. The radio also demands that I listen to it at a certain time in order to listen to the content that I am interested in.

I can listen to podcasts when I want to for how long I want to. So podcasts are “on demand” they do not dictate to the listener, the listener gains more control over what they listen to. That in my opinion means that podcasters need to remember that they have an audience that knows these things and that they should “target” their audience.

Is It Easy to Understand?

You say “podcast” to someone and more often than not you will get a dumb look. The dumb look is not their fault. Podcasting is a new media delivery method, it has not become mainstream. This presents a problem, does that automatically mean that it is hard to understand just because it is a new “product”? I don’t think it should be.

I try to explain podcasting as: A radio show on the Internet. That at least fits into the category of a product that can be explained in five words or less. It would probably pass the “Mum test” as well. But I do think that seriously undercuts what podcasting really is and because of stereo types causes the other person to make some inaccurate assumptions.

This is especially true when you look at the Wikipedia definition of a podcast which is 123 words long! But it does take into the account the special attributes that make podcasts very appealing.

However, John Dodds in his “Geek Marketing 101” Post makes me feel a little better in that he states that:

“Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation.”

In other words, just because you describe something simply does not mean that you are selling your idea short or degrading it’s potential. So maybe my very simplistic definition is a good one for people that have never heard of podcasting. The idea and the medium itself is not a difficult one to understand but the fact that it is wrapped up in “geekology” and “tech” does cause a block. They think that because it uses a computer and the Internet it is hard to understand. Which means the delivery is important.

Is It Easy to Get?

This is where I think the idea of podcasting is a failure as far as a marketing is concerned. No, I do not think it will fail but the current state of podcasting means that there are issues with accessibility, especially for the new listener.

The simplist way to listen to a podcast is a flash player on a website where a podcast calls home. Any podcast should have one for this reason. Vist the page and hit play, it could not get any simpler right. But, this type of listener is not taking advantage of podcasting especially if you are applying the strict definition where according to Wikipedia:

“Though podcasters’ web sites may also offer direct download or streaming of their content, a podcast is distinguished from other digital audio formats by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading feed formats such as RSS or Atom.”

So someone listening off the web page is not listening to a podcast, they are listening to streaming media that calls itself a podcast. Strange but true according to the definition.

For a listener to subscribe to a podcast via an RSS reader or aggregator that supports enclosures is; in my opinion is one of the biggest failures of podcasting. Podcasts or any feed for that matter are not easy to understand or subscribe to. This needs to be simplified in a big way for podcasts to “take off”.

I have managed to get one friend that I know of to understand how to subscribe to feeds and podcasts and use it regularly. He is a fairly smart person and computer literate, even then on more than one occasion I had to assist him to subscribe to a feed or understand something about RSS feeds, or his aggregator. What hope is there for the person that just uses their computer to email and look at a few [add interest here] sites? Or the person that has no help at all, who I can almost guarantee will give up soon after clicking a feed button and they see the raw RSS feed and write it off, who wouldn’t?:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
  <channel>
    <title>Liftoff News</title>
    <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/</link>
    <description>Liftoff to Space Exploration.</description>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <pubDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 04:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
    <lastBuildDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 09:41:01 GMT</lastBuildDate>
    <docs>http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss</docs>
    <generator>Weblog Editor 2.0</generator>
    <managingEditor>editor@example.com</managingEditor>
    <webMaster>webmaster@example.com</webMaster>

etc…

Once a user has got this far they need to either listen to the media on their computer or transfer the file to an MP3 player. This for some people is put in the “too hard basket”. Listening to it on the computer negates the “on demand” concept I talked about earlier in so much as they are restricted to listening to it when they are on their computer. It also makes a podcast a less attractive product.

There are moves however that are dealing with the complexities of subscribing to content. As much as I loathe iTunes I think part of it’s success has to do with the fact that it makes this process easy. Subscribing, downloading, transferring to a portable player – it is all done seamlessly. I am sure that some iTunes users have no idea they are subscribed to an RSS feed. You can get up in the morning, the iPod is charged with new content and off you go.

Firefox 2 that launched this week is also a step closer to making RSS feeds more accessible, one click subscribing to an RSS feed with the aggregator of your choice. At least when users click on the RSS feed link they get a note at the top of the screen explaining what it is and what they can do about it. IE 7 also has better RSS management as of the latest release. This makes podcasts that much easier to get. Although Windows Media Player is yet to see the light, which is poor to say the least and little wonder Apple has the market wrapped up, at present anyway.

Podcasts and RSS feed subscription has to become seamless and invisible for it to hit mainstream. Otherwise podcasts and feeds will just remain a neat geek technology trick.

Is It Easy to Use?

I think most people can play a music file now, or an .mp3 file. Here is one of the powerful aspects of podcast marketing, if you can double-click or press play then you can listen to a podcast. The fact that even a basic install of a computer recognises file types and associates the appropreate application to play it with. From a listener’s perspective once you can get your hands on the file it is easy and accessible. Even vidcasts would fit into the easy to use category.

Don says that at Apple they had a rule:

“”1 minute after they start to use it , they feel like calling their friends”. ……” You will not believe what I just got””

I am sure that given insight into the powerful medium, a listener would see the advantages of the medium. That is of course assuming they have downloaded a quality podcast and not something that has awful production and content. Podcasters, you are ambassadors for podcasting and it’s future, indeed your own future as a podcaster. I am sure there is a marketing rule that says something like: “make sure that you have a product that people will want”. If I have described a listeners first experience of a podcast and that is you, please just try again there is some great, great content out there of any topic you care to name. There is a pile of rubbish as well, like anything.

Is It Easy to Share?

I had to think about what sharing is within the product of podcasting. Can I easily share an .mp3 file? Yes, I could do that but but it is not really sharing the “concept” of podcasting. That is the key, podcasting is not a thing, it is a concept. How do you convince people that you have a concept that is worth having? You become a podcasting evangelist; that is how.

I talk to people when ever I can about podcasting, blogging and whatever else might be associated with it. I have found that you don’t have to sit people down and give them the Podcasting 101 talk (unless they want it, then great).

I am reminded of someone that I work with, about as much of an anti-geek as you could find. More of a “hippy” than anything geek. She has heard me talking about podcasting and she has even asked how she could listen to a show. Yes she has listened to a show. I have mentioned small things about the show or how things have been going to her. The other day she come right out of the blue and asked me how the new co-host was working out! Blew me away. No, she is not a podcasting guru now, but she knows what a podcast is and she won’t give you the “cow in the headlights look” if you said “podcast”. That in my opinion is marketing podcasting, moving it from the geek arena to the mainstream at this present time involves word of mouth education and enlightenment of everyday people to the medium.

This is not about marketing a specific show, that is a another mega post it is about podcasting and marketing the concept. Making the medium understood in the public. Understanding leads to acceptance, use and finally demand. Understanding exerts pressure on developers to overcome the “Easy to Get” problem.

“Marketing is a conversation, but most people don’t speak geek.”

– Rule Number 2 of Geek Marketing

So yes podcasting is easy to share. Do you know about podcasting and subscribe to some yourself? If you can answer yes to this then tell people about it. You might have a podcast in your iPod, people ask you what you are listening to, offer them a listen. Get them interested in wanting the content then they will want to know how. Why not assist someone to set up an aggregator to subscribe to podcasts? Once you have got someone hooked on podcasts they will want to tell others as well. Demonstrate by example how it is done. Something that I do is to wear my “The Podcast Network” T-Shirt as soon as it is washed and ironed! It is a great way to start a conversation.

This is really my take on Geek Marketing 101 Rule Number 10:

10) Marketing demystifies.

“As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?”

Nope.

My conclusion is that podcasting is a marketable product or concept but there are significant blocks to it becoming a successful one. Given the rules of marketing it fails. Podcasts solve a problem, are relatively easy to understand, use and share but they are hard to get. Four out of Five is not bad for a new technology medium. But for it to be a successful whole product it has to make five out of five. The main hurdle is that software remains relatively complicated and detailed and the user requires some assistance to set up. For podcasting to be a “whole product” we need to make the process of accessability one that is seamless within the user experience. They should be able to subscribe and listen to podcasts without needing to know anything about an RSS feed or an enclosure. It should be as simple as clicking “play”.

I am not sure how I have done as a marketer in this post, but it has made me really think about podcasting and viewing it as a product. Any real marketers out there have an opinion?

Podcasting History… It is Short

The last two days in the car; I have been listening to a podcast from IT Conversations. It was an interview with Doug Kaye the founder of IT Conversations by Michael Geoghegan on the Podcast Academy Channel. Doug talks about the history of podcasting on IT Conversations. If you have listened to podcasts from IT Conversations you will enjoy the interview. But I was thinking about my current predicament of trying to replace a co-host for The Global Geek Podcast and the history of podcasting.

A History Lesson

As mentioned in the interview the first “podcast” was accomplished by Dave Weiner the developer of the RSS format. He demonstrated the concept on his blog on the 11th of January 2001 after defining a new element called an “enclosure“. By the way he did this by “enclosing” a song by Grateful Dead on his blog feed of Scripting News.

For the first two years there were very few users of enclosures in RSS feeds. In September 2003 Weiner gradually released to his feed a series of 25 interviews with bloggers, futurists and political figures. Weiner announced these audio features on his blog as they were released. This threw out the challenge to other aggregator developers to support enclosures. As up until this point most feeds were text only.

In October of 2003 the first BloggerCon provided the platform for a demonstration by Kevin Marks of a script that enabled RSS feeds and pass the enclosures to iTunes for transfer to an iPod. Marks and Adam Curry discuss collaborating. After the conference Curry offers readers of his blog a script called RSStoiPod a script that moved mp3 files from on-line to iTunes, he encouraged developers to further the concept. Initial efforts were based in the command line. The first podcasting client with a user interface was iPodderX (now Transistr). The name change was due to the threat of legal action by Apple and trademark issues, obviously related to the iPod. From here the development of “podcatchers” or aggrregators was fast and mainly resided in the open source community with the show of Juice, CastPodder and PodNova. There are many aggregators now on offer and go from the simple to the highly sophisticated.

In September 2004 the term “Podcasting” was referred to as one possible; out of multiple terms for to listening to audio blogs, as coined by Ben Hammersley:

“…all the ingredients are there for a new boom in amateur radio. But what to call it? Audioblogging? Podcasting? GuerillaMedia?”

In the same month Dannie Gregoire used the term to describe the automatic download and syncrinisation of audio content. The name stuck and entered into common usage. Note the absence of anything related to an iPod? No it had nothing to do with iPods or Apple. In hind sight the association of the iPod with podcasting and podcasts has been detrimental in my opinion. As many people still to this day believe that you need an iPod to listen to podcasts and until I investigated the medium I too thought that the case. Or at least an association.

In September 2004 Adam Curry launched the ipodder-dev mailing list. A huge 100+ message conversation on Slashdot resulted in more attention in the development project. October of 2004 saw detailed “how-to-podcast” articles on-line. Then November 2004 saw the launch of Liberated Syndication, which offered storage, bandwidth and RSS creation tools. LibSyn for short, still provides the service to this day at some of the cheapest prices on the Internet.

As a final point, in February 2005 out rolled the first of the podcasting networks. The first was The Podcast Network, created by Cameron Reilly and Mick Stanic. The Podcast Network was and is the first Commercial Network. PodTech was founded in May 2005. Many others have followed and I think this is only the begining! I have every reason to be proud that The Global Geek Podcast lives at The Podcast Network.

So What has that got to do with Me?

Do you notice the dates in our history review? I use the word history very loosely as we can only say that it refers to past tense regarding podcasting and it’s past. Podcasting is a very new technology! In many respects the technology is still rapidly evolving and very dynamically at that. So being new it offers great challengers to the new user.

I would not say that subscribing and listening to podcasts is easy for the average user. In brief the user has to take the following steps:

  1. Realise what these strange links called RSS are (in addition to not writing it off immediately after seeing a page of RSS!)
  2. Source and install an RSS Aggregator
  3. Figure out how to subscribe to a feed, and realise that it is free.
  4. Know that not all aggregators are built equal (some support enclosures and some do not)
  5. Actually download a podcast using their tricked out aggregator
  6. Find some application to listen to it with or
  7. Figure out how to transfer the mp3 file to a portable mp3 player
  8. Enjoy

Phew! Now that is an effort. In reality most people probably start by right clicking and saving a podcast directly rather than use an aggregator. To try and explain to somebody exactly how to do all of the above is difficult and you generally loose the individual as soon as you mention aggregator. If you keep them that long.

Then I realised today, in light of listening to the interview with Doug Kaye that I can not expect every user that surfs by the Rooster’s Rail to know what podcasting is or what a podcast is. Given that; no wonder I have had bugger all responses to my plea for a new co-host. No wonder they might think that it is hard and intimidating or that they are not cut out for it. Or even that they have any idea what so ever and think I have a screw loose!

I think that the next huge leap in exposure to podcasting will be the simplification of the subscribing, downloading, transferring and listening process. It won’t be long until the manual procedure described above becomes a seamless automated process that the “average” user will be unaware of. Much of this I believe will come about when it is built into something like Windows Media Player. While that might disgust some people, the fact remains that most users use Windows! So it stands to reason. In addition to this factor will be the ever connected Generation Y, podcasts for them will be a thing that they have intergrated into their lives as a part of it rather than something they have to introduce.

So I have resolved myself to my crusade to expose as many people as I can to a medium that while young is transforming the global media landscape. In Cameron Reilly’s words “…this is something I have to do”.

Welcome to the revolution… For the rest of us that means hardcore brain cell re-programming.

[History of Podcasting Sourced from Wikipedia]

Marketing Our Podcast: A Challenge Issued!

TPN LogoWe are having some trouble at The Global Geek Podcast HQ! We need some kick-arse marketing strategies and quick. No, I am not doing what my brother suggested:

“…Tattoo the URL to your penis, photograph it, then post it on your blog, digg the article.”

While this strategy might spike some interest and probably work; it was not really what I had in mind when I asked him if he had any ideas about exposure! So I am asking the faithful readers of my blog to do a couple of things that will help.

  • If you have not checked out the podcast, head on over to The Global Geek Podcast homepage and at least have a listen to the show, if you like it SUBSCRIBE to the RSS feed.
  • If you like the podcast or you think someone else might then tell them.
  • If you have a blog then why not give us a bit of a plug or put the podcast in your blog roll or links. I can get you a logo or graphic if you want it to look good.
  • We reviewed a site called Folkd in the last podcast it is a great “Digg” type site but very, very good and looks awesome, I have posted our podcast on there so that it can be voted on. If you like the podcast then Register and give it a Folkd! (vote/”digg”).
  • Same for Shoutwire and Newsvine
  • If you have a Digg account then why not Digg the latest episode? (doesn’t look so good if we do it…)
  • Let us know what else we might do to spread the word about the podcast.

I think that we have a reasonable podcast and that our content is good. So now we need exposure. We are trying to do that but we need your help! If you listen to the podcast and reckon other people should as well then tell them, or at least another two people, then tell them to do the same. It is greatly appreciated.

So I also issue a challenge! Read on…

If one person truly blows me away by something that they do to give us some major exposure (that we can see results from – like more downloads), I will personally fund a prize for that person! That’s right I’ll send you clobber. Don’t expect anything too amazing, we are not making money you know, but it will be cool and practical – cause that’s what you do when you don’t have much cash!

And you are on the show (if you want to be) to tell everyone what you did!

If there are any podcasters out there or anyone else for that matter with some great ideas then let me know by dropping me a comment or you can also send us email at The Global Geek Podcast. Thanks everyone I appreciate it and so does The Podcast Network!

The Global Geek Podcast: http://www.globalgeekpodcast.com

RSS Feed: http://globalgeek.thepodcastnetwork.com/feed/

Newspaper Websites Devoid of RSS Feeds

I noticed last week that the local paper here in Cairns, The Cairns Post is now on the Internet. I thought cool, I’ll head on over and check it out. I was not surprised to see that the site fails to provide any sort of RSS Feed.

I am not suprised because it is a newspaper site. I do not think these companies want you reading their content from elsewhere. Ultimately they want you to buy the paper! They also have employed other tricks such as giving you snippets of a story, headlines only, editorial comment eluding to other content. Of course to get this other content you have to get the actual paper.

It makes economic sense for newspapers to push their paper in hard-copy. But I think they are fighting something they don’t need to. If they do not embrace new technologies they are going to be abandoned. By their very nature they are behind, even television is to some extent, I get the news for tonight’s news as it happens – via RSS. Newspapers can be up to 12 hours behind and sometimes more. Newspapers need to get creative about how they are going to use new technologies while still maintaining their market share.

So why don’t newspapers evolve their content? What if I did not want to get the Cairns Post delivered but “purchased” an RSS feed? Make the feed cost less than the hard-copy would and offer things that you can’t get in the paper, like comments or something. I am sure that this could catch on. Especially if the price is cheaper. There is also the environmental considerations such as saving paper.
But until that happens I am not about to visit every newspapers website to see what they are up to. They are indexed by Google and I subscribe to Google News anyway and I can get the headlines from there via RSS. Or why not get a news alert for your local area? Sure I like the paper but I would sure love to get it electronically as well or instead of. Plus I hate the way they are rolled up when they are delivered, really hard to read and I can not be bothered flattening it out.