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As a 22 year veteran of the intersection of media and technology (going back to the interactive video disc days) I have many views on the subject. Having been doing this for as long as I have, I have a different perspective on it than many bloggers. This is where I opine.

Tuesday
Nov212006

Googleplex


I had some meetings in Mountain View today, after I finished up I had lunch with an old friend at the Googleplex. He's been there for about seven months. In those seven months Google has essentially doubled in head count. It boggled my mind. They are handling their growth so much better than Yahoo! did. They are keeping their hiring standards WAY up, something that Y! did well for a while, but really slipped on in the late '98-99 time frame. No one is hiring people just so they don't "lose the headcount". The place is just so much better run than Y! was. The energy is amazing.

Of course, the food at Google is head and shoulders above the old Yahoo! meal plan in 3400...

Tuesday
Nov212006

Friction


What is friction? Friction is "user hassle".

When I first came up with the concept for Yahoo! Games back in 1997, the guiding principle of the product was that it required the user to install no software. Lack of friction in user adoption drove everything about the product, from the selection of classicgames.com to the games we chose to implement. It was this lack of friction that allowed us to go from launch to number one gaming site (where it's been ever since) in less than four months.

There is a very real danger that friction will kill podcasting. There's no question that it is greatly slowing growth. Where is the friction? RSS subscription is not as straightforward to the naive (mainstream) user as it should be. Sharing and forwarding podcasts is a big hassle (there goes viral growth). The iPod is only a connected device via a wire. Getting feedback to the author is a hassle. Keeping a portable device filled with timely content is a hassle. Notifying a listener of new content requires work on the listener's part. It's even worse on the phone -- add software handset installs and data plans into the mix, and growth is totally mired.

At Foneshow we've worked hard to eliminate these friction points. I think we've succeeded.

Monday
Nov202006

A Random Thought on GooTube


Was Google's acquisition of YouTube a defensive move to take out a competitor? Will Google care if they kill YouTube?

There's been much sturm und drang about the Y! peanut butter memo this weekend. One of the main points of the memo is that YHOO has similar products in the same space that compete against each other. Commentators have mentioned that one of GOOG's strengths is that they don't have multiple products in the same space.

A little bell went off in my head. When the YouTube acquisition was announced GOOG CEO Eric Schmidt went out of his way to say that Google Video "is not going away."

A few points:

-The bump in GOOG stock due to the YT acquisition means that YT was essentially free.

-There's no way in hell Google Video was beating YouTube in the marketplace.

-GOOG would be hurt if YouTube were owned by MSFT or YHOO

-Google is a company that thrives on technology solutions. YouTube has no proprietary technology (the interesting tech is Adobe's).

-There's a snakepit of trouble with YouTube vis a vis copyright issues (especially once people realize that Progressive Download!=Streaming).

-An unfavorable legal judgement against YouTube would hurt all online video efforts (see A&M RECORDS V NAPSTER).


I'm not suggesting Google is going to try to kill YouTube. I just suspect that if it doesn't work out, Google won't shed too many tears.

Monday
Nov202006

Presenting Mobile Applications to a Crowd


I invented something recently. We mobile phone guys have a tough problem; how do you demo your product to a group? If it's one or two people, you play the "gather around" game. But that solution doesn't scale beyond demoing to one or two people. If you're demoing web apps, you just output the computer to a projector, but there is no way to directly put the screen output of a phone onto a projector. The problem is exacerbated when you need to bounce back and forth between a phone experience and a web app.

What I did was take my iSight camera (which outputs via firewire), set up a video window on my desktop, then output the entire desktop (including video window and browser window) to the projector. I hold the phone up to the camera and bring the video window to the front when I need to demo phone side. I bring a browser window to the front when I need to demo the web side. It works like a charm.

David Beisel showed me a company that has a product that does something close. But besides being expensive (start ups are cheap), their solution is lacking. They output video, you can plug that video into a projector, but then how do you demo the web side?

Monday
Nov202006

Podcamp West

A big thanks to Vic Podcaster and everyone who helped set up and contributed to Podcamp West. We presented our product on Sunday afternoon and had a great response from the podcasting community, a response that generated lots of great questions and bunches of new ideas.

Thanks to everyone, and keep in touch.

Monday
Nov132006

Getting Ready for Podcamp


I've got a busy week coming up...

Wednesday afternoon I fly down to New York. I've got several meetings on Thursday. Nic and I are going to the TechCrunch NYC party on Thursday night. Friday morning (at 6:45 AM, ouch) I'm off to to California for Podcamp West in San Francisco. We've got bunches of meetings set up with podcasters who want to use the platform (although we're always looking to talk to more...). At the un-conference we're going to be slowly opening up the beta to the public.

I'll be out in California for T-Giving with the family, and then spending the week after the turkey feast catching up with my SiliValley friends.

We've been getting a fair amount of attention from VCs recently. While we love to expand our network and chat about the product, we're really focused on execution right now. Our capital needs are minimal and the focus is on the product; we're trying to avoid distractions. We're not really looking for a large investment at this time. So outside of a quite small investment (100-200K), we're not currently in the market.

If you want to get together in the bay area, drop me an e-mail (if you want to get together in NYC, we can try, but the schedule is really tight).

Sunday
Nov122006

Timeliness


Pit podcasting against traditional broadcast radio in the time-sensitive content genres (politics, business, news, sports) and podcasting loses. Now, broadcast radio has its problems (fodder for another post or three), but it continues to have massive reach. Radio mostly retains its popularity because it is timely -- a constant source of fresh information.

Timeliness (particularly in terms of the mobile device) is podcasting's biggest weakness. If you can't propagate your media to your end user's device in a timely manner, the vast majority of current content loses its punch. It is literally yesterday's news.

A podcast has a long and tortured journey from creator through aggregator (like iTunes) to local computer client, where it waits for the user to plug in their iPod and synch it. Even then, once the programming is on the iPod, the user has no idea if they've got new programming unless they actively go and look for it. This channel does not lend itself to effortless, immediate consumption of time-sensitive programming.

The phone is by its very nature a connected device. FoneShow gives its users instant notification of the availability of new programming, and a channel to consume it on -- as soon as it's published.

Thursday
Nov092006

Some Goofiness Today

The SMS formatting for new shows is acting a bit odd today. It will be fixed soon.

Sorry about that.

Update 9PM EST:

SMS goofiness seems fixed

Tuesday
Nov072006

Screwing Up


"A man's errors are his portals of discovery." - James Joyce

I once worked with a start-up that was based on exclusive, premium content -- a dumb idea on many levels, in retrospect, and the company failed. But I as an entrepreneur learned a lot. About new technologies. About building the right team for the project and what kinds of personalities are suited to a start-up. About timing the raising of capital. About recognizing the difference between true product-level failure and the normal challenges of building [or creating] something new.

But the most important piece of the experience was learning to quickly recognize when we had failed. From the time we realized we were doomed to the team's dissolution was six weeks.

Failing, while not optimal, is not terrible. But letting failure drag out saps the soul and dilutes the lessons of the failure. Get off the sinking ship. Salvage what lessons you can from the debris on the beach and get on with whatever comes next in your life.

Saturday
Nov042006

Do a show every day (no matter how short), to build a brand


This is a corollary to "Brevity is the soul of wit."

I got some mail from readers saying "I only podcast every few weeks, I have too much to say to only do a five minute show."

To which I reply "Do more shows and say it tomorrow."

The key to building a brand is becoming engaged in your audiences' lives. It's nearly impossible to do that by only talking to them every few weeks (or even once a week). If you've really got an hour of material every two weeks, break it up into 12 five-minute shows. First of all, no one is going to listen to you go on for an hour (we can show you a graph of listeners vs. time); second, in two weeks, when your next show comes out, no one is going to remember who you are.

Paul Harvey is the archetype for this kind of programming. Love him or hate him, you cannot argue with his success. He has become one of the best known and enduring brands in America by communicating with his audience several times a day for just a few minutes at a time.

Saturday
Nov042006

Without auditable metrics you're just blowing smoke


The blogosphere is abuzz about podcast metrics. It started with the Rocketboom/ZeFrank spat. Now Scoble and others have chimed in. At the end of the day, it's a tempest in a teapot.

The current state of podcasting statistics is analogous to measuring the reach of a billboard by counting the cars that pass it on the freeway. You end up with the number of people who MIGHT have been exposed to your message, but you have no clue as to the influence of the message you're trying to convey. Your advertisers and sponsors have no idea about the ROI they receive for paying you money.

When we started to build our platform, this was one of the HUGE issues we wanted to address. What Google's success with its advertising programs has shown us is that if you can provide real metrics (ROI) about the effectiveness of your advertising platform to your advertisers' bottom line, they'll spend a fortune with you. If you can show advertisers that by spending N dollars advertising on your platform, they'll make 3xN dollars in return, you have an easy sale. If you can't show that, you wander into the area of spending the tangible (cash) to build the intangible (brand).

The only way you'll ever know if a person who downloads your media to their device actually consumes that media is by putting spyware on their device.

Everyone hates spyware.

Sunday
Oct292006

Brevity is the Soul of Wit

Bloggers get it

It is the rare blog post that forces me to scroll. Blogging is content snacking, not content feasting. I can read an average blog post in well under a minute. Have you ever read a five page blog post?

Vloggers get it (most of them...).

Rocketboom: 3 minutes. ZeFrank: 4 minutes. Wallstrip: 4 minutes. Scoble tends to ramble a bit but even he seems to be getting better. Now, this may be an unintended consequence of YouTube wanting to keep their backend and copyright risks under control, which led them to limit the length of clips, but online video people tend not to be too verbose.

Attention spans have never been shorter.

So why, oh why, do podcasters insist on making 30-minute, 60-minute or even 90-minute shows? Have a point, make the point, support the point. Edit mercilessly.

Since programming is streamed on the FoneShow platform, we have very specific data about how many listeners are sticking around and for how long. After about 10 minutes, chances are you're talking to yourself.

Sunday
Oct292006

Podcamp West


We're going to Podcamp West in San Francisco on November 18th and 19th. We currently anticipate (but do not guarantee) that we will be opening up our beta to the public at that time.

From the Podcamp Website:
PodcampWest is Free BarCamp style UnConference, for bloggers and readers, podcasters and listeners, VideoBloggers and new media of all types. PodcampWest is free to attend and was inspired by PodCamp Boston. Continuing the momentum, we are bringing PodCamp to the West Coast, the hub of tech activity.

We hope to see you all there.

Sunday
Oct292006

Audio on the Desktop

In 2005, a plethora of podcasting companies emerged (Odeo and Podshow, just to name two). A few months later, most of them came to a realization. They realized that getting programming actually onto the mobile device, in a timely manner, was not happening. Most of their listeners were sitting at their computers, not listening on their iPods.

So they retrenched and focused on desktop listeners.

This is a mistake.

If forced to compete on the desktop, audio podcasting is doomed. On the desktop there's too much else going on. You are competing against video and websites and all the applications that live on a computer. These competitors bring more to the table than just audio. Users only have so much time to consume media. Using audio to take market share away from video, on what is fundamentally a visual device (the computer) is a fool's errand. The power of being on a mobile device is that your users get to consume media at times when they otherwise could not. The goal is to open up additional time to consume, not to change current consumption habits.

Phones are different from computers. Computers are essentially visual devices. At a platonic level, the phone is an audio device. It is optimized for an aural experience. Many people use headsets (wired and wireless); their handset stays tucked away in a pocket or purse. Mobile podcasting plays to the strengths of the phone.

Yes, we are aware that a lot of companies are working very hard to popularize video on the phone. I'll be covering why mobile video is fighting an uphill battle in a later post.

Sunday
Oct292006

Let me introduce the band

It's a small band right now, just a duo actually. When you're a two person company, both team members wear many hats.

On engineering, Nic Wolff, a Perl hacker from New York City. Nic's done a lot of interesting stuff over the years; if you google him you can find out about some of it.

On product, Erik Schwartz. Erik spent 14 years in Silicon Valley. Most notably he led the Entertainment Group at Yahoo! from its inception, and managed the launch of the core suite of products. He also realized that casual games was a place Yahoo! needed to be, and made it happen (even though Y! Games is a communities product, it remains to this day in the Entertainment Group). Erik now lives in Maine with his wife and two little girls.

The company is virtual right now, that is to say we have offices in Bath, Maine and New York City, plus we do an annual offsite summer development fest in Truro, Massachusetts. A small team, rural broadband, video conferencing, IM, cell phones (duh) and cheap, regular flights on JetBlue allow us to be very productive with minimal infrastructure (overhead).

Sunday
Oct292006

So here we are

Our private beta is off to a grand start; we'll be adding more listeners over the next two weeks.

Many of you have asked: "So what is a FoneShow?".

Well, FoneShow is a platform for facilitating the rapid propagation of short form audio to mobile devices.

"Gee" you might say, "that sounds an awful lot like podcasting"

There are similarities. It's certainly what podcasting was supposed to be. Whether podcasting has succeeded is open to debate.

So the short answer to "what is it that FoneShow does?" is that we enable podcasting to be consumed via the cell phone. We've created a better platform for people and organizations to use audio to communicate with people.

We'll be using this blog to talk about the things we believe and to evangelize our views, in addition to communicating with our users and other interested parties. We'll also talk a bit about the life of a start up

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