Rudy Rucker on Evangelism of Ideas

I read Rudy Rucker’s blog, listen to his podcast when it is published and have read his fiction for the last 20 odd years. One day I’d like to interview him as he is quite and interesting dude. As I get into really old Google Reader posts, I ran across this one from him a few weeks ago. He talks about how is odd ideas of how things might work are distressing to some but that he no longer cares much.

But at this point in my life, I no longer care very much if I can convince anyone or not. It’s like, at this point, my increasingly far-fetched ideas are art objects I’ve crafted, and it’s pointless to ask if they’re true. I’m fond of them, and I draw some comfort from them, and I like dramatizing them in SF novels — but I don’t want to put emotional energy into the task (which by now I know to be fruitless) of converting people.

As odd as it seems for having spent my weekend trying to convert people into using new media, I wasn’t really converting anyone. It was more a matter of putting specifics to desires that already existed. If people aren’t interested in podcasting or Twitter or blogging, I don’t really care anymore. I’m not interested in flipping anyone that doesn’t agree with me. I’ll just do what I do and if the value isn’t obvious enough to convince people it is worthwhile, I’ll press on without them.

That’s the power of new media. I don’t need anyone’s permission or sign-off or money to do my work. If it interests me and I want to do it, onwards. If you think it is stupid, don’t listen/watch/read. The world is a hard and cold place, and I’m done with those people who want to deny others moments of joy. Andrew Keens of the world, you are invited to kiss me ass. I need you even less than you need me. I’m here to do my work, to make myself happy. Anyone that wants to can come along.

iPodderX Lives (Sort Of)

I haven’t listened to TWiT regularly in some time, but I was curious to listen to the episode that Steve Gillmor was on. During that episode Dave Winer talked about iPodderX. That started an interesting chain of events. Both of the iPodderX guys posted their views of the situation, first Ray then August. I guess that put a bug in their ears because the next day, they released the underlying python code with a Creative Commons license. Wow, that’s good stuff. I hope that someone takes this and runs with it. I’ve been dissatisfied with all my various podcatching options and waited for Transistr for a long time until it became obvious that it was never happening. Will someone take up this torch? I’d love to but I’m time deprived for the foreseeable future.

Around the Podosphere, Money Edition

I felt like doing one of my roundups of interesting things I have seen or heard lately in my podcast experience. It seems like a fair bit of it overlaps with the recent discussions here of “going pro” in new media, of making money and general issues of new media as an industry. Let’s what we can make of this.

I ran across this interesting video via a link from Twitter. It is Cheryl Colan’s observations about the ads in Epic-Fu. I don’t follow Cheryl and in fact this was the first time I’ve ever heard of her. I think her video and the examples she raises are worth thinking about. She points out that the ads in Epic-Fu make the recommendations segment that is adjacent seem like product placement. In the comments to that post, which I only saw 90 seconds ago preparing this post, Steve and Zadi seem pretty defensive and refer to “accusations of dishonesty.” I thought Cheryl was quite clear that she has no inside knowledge of their motivations and only is referring to her experience as a viewer of their videos. I know that when I have recommendations in episodes for which I had sponsors, I have made statements that “my opinion hasn’t been bought. That’s not to say it couldn’t be, just that it would take a hell of a lot more money than they are paying.” Worth a watch for anyone interested in this conversation.

I’m late to this particular show but Colette Vogels’s Rules for the Revolution podcast has a fantastic episode talking about new media insurance. For those of you who are convinced this is what you want to do (and can’t be talked out of it), it is worth your time to listen to this show. Particularly if you have enough assets that getting them sued out from under will really ruin your life and you are a professional podcaster, spend the half-hour listening to this show. Really, do it.

I forget how I first ran across the Writers Strike Chronicles podcast but I am enjoying it, if “enjoying” can be considered the right term for something I wish didn’t exist at all. The host, Tanja Barnes, as best I can tell is an actress and also an aspiring writer. I believe at least one person she interviewed was someone whose screenwriting course she had taken. [Update: Tanja corrects me in the comments, it was a poetry writing workshop not screenwriting and she has no aspirations as a screenwriter. ] This show does quite a service for the cause of the writers. Having listened to a dozen or so episodes, I feel like I understand their position much better. I’m not sure what Tanja’s motivation for doing the podcast is, but she is demonstrably doing a service to the writer’s community. I doubt that she is looking for a direct payoff, but somewhere in here she is building up a karma surplus. Later on in her career, she might well find herself needing that goodwill and being able to draw on it. There’s a way where you can consider a podcast where someone is receiving value for their work, even if no cash ever changes hands.

I was a fan of the Rounders poker podcast, as someone interested in both poker and podcasts. I listened to it for about a year, and when I first subscribed I went back and got a few older episodes of particular interest to me, like the one with Chris Ferguson. It was a solid podcast that was also on radio in Vancouver. It went through a quick period where it was dropped from the AM sports station and was a podcast original. After a fairly short period, it morphed into the official podcast of Two Plus Two, one of the most well known poker publishers. In fact, I think the show was actually improved by this because now it has things like the “Sklansky minute”, which may not mean anything to you podcast geeks but as a poker geek it about made me pee my pants. I don’t know the terms of this move, but one presumes there is some recompense for Mike and Adam. This might the absolute best way one can monetize a podcast, by doing one so good that you become the official house podcast for a business that then pays you. Assuming, like these guys, that you pretty much do the same show before and after that’s about the best case of such things. I’ve recently tried out the Poker Road podcast and despite the pedigree of the high profile players involved I find it has too much AM sports talk style bullshitting around for my taste while the Two Plus Two cast is pretty much all business while still being fun. I highly recommend it.

News Gang

Today I was invited to participate in a new Gillmor venture, the the News Gang. Steve’s always liked me despite whatever dicklike behavior I exhibit, so what could I do but say yes? Late in the afternoon I got a direct Twitter message from Steve inviting me. I was a little worried about the logistics of calling in from my day job but it all worked out. Thanks to Steve for the invitation. It was nerve wracking but fun. It definitely is harder than it sounds, because it is difficult to tell what time to talk so a few times I just sort of waded in and threw an elbow. It’s kind of like being on a Subgenius show.

The episode is live now, so check it out. I’m not going to listen back because I don’t want to hear how stupid and nervous I sounded, but I’d appreciate honest feedback on how I did from those who do listen. Just the other day I was wondering to myself what I had to do to weasel myself an invite onto the Gillmor Gang/Group and bingo, there it was. Papa likes!

Add Album Art To an MP3 from Command Line

As I work on Super Secret Project X, one of the things that would make it a little handier would be the ability to add album art to MP3s from the OS X command line. I had been using mp3info2 as my tool for manipulating ID3 tags from the command line, but it doesn’t do album art. I dug around a little and found EyeD3, which is a bunch of python packages at it’s heart. I downloaded the source package and followed the directions, and it works great on my iBook. Right on!

Podcasting and Money: Round Two

Here is a guest blog piece that follows the post the other day about new media serving either the audience or the sponsors but not both simultaneously. J Wynia wrote me a very thoughtful email on the subject and with his permission I’m blogging it here. Everything from here out is him talking.

I started two or three times to write something quick on Twitter and failed, so on to the email. Forgive any tendency to ramble. I, too, have been trying to articulate thoughts on this whole topic.

I see two basic choices for deriving income from podcasting activities:

  1. Gate off the primary content/value itself and charge for membership or direct download.
  2. Provide secondary value in some way and charge for that.

All discussions of “new media” business models eventually boil down to what all discussions of business models need to at some point: value and the controlled access to that value.

In the sell-the-audience-to-the-sponsor model, the value is in having a product/service mentioned to a given group of listeners/viewers. As the podcaster controls the bits and bytes that comprise the show, the sponsor can’t get that mention without the consent of the podcaster. So, by charging for the ability to bypass that controlled access to the value, the money equation works.

When you move to reverse the equation and your goal is to make money by making the listeners happy, you will have to have the money come from them. To do that, value has to be provided and some method of collection as well.

Donations let the listener figure out their own value on the podcast and do their own collection. This tends not to work very efficiently. In places where it does work, it’s often because the dismal 0.X% response rate is being applied to a number of listeners/viewers is large enough to make the decimal shift into profitibility. In other cases, like public radio, they actually:

  1. Block convenient access to the content by doing membership drives regularly.
  2. Provide substitute value in the form of magazine subscriptions, coffee mugs and CD’s and discount cards and appeal to your desire to pay for that value instead of the news/classical music content delivery’s value.
  3. Appeal to the listener’s altruism, desire to be thought well of or tax situation and try to collect on those values: i.e. donate and get a bumper sticker that tells people you donated and the kind of people you think highly of will think highly of you.

In other words, to me, the donation model isn’t really much of an option.

Like you said, you can sell stuff: T-Shirts, posters, buttons, stickers, etc. all of which appeal to someone’s sense of tribe and as social markers. However, again, that’s really shifting to gathering value from a secondary place (assuming that you view the podcast as the primary value) and you lose efficiency.

To me, unless the secondary value is very close to the primary, you’re going to lose quite a bit of potency. The reason DVD box sets sell well is that they ARE the primary value with some additional value tacked on:

  1. Commercials removed.
  2. Extras
  3. Asynchrononicity. Can watch a show that aired once a week at 8:00pm on Tuesdays in 2002 in sequence over the course of a single weekend.
  4. High quality video.
  5. For some shows, repeatability
  6. For quite a few, the sense of ownership in something they enjoy.

Because access to all of those things is really difficult to obtain without paying the $20-$100 season, people pony up for the value.

I think where to add value and to limit access to it to only paying customers is tricky and can vary for each podcast. For those that are timely, selling archives doesn’t hold much value. However, those that have timeless content might be able to get some value out of their archives.

For some, they may be able to put out a short version of the content for free and charge for the “rest”. That’s pretty much the free porn model. Air a 10 minute interview with someone and say that the full interview is in the “members” area. That only works if the content in the “members” area has enough value (just like porn).

Of course, the “because of” model, where you get consulting gigs, speaking gigs, “old” media appearances, etc. because of your podcast fits in as a secondary value as well.

Unfortunately, what this whole thing exposes is the difficulty in providing the kind of value that the market is willing to pay for. If your podcast is just another two-geeks-talking-tech show, making it members-only isn’t going to work because the market is flooded with competition who is offering the same value for free.

That’s also why the idea of “I’m going to quit my job and make a living writing novels” isn’t a terribly good business plan either, unless you’re providing serious value to the market in the form of really remarkable fiction. That’s because the market is flooded with, for example, thousands of really bad fantasy novels written by people who just want their book published and are OK with the $3000 the average published novel makes the author.

That’s why the average acting “gig” doesn’t put food on the table, etc. If you’re looking to do something that thousands of people are willing to do for free, you’re really going to have to provide some extraordinary value in order to make money from it.

That’s why building data-driven business software applications pays me six figures and my writing four. I can relatively easily provide four figures worth of value to the business community in Minneapolis in a year and can’t do the same with my writing or podcasting (really need to re-launch my show).

At any rate, I should probably get back to doing exactly that. Hope I didn’t just muddy the waters even more. I just had to write something because the whole “new media” circus strikes me as strange. In some cases, these discussions end up sounding like two high school students dreaming about how great it would be to get paid to play XBox all day. It all focuses on “me” and how I can make money doing what I like.

Unfortunately, that almost never results in the desired outcome. If, instead, you try to find something that the market will value that you also value/enjoy/are good at, you get a great alignment that can make you a decent living. But, if you don’t put both columns on the paper when trying to figure this stuff out, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Thanks to J Wynia for these great insights and for letting me post these. Let’s keep this conversation going!

Podcasting: Who Will You Serve?

There are certain debates in new media that I’ve had so many times that I end every exchange thinking that I will never get embroiled in that particular turdfight again. The “make money fast” end of podcasting is one of those I’ve sworn off many times, just like someone who quits smoking over and over. I believe by reading through these posts and trying to refine my reflexive umbrage I’ve reached insights I haven’t ever had, so what the hell. Let’s let it rip. Please bear with me for a couple of paragraphs before I get to my insights.

First, let’s cover the history of this flare up. At PNME 2007 my buddy Michael Geoghegan presented his talk “Selling the Unique Value of Your Content: Determining What Your Show is Worth and Convey It To Advertisers, Sponsors and Investors”. That’s a mouthful, and is what Leesa Barnes refers to as the “Podcasting is Dead” talk. I like Leesa and was interviewed by her for her book but I agree with MWG that you can’t get think his talk says that if you’ve actually listened to it. I listened to it the other day, and basically it says “If you want to make a living podcasting, you have to do a lot of boring business things.” That should come as no surprise to anyone who isn’t a complete gold miner, but to create a successful podcasting business you have to do the same sorts of things you’d have to do to create a successful burrito cart – invest in infrastructure and get your act together.

Leesa also says things like “And I’ve finally figured out the #1 reason why most people claim podcasting is dead and I must share this epiphany”. That’s pretty weak, to use “most people claim …” I can’t say I’ve ever heard or read a credible person making that claim. It is by inspection obviously false if podcasting is defined as “shows being produced.” There are more now than ever. If you mean “cynical opportunists aren’t able to cash out quickly without putting much in” then sure. We have people like Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins who posted his disillusion with ad networks, which prompted a response from Podcasting News and a counterthrust by Hopkins. This brought on responses by Dave Winer about how he thinks you shoudn’t burden a podcast with paying your bills and Kent Nichols about how to make Ask a Ninja a business they had to do business stuff. OK, end recap.

As I followed the links and trackbacks in this argument, my low moment was in the Podcasting News article. I just felt very tired when I read this:

Podcasters Need To Take Responsibility For Making Their Podcasts Marketable

This was in response to Hopkins’ statement:

I set about creating some concepts for a couple of podcasts for Mashable, which frankly is the easy part. I spoke to Pete about them, and he gave them tentative approval, provided I could find sponsorship for the podcast at the onset. I gave everyone a call in the business I could think of to find a suitable sponsor.

My take is not wildly dissimilar from Dave Winer’s at this point. Much like Hugh Macleod’s “Sex and Cash Theory” says, I think it is a terrible thing to make your art bear the burden of supporting you financially prematurely. Like Dave I think that both sides of this argument are wrong. The idea of podcasters “making their podcasts marketable” makes me puke in my mouth a little. I think that is the exact opposite of what podcasters need to do. It’s certainly not what I have done in my show from the start where my lack of a definable topic, format or schedule defies marketability. However, it has for every single one of my almost 220 episodes been exactly what I wanted to do every time. I’ve made money in sponsorships/advertising, but I’ve actually made more money by selling t-shirts and CDs. Get creative kids, there is more than one way to shake nickels from this medium.

Here’s where my title comes in. Traditional media may pretend to serve the audience but really the audience is the product and the customer is the advertisers. They sell their audience to the sponsors. If you enjoy their program it is a means to an end, a way to keep you around long enough to sell your ears and/or eyeballs. What I’ve always enjoyed about podcasting is that the cost of production and distribution is so low (from cheap to nothing) that it is feasible to actually serve the audience primarily. This is the stuff of my PNME talks (2005 and 2006), that there is no reason to not just go for it. You can make a show as targeted to a niche audience as you can without concern for marketability, choosing to serve the listeners rather than the sponsors. The irony is that if you do this well enough, you can actually find sponsorship but of a very specific kind. Podcasting News seems to be thinking of marketability of a general type, being sponsored by Old Navy or the US Navy. That is service to the sponsors. The Mac Geek Gab is an example of a show that is of service to the audience. They have a specific type of demographic of technically minded Mac users, and as a result they have sponsors like Bare Bones software, not the kind of company that would advertise on TV or radio. This is the way it should go in new media. Create your show and be of great service to your audience. If you serve it well enough with a good enough show, you might actually find sponsorship that way but if you don’t put the audience first, that gets less likely.

Podcasting is a medium where the pitch is irrelevant. Just do the damn show and publish it. It costs little or nothing to do that, just a little of your time. If you aren’t willing to commit the time to do it then why should anyone care enough to commit money to you? There is no better pitch than a well produced show with an existing audience. That’s what tweaked me about Hopkins’ posts, the way he treats this medium with the power dynamic of a Hollywood studio or radio syndicate. It seems like 2/3 of the people in new media are trying to rebuild the same hierarchies the other 1/3 are trying to tear down. Don’t ask for permission, don’t pitch anyone. Find your passion, speak your mind, produce your show. Cynical shit might fly but that ain’t how the smart money bets. Don’t quit your day job and force your show to pay your mortgage. Do what matters to you and don’t think about the money until you have to. Take advantage of the strengths of podcasting and be agile. You can’t out-compete big media on breadth but you can on depth. Go deep, serve your audience better than the radio or TV ever could. If you do it well enough, money will find you. If your only motivation is making money, you will do a worse show and probably make less anyway. Serve the audience and not the sponsors. Why? Because you can.

The End of Bittorrents for My Podcast?

In the first month or two of this podcast (way back in fall of 2004) I did an experiment of publishing episodes of my show as bittorrent files and putting them in a special feed for that. At the time, most or all of the podcatchers anyone was using supported bittorrent. The experiment was so successful that a month later I made my default feed the bittorrent feed, which is the way it has been ever since.

When iTunes was released without bittorrent downloading support, that took a big portion of the wind out of the sails of this whole project. Prior to the release of that version of iTunes, I was moving thousands of copies of each show via bittorrent. Today, I’m moving dozens. When iTunes basically crushed the standalone podcatcher market, that killed bitorrent. I kept fighting the good fight though, mainly for political reasons. I wanted to prove there were legitimate uses for torrent technology and by keeping my default distribution that way, I thought I could serve as a counter-example to the meme that torrent traffic == content theft.

It cost me in some ways, large and small. I’ve wanted to use the PodPress plugin to ease my management woes but never could get it to work properly with my torrents, so I’ve never used it. The iTunes directory has always had my direct bittorrent feed in their database, so I had to write a customer .htaccess rule to make my web server swap out the MP3 feed when iTunes was the user agent. To this day, they’ve never fixed that and I had to hack to make my show work with iTunes. My management and workflow is always more difficult, directories sometimes have a hard time dealing with my torrents, etc.

This morning, I found an MP3 trading site that was using my tracker to trade their files. That was the second to last straw. I shut the tracker down and set about looking for ways to restrict the tracker to only use my files. I wanted to clamp down on publishing but let anyone freely download, which isn’t exactly what the private trackers are about. As I dug around, I went to the main Bittorrent site. The scruffy ugly site Bram Cohen put up is no longer there. I was looking for documentation on configuring my tracker, and what I found was a corporate site about getting big media content more easily. Is this what I’m fighting my fight for? It’s pretty much the opposite of what I care about.

My tracker is down right now. I’m strongly considering never turning it back on, installing Podpress and just going forth on my merry way. If someone can come up with a good technical solution for me to secure the tracker the way I want and a good political reason why I should care anymore about this site whose agenda is how to let you buy shit from big media, I’d love to hear it. Drop me a comment. If I haven’t changed my mind by the time I publish my next show, I’ll begin the process of de-torrenting this site completely. My mind is open to being changed and I welcome that possibility but at this moment it isn’t how the smart money bets.

Update: I wrote this in a hurry on the way out of town, or I would have paused for a minute to thank all of you who used the bittorrent feed despite it being less convenient to you in general. In particular, I think Neil Forker is a hall of famer for continuing to use the torrent feed with Juice even though he used iTunes for everything else he subscribed to. That’s wonderful and humbling that someone would run that client solely for me to help me out. It’s truly touching. That’s the ultimate sad part about shutting down the torrents, choosing to use a torrent is by its nature a generous choice that ties us together more than just downloading a file from a website. Thanks to all of you who have been seeding for years and going out of your way to share your bandwidth via the torrents. I love you all.


One of the best things that has happened to me in the new media era is that I occasionally get to talk to Tony Kahn. I love that guy as a person, as a broadcaster and as a wit. A while ago he was nice enough to give me a copy of the series he produced in the mid 90’s called Blacklisted. It is his recollection of his childhood and the period when his screenwriter father was being pursued by the House Unamerican Activities Committee and was literally blacklisted, hence the title. It’s the kind of thing that is sadly relevant in our modern day.

At the time, it was only available for purchase from Audible but I just found out that it is now available for free download from WGBH. My friends, you now have no excuse to not listen to this. It is 6 30 minute episodes, a week or less of a most people’s commute time. I urge everyone to give it a spin. It’s well produced, touching and infuriating material. Let’s remember history lest we be doomed to repeat it. Thank you Tony and thank you WGBH for giving this series distribution in this form. It is a great holiday present to all of us in the new mediasphere.

Around the Podosphere

More things I’ve heard lately on podcasts.

I’ll admit it, I downloaded this episode of Indy In Tune because my name is in the show notes (it’s automatic, I’m subscribed to an AmigoFish search on my name). I listened, liked it, and am now subscribed to the show. I like the Chad Mills music in the show and will check out more of it.

Part two of Michael Butler’s interview with Tommy James was just as good as part one, maybe better. I highly recommend it. I’m also glad that Rock of Love is over, I won’t have to skip most of the episode for half his shows anymore. In his most recent show, he mentioned that “Metal Guru” is his favorite T. Rex song. Really? Not that it isn’t a great song, but that one doesn’t strike me as the top of the pile. I’d put “20th Century Boy” or “Mambo Sun” as my personal favorite.

I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed any other blogger or podcaster recommending them, but I really love the Subdudes podcast. It comes out once a month and when it does, it’s always a treat. When we lived in Lafayette LA I think was either during their performing hiatus or when they were in Colorado and we never saw them live. If they ever tour through this area, by gum I’m going to see them.

I’ll admit that I was completely shocked when I subscribed to the podcast feed of the SXSW sessions how many of these panels are completely disposable. I haven’t been skipping as many lately as I was at the height of irrelevance a few months ago, but I do skip some. Here’s one that I found essential: several startup web projects lay out their balance sheets. I give Ryan Carson of Carson Systems (DropSend) huge credit for candor. He was the only one on the panel who didn’t hold back on any of the numbers. He laid it all out, how much they make and how much they spend and what it cost to develop the product. As a person doing a similar thing (minus the making money part), I found this unbelievably fascinating.

Today I listened to this speech Guy Kawasaki gave at the MySQL conference. This is a must listen. I liked his anecdote about how he turned down the gig as CEO of Yahoo and how that cost him what he estimates was $2 billion.

Finally, thanks to CC Chapman and Ewan Spence for their kind shout out to me in their episode of “Accident Mash” recorded in Ontario, CA. It was a very nice gesture, even though calling it the “Dave Slusher Memorial Podcast” sure does make me sound deceased. I’m not a fan of Brother Love, but that’s OK – he’s a big enough fan of himself for both of us.

Podcast Circle Jerk Tally

Just for an excercise in completeness, I’m going to tally the results from last weekend’s Podcast Circle Jerk Awards versus my estimates I posted from my distribution of podcast award sentiment. I find that I needed two more buckets than originally specified, because there are some shows I have heard the name of but never listened to, and there are some that I neither like nor hate. This is only for the winners not all the nominees and the shows that won more than one category are only counted once.

Here’s my breakdown:

  • Shows I really like: 1
  • Shows I hate: 8
  • Shows I have listened to but have no strong feelings about: 2
  • Shows I have never heard of: 7
  • Shows I have heard of but never listened to: 2

So, if we count being on the fence with hate, and never listened to as never heard of — both of which are resonable assumptions because if forced to put them in an appropriate bucket that would be what I picked — we get this percentage:

Like: 1/20 or 5%
Hate: 10/20 or 50%
Never head of: 9/20 or 45%

That’s awfully close to the numbers in my original post so I feel pretty validated by that. I started to write this post yesterday but since then one show moved from “never heard of” to hate because it came down my AmigoFish prediction feed last night. That coincidence helped my distribution match a little better. Thanks, AF!

Podcast Queue Underflow

Usually when I get freakishly busy with work, it corresponds to me having a big backup in my podcast listening queue. Lately though the opposite has happened. Because I’ve been spending extra time at my desk where I have the possibility of sitting and listening to my player, I have actually hit the end of my queue several times recently. I still have about 7 episodes of the SXSW sessions which I’m not going out of my way to listen to. I just put them at the end of my list and if I listen to everything else I’ll then listen to those as I have time. Even so, I’ve listened to a number of them in the last week. When I sync up my player and get the new stuff, by the end of the day I have listened to it all. I can’t remember the last time that happened for any length of time. Of course, I have also dropped a few shows lately (Smart City was one) and I fast-forwarded through any of Mike Butler’s “Rock of Love” recap shows, so that right there is a few hours a week that disappeared from my listening.

Missing Friends and the Podcast Industry

So Podcast Expo came and went without me. Even if I had gone, it would be over by now and I’d be on my way home. I’m sad that I didn’t go, but not as bummed as you might think. I’ve been sanguine about the whole thing. Wednesday night I realized how insane it would be if I were getting ready to leave. Considering I was at work until 1 AM a week ago Friday and as late as 5:30 PM this Friday was working on getting a release pushed out, it just went the way it had to. I’d like to have gone and had a good time with my friends and given my talk, but even now I’m still pretty tired.

I’ve been looking at photos via the “podcast expo” flickr tags, and I got some IMs from Kreg Steppe last night. Other than that, I really know little about how the thing went. I received a bunch of press release emails prior to the expo from Podango, none of which seemed that exciting to me. As much as I enjoy podcasting as a medium, I’m finding that I care less and less about the “podcast industry.” Odeo sells to some other company no one has heard of and then buys FireAnt. Podango buys the unreleased Gigavox Audio service. In the Fireant and Gigavox case, people I like are making money which I’m in favor of. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t care at all. I can’t remember the last move of any of the new media related companies that mattered to me.

No Me at PNME

Sadly, I had to cancel my attendance at this years Podcast and New Media Expo. I really want to go and give my talk but I just can’t swing it this year. The summer and into the fall has been brutal at the day job and I can’t spare the time or the energy. From Myrtle Beach to Ontario CA is a full day of traveling each way so it takes 5 days out of my schedule to do the 3 of the expo. I hung on thinking things would settle down but they never have and now I am kind of stuck. The thought of giving up one of these hotly contested speaking slots makes me sick to my stomach, but that’s the way life goes. I committed to this in March and everything was go but things have changed since then.

I wanted to go and represent my position in the field, which is ever more the minority. I think the focus on how to wring nickels out of podcasting is blinding people to its true value: bringing the power of media and expression and creation to individuals. I’m planning on going to Converge South the third weekend of October and maybe I can let a little of it out then. I will give some form of my talk as an episode of the podcast coming up soon to at least get my thought process out there into the podosphere. I fear that with this move I have committed professional suicide as a New Media Thought Leader (such as I ever was) but you know, I can live with that too. One thing playing poker these last few years has taught me is an acceptance of and a willingness to get beat now and then. It’s all part of the game.

I will miss all of you. I wish I could see you and hang out. Hoist one for me, jump in the pool naked for me.

Michael Butler on a Tear

I listened to all three of Michael Butler recent interviews with geezer rockers. I tally them as going two for three. I loved the interview with Howard Kaylan of the Turtles and Flo and Eddie fame, and I loved the interview with Tommy James. Both of those guys were really nice to Mike, very candid and high energy. I didn’t so much like the interview with Mark Volman, who was kind of a dick. I really expected to love it and had been looking forward to it, but when it came down it just wasn’t so much fun. It wasn’t Butler’s fault. For sure, he was working like a dog to get the energy up and bring Vollman out but it just wasn’t there. I’d have rather heard a second hour with Howard Kaylan. Maybe in the future, he can be a return guest. As Meatloaf sang “Don’t be sad, two out of three ain’t bad.”

This is just me, but I absolutely hate the Rock of Love recaps. He says that all the feedback he gets is positive, so I imagine I’m outnumbered. I just don’t care about any of the reality show recaps, be it Rock of Love or American Idol or Rock Star or any that might come along later. If his audience digs it, then he should stick with it. That’s OK, I have a good skip button on the Creative Zen that makes it easy to zip past.

Garrick on Podcast Advertising

Garrick van Buren posts a musing on podcast advertising and references this here clambake in it. I sort of agree with his basic points and don’t know what to do about it. I could have an index of every firm that has ever sponsored the show. Would that be value add or just noise?

Update: Dave Hamilton (aka my pimp) weighs in on the subject. He points out that Garrick remembered that such and ad existed and where 18 months after it ran is a wild success of the medium, not necessarily a failure.

Around the Podosphere

In the last few days, I’ve listened to several interesting interviews. The first has to be my favorite episode of the Rock and Roll Geek Show so far. In Episode #251, he interviews Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, Mothers of Invention and many other places. I liked the Turtles but I loved a lot of what they have done since, including singing background on one of the best albums in rock history, T. Rex’s “Electric Warrior” and singing foreground on another of the best, Frank Zappa’s “Live at the Fillmore”. There was a stretch were Howard was extolling the virtues of controlling your own artistic output, not giving away your work to record companies, and such. Hearing a guy who has been in the music business for 40 years say the same things I do about it makes me feel nice and validated. I thought the interview rocked and I thank Brother Butler for doing it.

On kind of another extreme was the Bat Segundo interviews with Berke Breathed, Parts one and two. I like Breathed and was a big fan of Bloom County in the day. In part one he said many things of truth that I agreed with, but in part two he diverged from me. Particularly he had a stretch where he was lamenting the disappearance of the huge media, those pop cultural moments that were shared by basically all Americans. At one point he said something like “I fear that I sound like the old man waving his cane at kids on his lawn” which was hilarious, because that was exactly what I had been thinking. He pointed out that new artists now can’t get that 20 million readers that he used to be able to field. So what?

He was lucky enough to get in at the tail end of a long decline in the monolithic nature of media. This situation he fears we are losing (it ain’t a fear – it is really gone, never to return) is not something I think we particularly have to worry about or miss. It was a quirk of the growth cycle of modern media, where we had the capacity to distribute entertainment to many people at once, but not the capacity to distribute a wide diversity of said entertainment. I found it intriguing that his example he kept citing was Milton Berle in the 50’s. That’s a great example for both our points, because whenever I see kinescopes of the material that so fascinated the country back then, I find it unwatchable. Far from being brilliant and classic, it was broad, low brow and low common denominator. Sure, everyone watched him but that’s also because there were so few other choices. I grew up in the tail days of that, when we got 2 of the 3 networks as over the air stations in western Kansas. When cable arrived and I was able to watch Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” video and full Frank Zappa concerts on Night Flight everything changed for me, and for the better. Breathed’s point that new cartoonists won’t have millions of readers just kept me saying “And so?” I really couldn’t see the problem with it. He seemed to be equating the magnitude of the audience with some sort of goodness factor, but that equation is no longer in play.

All that said, I really did like both parts of the interview and thought that Ed did a nice job with it. I don’t listen to every single episode anymore because I have only heard of or have an interest in about one in three of the people he talks to. The ones I listen to I really enjoy, though. Check it out.

Bittorrent Plugin for iTunes

The author dropped me a note letting me know about this plugin to Bittorrent support to iTunes podcasts. This allows you to not only download torrented podcasts but to seed them as well. It is currently Windows only, but OS X support is in the plan. If you are a developer who wants to help move that along, you might should jump aboard. I’ve kept my support for Bittorrent mainly for political reasons. In spring of 2005, over 90% of my downloads came via the torrents. Nowadays, it’s more like 5%. iTunes killed it, so it would be nice to see people be able to breathe a little life back into it.