This one time…at Podcamp….

I’m headed to camp! I don’t know about you but that brings
back allot of memories, both good and bad. A chance to be “on my own” and
campfires on the good side and the smell of mildewed canvas (Kids, ask your
parents what tents used to be made of.) and the late night pranks played on the
skinny kid. (Though, I wasn’t completely innocent of pulling a few on others.)

This time, thanks to a heads up from Garrick Van Buren, I’m
off to Po
dCamp. PodCampMN to be exact, on August 25th. The smell
should be one of brewing beer since its being held at Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul, MN.

Easy access to beer…this alone should provide for some lively conversation. In reality, the conversation will be driven by many of the
Podcasters that are driving the growth of the medium her in Minnesota and beyond. Even if you’ve never
been a part of an “unconference” you should be there as well. This type of open
source gathering allows for an incredible amount of learning without the “Bueller,
Bueller. Anyone? Bueller.-like” presentation you’ll find elsewhere. My first
unconference experience was at Minnebar and I was pleasantly surprised at how
un-geeky it was. (Of course, this could mean I’m geekier than I think? Nah!)


Though being around for 5+ years or so, podcasting is still
very much in its infancy. The big issues I feel it still faces are; maintaining
it’s ability to be unique and non-conformist, the ability to measure it’s reach
to better monetize it for business where appropriate, and improving the quality
of production and presentation.

I’m excited about the prospect of discussing these topics
and hearing from those that are knee-deep in producing and distributing podcasts.
I want to encourage anyone who has an interest in where media and
communications are going to check one of these podcamps near you. You’re
staring down the barrel of the future…find out all you can so you know when to
hold your ground or when to duck.

Representation Association Conversation

If you’re like me, it’s pretty easy to find yourself
bouncing all over cyberspace trying to digest information. It’s something that
can consume vast amounts of time. Not to mention the wasted minutes (and brain
cells) when you stop to see what rehab center that whacky Lindsay Lohan is
headed to…C’mon, admit it, you look. Such is the case with news of the
formation of the ADM (Association for Downloadable Media). So, when I did catch
wind of it, I scurried on over to the ADM site to see what was up.

I’m a big believer in the viability of building successful
business around blogging, podcasting, videocasting, etc. as a marketing and
advertising medium. My concern has always been the measurement of its
effectiveness. In my opinion there is a certain amount of “cool factor” driving
ad dollars to the web right now. It’s only a matter of time before ad agencies start
demanding gobs of proof that the money they spend on that part of their
marketing is working, ultimately looking for ways to get a better price. So
it’s important that we provide them with the facts and figures to justify the
current rates, and higher rates in the future.

Anyway, according to their website, a big part of what the
ADM is all about is just that. Note the Mission Statement: To provide leadership in and organization of advertising and audience
measurement standards, research, education and advocacy to all those involved
in portable media (Podcasts/ATOM/RSS media enclosures) across the Internet,
iPods, MP3 players, mobile devices, P2P and other upcoming platforms.
So, this
being a brand new organization that is focused on something I believe in, I
ponied up the dough to become a member (a bit spendy, but I’ve belonged to
other organizations with significantly higher dues).

No sooner had I done that than I came across this post from
Scott Bourne at

[Read more…]

My Own Little Communications Perfect Storm…

I experienced something I found surprising, and though the
impact was only one of inconvenience for me (many associated with the events
impacting this communications breakdown lost lives or were severely injured) it
pointed out that it’s incredibly easy to take our communication technology for
granted, especially in the face of unfolding tragedy.

During the course of the day, my home phone service went on
the fritz. No sweat, I picked up the cell phone and called to schedule a
service call. After scheduling a service call, I got a call on the cell from my
friend Steve telling me to turn on the TV because the I35W bridge spanning the Mississippi in downtown Minneapolis had collapsed. (I should point out
that I live in a suburb just south of the Twin Cities.) As I tuned into local
TV and checked the radio, my son came through the door to say he had been
calling my cell and was not getting an answer. Turns out the call from Steve
would be my last for awhile. Because of the increased cell traffic due to the
bridge collapse, the system was just plain overloaded. By the way, as a little
icing on the bridge crisis and its related rescue, a large storm complete with lightning
was closing in on Minneapolis.

Wow, totally cut off from talking….but, thanks to my handy
internet, not from seeing, hearing, and writing. A few short months ago I would
have been far too busy to watch what was going on because I would have been
making sure my radio stations were providing the needed information to our listeners.
Now, I’m just another person trying to find information about my town.

Some quick observations…many of the local news stations
offered streaming video online and most were struggling to keep up with the
demand and updating their sites and broadcasts at the same time. Overall the
coverage was very good on air and on line. I was able to watch, listen and blog
all at the same time. I’ve also noted that some really don’t make good “spokespeople”,
looking more freaked than calm and in control, some news anchors really work
hard at stretching for the sensational. (I don’t think we need to start worrying
about every bridge in Minnesota because this one fell.  Also, my Google
PDA page on my cell (seems the data is still flowing) showed the first post reported
from an Australian newspaper(?). Kinda weird to see a story dated the next day
that I’m watching unfold. How global can you get?


Here’s a question, I still look to the local broadcast media
first for info. Do those folks younger than me do the same? (Those crazy kids
and that internet deal.)

Timing + Technology + Marketing = Milestones

I think we’d all agree the YouTube/CNN debate was a milestone.
While having little impact on the answers the candidates gave, the introduction
of video questions via YouTube brought a much more personal and emotional
intensity to the process, more so even than the “town hall” versions. It also
showed us “real” Americans…warts and all in the privacy and security of their
own homes. I think there were even more milestones.

Of course we could have done it years ago. Heck, Bob Saget
made a great career out of showing us personal video…warts (not to mention
skating parrots) and all. We could record video on our VHS cameras and send it
in a box to a TV show. Why didn’t this happen until now? It’s simple…timing,
technology and, frankly, marketing.

Back in the tape days, video was all about special events
and entertainment. The only time we busted out the camera was to save that
wedding, that first bike ride, or that shot of Grandma taking a header into her
birthday cake. Now, video is with us everywhere. Take a look at your cell phone.
Years ago, the technical pieces weren’t in place. (A concept not wasted on the
founders of YouTube themselves.) Now anyone can capture a moment and, through
the magic of inexpensive or free video editing software, can inject all the
emotion and artistry they care to. Then just upload it on the computer for the
entire world to see. It just doesn’t take much of our time to be part of the
video universe.

Also, through outlets like CNN, that new technology is all
the buzz. Video is not just about entertaining ourselves anymore. It’s about communicating.
Hey, this is serious stuff. (Sorry Bob.) That’s the marketing piece.

Look, not everyone is producing videos. Just note the fact
that there were only 1500-3000 videos submitted (depending on the source you
use), kind of a small number in the great scheme of the World Wide Web, let
alone YouTube. These forays into the Web world won’t change the way we elect
our public officials, at least not yet. But if the marketing of video debates,
all the talk and all the hype will get more people to participate in the process
that’s truly a milestone to be grateful for.

Google gives a little “push” to make more “pull”.

If you noticed the bit of activity late in the week around
the FCC 700 MHz auction, you noticed Google being big, strong, and, it appears,
not “evil”. In a nutshell, the FCC has some spare bandwidth to sell off now
that TV broadcasters are going digital. Google said it would participate in the
FCC’s auction of the frequencies in the 700 MHz “wireless spectrum” (with its
4.6 billion dollar buy-in) if the Fed made it mandatory that the band remain
open once sold. Fcclogowords_3That means the consumer could use any type of equipment to
access the band. According to Google Chief Exec, and guy with the really fat
wallet, Eric Schmidt, “When Americans can use the software and handsets of
their choice, over open and competitive networks, they win.” He also
stated Google’s desire to see another provision which would require other
companies to be allowed to interconnect “at any technically feasible
point” with the winning bidder’s network.

Hey, anytime somebody speaks out in the best interest of the
public (read, “Me.”) I say great! Let the big guys put some pressure on to make
sure that I get more control over what I want. You go Google! It also really
gets the big wireless companies’ undies in a bunch. That’s just a little bonus.

It’s perfectly logical for Google to get into the wireless
space. They already offer many services in that world. In addition, odds would
be that now is the time to take a shot at it. In fact, consensus by many is
that this auction of such prime “radio” real estate could be the last chance
for a new company to get into wireless against the established players
(AT&T, etc). It also makes sense
that they would want to keep the source open. It’s what they do and they’ve
made some decent scratch doing it.

So let’s say the FCC goes along with the suggestions and
Google goes after the available bandwidth, is this really all bad? Perhaps it’s
time for a new way of doing things. I spent many years dealing with and
watching the aftermath of the auctioning of “move in” frequencies to small
operators. It didn’t turn out well. In fact, it led to a bunch of operators
losing a lot of money trying to compete and ultimately resulted in the Telecom
act of 1996 and the consolidation of radio. And didn’t that turn out well?

Plus, even if Google isn’t the winning bidder maybe a more
open platform would drive the wireless companies to improve they way they do
business. (Hey, maybe I could actually modify my plan without waiting on hold
for 50 minutes listening to that insipid drum progression…Naaaah…that would be
too good to be true.) One thing for sure is, open source and open platforms
have always led to increased innovation in shorter time. C’mon, how long do you
have to get your wireless butt kicked by Luxembourg
before you realize that
some other parts of the world might be on to something?


Look, I’m like you. Anytime one of the big guys steps up and
throws down the glove to the Fed I immediately think, “Hey, what are these guys
up to?” Even when it’s a company that has the phrase “don’t be evil” chiseled
into their foundation. But I also don’t think it will result in anything worse
than what’s happened in the past…and the upside is soooo much better.

Update:Senator Dick Durbin, (D) Illinois hops on the open source train as he looks for input on the nation’s broadband policy. Check out his post and the Legislation 2.0: National Broadband Project. More open source in action.

HD Radio…Yeah, but what do I get?

In the past year you’ve probably heard talk of HD Radio on one of your favorite radio stations. But, then again, judging by the amount of HD Radio receivers that have been sold…maybe not. More likely, you’ve heard about it and…well, it means nothing to you. Locally, I hear allot about HD on many of the Clear Channel radio stations. The commercials are very creative and I believe are very successful in conveying the message that HD stations exist, as they say, “between the stations” you are already use to. Originally, these commercials didn’t do a great job of explaining that, though your favorite station may broadcast in HD, you can’t hear HD without a special receiver. As of late, HD Radio has done a better job of addressing this.

The issue now, and I believe the reason HD Radio sales still haven’t taken off, is that none of these commercials, or the stations that carry them, have told you what the heck is on those “stations between the stations”. Imagine promoting the Harry Potter book with a campaign of “now with pages between the pages.” I’m not interested in a blank page…I’m interested in what’s on the page (Does Harry die? Does Hermione marry Ron? Does Voldemort?) just as most are interested in what’s on the HD station. It’s time to step up and talk content.

Hey radio, first, be sure to put something great on these stations. When I say “something great” I don’t mean the same stuff I can get on the current FM band. Making HD great is not taking the same library or two and putting the songs in a different order.

Second, and more importantly, and this is where radio continues to miss the mark, tell me what the h  heck it is. Tell me about the all jazz, the all blues, the all comedy, the all punk polks power ballad stations I can get. In fact, play a bit of it for me on your current station (OK, maybe no the punk polka.) Better yet, showcase it on your website. One of my favorite marketing axioms has always been, you can throw the best party known to the human race but if you don’t send out invitations…no one will come.

Look, I’m not a big HD fan. I still question the need to create an entire new delivery platform requiring the average listener to spend 150 bucks when the content is available elsewhere…for free (Web). I also still question the commitment to actually market HD by an industry that, for the most part, has abandoned marketing it’s own core product. But, if we all had a clearer understanding of what we’ll get for our investment in HD, there is a much better chance of success….don’t ya think?


The iPhone…An Answer to World Peace?

Yep, add this to the already billions of posts about the iPhone. Though this might be a just a bit different from what you’ve grown use to seeing after the release of Apple’s latest gizmo “that will change the way we____.” Forget that it is exactly what was promised, that it really works the way all of the ads and podcasts said it would. Forget that it still needs some additions like text and a card slot. By the way, the real reason the iPhone is so huge is, like the iPod, it’s dead freakin’ sexy! Which is one of the reasons I think it may be a secret to world peace.

Let me set the stage here. I was working the below mentioned Conclave on the weekend of the iPhone’s release. (More on ‘clave in another post.) One of our attendees, Tom Webster of Edison Media Research and  blogger at The Infinite Dial, decided he would hop in line and pick up an iPhone. Now, Tom is a well respected and insightful thought leader in the world of research and communications. Some of the studies put forth by him and Edison have literally changed the face of radio broadcasting. He’s also a great guy. So when he walks into a room there should be no shortage of people talking to him. However, put an iPhone in this guy’s hand and you’d think he was walking into a dog show wearing a meat sport coat. All of us were crowded around his phone oohing and aahing, laughing and talking. It was like we were this great big group of long-time friends.

So here’s my idea. We secure a couple thousand iPhones and start doling them out to select leaders of the gazillion of warring factions in the middle east. Think of it…hundreds of people from all cultures and religions crowded around touching the screen. Christian and Muslim, Shi’ite and Sunni happily flipping the pages of the music on iTunes, e-mailing their friends and zooming in and out on photos. The next thing you know suicide bombings cease, troops go home, cities are rebuilt, peace breaks out, and the price of gas sinks to a buck. C’mon, it could work…

Okay, probably not. But my point is this, the iPhone is about buzz and the way it makes people react. It’s another one of those things that creates such interest that gadget freaks and non-techies alike join in. This is just plain old fashioned good marketing. The topic of interest is made so compelling it brings people together. So if we can create a well thought out plan that unifies us around something that is just popular perhaps we should do the same thing for something that is important.

Ravin’ to be Conclavin’

I should make it clear here that, I’m a "recovering" broadcaster! That means I love radio and enjoy working in the business. So, though I’m spending more and more time in marketing and new media, you’ll probably see lots of posts about radio. In the words of Popeye, "I yam what I yam!"  I enjoy the heck out of "doing" radio.

With that said this weekend I’ll be spending all my time at the annual Conclave Learning Conference being held on Minneapolis this weekend. This is a conference put on for broadcasters from around the country and it is one of the few gatherings where it’s not all schmoozing. There’s actual learning going on. Yes, it’s true, radio people getting together to learn how to communicate better, not only on the radio but through new media as well.

Anyway, for the past 3 months I’ve had the distinct pleasure of doing some project work with Tom Kay and the others at the Conclave office and on the Board of Directors as another great event has been put together. I should point out that I’ve been going to, working with, and presenting at the Conclave for years but, this is the first time I’ve  been part of th nuts and bolts

Over the course of the weekend I’ll do my best to post some pictures and comments here so check back if you want to see what’s happening with radio in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (Actually there’s many more but they can’t keep updating the license plates.)

A word of explanation…

How we communicate with each other personally and how business
communicates with it’s customers changes rapidly. New channels that provide
information sprout up daily, if not hourly. Sometimes we react with enthusiasm,
or disbelief, or fear. And sometimes we react with full on panic at the

In the words of Chip Diller, portrayed by a very young Kevin Bacon, in Animal House,
“Remain Calm! All is well.”

That is the premise of what this blog is all about. I get to be a calmer,
more rational, and, sorry to say, older Chip Diller. (And, definitely less of a
full on horse’s ass.) With years of experience in communication, marketing, and
talent development as a radio broadcaster I’m always fascinated by new ways of
communicating with our “audiences.” Whether that audience is your son or
daughter or your customer, I’ll do my best to address the good and bad of
everything from TV, to radio, cell phones, the internet, new media, and
In short, I’m a bit of a geek so it’ll be a lot of fun getting into some
of the new technology, dissecting new systems of marketing, and meeting some of
the real bright minds behind some of it. The bottom line for me though, is no
matter what we think of the way we do it we must, above all, “remain”

I hope you’ll join in….(Say, is that a pledge pin?)