Mobile Podcasting – The Road Ahead

The cellular industry has repeatedly attempted to port popular consumer services to the mobile environment. Despite the investment of billions of dollars in data networks, spectrum, devices, and marketing campaigns, very few services have ported successfully.

Yet digital music and podcasting prove that users will go to great lengths to mobilize entertainment, including actively connecting a media device to a PC and transferring to it content downloaded from the internet. But can podcasting become a cellular service enjoyed on handsets? Given the prevalence of mobile phones, coupled with the ability to deliver content directly to the handset without any user action required, the mobile industry might be hard-pressed to explain a porting failure. This post outlines a few of the critical issues that must be addressed if mobile podcasting is to see even minimal mass-market penetration.

The manner in which mobile users discover and receive content will have a huge impact on the nature of the service. There are two alternative models: network-based solutions and client-based solutions. Network-based solutions like WAP offer podcast menus on the Operator's Portal. Users, locate the appropriate podcast, then initiate a download.

WAP has failed to appeal to the mass-market user. The click and wait, menu-intense experience of Mobile Internet has proven unappealing. Furthermore, given the relatively large size of a podcast file, adding a lengthy download wait to a cumbersome Portal experience will kill the experience all together.

Podcasts can also be streamed off the Portal. Here, however, in addition to the cumbersome Portal-Pull issues, the user-experience becomes dependent on consistent and sufficient data transmission during the stream. A user listening to a podcast while commuting by train will frequently lose coverage. Securing bandwidth in peak-hours or in congested areas is very difficult. Thus streaming can not deliver an acceptable level of service.

Whether downloaded or streamed, obtaining content via pull assumes that a user will regularly poll for content. Not only does the active user concept runs counter to the Podcast model of automatic content delivery, but a compelling mobile experience must be simple and automated. One must consider that the potential mass-market mobile user is not as "early-adopted" oriented as a current podcast user. Thus, the user-experience on mobile user must be as good, if not better than the iPod experience for the mass-market to accept it.

Client solutions reduce the amount of browsing and provide a more immediate, user-friendly experience. The first type of solution involves a client that displays a catalogue-list of available podcasts. The user scrolls down the list and selects one, which initiating a content delivery session. Content discovery is easier than in Network-based solutions, as WAP browsing to the portal is avoided. However, real-time delivery is required, which means consumption delays. Also, a consumption decision must be made daily.

The second type of client solution involves automatic, subscription based podcast delivery without any user involvement, for example overnight. Fresh content is available for immediate consumption with no network access required.

People are clearly taking their entertainment with them. Will the mass-market, which holds mobile phones rather than other media-devices, be willing to adopt and pay for services which deliver personalized audio content to them? One barrier might be the perception that podcasts are and should be remain free. Whether users are willing to pay for podcasts on their mobile will depend of factors such as easy of use, content quality, and price. But it is quite likely that people will pay a small premium in order to receive Tier 1 content.

One thing is certain: the operator is keen to see the success of such operator-provided services. First, from a revenue perspective, operators subsidize the handsets, yet see no revenue when a user transfers music to it from the PC. Second, should the mass-market adopt iPod-like devices as their device of choice for media consumption, the mobile handset will be marginalized and viewed only as a tool for voice-calls. As these competing devices develop Skype-like internet telephone functionality over WIFI, operators will lose voice as well. It is thus imperative for the operator that the mobile phone claim a stake as a media device.

Mobile podcasting, however, poses a few challenges to the operator. First is the fact that mobile networks are inefficient in terms of data transmission. Transmission rates are slow and there is much less overall capacity. Thus, cost to the operator of transmitting data is high. While a user might pay 20 Euro/month for unlimited internet on the PC, the same user might be charged 1 Euro/MB for mobile data. As the average 30-40 minute PC-based audio podcast approximately 15 MB, the operator can not justify charging of a few Euros a month for a mobile podcast service, when a single Pull-downloaded video clip can generate a Euro or two.

Mobile podcasting can be made more efficient. First, content files can easily be reduced in size by simple content transcoding. A 30 minute podcast can be reduced to 1.5MB, without impacting sound quality. Furthermore, the delivery frequency of a podcast service can be reduced. (Delivering shorter podcasts is an option, but Tier 1 podcasters will not create "mobile-versions" of their programs unless it makes economic sense).

Second, the podcast files must be delivered during off-peak hours, ideally overnight. During peak hours and in congested areas, the cost of data delivery is at its highest. Delivery of large data files to a moderate number of users during peak hours will chill operator enthusiasm. Conversely, during off-peak hours, the network is empty, minimizing the cost of data transmission. This requirement would appear to point to a push service model, with scheduled off-peak delivery.

One final issue is that of billing and revenue. Mobile users will only adopt podcasting if the pricing structure is clear and reasonable. A transparent monthly subscription fee for the service, without any additional data charges, is mandatory. In terms of additional operator revenue potential, one point worth noting is advertising. As audio and video advertisements are easily included in podcasts, the potential for generating advertising revenue is significant.

Now it remains to be seen whether attractive services are deployed and enjoyed.

Monte Silver

Monte Silver is Director of European Sales and Advanced Data Services at BamBoo Media Casting. They launched MediaToob, a mobile podcasting solution.

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Submitting your RSS feed to multiple RSS search engines

If you want to submit a RSS feed to multiple RSS search engines/directories, try Feed Shark. It's very convenient: just enter the URL once and click to submit the feed. 21 RSS sites are listed. Of course, Daypop, Feedster, Technorati and PubSub are included. Give it a try, it worked fine for me.

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.GeenStijl weet beter

De Jeugd bereiken? Reclame? Zo welGeenst

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Study: 'Gender, Identity, and Language Use in Teenage Blogs'

"This study examines issues of online identity and language use among male and female teenagers who created and maintained weblogs, personal journals made publicly accessible on the World Wide Web. Online identity and language use were examined in terms of the disclosure of personal information, sexual identity, emotive features, and semantic themes."

Interesting implication:

"The results suggest that teenagers stay closer to reality in their online expressions of self than has previously been suggested .."

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Word of Mouth Marketing 101

Womma (Word of Mouth Marketing Asssociation) published a concise 101 on the subject. The positive strategies listed in the paper are closely related to blog strategies:

  • Encouraging communications
  • Giving people something to talk about
  • Creating communities and connecting people
  • Working with influential communities
  • Creating evangelist or advocate programs
  • Researching and listening to customer feedback
  • Engaging in transparent conversation
  • Co-creation and information sharing


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New E-book: 'Unleashing the Marketing & Publishing Power of RSS'

MarketingStudies.net just released the E-book 'Unleashing the Marketing & Publishing Power of RSS'. This highly engaging and comprehensive guide by Rok Hrastnik gives a brilliant overview of the latest facts, mechanisms and tricks:

  • Over 50 real-world practical examples and case studies you can study and get ideas from to develop the most profitable possible RSS strategy. 
  • A bonus of 33 in-depth interviews with RSS thought leaders, experts, developers and marketers, all sharing their key strategies and tactics for using RSS to increase your marketing results. [more]
  • A 9 step plan to get you started with RSS as quickly and profitably as possible, even if you never used or even heard of RSS.
  • Includes advanced expert RSS topics such as RSS metrics, RSS feed customization, marketing with RSS aggregators, affiliate-powered RSS, RSS for one-to-one communication and blog and RSS promotion and driving additional traffic via RSS and blogs.

The 550 page study/guide surely sets the standard for RSS-innovation in marketing and publishing. You can order it for $40, constant updates included. Also check this interview Masternewmedia's Robin Good did with the author.

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'The Red Couch' | Aankondiging Boek-Blog 'Business Blogging':

Enkele weken geleden kondigde Microsoft-blogger Robert Scobble op zijn blog aan samen met de journalist/consultant Shel Israel een boek te gaan schrijven over 'business blogging'. Vandaag publiceerde Israel de 'Red Couch Book Proposal':

    “The Red Couch (TRC)” argues blogging is changing everything and businesses choosing to ignore it, face the same fate as the blacksmith who ignored the automobile a century ago. It will explain why this is a good thing, for both business and its customers, prospects, partners—even their own employees and investors, offering numerous examples of how blogging brings them closer together. It will examine how blogging improves trust relationships, word-of-mouth networks, employee collaborations, distribution and response to company announcements, job search and recruiting and so much more.

Integraal onderdeel van 'The Red Couch' is het blog, waarop het onstaan en voortgang van het boek te volgen zal zijn. Zoals het concept betaamt, zal het blog commentaar het onderzoek mee bepalen. 

    “The Red Couch” is in fact part of the story the book tells. Following a lead taken by several successful authors, the thinking, writing and research for this book will be conducted almost entirely in the spotlight of the Blogosphere. Thousands of visitors to our blogsite(s) will be encouraged to comment on our work as it progresses, contributing fresh ideas and improving the content served up by the authors.

Saillant detail: het blog zou op het nieuwe blog platform 'Spaces' van Microsoft worden gepubliceerd, een marketing scoop van de microsoftie Scobble. Nu kondigt hij op dit verse blog aan dat dit uiteindelijk toch op Typepad zal gebeuren (ook Paramedia maakt gebruik van Typepad). Alvast een eerste 'lessons-learned', zogezegd. MSN 'Spaces' is als derde schakel in het Messenger-Hotmail Network van Mircosoft bedoeld voor de brede consumentenmarkt. Hierin ligt de meerwaarde van Spaces; op zichzelf, als blogtool en cms, is het weinig geavanceerd. Hun eisen en wensen vragen om flexibiliteit t.a.v. design, domain-mapping (het blog adres laten verwijzen naar een eigen domein), copyright en de mogelijkheid om advertensies te plaatsen.

Wordt vervolgd.

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