You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2009.

Virginia Heffernan (who I have decided to give another chance after last week’s “Let The Eat Tweets”) writes this week about online commentary in a post to The Medium titled “Comment is King.” She brings up the interesting point that printed media and online media can be received very differently.

The example she uses is Anne Applebaum, an American expat journalist and author who has written on a number of liberal topics and has been hailed as one of “the world’s most sophisticated thinkers.” However, the comments section on her Washington Post articles would imply otherwise. The comments are for the most part sexist, shallow, uninformed, biased and vague.

Why the disconnect? For one, newspaper critics are a small, well-educated minority of the population, while the general populace is a more conservative, less eloquent majority. Even if a critic flaunts a work as wonderful in a printed article, there may be thousands of people silently thinking the opposite; comments sections break this barrier.

Another example of traditional vs. new media: Paul Gillin in Secrets of Social Media Marketing tells the story of a journalist for the Huffington Post who tried to print the word “Sweatshop” on a custom-designed Nike sneaker. Nike refused, and his story became an internet sensation. Ultimately, he was invited onto a major daytime news show as an “expert” in sweatshop labor, though in actuality he was just a guy trying to make a point. The logic behind this, with traditional media thinking, is that wide-circulation equals legitimacy.

To relate all of this to Podcasting in Business, the traditional vs. online situation is true for podcasting as well. In TBPB, the author of Chapter 6 states that hosts or talent who are used to broadcast journalism or radio may not be suited to podcasting because the media are similar yet different. The voice, tone and feel of a podcast is more personal than a radio show or commercial, in part because people choose when to listen to them. People who tune in to podcasting do not want advertising or jingles: they want information and will resist any sale pitches. Podcasting returns a degree of control to the listeners hands, and they can just turn off whatever they don’t like. Also, standard metrics do not apply. Wide circulation may not be a measurement of your podcast’s success, as podcasts are so niche-oriented that it is unreasonable to expect this.


Because our podcast focuses on exploring Seattle, I listened to podcasts that cover the sights and sounds of various cities. The two that are the most relevant are “Houston Ultimate Downtown Tour” and “City A Go Go.”

The host of “Houston Ultimate Downtown Tour” is a Houston native, and his mission is to overcome the redneck-Texan stereotype that many people have of Houston. He wants to show the listener what makes Houston unique, whether you’re a “lifelong Houstonian or from out of town.” Essentially, it’s an hour-long audio walking tour of the city: he gives you a starting location and even includes a safety disclaimer for crossing the street; I like this interactive aspect and want to incorporate it into our podcast. The host provides history, trivia, and excellent descriptions of the scenes; even though I’m sitting in an apartment in Seattle, I feel like I’m walking around downtown Houston. The great sound effects (camera click, kids at fountain, birds in a park) add to this. Even though this podcast features Houston instead of Seattle, therefore is not direct competition, we could pattern certain elements of our podcast on this one. It’s informal, tightly-produced, and educational. If I lived in or visited Houston, this would be a fantastic resource.

The second is “City A Go Go,” a 5-minute videocast from the Seattle Channel. This episode presents a new coffee shop on Queen Anne, a local band, a local artist and a monthly belly-dancing show, giving each 30 seconds to a minute of time. The locations are a little more casual than those we want to report on (ours will provide listeners with a fun weekend destination rather than a new place to drink coffee or socialize), but its the same concept. We will go into each location more in depth, making each segment 5 minutes. Another difference is that the audience of “City A Go Go” is the hardened Seattleite looking to try something new, while ours is mainly aimed at new residents and tourists. In one way, they will be stiff competition: they have video! However, this will just encourage us to pump up our audio production value.

My podcast will explore the relationship between beer and food by providing a recipe and highlighting a complementary beer. I will start the podcast by saying which food I will be cooking and which beer I will pair it with. I will then describe the beer and why I picked it for the food; this may come in the form of interview with a brewer (if I can find one willing to be interviewed), but the essential topics I want to cover are the brewing style, a bit of relevant history, and the beer’s actual characteristics. I will concentrate on Pacific Northwest breweries, but by describing the beer’s attributes I will also leave it open for listeners anywhere to substitute similar beers from breweries near them. I will then describe the dish (again, a bit of history, if applicable, and some trivia about the ingredients), give the ingredients, and walk the listener through preparing it. The culmination will be sampling the beer and the food together. It takes me 1 minute to read a brief review of a beer and 3 minutes to read a recipe from a book, and I would like to flesh this out to a 10-15 minute production. As I found from listening to food and beverage-related podcasts, 15 minutes is the maximum time I can stay interested.

As research, I listened to three types of podcasts: beer podcasts, food podcasts, and wine podcasts, which I found through itunes; many of the beer podcasts mention food pairings, so this would be my competition. I selected the wine podcasts in addition to the beer and food podcasts because traditional culinary practice pairs wine and food.

“Beer- Hop 2 It” is a podcast out of Australia. The host interviews a brewer, who discusses his one of his beers and mentions the foods he pairs it with in his brewpub. While this was the most helpful of the beer podcasts, I cannot find a link to its website. Also in the beer vein is “Beer is Tasty,” two regular guys who drink a beer and review it on air, with hilarious results. They also pair the beer with food, though unfortunately their culinary expertise is limited to beer-flavored potato chips from Costco. They do, however, discuss the favor of the beer, the flavor of the chips, and how the two flavors interact when consumed together. This podcast would not valuable from the perspective of someone who just wants to learn about beer, as they filled a lot of time with various tangents, repeated the same information over and over, and are clearly amateurs. However, from an entertainment perspective, their banter was very amusing.

Peg recommended “The Splendid Table,” so I gave this a try because there are so many food-related podcasts that I didn’t know where to start; I listened to one covering the history of pickles in lower Manhatten before deciding it had nothing to do with what I want to create. The format consists of interviews with guests, with brief musical interludes of relevant pop songs- no Creative Commons or Garageband here! This episode has an interview with a man pairing wine with picnic food, which I found relevant to my topic. The podcast seems to be taken directly from radio: there are some “when we come back” type statements. While she describes making a dish (jalapeno avocado ice cream!), she directs listeners to her website for the actual recipe. This is a great idea: people like having text to refer back to.

Finally, “Napa Valley Wine Radio” is produced by Goosecross cellars and hosted by the winery’s director of education, with an introduction by the owner. This particular episode focuses on wines made from rotten grapes. I like the brief (1 minute) history of the wine that the host gives and would like to replicate this element to my podcast. She then provides an in-depth description of the process used to make this particular style of wine and also lists a few foods it pairs well with.

I am not a beer expert but I know at least as much as the “Beer is Tasty” guys, and I am not a chef but I can hold my own in the kitchen, so I hope that by combining these elements I will be able to create a podcast that beer-loving, food-eating people will want to listen to.

One of my podcasts is KEXP’s “Music that Matters.” It follows a rotating host format: every week, a different DJ puts together 10-15 songs, with a bit of commentary thrown into the mix. The audience is probably current KEXP listeners; this podcast is targeted to Seattlites, as evidenced by the hosts frequently reference to Seattle bands as local bands. My guess is that most of the people are like me: the 22-40 range who want to say current with the ever-changing music scene.

The three episodes I have listened to have varied widely in attitude. Though they all have the same music and monologue format, each host brings their own twist: the musical style and production vary greatly, and I am never sure what kind of music I will hear. The first episode I listened to had some indie rock artists that I really enjoyed, a few of which I downloaded to further explore their music. The second podcast was so-so, nothing I really wanted to listen to more but liked at the time. The third focused on hip-hop, a musical genre that I have never really gotten in to. However, I signed up for this podcast to explore new types of music; how can I say I don’t enjoy hip-hop if I haven’t really listened to it? In this way, it is fulfilling the audience’s expectations by exposing them to new music. Other than musical styles, the DJ’s approach the whole production differently. The first had obvious errors and even a couple profanities but was heartfelt, honest and personal, while the second was much mellower and let the music do the talking. The third put together a sound clips and musical montages that made it sound professional but frankly wasted my valuable podcast listening time. The format is standard enough to be comforting and varied enough to be interesting. I’m excited to see what comes next: the unexpected isn’t scary when I know to expect it.

In the blogoshere, the blog that I have been following most closely is The Medium by Virginia Heffernan, found on the New York Time’s website. She focuses on the convergence of entertainment and digital culture, which covers blogs, videos, Twitter, and more. I have found her to be a somewhat conservative social media advocate. She says about not loving her iphone: “I was late to get one — and maybe that’s the problem;” this statement applies to more than just her phone: she seems to arrive at everything after the true technophiles and is somewhat wary. Her last post saying that Twitter is for the poor was a little offensive, making me wonder who her main audience is; my guess is that it is people who do not actively use social media (and have no intention of doing so) but want to stay somewhat current, i.e. older readers of the New York Times who want to keep up with their children. Her posts are interesting but nothing groundbreaking, which I probably should have expected from the online version of traditional printed news source.

Peg’s talk on interviewing was informative; I particularly liked her tip on double-barreled questions for children or nervous interviewees. If we decide to go the interview route with our group project, we will most likely be interviewing people who are not interviewed regularly, so this pointer will be helpful.

As a result of our last class, I am now using Scribefire and following Guy Kawasaki on Twitter; I’m not sure if these are helpful additions to my life. Guy’s links are informative, but distracting: he just tweets too often and is dominating my feed. How can I read what my mom ate for lunch if Guy pushes her off the screen before I can get to it? However, I have come across quite a few relevant links and resources in the midst of the clutter, so I think I’ll keep following him. I have had trouble getting what I write in Scribefire to upload to my blog, but it is a really great tool in theory; I just need to straighten out the kinks.

I just started a new internship at One of the elements that the founders hope to eventually incorporate is short, user-generated videos of people cooking the recipes found the site. This is not quite the same as podcasting, but it has similar elements and I am excited to see where they go with this. Since the site also has a blog component, an actual podcast/videocast feature seems like it might fit in well.

Twitter has been getting a ton of press conference lately, thanks to Oprah and Ashton Kutcher; I find it a little ironic that Twitter needs mass media to elevate it to greater popularity, since so much of everything I’ve read so far flaunts social media as niche-driven and personal. Virginia Heffernan of The Medium (one of my two blogs) compares Twitter to the Emily Dickenson poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”: “How public — like a Frog — / To tell one’s name — the livelong June — / To an admiring Bog!”

Heffernan’s point is that many people still don’t use or view Twitter as anything more than an exchange of useless information; she calls these tweets “yawps”. She also takes an interesting stance: Twitter is for the poor, because the rich don’t care about these trivialities: “Anyone with a strong soul or a fat wallet turns his ringer off for good and cultivates private gardens that keep the hectic Web far away.” This is the first I’ve heard of the socioeconomic implications of social media and am intrigued by this idea.

However, I don’t agree with her on either count: while Twitter can just be used to describe mundane details of people’s lives, it is also a powerful vehicle to share information and ideas, and is a wonderful communication tool. Twitter has been a great way to stay in touch with friends in Boston and family in California, people whose lunch choices I genuinely care about. I’m not so sure about the poverty idea either: maybe if I was truly rich, I could just hop in my personal jet and fly to these exotic locations, but for now I enjoy hearing what my loved ones are doing. Also, if young people tend to catch on to technology faster than their parents, and young people tend to have lower incomes, Twitter users may be poorer just by logic. Twitter or not, the rich are just as connected: think of the CEO (or the current president) who is both wealthy and addicted to his Blackberry.

On the opposite end of the Twitter-embracing spectrum, Jeremiah Owyang’s Comprehensive FAQ Guide to Twitter , which I came across on Delicious (which has been a great resource), clears up some of these misconceptions. It answers all of the questions I was too afraid to ask and some that I didn’t even consider. In fact, all of the Web Strategy blog is helpful over a broad variety of social media topics.

Food and good beer are two of my favorite things in life. I love to cook and just began an internship with, an open-source recipe sharing website and food blogger community. I’ve also really been getting into local microbrews since moving to Seattle last year. My podcast will explore the intersection of these areas by providing a recipe, then highlighting a complementary beer to accompany the meal. A lot is made over food and wine pairings, but beer accompanies food just as well. The right beer can bring out something extra in certain ingredients or reduce a dish’s negative qualities, like spiciness or greasiness. I can see this podcast living on a website that allows viewers to search for recipes based on their favorite beer and also to search for beer based on their favorite dish.

I recorded myself reading “Crime and Punishment” for the audio clip to edit in class this week. I can silently read several pages in 4 minutes, so I thought I would make it well into the chapter by the time the recording was up. In reality, I read a little over a single page out loud. When I write my own material, I will keep this in mind. Talking for that long was difficult; I wanted to clear my throat but kept going because I was afraid to stop. If I had read TBCB before doing so, I would have known to cough, wait 5 seconds, and continue where I left off or at a convenient point in the previous sentence, then edit it out. Dostoevsky is a wordy author, and though his writing flows well, it was a challenge to maintain momentum of each sentence when speaking. This hammered in the “keep it simple” point when writing for speaking. This exercise was a great teaching tool in both writing and recording a podcast.

I’ve been coming across a few articles on the use of social media in education recently. One of these posts was on MediaShift, one of the blogs I am following for class. To paraphrase, social media is turning huge lecture classes into seminars where everyone is able to participate. Twitter and CoverItLive were two of the platforms mentioned. CoverItLive is a new technology for me, and appears to be a Twitter/blog hybrid. I’ve been finding our use of Twitter to be a great way to participate and share ideas; not everyone is a natural pubic speaker, and shy people often feel more comfortable expressing themselves in writing. Even if traditional lecture classes are slow to adopt Twitter, it is a great resource for online classes that currently have no discussion forum.

I feel a little silly writing about the following topic for a graduate level class but it does demonstrate a practical and valid application of podcasting and social media. I had a song stuck in my head the other day with a prominent ukulele solo, and since I’ve had a ukulele decorating my apartment after my first trip to Hawaii last year, I decided to finally learn how to play a few chords. The Internet really does have a niche for everything: there is an entire online ukulele community just waiting to be discovered. I found Ukulala to be especially helpful. The site is maintained by a brother/sister band, Ukulala, and has, among other features, videocasts explaining how to play many popular songs.

I visited other websites before Ukulala’s and was frustrated by what I found. They all had detailed descriptions, diagrams and illustrations, but even though it looked like I was doing everything right, my notes just sounded wrong; the text was missing out on the critical audio component of music. Ukulala’s video demonstrated visually how and where to position my fingers to play the three chords that make up the song, accompanied by a thorough audio explanation. My chords didn’t sound like the demonstrator’s at first, which confirmed that something was indeed wrong with my instrument; as it turns out, it was not properly tuned. I fixed that problem thanks to another Ukulala tutorial and after watching the 9 minute videocast, I was able to play a real song.

Music has both audio and visual components, so podcasts and videocasts are useful tools when learning how to play a musical instrument. Private lessons are expensive, the internet is cheap. The band itself demonstrates the collaborative power of web 2.0: the duo live on opposite ends of the country and record their tracks separately. They email each other the recordings and mix them individually, and are currently using their blog/website to find a drummer. They field questions from like-minded people all over the world: the most recent query was posted by a man from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ukulele is a silly instrument, but this is a serious site.

What I’ve picked up from the reading so far is that podcasting is a quick, relatively inexpensive and easy way to communicate ideas to an audience: anyone can do it with a little time, energy and the right equipment. Of course, like anything both on the internet and in life, to do it well takes much more time, effort and money; the average person isn’t going to invest $1,000 in a piece of equipment. However, if you just want to regularly release a short message to keep an audience informed (the wine seller in TBPB comes to mind) this can be a great tactic.

My two podcasts follow some of the principles we’ve covered so far. For instance, A Prairie Home Companion has a short advertisement at the beginning and the end; this week’s was a short pitch for Honey Nut Cheerios. Instead of a crazy colorful cartoon bee or a snarky TV couple, the ad was simply a woman’s soothing voice briefly telling us that the cereal can lower cholesterol. Garrison Keillor is a master storyteller: his voice conveys gesture and emotion very well. He knows when to emphasize certain words and when to strategically pause. His sentences are not particularly short and concise, but the rambling quality works for him: it’s part of his gimmick.

Music that Matters is more of an “anyone can do it” type of podcast. The hosts are the station’s dj’s, who are used to addressing audiences, so there is a certain level of internal production, but otherwise the station simply syndicates the recording with no discernible editing; the podcast has obvious mistakes that could/should have been edited out. One thing I remember from my college radio days is that dj’s may never curse on the air, and songs with foul language may only be played between certain hours. If this example is any indication, podcasting seems to be a way to get around the FCC’s rules. A radio station can’t control who listens to its broadcasts, while the user controls a podcast, taking the onus out of the station’s hands. This does make me wonder how podcasts are regulated and who is responsible for this.

I think I’ve made a decision as to which book I prefer (HTDE), since I am slightly distracted by the language in TBPB. There are occasional grammatical mistakes, and if Geoghegan and Cangialosi didn’t put the effort to get this correct, what else have they skimped upon? Podcasting is an exciting communication technology, but it’s also important to keep communication basics in mind, especially when trying to legitimize a new medium.


Twitter Updates

April 2009
    May »