Donations Wanted, Too

And speaking of Team ITC, the donations to our Tip Jar have fallen off somewhat in the past week, perhaps because I wasn’t here to remind you. So please, if you value IT Conversations, put your money where your mouth is and contribute to the Tip Jar. 100% of your donation will go to Team ITC.

iTunes – The Good and the Bad

Our traffic has nearly doubled since iTunes 4.9 was released with support for podcasts and RSS on July 5, but as I mentioned two weeks ago, listeners of IT Conversations should be careful which feed they select and how that feed is configured. If you want to make sure not to miss anything, you need to do two things. First, subscribe to the “ITC: All Programs” feed, which is listed in Podcasts…Technology…Information Technology.” Second, select the feed, then click on the Settings button in the lower-right corner of iTunes. Change “When new episodes are available:” from “Download the most recent one” to “Download all.” The reason is that we sometimes publish more than one program in a 24-hour period.

Here’s a direct link to that RSS feed:
http://www.itconversations.com/rss/recentWithEnclosures.php

Interviews via Skype Revisited

Last week I published a diagram of one way to record Skype calls. This week I’ve got a somewhat different version that eliminates the need for an external mixer.

Assuming your recorder can’t handle a mic-level input on one channel and a line-level source on the other, you’ll need the attenuator shown between the line-level out of the computer and the mic-livel input of the recorder. If you have independent input-level controls on your recorder, a 40dB attenuator ought to be good enough. If you can’t control the levels independently, you may have to experiment with the ammount of attenuation, using more attenuation if your mic is dynamic (to match its low levels) or less attenuation to match higher-level condenser mics. You don’t need to match the levels exactly, since the whole idea of recording on separate tracks is that you can “fix it in the mix.” Just watch out: You could spend as much for an attenuator as you would for a mixer!

Jon’s Sound-Bite Hacks

Last year, Jon Udell and I began experimenting with various techniques for expressing an excerpt of an MP3 file in an URL. Jon has now taken this to a whole new level. Not only has he improved the the URL syntax and the excerpting code, but he’s even gone so far as to use a text-to-speech service to generate intros or identifiers for his clips. He apologizes for some of his hacks along the way, but the results are very cool and show some of the things one needs to do to make things work in the world of varying MP3 players.

Stringers Needed: BlogHer Conference

Santa Clara, CA. July 30, 2005
Four rooms, each with RCA line-level outputs

We’re not even close to rolling out our system for matching events with stringers who can record their presentations, but we’ve got a few that would be great to capture even before all the pieces are in place. One such event is the BlogHer Conference being held in less than two weeks. Just check out this schedule.

The producers of the event have rented PA systems for each of the four rooms, and we need podcasters or others with the right skills and equipment to record the sessions. Each room will have a mixer with RCA line-level outputs, so if you have a recorder or laptop with line-level inputs and the proper cables — and if you what you’re doing! — this is a great chance to help out. The IT Conversations coverage of BlogHer will be heard by more than 40,000 individuals, but only if you help. In addition to the fame and glory of being a member of Team ITC, you’ll also get free admission to the event. And it’s not for women only; 20% of the attendees will be men.

If you can help, just email me at doug@rds.com. Even if you can’t please spread the word in your own blog so we can capture these great sessions for the entire world to hear.

Frank Barnako Steps on the Long Tail

I don’t mean to pick on Frank Barnako, whom I finally had the privilege of meeting, if ever so briefly, at last-month’s Gnomedex. It’s just a matter of timing. In his column today for Marketwatch.com, Frank writes, “Podcasting’s ‘indies’ are losing ground…the little guys have gotten squished.” This is just more of the same misunderstanding of the podcasting phenomenon as we’re hearing from Mark Ramsey and others. These folks are looking at podcasting only as a platform for stars and hits. It ain’t about that, guys. This is all about us reaching the audiences who care about our programs, and very few of us think for a moment that even the potential audience comes close to the size of that for some of the traditional-media outlets. Not even within two orders of magnitude.

Take IT Conversations, for example. Did anyone really think that IT Conversations would stay in the Top 100 (or Top Anything) once the large-media companies jumped into podcasting? Of course not. And does that discourage me? Not in the least. The same event that Frank refers to — Apple’s release of iTunes 4.9 with support for podcasts — nearly doubled the traffic to IT Conversations overnight. What a huge success for us and for the rest of the little guys.

The real question is whether all of the so-called indie podcasts combined will have an audience as large as a single BigGuy. I think we will. I believe that within three years, independent podcasters, as a group, will deliver more programs to more listeners than any single old-media distributor. And I think we’ll soon after that make a run at beating the listenership of all the old-media channels combined. It’s a classic long-tail story. It fits the model in every way.

Does this signal the end of BigGuy media? Only to the same extent that Amazon.com has meant the end of bricks-and-mortar bookstores. (Wow… I haven’t used that phrase for a few years!) But it does create a new, unlimited spectrum for programming about which people are more passionate than they are for the Top 100 stuff, in the same way as Amazon gives us access to the books we really want that aren’t available from the local strip mall. Ask most readers whether they’d rather lose that local bookstore or Amazon.com. Even easier: Ask yourself. Then think what this will mean for podcasting when it brings you the long-tail of audio and video programming.

Update: Steve Gillmor and Dave Slusher were on top of this before me.

Podcast Awards

Voting for the Podcast Awards is open through July 31. For some reason I don’t understand, you’re allowed to vote once every 24 hours. The awards will be given out at the Podcast and Portable Media Expo, in Ontario, California, November 11-12, which is shaping up to be the major podcasting event of the year. I’ll be giving a session there, about “lessons learned” from IT Conversations — mostly audio stuff.