ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

April 24, 2008

Pod is a Dirty Word, Again

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 6:31 AM

PodShow, the “media company” founded by Adam Curry, and the recipient of millions in venture funding, has changed its name to Mevio. Has the ring of one of those wacky Web 2.0 startup names, doesn’t it? Just vague enough to allow for a completely flexible business model.

Podcasting News linked to a video featuring PodShow co-founder Ron Bloom. In it, he described PodShow as a network of 15,000 shows. This, of course, includes the many externally-prdouced podcasts within the directory maintained by PodShow, along with the company’s own “entertainment properties”. Bloom went on to say, when asked about the name change, that podcasting seemed to denote amateurishness. He mumbled something about the Amateurville Horror. I think that was supposed to be a quote, but I’m not familiar. Irony is fun, isn’t it?

PodShow is not the first to ditch the “pod” from its name. While earlier name-changers struggled with the “do I need an iPod to listen?” question from potential listeners and viewers, my guess is that PodShow’s move, as underlined by Bloom’s emphasis on getting away from amateurism as a hallmark of the medium, had more to do with honing the message for the “brands” that PodShow must court in order to sell advertising within its programs. After all, Zune Marketplace adopted podcast when it opened its doors to RSS-based content last year, joining arch rival Apple, whose iTunes did not, after all, originate the term. On the consumer side, I think the word podcasting actually has meaning for people.

Podcasting News speculates that producers will leave PodShow. They may. It’s happened before. But I think the name change has mostly symbolic value on both sides. PodShow began to pull away from the original idea of podcasting as an independent form of media about the time it started pitching Madison Avenue agencies. Producers complained about onerous contracts then, and other podcast industry watchers noted that the company made a show of turning its metaphorical backside to industry organizations and events. I don’t know why being a part of the Mevio network would make people more likely to jump ship than what has gone before.

In the wider world of downloadable media, it’s another “podcasting is dead” headline to chew over and refute. Paul Colligan weighs in with a spirited and somewhat melodramatic defense of podcasting as an independent media form, particularly when compared to streamed content, or DRM-reliant offerings. Maybe that’s what the beleaguered folks who believe in podcasting (for business and/or pleasure) really need to hear right now. As for me, I’ll squirm a little uncomfortably, because my Libsyn referrer list shows a fair number of people find my podcast through PodShow. I sort of wonder why that is.

April 22, 2008

New Media Spring Cleaning

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 11:20 AM

Spring cleaning, as many people do it, is about throwing things away that you no longer need, and polishing those you want to keep, but which no longer look their best. Aside from the season, leaving a job is a pretty good reason to engage in some seasonal dusting and straightening.

Ad editor of a magazine for bloggers and podcasters, I was conscious of a need to speak to the industry we were covering. As much grief as folks like me get for perceived pandering to advertisers, I’ve always been a notorious advocate of readers. Not a bad thing, of course. But here’s the thing, a lot of what people are talking about in the blogging and podcasting world doesn’t inspire me on a personal level. I’m not a marketer or a Web 2.0 triumphalist. Startup culture and practice only interest me in passing. In the new media world, though, these are huge topics, and you just have to cover them. What do I care about? Making media better, whether through development of the best possible content, or using tools to produce a technically better product. I am a geek, after all.

Now I’m on my own, I get to focus on things I’m interested in. In short, I get to do a lot of pruning of my reading list to make way for more really cool stuff. What follows are a few things I’ve added and subtracted, in an attempt to make my consumption of new media more meaningful and palatable.

FEWER A-list bloggers: Imagine a day without name dropping, fawning profiles of companies with really stupid-sounding names, think-skinned responses to another A-listers criticism. Sure, I knew you could.

MORE journalism commentary: I miss actually reading the CJR newsfeed. Watchdogs always need watchdogs.

FEWER marketing mavens: I know you need ads and other revenue sources to make a living with new media. I’m actually interested in working on blogging projects that will generate some income. But I’m a practical gal. I’ll read about how Google tools, SEO, and AdSense works all day long, but I don’t have patience for the touchy-feely marketers who want to touch me on Twitter and Facebook. Ew! Sure, I’m involved in social networking because I want to connect with more people, and learn about more media and technology. I do NOT, however, want to buy your book or product, or watch your sales vid, masquerading as a funny moment from your life.

MORE food and drink bogs: The mistake we make when covering the new media world is in only subscribing to meta bloggers, or the tech news. Want to learn how to write and maintain a good blog? Try finding the very best one about a subject that holds your interest, and about which the blogger knows more than you do. For me, that’s a handful of blogs about cocktail-making. Friends have also been plugging me into food blogs, with great recipes, and great communities. I feel like a better blogger just reading this stuff, because the authors are less self-conscious about the potential A-listers who might be reading or linking, than are the meta bloggers who fairly preen in their digital mirrors with every missive. Anyone know a good classic film blogger?

FEWER press release feeds.

MORE nuts and bolts of blogging blogs. The folks who offer advice and community for writers were under-appreicated during my time at the magazine. I made the judgment that I didn’t have time to read the Top Ten Tips for Writing Better Headlines. I do now, and I intend to load up on the best, most how-to oriented stuff I can find.

MORE Twitter friends: This one surprised me. I figured I’d cut back a bit. But so far, I’m still finding new and interesting people to follow, and I’ve also gotten some great new people lately. Twitter is, if used correctly, the water cooler for the virtual office. And if you can find a way to listen as well as speaking, and limit followers to those who do the same, it’s a wonderful place to be when you’re working barefoot in your home office.

Well, the cat needs feeding. She doesn’t care if I finish a blog post today or not. I’ve still got some feeds to purge, but things are looking cleaner in here.

April 7, 2008

Moving On

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting,Random Personal Nonsense — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:42 PM

I have decided to leave my position as editor-in-chief of Blogger & Podcaster Magazine, effective April 11.

I joined Blogger & Podcaster in January 2007 when we were preparing to launch the industry’s first digital/podcast/print hybrid publication. I was excited to be creating a magazine that would chronicle the podcasting world I knew so well after two+ years (more than three, now) publishing my own shows, along with the turbulent, more established blogosphere. Podcasting was and is a real passion for me. As with other loves in my life, the best way I knew to pursue that passion was to write about it.

We did a lot of great work. I built a news section that offered real-world dispatches from conferences and other events, written by the people who were there. We published features on the art and craft of producing new media, and profiled interesting and important players in blogging and podcasting I introduced product reviews, and worked with some great columnists. We published interviews with the likes of Leo Laporte, Matt Mullenweg, Arianna Huffington, and Ask A Ninja’s Kent and Doug. In general, my publishers gave me the freedom I needed to choose and assign the stories I wanted to tell. I thank them for that.

I also thank my lucky stars for the invaluable, constant, and supportive presence of managing editor Elisa M Welch, and creative director extraordinaire, Rob Hudgins. Both of these awesome folks have also recently chosen to move on to other projects.

Larstan is currently seeking funding for its ventures, including the Blogger & Podcaster network and for the magazine. I wish them the best of luck. The Spring 2008 issue is currently in production, and should be available in late April.

I’m not sure what’s next for me. I’ve been a writer for 20 years, and I remain an enthusiastic podcaster. I will continue producing my award-winning personal show, Shelly’s Podcast, as well as the new one about my journey to the Democratic National Convention as a delegate. I’ve always had a somewhat contrarian view of new media (I think we take ourselves waaaaay too seriously sometimes) and I look forward to sharing my unvarnished opinions in audio and blog form.

I’ll be Twittering, Uttering, and gadding about on the networks. I’ll blog here, and post updates to my main site page. That one will be undergoing a redesign, now that I have some cycles to spare.

Keep in touch, will ya?

October 4, 2007

Podcast Expo Was Awesome But…

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 12:20 PM

I’m just back from my third Podcast & New Media Expo (name recently changed to leave out the Podcast part). I had an awesome time. Really I did. I hung out with some great friends, got some good interviews, and made contacts that I hope will lead to good content for the magazine. But as I reflect on the weekend, a few things are gnawing at me. I haven’t been able to put them into words until something happened today that made me see a pattern. And I didn’t like it.

The first thing you should know about the way I do Podcast Expo is that I wear two hats (actually, I wear one red one most of the time.) First and foremost (because they’re paying me) I cover the expo for my employer. I scurry up and down the aisles, noting the new products and taking the press kits (thanks for the dead trees people) and attending sessions where I think I might either learn something or meet a contact who can provide information, or contribute to the magazine. At night, I attend a few parties and keep the schmoozing up as best as my introverted personality can. But as I have during each of the past two shows, I’m also in town to promote my own podcasts and spend time with some truly wonderful friends whose shows I enjoy, and whose spare time I inhabit when we’re all on Skype, Twitter or Stickam together. Most of the people in this group (and it was a “group” this year) are hobby podcasters, whose monetization goals might stretch to breaking even on their podcasting gear, or breaking the 1000 listener mark.

The two hat thing works most of the time. I can do my job and spend off hours with my peeps. I had some truly amazing experiences with these people, many of them late at night, and several of them captured on mic. On the work front, I attended things to which I was invited, saw all the vendors and did the best I could at mingling (considering I can’t recognize people). So both hats were a success, though if I were being honest, I would have to admit that I gave a bit more time to my friends than I should have.

The other thing I’d have to admit, if I were being honest, is that the language and culture of the “new media conversationalists” leaves me a little cold. The evangelical zeal, and the adoption of certain language forms does not feel authentic to me. It feels like manufactured genuineness. And so I don’t jump into the fray with quite the gusto I would if I were a true believer.

But here’s the thing: beneath my aloofness from the evangelical is also a sense that I’m being overlooked; that even though I run a magazine for and about these people, my presence is not meaningful, nor my opinion sought out. During and after the expo, I read about all sorts of small gatherings of pioneers and “elites” to which I would have thought I would have been invited. No one came up to me and ‘had a deep conversation”. Nor did they blog about how they “spent some great face time with my good friend Shelly.” Even the conversations I had with those who inhabit the hyperbolic world of the podcasting elite were a bit on the short side. I tried to engage, but was usually dismissed or ignored. And those who shamelessly lobbied for inclusion in the magazine did not seek me, the editor out, but conversed with our publisher. And this happened even with people I know personally!

Now I’m willing to take my part in this: what conversation did I start? Did I ask good questions? Did I seek interesting people out? Actually, yes. Was I good at it? I don’t know. But given the good work I’ve done with the magazine, and my longevity in the industry, I think I have some value to offer. That opinion doesn’t seem to be widely shared.

But now I’ve come to a regretful conclusion; one I hesitate to write about here. And one that was, I’ll admit, suggested to me by a poster on the Podcast Expo forum who believes that this geek “sausage fest” (not her words) was not welcoming to women.

Could it be that the admission pass you need into the podcasting elite is a pair of testicles or perhaps a better pair of eyes?

Men in podcasting (could a calendar be in the works?) are generally pleasant, less macho than average Texans, funny, creative people. I like a lot of them, most of them, even. If I stay away from them when they’re ogling girls in French maid outfits, our relationship seems generally good, if shallow. But it feels to me as if there are only a few slots for women in the elite of this field, and that they have been reserved for members of my sex who walk the walk and talk the evangelical talk of the monetizers and the community evangelizers and the new media mavens. If you’re an eccentric like me, you damn well better be a man, or you might as well be content to drink beer at the Wizzard party til the cops come. Because you won’t be eating Steak 2.0 or tagged in the most sought-after Flickr galleries or blog recaps.

Is it any wonder I chose my friends over the big boys?

Also, no one on Twitter gives a flying crap that I interviewed Ariaana Huffington. What do I have to do, get an exclusive with Brittney?

August 22, 2007

TV Viewing on the Decline: YES!

Filed under: New Media and Tech,Podcasting — Shelly Brisbin @ 2:18 PM

Ever since I got into “new media” I’ve been struck by a real disconnect. Podcasters, bloggers, blog readers, YouTube watchers and other assorted users of the tubez are extremely vocal in their hatred of certain old media (commercial radio for the podcast set, and newspapers for the blog fans) but many seem positively addicted to cable and broadcast television.

Why is this? Why are the same people who turned off broadcast radio for podcasts, or the-ones who make their living telling the New York Times how last century it is composing love sonnets to their TiVos?

From where I sit, most media content provided by massive conglomerates is crap, whether it be radio, TV or movies. It’s not the conglomerate itself that turns the programming to crap; it’s the need to attract and provoke a large audience. And it’s-the degree to which that audience allows itself to be so conditioned by the habit of watching television, that all critical judgment seems to have been lost. How else do you explain reality TV?

Sure, part of my beef is political. I don’t like media consolidation, and I think it tends to destroy the kind of critical thinking that keeps politicians and corporations honest. But the way I know I’m right has nothing to do with my own sanctimony about corporate media. I know I’m right because the mere suggestion that someone who uses TV simply stop watching it when bad shows come on is almost always met with the equivalent of a blank stare. TV is not, for many people, a medium that brings programs they enjoy. It’s background, it’s a babysitter, an amusement park, a beer at the end of a long day. And when entertainment is consumed that way, you can pretty much put anything on the screen and guarantee that people will accept what they’re being fed.

Today I saw this article that finally begins to point to parody between television viewing and Internet use. Good! Certainly, there is a lot of crap on the Internet, but you can still choose from an array of programs, sites, networks and the like that are completely user-created and published. On TV, you have to sift through 150 really bad choices and that’s all you get. Once you give yourself permission to turn the thing off, you realize just how much of what’s on is an utter waste of time.

It’s too early to use the bloggers” newspapers are dead template when it comes to television. But I’ll be watching for opportunities to stick a fork in TV as it currently exists.

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