Friday, October 5, 2007

Podcasters, please get into my mobile phone!

Hey podcasters, why don't you deliver to my doorstep?

The main device I carry around, is connected and ready to receive your shows is my phone.

If you push (or rather let me subscibe) to your podcasts on my mobile the probability that I will listen to it increases. Serve it to me and I might listen to it at work, in the car, on the bus or wherever I am.

It seems like a large part of the podcast culture hoovers around iTunes and iPods (correct me if I'm wrong). Meaning that podcasts are mainly listened to on portable mp3-players.
In some cases also on a PC. Sometimes in the PC mp3-player, sometimes from a web interface.

However, as Christopher S. Penn noted after Podcamp Europe, the mobile phone is a under-utilized device for podcasts.

Today, most phones can double as an MP3-player. This together with the "always connected" nature of a mobile phone makes them a perfect podcast player.

And it's simple!

There's a number of options to get a podcast into a mobile phone. The first one is the very easy way mainly discussed in this post. The other options are listed more to make the list as complete as possible. Let me know if you can think of any other.
  1. Simply SMS the link to download the podcast
    Very simple and straight forward. Just send your audience a text message (SMS) with the link to the latest episode ("Here is my latest show:").
    The subscriber can then click on the link and download your show. Just like that. It will end up among the MP3 library on the phone.

    Two questions that you are likely to have:
    A) Will my audience let me have their cellular number?
    B) How do I mass-distribute SMS:es in a good way?

    No doubt there is a number of solutions to this, depending on your specific situation. A quick Google search reveals a number of links to explore further.

    However, there is one interesting solution using Twitter (yes, one of my favourites) or any of the twitter clones out there.

    Create a Twitter account with the name of your show. Then tell your audience to send "follow myshow" to the Twitter number. Take it from there.

    You probably should consider to limit the tweets from this account to only new episodes. Also ensure that you explain the basic stuff for your users.

    There is a number of really good benefits from this approach.
    * First, the subsciber does not have to reveal their mobile phone number to you.
    * Second, they do not need to use a PC. At any stage. Promote your show outside the internet. Have people sign up immediately. Even those who never will touch a PC.

    The persons you target this way does not need to be interested at all in the rest of the Twitter world. It is up to them if they would like to explore it.

    (You may note that the Twitter application Twittergram is closely releated in terms of functionality. But if you already host your media somewhere you just need to push the URL.)

    Some other options includes:

  2. Syncronize with the media library on your PC
    As the phone in many cases doubles as an MP3-player it should be possible to use eg iTunes to do this. Haven't tried this though. And more important - a majority of the user does not conect their phone to their PC at all!

  3. Download a dedicated java application
    A very common approach when doing something for mobile phones is to build a java (J2ME) application and let people download it. I am not aware (have not looked that far though) of any java podcast player for mobiles (any pointers?). However, downloading a java app is for many people a big step, and thus is probably not a good way towards the real mass market.

    Update! I was just made aware of the Mobilcast java client. Any more?

  4. Use built in applications
    I expect more and more phones to have built in capabilities to connect to podcasts. Eg through an RSS reader.

  5. Phone into a podcast
    A very natural way to listen to audio on your phone is of course to dial a number and listen. This is what eg Podlinez offer. Will work with any phone. However I see some drawbacks.
    * Firstly the audio quality of a phone call might be lower than of a MP3 file.
    * Secondly you will be busy on the phone while listening.

  6. Use MMS as delivery
    MMS is another option, which I feel I have to mention since I earlier worked with MMS Traffic Growth. Packing your podcast into MMS messages. To solve the packaging I found this article. Here is one product in this space.

  7. Stream through the browser
    Finally, simply provide a (mobile) web page where the audio is streamed is doable. However I have not found any examples live for audio only (I have tried a nice video demo). Any pointers?

While writing this I also found this article discussing the topic.

Some last considerations
I have not discussed download time and cost for the consumer here. In general the trend moves quickly towards high speed mobile data and 3G access, and that the cost for data is going down or is offered as flat rate.

Mind you, this might not be true for all of your potential audience. Some might also have phones that does not support eg MP3 files.

I also suggest that you consider to select a suitable MP3 bit rate - remember, you might not need a high bit rate to get enough audio quality. And a lower bitrate will make the size of your file smaller and faster to download. Thus giving a smother experience for your audience.

I must admit I am not a big consumer of podcasts (perhaps due to you not delivering to my doorstep?) but when I occationally stumble upon a podcast I'd like to listen to I copy-and-paste the media URL into the SMS from desktop application I use and sent it to myself so I can download it. Works perfect. Yesterday I downloaded and listened to a 40+ Mbyte podcast. Took me a few minutes and the I had more than an hour of listening.

And Christopher S. Penn issued this contest after Podcamp Europe. I suspect he rather meant SonyEricsson, taking the handset route. This is not a formal entry to the contest from Ericsson, but I believe the 1st option outlined above come close to the stated rule. And it will work on many handsets.

(Disclaimer: I do work for Ericsson, and in areas that are related to this post. I do not blog on behalf of Ericsson. However I am probably somehow biased.)

Podcasters - what do you say? Will you deliver to my doorstep?

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Blogger Jason Jarrett said...

I think its a great idea, my thoughts are whether someone with a mobile phone wants to download something as large as a 40mb file. Also my experience so far is that older people in the village are familiar with txt and mobile phones, perhaps the internet with help but twitter is a ways off still.
I really think its great you are raising the issue because I think its key and I suspect that is one of the killer apps the iphone has managed to address so successfully.

October 5, 2007 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Johan Myrberger said...

I do believe the first option I outlined is a good way forward for an average user.
Yes - a 3G phone with capability to act as a MP3 player is the best option. I haven't checked the latest statistics on mobile phones, but I believe a majority of the phone sold today fits here.

Some clarifications and comments:

Explain the details
Of course you need to outline both the "short" story on how to subscribe, and also detail the "stuff behind the scenes" (ie how to recieve and play an episode, the costs to download etc)
To a large extent this will vary. Both with respect eg for your local operators pricing scheme, and also depending on the phone model used.

Not only Twitter
For the first option I used Twitter as an example. Of course, if you utilize Twitter you should not put the effort to explain Twitter as such. just explain the simple steps needed to subscrieb to the tweets from your show.

And there's plenty of other options available with the same overall result.
* As a very easy road you can collect the phone number and mass distribute SMS's to these. There's a number of both web based and desktop applications capable of SMS mass distribution. And the price for bulk SMSs is not that high.
* For a bit more money you can set up your own shortcode (in most countries there's services for this) Either your very own (more expensive) or use an existing shortcode but with a keyword for your service.
This would give you the same behaviour as in the Twitter case, but without using Twitter.

Download time/file size
A 40M podcast is not a big deal if you are on 3G. But "less is more" for the subscribers. So of course try to use an as low bitrate as possible with good enough audio quality.

Costs for subscriber
Related to all above - the main question from a subscriber might be "What does it cost?". Thus I propose that you investigate what the proce to download your show (data usage) would be with the main subscription options available in your country from the carriers/operators. Are they mostly flat rate? Any specific subsciption with a very high data cost?

October 5, 2007 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Podcasting to mobile phones is going to significantly increase the number of people subscribing to podcasts. One site that is allowing mobile phones to stream podcasts is On this site you can link to any podcast and stream the latest episode right to your phone. They already have thousands of podcasts setup, but you can add your own if it is not already there.

October 9, 2007 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Johan Myrberger said...

Thanks Jeremy - looks nice and work on my phone.

As an "occational" podcast listener I am still asking for push delivery (or rather announcement) of interesting shows. Buzzwire and other podcast directories are great if you are actively looking for shows (pull).

As a podcaster you have better chances of getting eg me to listen to your show if you deliver a notification to my phone (not my PC). Of course I shall sign up for the notifiactions first...

October 12, 2007 at 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, if Podcasts could come strait to our mobile phones we’ll probably listen them often.
Yes, if we could choose only the subjects we're interested in, from the Podcasts we use to listen, it would be even better.
Yes, if we could manage our Podcasts subscription (sign in, suspend, etc) directly from the mobile it would be great.
This solution already exists (and you mentioned it in your post) but the problem is: Mobile Operators are conservative and none of them wants to be the first, they still waiting for a business model.
Podcasts are “free content” and the question is: do mobile users accept to pay for a content supposed to be free? I guess not enough to make this business interesting.
From my point of view the only way to have a popular Push Podcast service is “advertising”, you want it free, get the ads, you don’t want ads, you pay. That’s the way the world goes on.

October 16, 2007 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Kenny G92 said... and are the simplest path of least resistance and the quality is fantastic. No 40 mg downloads no software to install and you can even setup when you want your podcast to call you.

November 16, 2007 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Johan Myrberger said...

Hi Kenny,

I must admit I haven't tried any of these two actively - I guess I should.

I mention this option as #5 in the post. I take your word on that the sound quality is not an issue.

I do see the fact that you would be busy on the phone as a potential problem. Sure, "free on 2nd line" or whatever that service is called on mobile phones would resolve that.

The main "issue" for me would still be to get a notification when a new episode is out. Delivered to my phone. Does any of these two services offer eg an SMS notification (including the phone number to dial)?

November 21, 2007 at 1:23 PM  

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