Category Archives: General - Page 2

Get Off The Upgrade Train!

It is extremely costly to live on the cutting edge of technology. If you are an “early adopter”, chances are you paid top dollar for the latest device or software. The latest Android smart phones or iPhone, while not terribly expensive up front, around $200, they will cost you thousands of dollars over the next two years in data charges. Tablets, laptops, video game systems all have similar economic models associated with them. Cheap console, expensive games. Sleek laptop, non-upgradeable video card and limited memory. Likewise with software, companies that produce software are constantly creating new features and versions to get you to upgrade to the latest and greatest. And often they produce incompatibilities with older versions of software to almost guarantee an upgrade fee.

My solution for most of you reading this is to “Get off the upgrade train!” What I suggest for most individuals is treating their computer or device like a time capsule. Unless you’re working with others and sharing files back and forth, the software that you’re using right now is probably just fine. New software brings along with it higher memory, processor and space requirements that the older computer you are currently using may not be able to handle. That new OS, while cooler looking with its whiz bang widgets and it’s shiny plasticized icons, will almost certainly make your three-year old computer seem slow and antiquated. In the future there may be software that you need to run as part of your business or that will just plain make your life much easier. By all means get that software, but run it on new hardware and upgrade the whole experience.

I have an example of this from my own life. As I write this I am using a Pentium 4, 1.8Ghz system with 1GB of memory, running Windows 2000. *Gasp!* What can’t I do on this system that I can do on a newer system? Nothing. The system and the software go together, both forged in the early 21st century. I also have Office 2000 on this system. *Gasp!* It has worked perfectly well for every project that I’ve had in the last 11 years. And truthfully the features that I use today are not much different from when I started using it. How many feature do you/I actually need? I’m guessing not that many. Most people only us a small subset of their software’s capabilities anyway.

There is a time and place for upgrading though. Just today we upgraded a couple of seats to Office 2007. That’s right, a five-year old version of the Microsoft Office product. Why? First, it was what the client was using and second it was dirt cheap. How about $69.99 for Office 2007 Standard? Good deal. Not the latest and greatest. And this comes to my second point.

When you do think about upgrading your software, look for the bargains. The equivalent latest version, Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010, is currently $219.99 on Amazon. for the full disk based version. That’s a savings of $150 by buying one version behind the latest. Upgraded software and functionality without breaking the bank. Remember though, without an external catalyst, we wouldn’t be upgrading at all.  I give my 13 year-old son the same advice when he is looking at the latest first person shooter to run on his laptop.  Usually the requirements for the game are greater than what he has.  Those titles are often a third, fourth or fifth release of the game.  Well, guess what? There are multiple older version of those games, that he hasn’t played either, that are plenty playable on his system.  And, they are in the dollar bin at Fry’s.

There will be a day, in the future, that you will need to upgrade your computer.  It’s inevitable.  You could upgrade your current computer to run the next operating system or that new game, but there will come a day that you can’t do that anymore.  The technology will have changed and you can’t upgrade.  If you “Get off the upgrade train”, the money that you saved by not chasing the tail of technology will, in all likelihood , get you a long way toward buying that new piece of tech when it is time.

Saying Goodbye to The Podcast Studio

It’s time to say goodbye to The Podcast Studio.

The Podcast Studio was the place that I started blogging about podcasting. I would write-up reviews of gear that you might use in the production of your podcast, highlight podcasts that I found particularly interesting and post some podcasting news once in a while. Over the last year I attempted to create a podcast network of shows using The Podcast Studio as the all-encompassing site. The shows have been fun, but the desire to put them under one large umbrella entity has waned.  And recently, last night actually, I received an email from my web hosting company, Webfaction, that the site is causing problems on the shared server that it lives on. It’s understandable, but that is the last straw. The Podcast Studio will cease to exist.

I’m currently migrating some of that content over to this website, particularly the Podcast Seminar series of posts as well as the Virtual Podcast Seminar eBook. Most of the podcast audio content is found on other sites now, so there’s no reason to keep it around.

In a matter of hours or days the domain name will forward back to this site.

Goodbye Podcast Studio!

Google Apps for Free

If you’re a small business and are using the email service that comes with your Internet connection, you’re doing it wrong.  Heaven forbid you’re using AOL or Yahoo as your email provider.  At a bare minimum you should have a personalized email address with your company’s domain name.  For example, I have the domain name russturley.com.  When I give out my email address, it has my username, russ, along with my domain name.  It’s much easier to remember than some obscure username at some local ISP’s domain name.

If you’re thinking, “But Russ, those types of service cost money that I don’t have.” I’m totally with you and have the answer.  The solution is Google Apps.  Google Apps provides the following services for companies with 10 users or less, FREE of charge.

Here’s what you get:

  • Gmail
  • Google Calendar
  • Google Docs (Collaborative spreadsheets and word processing and more)
  • Google Reader (News aggregator)
  • Google Sites (Simple web pages)
  • Blogger (Weblogs)
  • More!

If at any time in the future you grow beyond 10 users that you’d like to provide email, etc. for then you an upgrade to the “Business” edition at $50/user/year for a 1 year commitment or $5/user/month with no commitment.  Still a good deal and there are more group features that are available with the upgraded service that a company with that many employees can take advantage of.

All the versions have the option of integrating third-party apps like MailChimp, an email marketing and newsletter service, and Freshbooks, invoicing made easy, into Google Apps.  Great part about the third-party apps is that most have a free version also so you can try them out before making a commitment to the full service.

Google Apps helps groups build communities – Google Apps.

Download.com Adware

Dwight Silverman, tech journalist for the Houston Chronicle, has a great column on the latest practices of the Cnet website Download.com. Apparently they are now offering up a custom downloader that takes the place of the program that you were looking to download. The custom downloader will then offer you change your search engine in your browser, change your homepage and install a toolbar. It will also presumably download the program that you wanted, but the damage will have been done.

To make a few extra bucks Cnet has sold out its users to the highest bidder. In the case that I’m seeing on the linked article, Microsoft properties Bing and MSN are the winners. You, on the other hand, are the loser particularly if you download this adware from Cnet.

Cnet used to be a reputable source for information. When I look for reviews on a tech product that I am thinking about purchasing or recommending to someone, Cnet has been a place that I could trust. Likewise, Download.com was a place that I cold send a client or family member to download a freeware or shareware program with great confidence. That’s not the case anymore and I’ll have to evaluate Cnet reviews through a finer filter.

Look for an article soon on safe places to download software that won’t sell you out.

Download.com offers crapware with that program you wanted | TechBlog | a Chron.com blog.

Keeping Monetization in Your Hands

I read an interesting article today. And by interesting, I mean terrifying, especially if you use Google Adsense in an attempt to monetize your podcast/blog. They article can be found at Duck Works Magazine. It’s the story of a cameraman/boat enthusiast that produced content and put it on YouTube. He was making a good bit of money from the videos by using Adsense to display ads with the videos. Apparently he was making too much money, because Google decided to close his account.  Closed his account, took away any money they owed him and canceled a check!  I’ll let you read the article and get all the details for yourself, but there is one huge thing that you should take away from this article.

Putting the monetization of your blog or podcast in someone elses hands is folly. It’s the easy way to go, especially if you have decent traffic on your site, but in then end someone else is in control. Google didn’t get to be one of the biggest companies around because they’re giving away money. They keep the lion’s share of the ad revenue and you get a tiny sliver of it. Get any more and you’ll get banned. And if you think that you are the exception, here’s another thing to think about. The chips are stacked against you. One of the customers/readers/viewers of the film maker in the article is a lawyer. They examined the Adsense contract and had this to say.

The contract is designed so that it is almost impossible not to break the Google rules.

So there it is. It’s “almost impossible” to play by the rules that Google sets forth. My advice: don’t play.

If you’re looking for ways to monetize your podcast or other online venture, be sure to read my article on monetization or better yet, pick up my ebook, The Virtual Podcast Seminar, to learn about all things podcasting.

Podcast Seminar: Spreading the Word Through Social Networks

This post continues the Podcast Seminar series. This week we cover the topic of Spreading the word through Social Networks.

First off, what is a social network? Here’s a good definition from Wikipedia, “communities of people who share interests and activities or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.”  (You might get this term confused with social media; I know that I do.  The great part is that the two are connected.  According to Wikipedia as well, “Social media is an umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio.”  So, because you have a podcast AND you are thinking about using a social network, the buzz term social media is now yours to throw around how you see fit.  Now back to social networks.)

Secondly, what are some social networks that you can use to share interests and activities? There are a lot of them to choose from and depending on your location in the world, some might be more popular than others.  Here’s a short linked list of ones that might fit you:

  • Facebook – originally for college students, it’s now open to all
  • MySpace – The grand daddy of social networks, great for musicians
  • Twitter – The original Web 2.0 social network
  • Pownce – Share files and music with your followers
  • Plurk – Very recent entry into the social network race
  • Jaiku – Purchased by Google, what are they planning?

New social networks pop up every day, and thanks to Ning, you can even own your own social network that is just for you and your listeners/viewers.

Facebook LogoNow the third, and most important topic on Social Networks, how do I use them? Too many times I see posts on the social networks that I frequent that are just promoting their blog posts or latest episodes of their podcasts.  Social networks are about more than just sending out a note that you have a new blog post.  It’s about engaging an audience and sharing, as the definition above implies.  If you do a podcast about a certain subject, like marketing, ask questions about marketing.  Share what ways you’re using the topics in your podcast in your business.  Give examples of how those in your network could use your latest podcast to make them money.  Again, the word is engage.

Twitter LogoSo let’s look at an example someone who engages his audience, and in my opinion does social networks correctly.  That person is Jason Calacanis.  Jason uses Twitter to blast out information about his latest venture, Mahalo.  But he also talks about his dogs, interesting articles, holds giveaways and he engages the community in a conversation. He’s there to market his company for sure, but he’s also there to comment and respond to those he is following and are following him.  He’s even termed a name for the group, Jason Nation.

And finally, for Heaven’s sake, do not employ a bot to constantly make post on your behalf.  There are tools that can help you more productive when interacting on social networks, but a bot is not engaging anyone in conversation.

MySpace LogoSo are social networks important for your podcast?  Sure, but make sure the social networks that you choose are not just used as a cheap press release medium.  If you’re excited about using social networks to promote your podcast and build a community, there are others out there that can help you in the best ways to leverage social networks.  One person you definitely have to check out is Chris Brogran and definitely sign up for his newsletter.

And while you’re looking into these social networks, be sure to follow me on Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, Plurk and Jaiku.

That’s it for the topics that I had planned for the Podcast Seminar series.  Next time I’ll wrap it up and give a sweeping over view of everything covered.

Podcast Seminar: Monetizing Your Podcast

This post continues the Podcast Seminar series. This week we discuss a popular topic, monetizing your podcast.

If you talk to 10 different podcasters and ask them how to monetize your podcast, you’ll get 10 different answers. A few of the popular models that I’ll discuss in this post are donations, “premium” subscription, promoting products, pay per episode, advertising, sponsorship, and affiliate links.

First off, let’s get this ugly fact out of the way; unless your podcast is a standout in the thousands of podcasts in iTunes, there’s a good chance you’re not going to make a dime on your podcast. If you’re getting into podcasting to make money, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. At least for right now. There are opportunities to make a few bucks, but basically the monetization model for podcasting is far from fleshed out. Even though that’s the case, let’s take a look at the models listed above.

Donations – The donation model of monetizing is very much like a PBS television station or NPR radio station. The hosts solicit money from listeners or viewers. There is usually a button on their website that says donation or tip jar. The donations can be one time or setup as monthly. Paypal is the usual suspect here in setting up a donation scheme. For an example of this model, check out any of the TWiT podcasts. Leo Laporte has a donation button on the twit.tv site where you can sign up to give a one time amount, or give monthly. You could also call this a benefactor model.

Premium Subscription – When you subscribe to a podcast, it’s not like subscribing to cable. No money changes hands. You simply add the podcaster’s RSS feed to your aggregator of choice. In the premium subscription model, you still subscribe to the podcaster’s feed, however this time you have a username and password and you pay the podcster to subscribe to the feed. This model is much like the premium channels like HBO. You pay an agreed upon amount each month. There are a few services that can provide this type of service, but the one that’s getting a lot of use is Premium Cast. Check out The Bitterest Pill for an example of this type of podcast monetization.

Product Promotion – If you sell a product as part of your business, then this is the monetization model for you. I made a reference to Gary Vaynerchuk of WinelibraryTV in a previous Podcast Seminar post. The Winelibrary is Gary V’s business. Each episode of the show he uses some of the product available in his store. He doesn’t push the product, but instead gives an honest review of the wines. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I don’t doubt the the number of bottles flying out the Winelibrary has gone up by a large amount due to the show. Take a look at the show and see how to sell products without making each episode of your podcast an infomercial.

Read more »