We had great fun creating this year's Christmas card, and wanted to share the story of its making with you. Thanks go out to Genesee Center for the Arts and Education, where our card was printed, and to our own Rachel Herman, whose letterpress skills made this special piece possible.
I love watching and listening to podcasts. Through no other form of web content have I found the ability to engage, laugh, be inspired, and greatly anticipate the next episode – all on-demand and in the environment of my choosing. So lately I’ve been asking myself: what are the ingredients of a great podcast – at least in the case of the “pods” I love? And to what degree are these characteristics transferable across genre, subject matter, topic and organizational focus? In short, is podcasting good for our businesses?
What’s a podcast?
Although audio and video podcasts tend to have larger audiences in the podsphere, podcasting can involve many types of media. As Wikipedia states: “A podcast is a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of audio, video, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device.”
Audio and video podcast episodes range in quality from off-the-cuff moments with minimal production sheen to thoroughly-planned productions utilizing professional equipment and techniques. Not that one approach is better than the other – there are many elements that make for a successful podcast, where production philosophy is only one factor determined by the podcaster’s objectives.
Why has podcasting become so popular?
When I think of my own podcast consuming habits, I think of a few key things that make the podcast successful and make me want to stay tuned for future episodes.
There’s power in presenting a topic with passion, regardless of delivery style. When presented by someone who is intimately involved in the subject matter, the message becomes all the more convincing and engaging. And that’s a key concept here: engaging. A successful podcast engages its listener, and in doing so retains and grows a loyal audience.
With passion for a certain topic or subject matter comes expertise, another element of a successful podcast. The things we love the most tend to be the things we know the most. Whether it’s parenting, a favorite sport, a type of cuisine, politics, or any other topic, we dive the deepest into those that have emotional value to us. Therefore over time we develop expertise through learning, shared experiences, like-minded community, research and good old-fashioned doing.
When we’re passionate about a certain topic and have accumulated expertise around that topic, we naturally develop a level of confidence in that area. Through this confidence comes the comfort level to let our hair down and to have fun when presenting. Words and ideas flow, jovial and sometimes unexpected moments pop into the delivery. These moments are deftly handled during a presentation when the hosts and guests are having fun. What’s more, a message that’s delivered with a certain lightheartedness will typically be more engaging, as the presenter and the message being presented come across as more genuine to the listener.
Is podcasting good for our businesses?
The short answer is “yes,” when the podcast is aligned with content marketing strategy. With studies suggesting that podcast listenership is on the rise, it makes sense to take a closer look at how the desirable aspects of podcasting transfer to our businesses.
Podcasting is part of your content marketing plan
Podcasting provides an opportunity for content marketers. Just like with lifestyle-based podcasts, the medium allows businesses to express the passion for what it does, to let its hair down and have a little fun (all while staying on-brand), generate a loyal and engaged audience looking for thought leadership. Podcasting allows the marketer to work its content plan in a way that accommodates the different ways that people prefer to consume content. For example, audio podcasts are a natural for the mobile computing boom. Nobody’s reading eBooks while driving – safely at least – so what better way to reach an audience on the go than through an audio podcast?
Just like other assets in your content marketing arsenal, podcasting should be driven by your editorial calendar and answer the hot-button questions that your audience is known to have. Why? When your podcast helps answer those questions, it’s mapping to your audience’s buying decision cycle, just like any other asset in your content marketing effort (e.g., blog posts, white papers, calculators, instructional videos, etc.).
Great content begets great content
Content that’s delivered via podcast can spawn additional content publishing opportunities, and vice-versa. For example, with some basic editing, a long interview can be divided into two or more podcast episodes. This approach treats your audience to more episodes, for a level of effort similar to what it takes to produce one. Another example of getting more milage from your production is to transcribe your audio podcast into accompanying blog posts. This approach accommodates those audience members who prefer reading. This approach also has potential SEO benefit, based on the value of the keywords contained in the transcription.
One example of podcast opportunities being created from traditional content is the transformation of your website’s FAQ page into a series of podcast episodes. This is where the power of video can really shine. Depending on the question being asked, a short video that’s rich in visual information can answer the question more effectively that what the written word can accomplish alone. And again, when you’re answering questions, you’re mapping to your audience’s buying decision cycle.
Podcasts are also a great way of generating guest content. Especially for those guests on your target list that have hectic schedules. In some cases, catching the guest long enough to record a 15-minute phone interview is more feasible than getting the guest to commit to a long-form written blog post. Another benefit of attracting guests to your podcast is in maintaining the level of passion and expertise you need. Certain topics may be of great interest to your organization and your audience, but you may not possess the full breadth of knowledge on the topic in order to speak to it as passionately and expertly as a guest. So, why not interview the expert?
As with all the traditional pieces of content that you publish, it’s important to know what you want your audience to do as a result of consuming that content and to give them the tools to take action. Realize that in the social media sphere your content will be distributed not only through your own website, but via third parties as well. Make sure your content contains a path to your lead generation/lead nurturing funnels through an obvious call-to-action. What constitutes a conversion is of course up to your specific lead generation initiatives. But whatever that is, make sure the path to conversion is obvious and without barrier.
So what do you think? Which segments of your audience will engage with expert multimedia content that’s delivered passionately and with a touch of fun, and keep coming back for more? What additional ways can you establish thought leadership in your organization’s market space? What other content types does your audience need when moving through its buying decision process? Maybe now is the time to consider podcasting.
Movies in Color
An interesting study of color in cinema, which examines movie stills and breaks them down into color palettes. To quote the Tumblog's creator @moviesincolor, the site is "a tool to promote learning and inspiration." I'm wondering if she's working on any Sid and Marty Krofft palettes?
(via Mike Gastin, with an HT to @TBiv)
Retro UI Design T3 Player is an iPhone app with a UI inspired by Dieter Rams' iconic T3 Pocket Radio. The use of skeuomorph brings a smile: "…an interface that represents a 1973 radio using pixels, viewed on a device that was born out of the iPod, itself a direct facsimile of the original T3."
Not Just for Photographers The Candid Frame is a podcast created for photographers, but the content doesn't focus on technique and toolsets (no pun intended). Instead it highlights the inspiration and human stories behind the work of the artists interviewed by host Ibarionex Perello. Because of this focus, pretty much any reader/listener can take something valuable from The Candid Frame, regardless of their creative pursuit (check out Episode #178 as an example).
Resident electro-poptologist Mike Gastin is ready to get his "Axel F" on with this portable synthesizer from Swedish design house Teenage Engineering. "There's something magical about OP-1. There's a blend of high-tech and something almost toy-like that's interesting to me. I also like the company's web design aesthetic and its model of working on its own projects as well as collaborations with other well-known brands."
Thanks for the cool find, Mike. I'm waiting for the keytar version of OP-1, at which time I'm proposing "Devo Fridays" here at BWC HQ.
Evolution in graphic design is a norm, and especially so in annual report design. The opportunity to explore new creative avenues presents itself each year. With the launch of its 2012 Report To The Community, Thompson Health’s annual publication took another step in its evolution.
The 2012 edition, entitled “Pursuing Perfection: People. Technology. Partnerships.” is the sixth report we’ve delivered for Thompson Health. “Pursuing Perfection” was chosen as a theme, as Thompson Health President/CEO Michael F. Stapleton, Jr. believes, “when pursuing perfection, you will find excellence along the way.” The journey was made all the more interesting with Thompson Health’s affiliation with the University of Rochester Medical Center being made official on June 21, 2012.
The theme of "Pursuing Perfection" is played out with three supporting topics: People, Technology and Partnerships.
The focus has always been on people at Thompson Health, even before the partnership with University of Rochester Medical Center was made official. We wanted to emphasize this as one way of showing that nothing has changed in this arena.
Although known as a community health system in a smaller market, there’s nothing “small” about the technology utilized within Thompson Health’s facilities. We wanted to make sure this was emphasized, as photography of Thompson’s technology was produced using interesting angles and perspectives with the equipment in use.
With the University of Rochester affiliation made official on June 21, it was important to feature the combined senior leadership in a signature portrait.
Along with coordinating with the schedules of five busy executives, environmental photography had to be carefully planned around the scheduling realities of a bustling health care facility. Kudos to the Thompson Health marketing group for its hard work in making everything run smoothly.
The approach to photography, design and layout blended the best aspects of the traditional community health facility and the contemporary metro-area system. The 2012 report included the new Thompson Health logo, which the health system had updated to synchronize with University of Rochester Medical Center brand standards.
Five Star Bank recently rolled out its TotalValue Checking product. As agency of record, we promoted the launch by creating an integrated promotional campaign, leveraging both traditional and digital media.
One of the hallmarks of TotalValue is the level of choice it offers, with a range of checking account types and features that serve myriad customer needs and preferences. Along with the TotalValue Checking, our client is launching its AirTeller Mobile App, which brings to customers the advantages and flexibilities of banking from their smartphones.
While a series of print ads and billboard advertisements work to promote awareness, pay-per-click advertising and in-branch posters with QR codes deliver prospects to web landing pages and promotional videos to drive consideration. In-branch brochures help drive preference as prospects engage with Five Star Bank associates. The Bob Wright team was hands-on with all aspects of the campaign: advertising design and media buying; collateral design and print supervision; web design/programming and video production.
Mike Gastin shared his excitement about the launch. "We're very happy for Five Star Bank, and thankful for the opportunity to partner with our client in delivering this cross-media program. TotalValue Checking and AirTeller both provide examples of Five Star's commitment to personalized banking, which is focussed on customer preferences and relationships. We're looking forward to following the growth of Five Star's new offerings."
Recognizing Five Star's history, Creative Director Phil Daggar is equally enthusiastic about the rollout. "In addition to the launch of these new initiatives, It's gratifying to see Five Star Bank promoting its brand to our region. With a heritage of over 150 years in local community banking, Five Star offers banking that truly is made for our area."
Congratulations to Five Star Bank on the launch of TotalValue Checking and AirTeller!
Congratulations to Monroe County Water Authority for winning the Government / Community category of the 2013 RBJ Best of the Web competition. Working for the Authority's communications firm Metrix Marketing, we provided user interface design while ITX handled the programming. Our creative team led by Senior Designer Jim Mattiucci enjoyed tackling the website design challenge.
The site is content-rich, notably in the area of customer education. Featured content also includes the "Kids Water Fun" section.
Our thanks go out to John Riley, Metrix Marketing's CEO and Creative Director, for including us on the team. Congratulations!
Print Enters the World of Augmented Reality
We've heard and talked about the convergence of traditional and digital media. Augmented reality experiences bring us one step closer to true convergence. And with technology developers such as Aurasma, there are increased opportunities for communicators to explore.
(HT @prnewswire - check out their story)
Those Classic Lines
As you can see from previous entries, I'm a fan of minimalists re-interpretations. Here's a set of minimalist movie posters on mymodernmet.com that pairs clever illustration with iconic quotes. My favorite: Walter's quote in the The Big Lebowski.
Moodstream Moodstream by Getty Images seems a curious animal. What is it? A better way to research stock media assets? The centerpiece for a brainstorming session? Or just something fun to tinker with at lunch? Streams can be saved as "Moodboards" (think lightbox with additional features), and assets can be saved as a handy list for later reference.
Camera Geekery for Snowy Days
What looks cooler, the extreme closeup of the snowflake (no pun intended), or the Frankenstein'd camera rig used to capture it? Seriously though, I admire Mr. Kljatov's cleverness and tenacity in fulfilling his creative vision.
Are you making plans to add video content to your website? If so, your timing could not be better. More and more business communicators are leveraging the power of video to engage, inform and entertain their audiences in a variety of settings including content marketing, corporate, human resources/internal communications, training, and more.
As our clients plan for video production and distribution, we're noticing a common set of questions that come up. We’d like to share our thoughts on these topics, and hope you find them useful as you consider your own first steps into offering video on your website.
(Note: There are myriad variables when working with video, for which there exist volumes of technical information. This article focuses on providing just a quick overview to get you started with your planning.)
Question: In what format is web video?
Answer: The word “format” when referring to video can mean different things to different people. When people say “format” they may be referring to video standards like NTSC or PAL, standard definition or high definition, 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio, .MOV or .MP4 file format, or something else. There are typically a collection of specifications to keep in mind for web video, where format is just one of those specs. The following specs have produced good results for projects in which we’ve been involved.
Format (there’s that word):
Here are four common web video formats: Standard definition (SD), 4:3 aspect ratio
Standard definition (SD), 16:9 aspect ratio 720p high definition (HD), 16:9 aspect ratio 1080p high definition (HD), 16:9 aspect ratio
There are several common frame rates, but for web video 30 frames per second (fps) is one of the more widely used. 24 fps and 25 fps are slower frame rates usually associated with a more film-like or cinematic look, which of course is found on the web as well.
One of the main ingredients in determing video compression, "codec" refers to the software algorithm with which the finished web video is encoded for playback. H.264 for the video data along with AAC for the audio data provides a favorable balance of quality and file size. And speaking of audio (oh yes, sound!), it’s common to target a sample rate of 48 kHz.
Sometimes referred to as Data Rate, which influences the finished web video's visual quality and file size. We've had good luck starting with Vimeo's suggested bit rate ranges (below), and then tweak from there.
2,000 – 5,000 kbps
2,000 – 5,000 kbps
5,000 – 10,000 kbps
10,000 – 20,000 kbps
(** In kilobits per second)
One can certainly go lower than these suggested ranges in order to achieve smaller file sizes, but visual quality will degrade as the bit rate goes down.
The file type that contains both video and audio data. We’ve found .MP4 to deliver the greatest compatibility, both when reviewing video edits with our clients and for final distribution/playback.
Question: What format, resolution and frame rate should we target when making our web video?
Answer: It depends on a number of factors, but the specs of existing assets that are to be used within the video – especially existing video footage – are often an important factor. Older footage is typically in standard definition, with a 4:3 aspect ratio. If your video is to be made largely out of older footage, you may end up going the SD 4:3 route. However, there are many creative ways to incorporate older assets into a more modern-looking 16:9 presentation – potentially even in high definition. Generally speaking, because we live in an increasingly hi-def world, we look for ways to target HD specs when planning web video projects. HD projects can always be re-exported for SD.
Question: How long should the web video run?
Answer: That depends on the intent of the content and the makeup of your audience. But generally speaking, shorter is better. Even if the video is meant to be a longer piece (say for educational purposes), don’t make it any longer than it needs to be. If the video is running longer than you think is appropriate for your audience, splitting the video into shorter segments or chapters is always an option.
Question: Should I stream my videos from my own web server, or should I upload them to a web video service like YouTube?
Answer: Let’s look at this topic with respect to two potential scenarios: self-hosted streaming and video-sharing streaming.
In this scenario, your videos are uploaded to your own web server and played back from pages on your website. Although the level of technical detail that this topic can cover is beyond the scope of this article and the services we offer, we can give you two important things to consider: user load and compatibility.
User Load: how many people will view your video via your website? And more importantly, how many people will view the video at the same time? If you have just a few videos on your website that receive infrequent traffic, then streaming from your current web server may work (always check with your web hosting company first). However, under certain conditions, your requirements may point to the need for specialized video hosting. Also know, like with most things, the more robust your hosting requirements, the higher the cost for the service.
Compatibility: Is your audience mainly tied to their desktop/laptop computers? Or will they view your videos from a mobile device? We can probably all agree that mobile computing is playing an increasingly important role when building one’s web presence. If capturing an audience on the go is important to your business, then it’s important to keep mobile compatibility in your plans. Without going into all the technical details behind video compatibility on the mobile web (intrepid readers can Google “Flash vs HTML5”), self-hosted video will require video playback objects programmed into your pages that are compatible with both standard web browsers and mobile web browsers.
Yes, self-hosting can be complicated. But, if complete control over user experience and your website’s hosting environment are objectives when planning for video, then self-hosting may be the way to go.
This scenario has plenty of service options. Two common ones of course are YouTube and Vimeo. As most are probably familiar, this involves uploading your video to your chosen sharing service, copying the embed code generated by the service, and then pasting the embed code into the appropriate web page(s) on your site. Another approach is to simply link from one’s website to the video (i.e., instead of embedding the video), which will take the viewer over to the video-sharing website.
Just like the self-hosted option, there are numerous advantages to going the video-sharing route. Two commonly noted advantages are:
Offloading the management of video hosting and requisite technology to an established third-party service provider.
In the case of YouTube especially, realizing the benefits of social interaction with your content. Social interaction is certainly possible with self-hosted video, but YouTube exists specifically for this type of engagement.
That's a Wrap
We hope this helps you better understand some of the common topics around the production and distribution of web video. We encourage your feedback – what things do you commonly run into when working on web video projects? Are there other questions you have about web video? Feel free to comment below.
As business people and marketers, all our endeavors present an opportunity to communicate in a purposeful way. Regardless of media or physical manifestation, all our work provides a chance to reinforce our brands and solidify the relationships we maintain with our audiences. The products we build, the hours we’re open, the questions our websites answer, the conveniences we offer. These are all brand touch points.
I was reminded of this recently as I watched the installation of street entry signage for our client Maplewood Nursing & Rehabilitation. As part of its brand, The Maplewood takes very seriously its commitment to the Village of Webster, the home of the Rochester-area skilled nursing facility for more than 30 years. This commitment led The Maplewood to build a more direct connection between it and the Village. This connection is in the form of an entrance and parking area off Main Street, which now augments The Maplewood’s existing Daniel Drive entrance.
Dubbed the “Webster Gateway”, this project communicates in a physical way the Maplewood’s commitment to Webster, thereby reinforcing the family- and community-related elements of its brand. With extra parking created by the new entrance, village patrons now have enhanced access to The Maplewood and neighboring businesses that share this improved convenience. With the entrance and parking area’s carefully designed walkways, landings and crossovers, Maplewood residents and family members now have easier access to the Village, which opens up new options for warm weather activities.
The Maplewood’s project exemplifies the commitment between an exceptional business neighbor and the village it calls home. Yes, The Maplewood can expect a boost in visibility through its new entrance and signage. But that boost will only come as a result of the careful planning, design and construction of this new gateway, which is as much a brand-building endeavor as anything it communicates via “typical” marketing media.
What are some of the ways you communicate your brand outside of typical media? What additional opportunities exist to be leveraged?
Building a Better Axe Best Made Co., via Mike Gastin: "I'm impressed by the design aesthetic and the way they go deeper into a more philosophical approach to their offerings." The collection of web videos does a great job of telling Best Made's story.
Typography Archaeology Typomapp is a typography knowledge map. It's a unique approach in learning typography, correlating history and geography. I enjoyed researching typographers and foundries in the nations of my ancestry. Via Mike Gastin
Product, People, Planet, Profit. Plus Great Design. Blackstar Bamboo Bikes, via Mike Gastin: "Love that these use natural, regional and renewable resources and that this is a company that makes jobs for developing nations. And, the design aesthetic is right proper."