January 6, 2011

The king of podcasting’s eye-popping numbers

Photo from Leo LaPorte’s Flickr stream

JD LasicaIf you’ve spent any time in the tech world, then you surely have run across Leo Laporte, who runs a podcasting empire from his home base in Petaluma, Calif.

I’ve bumped into Leo at a dozen tech events over the past few years, from the Portable Media Expo (photo, now BlogWorld, in 2005 to South by Southwest and BlogWorld Expo in 2009 to appearing on his TechTV show, then in Toronto, in 2005 and speaking with him on a panel at the Producers Guild. Leo’s a friend.

These days, I watch his TWiT netcast on my Roku device and subscribe to his podcasts and listen to them at the gym. (I also was a recent guest on Denise Howell’s This Week in Law program, part of the TWiT network.) And this week Leo and crew are netcasting live from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

So it was eye-opening to read the recent New York Times profile of Leo, which offered some stats about his podcasting efforts, since I’ve been chronicling the grassroots media movement since my 2005 book Darknet (podcasting was born in 2004).

At the 2009 BlogWorld Expo, Leo famously declared during his keynote, “Podcasting is dead.” What he really meant, I think, is that podcasting is still too difficult to pull off for amateur media makers, and that only a handful of people will be able to make a living by podcasting.

Leo’s the exception. For 30 hours each week, he and the other hosts on his network talk about technology for shows that he distributes online for free. Some figures from the Times article:

• “This Week in Tech” is downloaded by about 250,000 people each week.

• He produces 22 other tech podcasts that are downloaded 5 million times a month.

• His weekend radio show on computers, “The Tech Guy,” reaches 500,000 more people through 140 stations.

• TWIT’s advertising revenue doubled in each of the last two years and is expected to total $4 million to $5 million for 2010, according to Podtrac.

• In addition, $20,000 a month in voluntary contributions comes in from the TWIT website.

• The iTunes store from Apple, where about 75 percent of the audience for podcasts looks for fresh material, contains about 150,000 regular shows.

• Only one out of four American adults has ever listened to a podcast.

This multifaceted approach, friends, is how media making will increasingly look in the 21st century.

October 5, 2009

Highlights from ONA 2009

JD LasicaAt first glance, the Online News Association’s annual conference this past weekend looked like a throwback to the early days of Web journalism, with lots of familiar faces from the early days of the esteemed new media group. Jai Singh (now managing editor of the Huffington Post), Staci D. Kramer of paidContent, Joan Walsh of Salon, author Scott Rosenberg, consultant Elizabeth Osder, Jonathan Dube, Tom Regan, academics like Paul Grabowicz and Rosental Alves — one might think the San Francisco Hilton had added a Wayback Machine room.

But the sessions, organized by Josh Hatch of USA Today and his team, were generally engaging and forward-looking, a refreshing contrast to the doom and gloom that afflicts most news industry gatherings. The reason? These are the hands-on new media staffers, not the publishers or top-echelon executives who would clearly prefer if this whole Internet thing went away.

If this conference had a theme, it was: Journalism in the Age of Twitter.

I gave a presentation (online at Slideshare.net) on how journalists can use social media tools to build community, and it found a receptive audience. (See our sister site, Socialbrite.org, for 6 Twitter tips for journalists and 8 ways to use social media in the newsroom. Both include free printable handouts.) By and large, new media teams in online newsrooms are interested in seeing how the new generation of social tools can help advance journalism, which is why I like ONA best of all the media conferences. Continue reading