January 19, 2006

Teaching English via Podcasting

Hmmm…three billion new capitalists…many of them hungry to learn English or improve their English skills.

Can anybody say “huge potential?” 🙂

Can podcasters teach English?

January 16, 2006

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Predictions for Digital Audio and Video

With 2006 upon everyone is offering their predictions for the year so I figured I would throw my hat in the ring, especially as it comes to the future digital audio and video. Paul Colligan and Alex Mandossian over at got me thinking about this yesterday during one of their podcasts and 24 hours later I’ve got a list of what I think will transpire in the next 12 months. Enjoy!

1. Device convergence will happen more quickly than anyone realizes. When you’re walking down the street carrying both a cell phone and iPod (or other mobile player) and you bump into your friend who has a killer cell phone will all the same mobile media functionality as your iPod you’re going to want to switch…soon. The number of people who carry a combination cell phone/media player will grow significantly through 2006 and explode in 2007. Here’s a recent quote from Sun CEO Scott McNealy, “It’s going to be hard to sell a lot of iPods five years from now when every cell phone is going to be able to automatically access your library wherever you are.” I don’t think that’s going to take five years. Verizon has a phone with a 4 Gig chip on the horizon. The convergence trend will happen quickly. And when it does it’s likely going to mean…

2. The iPod could become the next TiVo. TiVo is a superior product to any other DVR on the market. It has a great interface and does pretty much everything very well. Yet the general consensus is that unless something changes soon the TiVo will go the way of the dodo bird. The problem? Distribution. Requiring a consumer to buy an extra box and an extra service means asking them to jump through two more hoops than they have to when they get a DVR from their cable company. Apple will face the same challenge with the iPod. As device convergence emerges people will begin to wonder why they need to purchase a separate device and load content on it when they can just do everything through their cell phone. So unless Apple makes significant strides in the mobile phone space their domainance in the mobile media market will quickly fade.

3. will be bigger than anyone realizes. Google Video appears to be able on the cusp of doing something that no one has really done to date: Allowing individuals a significant opportunity for monetization of video content. Their current video store leaves a lot to be desired but I trust that they will figure this out…after all, they are Google. And when they give people an incentive to produce quality video content and get paid 70 cents on the dollar for their efforts the game changes significantly. They’ll be empowering the little guy to sell video content much the same way that a certain little company called eBay empowered the little guy to sell products a decade ago. And we all know how well that worked out for eBay…

4. Satellite video will arrive…courtesy of the satellite radio guys. Two themes seem to be emerging in video: The ability of companies like Google Video and Netflix to meet the demand for long-tail content and the ability of Apple and others to provide space-shifted content (see Prediction #12). Space-shifting allows people to view video content whereever they are. I can watch content on the train on the way to work, when I’m at the gym, at home on my new HD TV (I wish…), etc. Who is best positioned to provide this? It just might be XM and Sirius, the satellite radio companies. Their mobile players offer a ton of potential and Sirius already has announced plans for video in 2006. It’s very likely the day will soon come when people consider ditching their cable or DirecTV subs for an XM or Sirius-powered satellite video service.

5. Real Rhapsody for the spoken word will surface. I love . And their new Rhapsody-To-Go service is killer and would be a huge hit if only Apple would take down the walled garden and let Real license its DRM. But enough about music…let’s talk about the spoken word. It seems to me like a huge opportunity exists to do for the spoken word what Real/Yahoo!/Napster have done for music. Don’t limit someone to just a couple of audio books a month (a la ). Instead give someone the ability to listen to whatever they want, whenever they want. If you’re an hour into an audio book and it sucks, fine, just jump to something better. There are a few companies right now vying for the non-Apple/Audible/iPod spoken word throne: , and . A tremendous opportunity exists for one of them to attempt to create a Rhapsody-like service for audio books. I’d be one of their first subscribers.

6. Audible will hit an unexpected snag with . Audible recently launched WordCast, their podcasting service to enable advertising and/or premium content. There’s just one slight problem. If I’m an author and want to get an audio book up on Audible’s website I’m looking at a royalty somewhere in the neighborhood of 15%. But if I take that same audio book and sell it through WordCast (complete with DRM if I wish) my take jumps to 80%. Does something seem strange here? I think at some point there has to be an acknowledgement that all of the “services” that traditional publishers and companies like Audible provide lose a lot of their luster in a world in which it’s increasingly easy to go directly to the consumer with your products. Somehow the gap between 15% and 80% will have to close and that could be a bit painful for Audible.

7. will focus on music and will focus on personalized communication. The two podcast-related companies that received major chunks of funding in 2005 will find themselves in a bit of a tough spot in 2006. The big boys like iTunes and Yahoo! have the directory game pretty well sown up and the market for podcast production software is becoming increasingly commoditized. But all hope is certainly not lost for these companies. The most sensible thing appears to be for Podshow to focus on the music side of podcasting, the area in which Adam Curry and Ron Bloom have the most knowledge. Becoming anything and everything to musicians looking to market themselves via podcasts seems to offer an incredible opportunity for the company and I hope that’s what their focus becomes. As for Odeo, Evan Williams has expressed a desire to be closely involved with facilitating personal communication via RSS. He’s a visionary in that regard and to the best of my knowledge, one of the few people talking about it. To the extent that Odeo makes it incredibly easy for people to send and receive podcasts to and from friends and family I think they have a tremendous business. Like Podshow, they’ll fail only to the extent that they try to dominate podcasting as a whole rather than focusing on a specific niche of what is rapidly becoming a huge industry.

8. matching will arrive on the scene. This prediction strikes me as somewhat obvious but suprisingly absent from the current dialogue. If you and I each subscribe to 20 podcasts and it just so happens that 17 of them are the same then I want to know the three you’ve subscribed to that I haven’t and you would likely want to know the same thing. I’m not certain but this doesn’t seem like rocket science. To the extent that someone launches a service that allows for this and it reaches critical mass you’ll have an amazing discovery service for podcasts, something that will become even more important as tens of thousands of new podcasts come online this year. I’m not sure exactly what AmigoFish and are doing with their recommendation services but if they haven’t incorporated OPML matching yet it would be a great idea. And get Netflix to do this for movie queues while you’re at it… 🙂

9. Many “mini” multimedia portals will be launched. Music artists have fans. Many fans will buy whatever the artist is selling (hence, $40 concert T-shirts). Artists set up fan clubs. Fan pay annual fees for “goodies.” Everyone is happy. Now why not do this for authors, gurus, etc. Why shouldn’t a Tony Robbins or Tom Peters have their own multimedia portal? You could pay $20 a month and have access to exclusive audio and video content, RSS feeds and other stuff that fans of these individuals would eat up. A lot of big names could literally bring on thousands or tens of thousands of subscribers overnight. Do the math and consider that almost all of this revenue falls directly to the bottom line and you can see that we’re talking about a huge opportunity here. Companies like , , , and many others are already doing something of this nature for collections of content. Multimedia portals around individuals are next.

10. Podcast prioritzation will become a reality. I want to be able to communicate to my media player that I have a 45 minute drive ahead of me and have the media player automatically figure out the best content to deliver to me based on the amount of time I have, the latest content that’s been loaded to my player and the preferences that I’ve given it ahead of time. Sound farfetched? It’s not. In fact, is offering something very close to this right now. The only problem with their system is that they haven’t incorporated prioritization into podcast feeds yet, just for the news feeds they offer. If they (or someone else) offers the ability to give me a “custom commute” I’ll sign up in a heartbeat. When that happens manually locating which podcasts you’ve recently put on your iPod, which you’ve listened to, calculating how much time you have to listen and how long each episode is…all that will seem so 2005.

11. Live event content will start to tap its true potential. Every day, around the U.S. and around the world many thousands of people say things worth listening to in classrooms, seminars, conferences and other forums. A very small percentage of that content is recorded. An even smaller percentage is distributed to a wide audience via the Internet. Why? You tell me. I haven’t been able to figure it out yet. If this content wasn’t worth listening to or watching people wouldn’t pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to attend these events. And while there are some benefits of attending a live event there are also some significant drawbacks. I think the market for the recording and distribution of live events is an incredibly huge one and hope that 2006 is the year when many people wake up to this. We’re hoping that efforts like Doug Kaye’s and our soon-to-be launched LearnDirect service will help provide the match that starts the fire.

12. New words will be coined and gain widespread adoption. This list of predictions wouldn’t be complete without a prediction for a few new words that will enter the lexicon in 2006. Here are some that I think will enter the dialogue this year as well as a couple that I’m definitely hoping will. 🙂

Space-shifting – As previously mentioned, this is the ability of content to be with you whereever you are. To the extent that content can be consumed anywhere it’s value increases tremendously. That’s incredibly important for those providing content and distribution channels to understand.

Dead-time Learning – Thanks to Paul and Alex who’ve used this term on their show for a while. Dead-time learning refers to turning time that is normally thought of as intellectually unproductive (e.g., commuting, exercising, etc.) into prime learning time. It’s taking your hour commute and using it to learn a new foreign language, study for a certification exam or stay on top of trends in your industry. By doing so you’ll free up more time to spend with your friends and family, devote to your hobbies and do the things that you previously thought you didn’t have time for.

DRM-free – People already use the term “DRM-free” but I’m hoping/predicting that it will become thought of as more of a feature in 2006. People will start to actively seek out DRM-free sources of content and show an increasing willingness to pay more for content that hasn’t had DRM applied to it. It won’t be because they’re looking to illegally share such content but rather because they want to have the versatility to share content they legally purchased across the increasing number of devices they own.

Learning Out Loud – My wish for 2006 is that people increasingly talk about their desire to “learn out loud” which I define as using audio or video content for personal and professional development. Part of this is a selfish desire as the CEO of LearnOutLoud.com and part of this is (hopefully) a very altruistic desire to see everyone become more educated this year. I truly feel that education represents the rising tide with the potential to lift all boats. And I also feel that in an era of globalization and increasing competition “lifelong learning” becomes less of an option and more of a requirement if you want to stay ahead of the curve and possibly even keep your job.

So we’ll see how this all shakes out. At the end of the day I’m more excited than 2006 than I’ve ever been excited about an upcoming year and many of the people I’ve talked to lately have expressed the same sense of hope and optimism. There are so many cool technologies coming down the pipe and the opportunity to effect positive and lasting change in the world is more real than it’s ever been.

January 13, 2006

MLK Out Loud


When people ask me “Why audiobooks?” there are a few common responses that I’ll give. It’s a great alternative or supplement to reading. You can listen while you’re driving or at the gym. Sometimes it’s easier to remember what you hear than what you read. But there’s one another one that’s really powerful:

Some listening experiences just can’t be duplicated in print.

Probably the best example I can give of this is listening to A Knock at Midnight, an outstanding collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermons. I mean I guess you could read these but I doubt that it would move you the way listening to King himself preach would. When I flip this on my iPod (something I find myself increasingly doing) I almost immediately get goosebumps. I’m not sure quite what it is about King’s preaching that does that to me.

As most of you here in the United States know, Monday is Martin Luther King Day. For many people it’s just another freebie holiday that they probably won’t think twice about. And that’s a shame. Because it’s an awesome opportunity to learn more about an amazing man who has done so much in the struggle for justice and equality here in the U.S. and around the world.

Today David put the finishing touches on MLK Out Loud, an attempt on our part to bring together all of the audio and video content from or about King that we could find. There is a ton of great stuff linked from the page including biographies, documentaries, collections of sermons and of course King’s stirring “I Have a Dream” speech. We’ve tried to find as many free audio and video resources as we could too knowing that there are a lot of teachers who would love to use them to relay the power of King’s message to their classes.

I wanted to say a special thank you to American Rhetoric which hosts several of King’s speeches for free. If you have a minute, drop Michael Eidenmuller who runs the site a quick line and tell him thanks.

In the “I Have a Dream” speech King talks about a faith that he has. In his words:

With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

It’s a faith we need more of in this day and age when King’s message of brotherhood is as relevant as it has ever been.

Take some time this long holiday weekend to listen to one of his King’s speeches or order one of his audio books. It’s a great way to celebrate his legacy and a powerful way to learn more about the man who has touched so many lives.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

January 12, 2006

Google Video


Took my first real look at Google Video last night and I have to admit that I’m very impressed with it and with its potential for video education. When Google Video first launched it just seemed to be a random hodgepodge of videos like this. Funny perhaps but not a lot of learning going on there.

But over the last few months Google quietly amassing a fairly cool stockpile of content. As outlined in this blog post on the Google Blog there’s a lot of interesting stuff up there right now. When it comes to video learning the following are worth a look:

• Aquarius Health Care Media: A leading producer and distributor of healthcare-related videos will pilot with Google Video using a variety of titles covering SIDS, diabetes, and blindness, among other health issues.

• CLEARVUE & SVE: A leading provider of educational K-12 educational video content. They sell DVDs and run a subscription media-on-demand website with video, audio, and images. CLEARVUE & SVE primarily serves large clients such as schools, school districts or entire states. Leveraging Google Video, they have embarked on a new and bold strategy to target individual customers directly. Among the hundreds of videos you will find on Google, topics vary from classic children’s literature to detailed explanations about the workings of the human body.

• Kantola Productions: Captures unique speaking events given by well-known experts at Stanford University. Topics focus on innovative and practical business advice, such as How Leaders Boost Productivity by John H. (Jack) Zenger and Mastery of Speaking as a Leader by Terry Pearce.

• LIME: “Healthy Living with a Twist” offers entertaining and revealing programming focused on a greener, healthier, more balanced lifestyle. Programming features inspiration from leading experts, authors, and pop culture icons and covers topics including the environment and sustainability, personal growth, alternative health, healthy foods, and business ethics.

• Nobel Video Library: A library focused on the achievements of individual Nobel Laureate. The series was developed to introduce students to the work of the laureates as well as to support classroom discussion regarding important issues addressed by Nobel Prize winners in recent decades.

I particularly liked a show from Plum TV called Open Exchange which consisted of a CEO (Jonathan Tisch of Loews Hotels) interviewing other top CEOs.

While you have to pay for some of the content there is a good chunk of it up there for free right now. I’m not sure if that will last but my guess is that there probably will always be a fairly sizable wealth of free educational content on the site.

The biggest question in my mind is how Google will properly showcase this content. To be honest, had I not stumbled upon the post on the Google Blog I don’t think I would have found this stuff. Because Google is allowing anyone and everyone to upload content, it’s going to be increasingly important to have solid filtering mechanisms in place. If they’re able to pull that off this is going to be a really resource. If not, it could turn into a mess.

One more nice feature to mention is that they give you the ability to add code to your site such that you can play video directly within the site. For example, you can check out the Open Exchange interview with Ace Greenberg (CEO of Bear Stearns) below:

(Thanks to Wynn over at the Stingy Scholar blog for his heads up on this feature as well as the LearnOutLoud mention in his blog post about Google Video.)

One last comment and then I’ll sign off for the night.

What is Google Video’s monthly bandwidth usage?

It must an insane amount. And that’s going to be the interesting thing to watch with Google Video (as well as the other video sharing services that are out there). If you’re charging for something you can pretty much be assured that the revenue will offset the costs, even if you’re only selling something for 99 cents. But if Google allows people to post tons of free video and doesn’t charge them to do so you’d have to imagine that will be pretty costly for them. But I guess they can afford it.

After all they are Google.

January 11, 2006

Video: Getting Started with LearnOutLoud


You may have noticed a new icon on our homepage today. Seth put together a great video overview of the LearnOutLoud site. If you’re new to the site or feel like you haven’t gotten a chance to fully explore it yet I’d strongly recommend that you check it out. Here’s the link:



January 6, 2006

Peaceful Warrior The Movie


I had the distinct privilege of being invited to attend an advance screening of the new movie Peaceful Warrior which is based on Dan Millman’s book Way of The Peaceful Warrior. The movie comes out in June and you’ll definitely want to check it out. It’s both a touching story and very thought-provoking. And I would highly recommend reading the book or listening to the audio book beforehand. As with any movie a lot gets left out but I thought they did do a pretty good job in sticking to the theme of the book.

If you’re interesting in catching a little of Dan’s work for free you can take a listen to the Dan Millman Podcast which we host on LearnOutLoud. We’ve only got one episode currently up but more will be on the way soon.

Thanks to Dan for the invite and kudos to him and everyone at Lion’s Gate for their work on the film. It may or may not be the next Hollywood blockbuster but the inspiration it will provide for many will far outweigh any dollar figures.

January 6, 2006

Two More Broken Records


I’ve added a couple more titles to my list of broken records: Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and Mark Victor Hansen’s Dreams Don’t Have Deadlines. These are two excellent titles that will get you thinking a little bit larger about your life and your goals. Great listening for the New Year!

By the way, it’s interesting how so many people deride “self-help” and would steer away from titles like this. In actuality, many of the people who would shy away from books from people like Canfield and Hansen are probably the people who most need to be listening to them. The stuff we surround ourselves with has a bigger influence than we realize. Challenge yourself to turn off the talk radio on the way into work in the morning and throw one of these audio books. Notice the difference that it makes in your attitude and demeanor.

Now lather, rinse and repeat. 🙂

Have a great weekend everybody!

January 4, 2006

Five Things That Make It Easy To Get Up In the Morning

Why do you get out of bed in the morning?

It’s a question worth asking often. Last night I was reading a quote I have on the wall at home. It’s from a commencement address that Apple CEO Steve Jobs gave to Stanford students last June.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

The answer for me is “Yes” and I thought I’d share with you five reason why. Five reasons for being (I thought I’d dress it up with a bit of French). Bear with me. I think you’ll see my point by the end. 🙂

Raison d’etre #1 – I want to learn from the world. Today, around the world, there are thousands of people teaching. Scratch that. There are millions of people teaching. I want to learn from them. I don’t want to be limited to learning from the minute percentage that broadcast media gives to us. The few talking heads that say the same things in the same way. That doesn’t do it for me.

Tomorrow somewhere someone will give a talk on some niche topic within the world of search engine optimization (or any of thousands of other subjects, take your pick. This person will know more than 99.99999% of the planet on the subject. His talk may reach 30 or even 300 people. Yet there are thousands of people around the world who could benefit from that talk. How do we enable that?

That’s my raison d’etre #1.

Raison d’etre #2 – I want to teach the world. Maybe I have a message. Maybe I’m an expert in a particular area. Maybe the words that I spoke two days ago or two hours ago could add value to someone’s life. Maybe I’m that guy or gal teaching that search engine class. Why should I have to limit my message to just the people in the room at the time of the class. In this era of technology and new media that makes no sense.

There’s a reason why college professors are relatively underpaid (IMHO). It’s because of leverage. Professors typically only reach a few dozen people at one time. They could be reaching hundreds, thousands or even millions. A child growing up in Africa could have the finest education in the world if the technology enabled it. And the people who are the best teachers of our era could at last become the rock stars that they truly are.

That’s my raison d’etre #2.

Raison d’etre #3 – I want to immortalize wisdom. On the way to the office tonight I was listening to Martin Luther King Jr. (A Knock At Midnight is one of my “broken records“). Every time I listen to that I am so thankful that someone took the time to record his voice so that we have it for future generations. I’m glad that my children will one day listen to MLK’s sermons and that they’ll be able to pass them to their children.

But I also get sad when I think of all of the wisdom we have captured and that we’ll never be able to go back and get. People who had incredible things to share with the world that we’ll never be able to hear. So I plan to do my best to tell everyone to record everything. Not only will digital audio and video content have increasing monetary value in the upcoming years, it’s also a tremendous legacy to leave to future generations.

That’s my raison d’etre #3.

Raison d’etre #4 – I want to help the diamonds in the rough to be discovered. There are so many people out there who have incredible things to share with the world. They just need a little help to get that voice heard about the crowd. My buddy Brian Johnson is a great example. He has some incredible wisdom to share with the world.

In the past he would have had very limited options for sharing his spoken message with the world. But we’ve been able to post his content here at LearnOutLoud and now people are saying stuff like this:

Brian’s reading of this collection of quotes on courage helps to enliven them for us – thus, giving us a greater chance of learning and mastering the courage we need in order to maxmize our lives.

There might not be anyone just like Brian out there but I guarantee there are a ton of people who have some awesome content out there and just need a little incentive to get it captured and online.

That’s my raison d’etre #4.

Raison d’etre #5 – I’m frickin’ selfish. 🙂 The reason I love audio and video learning is that it gives me options for learning at all times throughout the day. Out for a run? I can throw on a pair of headphones and listen to an audio book or podcast. Need to veg on the couch for bit? Give me a cool video course or documentary to watch.

A big factor in the quality of our lives is the quality of the information we’re exposed to. The better the information, the better our lives are. I want more choices. Audible has 5,000 audio books. Great. I want 50,000. iTunes promises 20,000 podcasts. Cool. I want 200,000. I want to give people the incentive to bring the absolute best possible content to market and share it with as many people as possible.

That’s my raison d’etre #5.

So why do I bring all this up? Well, last night I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of LearnDirect, the new service we’ll be rolling out in a few weeks. It might be a bit presumptious to say this but LearnDirect (and other services like it that will no doubt follow) will. change. the. world. Sure, it won’t happen overnight but when it comes to opening up the flow of information I think it has tremendous potential.

Let me go back to a quote from Jeffrey Sachs that I posted last week:

I believe that the single most important reason why prosperity spread, and why it continues to spread, is the transmission of technologies and the ideas underlying them.

We here at LearnOutLoud are incredibly excited to help with this “transmission.” We hope you’ll join us.

For more information about LearnDirect, please send an e-mail to learndirect@learnoutloud.com.

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January 3, 2006

Dylan Out Loud


Bob Dylan = Absolute Genius. That was first and primary reaction after watching No Direction Home, Martin Scorcese’s film biography of the man who defies labels and has transcended generations. I’ve been a big Dylan fan for years (got hooked on Blood on the Tracks my sophomore year in college) but I didn’t really know a lot about his life until recently.

In addition to the movie I’ve also been listening to Chronicles Volume One, a sort of rambling autobiography which is poetic and cryptic and engaging at the same time. Read by Sean Penn, this audio book is a must-listen for Dylan fans old and young.

What so impressed me about Dylan was his incredible focus for his craft. No Direction Home spends a lot of time covering the period in Dylan’s life when he went “electric” which caused an incredible amount of consternation among the fans of his folk music. They even went so far as to boo him on stage and walk out of his concerts. Dylan’s response? To keep on doing what he wanted to and not compromise his integrity to appease what other people wanted out of him.

No Direction Home was an amazing look at Dylan’s life and I sat there spellbound through a good chunk of it. Not only is it a wonderful journey through musical history but it’s also a compelling look at a man who has done so much and experienced an incredible array of highs and lows throughout his life. I think Bono expressed it best in a recent interview:

I mean, Bob Dylan is much more interesting with age, not less interesting. Some pretty boy face on the cover of a style magazine, or him! I want to stare at Dylan’s face and I want to hear what he has to say because he has travelled a long road and he’s got something worth hearing.


(And if you’re interested in learning even a bit more about Dylan you may want to check out Bob Dylan: A Tribute or Bound for Glory, a book not about Dylan but about his biggest influence Woody Guthrie.)