My Recommendation on Three Things to Do

David Glickman, our conference keynote speaker, said everyone at WHPRMS should implement three things. I don’t know whether that’s ambitious enough or not. It’s better, as he said, than sticking the conference three-ring binder on the shelf as the proof of attendance.

I suggest these three, not because they are by themselves the most important, but because they are, as the conference theme says — “Sure-Bet Strategies” — gateways to continued learning that will help you hit the jackpot.

Start a blog. Go here for tips on where to find places to start one for free. Link to this blog as part of your Blogroll, leave comments, or use Trackbacks. There’s no better way to learn than by doing, so just go for it. It costs nothing except your time. And by participating in even just a few blogs that talk about issues that interest you, you’ll begin to get the feel for how blogs work, and their power. If you’re not naturally a hands-on learner, using this blog in particular, asking questions and joining the conversation, will be a way you can get tutoring from the community.

Get an RSS feed reader, or aggregator. Newsgator and Pluck are examples. Subscribe to the Lines from Lee RSS feed, so you can follow the conversation. A feed reader can help you keep track of hundreds of web sites without visiting them, multiplying what you know while trimming the time it takes to keep up on the news. Here are a few other sites where you can see examples of RSS feeds: the New York Times, Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune and Mayo Clinic. You see that you can subscribe to a very specific kind of news.

Get iTunes and subscribe to some podcasts. For Immediate Release is a good twice-weekly podcast on communications and technology.

Some Sites to Explore

For the WHPRMS members who aren’t familiar with some of the sites mentioned Friday morning, here’s a list you’ll find helpful in your continuing education…maybe even driving the value of the session up to $123.84.

Wikipedia – the on-line encyclopedia edited by the world.
Skype – Free or really cheap phone service through your computer, using a broadband internet connection.
YouTube – A ridiculously easy-to-use means of placing your video where the world can find it.
WordPress – a free platform for your blog
Blogger – another free blog service – or just type “free blog” in Google and you’ll have lots of choices.
Mayo Clinic News – Mayo Clinic’s site for journalists, soon to have podcasts available directly instead of only through iTunes
Medical Edge – The site with all of Mayo Clinic’s syndicated health and medical content
Carlsen Twins site – the update site we established to enable news media, family, friends and supporters of the Carlsen family get updates on the girls’ conditions.

How to Avoid Huge Hotel Long-Distance Charges

When Lisa and I arrived last night (after about an hour trying to find the resort in the dark, when it was not well signed, and because of the road construction detour), we realized that even though we had two different cell phone carriers (Sprint and T-Mobile), neither of them had any reception because the resort is so remote.

We had to get in touch with our kids to at least get them our hotel room number, and after making three calls we realized the hotel charge was $2.55 per call + toll + 40 percent mark-up.

Until then, I had heard of Skype, but hadn’t had a reason to use it. For those who don’t know, Skype is like Vonage, except it’s free. It lets you call other Skype users for free, using your computer’s built-in microphone and a broadband internet connection. Calling a U.S. cell phone or land line costs 2.1 cents per minute, and until the end of 2006, even that is free.

With mobile phones having free mobile-to-mobile minutes, pay phones are essentially a thing of the past. I bet most people don’t use hotel phones, either. But if you have a broadband connection in a remote place, Skype works great. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even reduce my monthly cell phone minutes if we can talk on the computer for free.

I know I’ve saved at least $15 with Skype since this morning.

Radio without Radio

Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine has written much about the explosion of TV and how newspapers need to re-think their role in the changing media landscape. Today I came across another example of how the media landscape is changing, as Desiring God Ministries is taking its daily half-hour radio program featuring Dr. John Piper off the 160 local radio stations that have carried it, and is moving to internet-only distribution (with a CD subscription option for the technologically challenged.)

Here’s how Executive Director Jon Bloom describes the rationale:

Why is this? Well, there are a number of reasons. But one simple fact is that radio is changing. Just a few years ago traditional radio was still the best way for a ministry like ours to make our message accessible to the largest number of people. But we are finding that this is no longer the case. A rapid technological evolution is occurring. Five years ago most adults in the U.S. did not have access to the internet. Today most use the internet regularly and most have broadband access. Five years ago few regularly used portable MP3 players. Today the popularity of these portable devices is skyrocketing. 59 million iPods have been purchased since October 2001—30 million of those so far this year! What’s happening is that more and more listeners are choosing these new technologies over radio so that they may listen to teaching programs whenever and wherever they wish. This is especially true of those under 50 years old, who comprise the great majority of our listeners.

Bloom highlights the criteria the Desiring God Board used for evaluating the most effective ways to invest its ministry resources: they are looking for means that are accessible, portable, transferable and economical. On the last point, spending $500,000 per year for air time on 160 local radio stations when 25 times as many people respond and contact the ministry through the internet delivery doesn’t seem like a wise use of resources.

If you listen to last Friday’s program, the radio finale, Dr. Piper discusses in more detail the reasoning behind the switch, and his philosophy of wanting to make the message accessible as broadly as possible (it is a world wide web) and without cost to the listener.

In The Long Tail, Chris Anderson describes how inventory costs and delivery costs approaching zero, combined with search, make many ventures economically feasible that would not work in the bricks-and-mortar world. This is another example of how that principle works, so that even a ministry that gives away its “product” for free, and makes it a point to not ask for contributions during the program, can thrive in the exploded world of radio.

Think about it. With 160 local radio stations the audience is limited to those markets. On the web, anyone, anywhere can hear. To paraphrase the words of Jesus, “Search, and you will find.”

Even better, in being freed from the format constraints of a 30-minute over-the-air broadcast, programs like Desiring God Radio, which are created from Sunday morning sermons that may average 40-45 minutes, can carry the entire message instead of splitting it into two overlapping segments.

As Robert Scoble pointed out, Leo LaPorte surveyed 20,000 podcast users and found that for podcasts, more is more.

That’s the Long Tail beauty of not having to aggregate a huge audience. The message doesn’t have to be dumbed down and reduced to the lowest common denominator to get ratings points. People who want to hear want more detail and depth, whether it’s the technical audience Leo surveyed or the spiritually interested group Dr. Piper reaches.

Testing a Medical Edge podcast on YouTube

One concern I have about YouTube is whether the quality of the movies remains good when they are converted into Flash files. To test it I used a Mayo Clinic Medical Edge video podcast file, so I can see what the quality of YouTube is like, knowing that the starting file was of high quality. Let’s take a look:


What do you think?