Business-like, isn't he?



Business in Vancouver logo

    Beware the hype of podcasts, blogs and Web 2.0

    by  Alan Zisman (c) 2006 First published in Business in Vancouver September 26-October 2, 2006; issue 883

    High Tech Office

    I recently met with a company involved in the digital camera sector. After showing off this season’s product line, the company rep asked me if I thought her company’s website should have podcasts online.

    I was taken a bit aback. As far as I knew, podcasts were audio or video files hosted online and typically made available on Apple’s iTunes music store (generally for free) so that users could listen to them later on their computers or MP3 players.

    CBC Radio offers some of its shows, and a growing number of universities are offering lectures available for student use that way.

    I couldn’t imagine many people being interested in doing that for advertising blurbs for digital cameras.

    The company’s rep had a different meaning in mind. She meant an online audio or video file, which she thought might be useful for her company’s tech support website.

    Posting multimedia content online can be useful, for tech support, advertising and other reasons. But it’s nothing new. Call it “podcasting,” however, and it suddenly sounds like a hot new thing, perhaps worthy of an expanded budget.

    I find myself with the same reaction to blogging. Definitions of blogs and blogging vary, but most agree that a blog (short for weblog) is a frequently-updated online journal or newsletter, often reflecting the authors’ personal opinions.

    OK, that’s nice. But is anything really new here?

    There have been websites around for years that offered free online space along with easy-to-use tools to create and update these web pages. (Think But the term blog has gotten a lot of attention recently as if it’s something new.

    Some news websites have consequently relabelled their online columns as blogs, hoping to appear more cutting edge when it’s really just the same old thing.

    Tim Berners-Lee is widely considered the creator of the World Wide Web, having set up the first website in 1991 and proposed the HTML protocol that defines how web pages work.

    Recently, he’s taken to task hype in the media about a so-called Web 2.0. The hype looks at blogs and a host of recent online services such as the photo-sharing Flikr website or the video-sharing and implies that old-style websites connect computers while Web 2.0 connects people.

    In a podcast (ironically) for IBM, Sir Tim suggested that “Web 2.0 is a piece of jargon; nobody even knows what it means.

    “If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the web was supposed to be all along.”

    In the late 1990s, hype about the first generation of websites led to an enormous expansion of web-based services. Too often, they lacked a clear source of revenue generation. The result was the tech industry crash of 2000-2001.

    The hype for podcasts, blogs and Web 2.0 seems to be building the same sort of momentum. While is wildly popular, the bandwidth required to serve the huge number of video clips hosted (for free) has been estimated at US$1 million per month. It’s unclear whether income from ads will be enough to offset costs.

    Beware of next-generation buzzwords and hype. It may make sense to have multimedia content on your business’ website or to have often-updated opinionated content.

    But evaluate any proposal on its merits, not because it’s cool to have podcasts and blogs.

Search WWW Search

Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan