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An eye on podcasting

The Vancouver producer of a daily podcast looks to lead the way for an emerging industry

The Public Eye, a daily podcast, recently aired its 100th episode. The Public Eye is the brainchild of Vancouver public relations professional Jack Hardy. He began considering the venture a couple years ago as the technology was emerging. Since October 2005, Hardy has broadcast a two- to three-minute show every weekday. The Public Eye is ramping up as broadband internet connections at work and home are becoming more commonplace and the technology to produce the content is of a higher quality and relatively inexpensive.

Each episode is available for download from www.thepubliceye.tv or is available from podcast distributors www.itunes.com and www.zencast.com. Viewers can also have episodes downloaded to their computers or mobile video devices, such as an iPod, through an RSS feed available on the Web site.

Hardy said The Public Eye is designed as a daily dose of entertainment. Recent topics range from how to crack a coconut to technology product reviews and human cloning.

Hardy writes and produces each episode and host Kristin Reilly is the face of The Public Eye. Hardy originally figured he would host the show himself, but decided he didn’t have the proper on-air talent. Hardy held a talent search and auditions before finding Reilly.

Hardy said The Public Eye is a seven-days-a-week production. Hardy and Reilly spend four to five hours one night each week to film several episodes. Each episode then requires about an hour of editing before it is made available. Hardy said he sometimes spends 25 hours in a week producing The Public Eye.

“It’s quite a machine to feed,” said Hardy.

While the upfront costs to get The Public Eye up and running were not outrageous, Hardy sold the family boat to fund the venture. The equipment used to produce the show includes a high-end Gateway desktop, a Sony digital video recorder and Serious Magic editing software. The Web site and image were professionally created, and while it doesn’t cost much to maintain the site, as the number of people visiting the site and downloading episodes increases so does the cost. But more viewers are a good thing.

“We are looking forward to the day when the server crashes,” said Hardy.

Reilly is also paid for her time. The “studio,” complete with a “green screen” backdrop, is housed in a small office in Hardy’s basement.

Despite the amount of time and money put into the program, it is not a revenue producer. But Hardy hopes to make it one.

Hardy works full-time in public relations, which he has done for 17 years. Locally he has worked for Electric Lightwave, and he founded his own firm, Niche PR, which he combined with Portland’s Ant Hill Marketing.

Hardy guesses that advertising or subscriptions are the most obvious ways a podcast could make money. But he doubts many would be willing to pay for a service tomorrow that is free today. Depending on the day’s topic, daily viewers range from a couple hundred to a couple thousand, figures that have grown since the podcast began airing. Hardy said those numbers are too low and not consistent enough to garner interest from advertisers.

“There will have to be a regular, consistently larger audience,” said Hardy. “I am not sure what the number is.”
Rocket Boom, a similar, New York City-based podcast, began airing about a year before The Public Eye. Hardy said Rocket Boom has 100,000 viewers each day and recently began experimenting with airing a quick advertisement at the end of its podcast.

“The jury is still out to see if there is a wide audience for what we are producing,” said Hardy.

By being part of a grass roots effort, Hardy hopes to grab something bigger as the technology grows. The ability for viewers to have access to podcasts from cell phones and other portable devices will create a demand for regular, high-quality content, and Hardy expects The Public Eye will be poised to fill that void.

Other revenue sources may exist that have not been considered yet, said Hardy. He has been approached about becoming part of a group of podcasts to combine advertising efforts, and several companies have inquired about producing corporate videos for training purposes.

“There is a huge, gaping hole,” said Hardy. Revenue streams and devices “will be developed that we have not thought of.”

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