In my nearly four years here at the MIT Center for Civic Media, I've seen the rise of some great solutions to communications challenges.
MailChimp and other email marketing platforms have made signing up and emailing friends and followers dead simple while avoiding the worst practices that lead to spamhood. Twitter not only works as a broadcast medium but also makes rebroadcasting more respectable than it had been. (You think I'm kidding, but older professional communications folks still reflexively hesitate, wondering if featuring others' news weakens one's own brand or, worse, constitutes a copyright violation.) Eventbrite helps manage ticketing and major event promotion without ever having to print out a spreadsheet, set up a cost object, or beg a former cop to help guard a cash box.
But one this that's never improved is sharing podcasts in a way that meets three key criteria: 1) they're embeddable on your own site, with a professional interface; 2) they're easily integrated with iTunes; and 3) they're free to host.
Examples of pain:
- Embedding with a plain Flash player, with a separate download link, and with some crazy contortions to properly format your RSS feed -- that's the only way to get your podcast into iTunes while keeping it on your own site as well. But doing so is pug fugly and a single HTML character out of place or even a link to anything that isn't the .mp3 will break the whole thing. This violates criteria 1 and 2.
- High-quality options, such as Soundcloud, are still expensive for any organization that has a large audio archive. We'd have to use their unlimited storage plan, which costs about $650 a year.
What I'm about to try is Official.fm. An example of their embed is below. Two hundred tracks, up to 500MB apiece, will cost you $30 a year. Their embedding looks attractive, and since it's hosted on their site, it would appear that their homemade RSS is very clean, allowing for easy integration into iTunes. We'll see.
Supply chains are the backbone of globalization, and understanding them is the key to social and environmental justice. Leonardo Bonanni will talk about Sourcemap -- the first platform for supply chain transparency -- which started as his Ph.D. thesis project at the Media Lab and is now a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations find out where things come from, what they're made of, and how they impact people and the environment. Companies use Sourcemap to communicate transparently with their customers and tell the story of how products are made. Thousands of maps have already been created for food, furniture, clothing, electronics and more.
Sourcemap has been featured by the BBC, NPR, the Globe and Mail, the Boston Globe and received awards from Scientific American, Ars Electronica, and ID magazine among others.Leonardo Bonanni is the founder and CEO of Sourcemap.com. He was recently named one of 2011's "100 Most Influential People in Business Ethics" by the Ethisphere Institute. He has a Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab's Tangible Media Group, an MS and a Master of Architecture from MIT, a BA from Columbia, and he teaches sustainable product design at Parsons and MIT.
Suggestions for other podcasting options? Email me: awhit at MIT dot edu.
A version of this post first appeared on the MIT Center for Civic Media's blog.