PodCamp NYC Wows The Masses

For an “un-conference” frantically produced by a bunch of disparate forces with virtually no money, PodCamp NYC last Saturday came off PodCamp NYCsmoothly for 1,300 participants at the appropriately grand and dowdy Moonie hotel, The New Yorker. In the days and weeks to come I will follow up with people I met to explore some of the technology, productions and personalities but for now the over all impression is WOW. 

I was blown away by the emerging podcast sub culture and how PodCamp has managed to draw it together. Musicians, artists, actors, producers, educators … even an occasional though gladly outnumbered PR person … came from Boston, Washington D.C., Texas, even Long Island.  One couple drove up from Virginia and attended the RSS seminar because they like to be with creative people. The guy gave out blank CDs with a cool PodCast NYC logo. No message, no product, no contact info. Just because. It was almost like a Grateful Dead concert without the electric kool aid (what was in those ubiquitous water bottles outside every room anyway?)

filming at the NYC Podcamp Slate PartyLike most who attended the RSS seminar, the couple from Virginia left thinking RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is a false name, it should be RHES (Really Hard to Explain Syndication). Thanks to Sanford Dickert for interjecting in “un-conference” fashion and ‘splaining to the masses in simple terms the simplest overlay of RSS.  At lunch Sanford, former CTO for the Kerry for President primary campaign, currently adjunct professor at Cooper Union, was explaining that his mission now is to save the world.

RSS lead to another contentious un-conference moment when Nick Braak, who was supposed to be the silent tech guy (Making sure the computer worked) for Shelly Palmer’s talk on “The importance of RSS,” occasionally interjected contrarian views and chastised Shelly for veering way off topic. Shelly speaks in very intelligent interlocking futuristic jargon that can presumably only be interpreted by Shelly for a consultant’s fee. Nick later muttered that he was tired of Shelly being an apologist for the TV industry.

“I guess what happens in RSS stays in RSS,” somebody said after attending two un-conference presentations on RSS that left us more confused than when we started.PodCamp NYC

What does an un-conference mean? It means that there are a lot of last minute hustles for a spare extension cord. It’s Internet connections that won’t connect.  It’s a cadre of maniacal visionaries who will endure endless menial tasks to create an event of indeterminate proportions and unknown impact. And most importantly – It’s Free! And that means that you don’t feel the pressure of having spent $1400 to see “A List Bloggers” and self-professed Word of Mouth gurus. With airfare and the requisite $150 Sky Bar bash you can drop $2500 and forfeit three days of billable time at the heavily choreographed New Media conferences. Although the level of expertise and quality is variable, this is so much better. It doesn’t get more grassroots than this.

PodCamp reveals a fascinating culture that is creative, talented, entrepreneurial and obsessively focused on cataloguing every moment for digital posterity. It’s the filming, recording, interacting, podcasting culture. Cameras and microphones everywhere. Streaming web, web production, audio, transcripts, live call-in comments. You could not take a picture or video without shooting someone taking a picture or video of someone else.  No anonymity here. The record button was on all the time.

Maybe that’s why there was a noticeable absence of public relations influence. First, this crowd has no money. The consensus is that it is now okay for hardcore pioneer podcasters to charge real money for their expertise and to demand decent advertising revenue if they can sell their value proposition. And it’s a miniscule market. A speaker offered that there are only 100,000 podcasts (can it be that small a number?).  This crowd vehemently rejects artifice and anonymity. The big move now is to Vcasts and Vlogging – integrating the visual component to podcasts, requiring an added level of production and the ability to “thinking visually” – unknown turf for text-dependent, old media fixated PR.

Chris Penn - Founder, PodCamp

The public relations agency world lacks the innovative spirit, creative backbone, or long-term vision to capitalize on the incredible talent pool that participated in PodCamp NYC. A lot of New Media mumbo jumbo you hear from agencies is Old Media in a new wrapping. I attended one presentation on New Media and PR. He was the only presenter I saw who wore a suit and tie and he sounded like he was pitching a client. I exercised the un-conference “Law of Two Feet” and left after a couple of minutes.

Chris Penn (above left), co-founder of PodCamp, believes there is money and plenty of room for growth in podcasting and he sees great promise for spreading PodCamps around the world. 346 people participated in PodCamp Boston last September, the first ever PodCamp.  PodCamps are planned across the U.S. and Europe this year, including a PodCamp Cruise out of Miami next December.

Can the public relations industry adapt to this new democratic, grassroots movement of virtually free content production and localized, niche communication? That’s a question worth exploring.  - Mark Rose, Editor, PRBlogNews, NYC.


  1. Hi Mark. First, thanks for participating in PodCampNYC. (Have you noticed we use “participant” instead of “attendee?”) Second, this was really great to read. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I really appreciate it.

    Favorite quotes from your article: “This crowd vehemently rejects artifice and anonymity.”

    “The public relations agency world lacks the innovative spirit, creative backbone, or long-term vision to capitalize on the incredible talent pool that attended PodCamp NYC.”

    I think I’m in love. You’ve hit it right perfectly between the eyes.

    You rock. Please keep spreading the word.

  2. Chris Hambly says:

    Awesome to read this.

    I made a flying visit over from London and loved every minute of this event, it really was a powerful and energising experience. I met so many people that have had an impact on me in recent months.

    I’m now looking forward to Podcamp EU and Podcamp UK, hope to see you there!

  3. JoeC says:

    On the “rejects artifice and anonymity” comment. So true! And it’s funny how the PodCamp crowd can sniff out a PR or Old Media “professional” in the first couple of sentences. :)

    It’s interesting that so many people had a hard time understanding what RSS is and does. Wish now that I’d gone to those sessions so I could see what the nature of the misunderstanding is.

    Great piece!

  4. Mark Rose says:


    I think what we needed was a simple step-by-step show and tell of RSS stripped of any theory and hype. The same for podcasting. I would like to have seen a session that goes here is a mic, here is a video cam, this is what is costs, this is where you get it, we’re going to produce a video podcast right now, here’s what you do. I know that a majority of participants are already podcasting but I would have found this approach helpful. But the confusion about RSS is almost comical, considering its name.

    Thanks (Joe, Chris and Chris) for stopping by.


  5. Jason says:

    I didn’t make it to PodCamp, but noticed that Shelly Palmer recorded a Podcast at the “unconference,” and posted it on Media 3.0.

    - Jason

  6. Favorite quote:

    “The public relations agency world lacks the innovative spirit, creative backbone, or long-term vision to capitalize on the incredible talent pool that participated in PodCamp NYC.”

    AMEN BROTHA! Great post, you really seem to have caught the spirit of PodCamp.

  7. Hi Mark,
    Thrilled you were able to come to PodCamp NYC and thanks VERY much for the kind words in terms of our organizers pulling together the event. Kudos go to co-founders Chris Brogan and Christopher S. Penn who came from Boston to help out on the day, as well as the dozens of volunteers on site who sprung up to help where needed.

    It means a HUGE deal that you felt participants at the event had the ‘innovative spirit, creative backbone, and long-term vision’ you mentioned in your article. While I don’t want to compare or generalize, I do have to say that’s why I’ve been involved with the event. The podcast/new media community is incredibly supportive (even ‘rival’ firms/podcasters use the tersm, ‘coopertition’ coined by C.C. Chapman and Mitch Joel) and edifying, with a central focus on education and networking. Podcamp NYC and the Podcamp movement in general will continue to work to support that vision no matter how popular (with gracious posts like yours!) future events become. (And by the way, that is an invite to PodCamp NYC 2.0!)

    -John C. Havens
    Lead Organizer, Podcamp NYC (www.podcampnyc.org)

  8. very true!, not one PR person approached me the whole day. I did get some of those blank discs, as the guy from VA. attended my session “What’s it like to create a video podcast”. What i like about events like podamp is the level playing field it offers, the lack of artifice and ego. thanks for the article. http://gardenfork.tv

  9. Jason White says:

    On Friday night at the networking event at Slate I met a lovely young woman named Najwa who does the styleaholics vidcast. During our conversation she said friends ask her about her show by saying “that’s great why don’t you try to get it on tv?” When I answered for her I said “because it isn’t meant for tv” and she nearly exploded with the “OMG you get it!” face.

    So we discussed for a moment how we are involved in New Media whose purpose is not to try to get on tv but to interact with our own audience in a completely new way. It is this spirit of innovation and this revolutuion in thought that will keep the old media experience on the outside wondering what the heck are those people up to in there?

    Which is fine by me! Podcampnyc was an excellent experience. I was exposed to new technologies, new people, and their ideas and all of it has benefitted me and my business. Great job!

  10. If someone is looking for a presentation on RSS stripped down I did one last year as part of our tech podcast roundtable that helps people understand RSS and all of it’s elements. I dont have the exact URL but visit the blog section of techpodcasts.com and look in the roundtable category.

  11. Doug K. says:

    Just wanted to bring up that there were many sponsors that contributed so everyone could enjoy attending for free but that they (I should say we since PodGlo was in that group) were the most noncommercial acting group I have ever seen. I am the CEO/CTO of our company and we just wanted to see people’s reactions to what we were doing and the unConference was an excellent venue to do it in. It was awesome in several ways. People didn’t want pitches and because we didn’t pitch we were able to talk about, and get, a lot of new ideas that we would never have thought of if we were pitching instead of listening. It was a strange but excellent feeling to be in that atmosphere!

    We will be taking what we learned and putting it into our work and hope that this vibrant community will appreciate what we are doing. If not I am sure they will let us know in a very visual and vocal way and I expect nothing less.

    Doug Kersten


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