Hands-On Guide to Video Blogging & Podcasting, by Felix Stolarz, ISBN-13: 978-0-240-80831-4

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, April 2007
Published by: Elsevier/Focal Press
Requires: An interest in video blogging or podcasting
MSRP: US$34.95, UK£20.99

There is no way to tell what's going to be good or bad in the eyes of beholders, unless you reach a point in your blogging and podcasting which lends you so much experience that you become a genuine authority. Blogging, audio podcasting, video blogging and video podcasting are still so new that too few authorities exist. There are so few authorities that for many new bloggers and new podcasters there are only existing perpetrators to emulate or learn from, in order to get started with some semblance of organization and coherent thought. The painful truth which invariably becomes evident to almost everyone who engages in blogging and podcasting is simply that for the first long while in many cases, nobody is listening or watching. Putting your blog or podcast out there is a matter of courage (and some would say foolhardiness), but really the only way to place your efforts in front of others. If it's good and if it evolves and grows in ways that are interesting to others, sooner or later it will be found and the word will spread. That, at any rate, is the theory. Hands-On Guide to Video Blogging & Podcasting is an attempt by authors Lionel Felix & Damien Stolarz to provide a practical set of startup instructions, technical information, quality standards and marketing strategies for bloggers and podcasters of all types.

Here's an interesting fact. With the release of AppleTV (March 2007), a settop box which lets you assemble, schedule and watch on your TV multimedia content from cable, satellite, web and computer networks, it's suddenly possible to provide yourself with a viewing selection that places the DL.TV video podcast right next to Lost, 24, the Kickstartnews Revue audio podcast, Anderson Cooper 360, etc., etc. Suddenly, in other words, a comparatively unknown and inexpensively produced piece of legitimate programming can be obtained, considered and viewed shoulder to shoulder with massively expensive traditional broadcast network shows. The trick was simply to provide end users of this content with a way to collectively draw what they want from disparate sources, along with the option to create a viewing schedule which is completely customized to their needs and interests. If you don't think that executives at the all the major networks aren't deeply shaken by this, you're wrong. If you don't think that the major networks are expanding their thinking (and their resources) to encompass supportive experiments in video blogging and podcasting, think again. It's all good.


Ask A Ninja, that oddball video podcast agglomeration of wide ranging Q&A presented by a masked, Ninja-like fellow, is a recent award winner. Tiki Bar TV is another wildly popular video podcast that, despite a somewhat inconsistent production schedule, is nothing short of a laugh riot for hundreds of thousands of viewers. DL.TV, hosted by Robert Herron & Patrick Norton, produced by Roger Chang for ZDNet/PC Magazine, is another wildly popular tech show in weekly production—a video podcast which attracts hundreds of thousands of downloads every week. The keys to the success of these video podcasts are not mysterious or held in locked vaults well away from the prying eyes of the masses. Consistent quality, well met viewer expectations, and knowledgeable presentation turn the trick. In other words, it's possible to inexpensively produce good quality content that is of genuine interest to lots of other people. It's also possible to make the content available on the Internet, providing access to it for the entire world.

In part, authors Felix and Stolarz deal with video blogging and video podcasting as a cost center. The fact is that bandwidth costs can easily spiral out of control. A video podcast which becomes popular, but is being produced as a hobby or sideline, can easily outrun typical download chokes and limits built into standard web hosting, no matter how it's priced. That means many video podcasters must turn to sponsors (much easier said than done), or more rationally at this stage in the evolution of the technology, to competitively priced bandwidth providers such as Libsyn and similar companies to host their video files. My advice is to read this part of the book first. There's nothing worse for the rest of us than a popular video podcast which suddenly disappears simply because it was submarined by bandwidth costs. Don't hurt your viewers and fans through poor planning.

Hands-On Guide to Video Blogging & Podcasting breaks down the development, production, marketing and business of this subject into well written, well researched and well organized chapters. There's not a lot of fluffy text or wasted effort—every page contains solid information that is fully relevant despite the speed with which blogging and podcasting are evolving. Certain fundamentals appear in every technology and also help to form the definitions for most categories of creative effort. From development and production to hosting, uploading, promotion and the cloud itself, Felix and Stolarz have managed to organize and clarify every major current issue which might confront new video bloggers and video podcasters. That's the strength of the book too, because it doesn't attempt to teach you video editing or audio recording techniques. There are certainly suggestions and guidelines about what products to consider, but the book is focused on providing readers with a set of rules and guidelines respecting all of the different things you have to do in order to devise, develop and produce a video blog or video podcast on an ongoing basis.

Cons: Some basic video editing advice—essential techniques to help newbies with good ideas avoid rookie recording and production mistakes—is absent from the book. Some of the language and descriptions in the Author's Tip sidebars are difficult to understand and will present problems, in some cases, for good video producers who are grappling with HTML, and vice versa in a couple of other instances. The glossary is much too short.

Pros: The table of contents and index are very well organized, making it easy for readers to jump directly to topics of choice. You'll get through the book quite quickly—it's not long at 330 pages. The authors' enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject matter will likely motivate you to create a video blog or video podcast long before you finish the book. Blogging and podcasting of all kinds are still in their infancy, and that is really the best reason to get out there and try it on for size. Felix and Stolarz remind you not to worry if your first efforts are terrible—just get it out there, ask for feedback and critique, then make the necessary changes to improve your content. Above all else the book emphasizes consistency; establishing a regular blog or podcast schedule and sticking to it. Whether or not the world or any small part of it is interested in what you have to say is entirely beside the point. The real point is to find your voice. Be funny, be happy, be sad, be crazy, be serious, be scary or just be yourself. A new medium for expression is an opportunity. Hands-On Guide to Video Blogging & Podcasting will help you embrace the opportunity without letting the important bits get out of control. Recommended.

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