My Digiredo Interview @ NME 2008

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As mentioned in my previous post, Erik van der Zijden of Digiredo interviewed me for their blog (and I interviewed him for Med 2.0 Radio — look out for the podcast coming soon).

I’ve embeded the the interview below — we talked about my new job, the application of new/social media in pharma/healthcare, and what the future outlook may be like for this industry. Enjoy…

New Media Expo 2008 Interview: Shwen Gwee from DigiRedo on Vimeo.

Relfections on New Media Expo 2008, Part II

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So, Paolo Tosolini and I were chatting at NME 2008 about how so many of us attendees really get what social media is about and how many comapnies still haven’t figured it out yet. However, despite all the talk about cool new/social technologies (e.g. Twitter, Seesmic, PKS, Qik, etc.), we both came down to the same conclusion:

The most important part about social media is the “YOU and ME” — the social interaction that occurs face-to-face.

Indeed, though I blogged about some of the interesting talks that I attended at the expo, the more important part of the conference was really the interactions that occurred outside of the formal sessions — the meetups, the tweetups, the random gatherings at the bar, the impromptu (room) parties, and the hallway conversations; basically, the water cooler effect at any conference (NOTE: For further insight and a great discussion on this topic, read the What Comes Next section of Chris Brogan’s post, as well as watch Greg Cangiolosi’s video from Gnomedex 2008).

Sure, new and social media have really allowed people to connect across space and time (OK, time-zones) and provide (almost) instantaneous updates in text, audio, and/or video formats, but the whole idea is NOT to replace face-to-face meetups, but to supplement them; making for a better, more informed, and more personal experience when you next meet face-to-face. For instance, there was prolific use of Twitter at the expo this year (more so than any previous expo that I noticed), but it was mainly to figure out where people were, so we could meet up F2F.

So having said all that, it would only be appropriate to tell you about some of the really cool/fun/interesting people that I met at the conference (mostly outside of the formal sessions)…

Rene, Annemieke, Erik, and Shwen
Firstly, I give a shout out to my new Dutch friends — Erik, Rene, and Annemieke. I met them at the Corporate/Enterprise Podcasters Meetup (see below) and discovered that we all shared a common passion for combining new/social media with healthcare and pharma. In fact, all three of them currently or formerly work(ed) at a veterinary healthcare company in Holland (recently acquired by Schering-Plough), though Erik and Rene have now co-founded their own New Media company, DigiRedo, which has a strong focus on the healthcare and pharma industry. True to our podcasting geek-ness, we also took turns interviewing each other for our respective podcasts/blogs (I’ll post the interview with Erik very soon)… Needless to say, we all got on like a house on fire and had a blast hanging out during the conference. Gezellig!!

Corporate Podcasters

Next, I should definitely mention Paolo Tosolini and Robin Maiden, both of whom I had met previously — Paolo at every Podcast Expo since 2006 and Robin at the past two PodCamp’s in Boston. The three of us had organized the Corporate/Enterprise Podcasters Meetup and we were pleasantly surprised to have a HUGE turnout this year (probably 20-30 people), indicating to us that this is an area of growing interest…We were thinking that the topic probably deserves a track of it’s own next year. And in case you’re wondering about the pic, the answer is “YES, I am standing on a chair” (these guys are TALL!!!).

Sciene and Medical Podcasters Meetup

Another meetup that I attended was the (early morning) Science and Medical Podcasters Meetup, which Jamie Davis (Medicast) kindly pulled together. Met a bunch of really cool and interesting folks there, all part of the medical/healthcare community.

Overall, I met quite a lot of people this year (both new and old) outside of the formal sessions, including: my ol’ expo buddies – George Krueger & Mary-Lynn Foster (Bigg Success) and Greg Cangiolosi (Blue Sky Factory), (P)NME veteran Mike McAllen (Grass Shack), Matt Gunn and Carina Stanton (AORN), Dane Falkner (Surgeworks), John Blue (Truffle Media), Tracy Evans (Tracy Evans Productions), Karin Hogh (, Andrew McCaskey (Sales Channel Network), Donna Papacosta (Trafalgar Communications), Eric Larson (Projectline), Ken Piner (FINRA), Ken Arturo (Odeo), and many more whose biz cards I failed to obtain (oops, sorry!).

Shwen, Jason, Vernica, Tom

I had to sneak this one last pic in here of me and the crew from CNET: Veronica Belmont (Tekzilla), Tom Merritt and Jason Howell (Buzz Out Loud). It was kinda weird seeing them in real life, when you’re used to seeing them in a small video player on CNET.TV, but they were totally down to earth and loads of fun… Their talk — Developing an Engaged Community (a.k.a. Don’t Feed the Trolls) — was also funny and interesting, especially their troll definitions.

As you can see, I had a wonderful time at the NME 2008 and met a lot of really good people, mostly outside of the formal sessions. Once again, new and social media technologies surely do play a big part these days in helping us facilitate the pre- and post- conversations, which ultimately leads to the
real value of the expo, which is realized by the people you meet and the interactions that occur face-to-face.
Again: The most important part about social media is the “YOU and ME”!

Abbott Launches (So-Called) Podcast Series

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Over the last few days, I’ve been catching up on my regular blog reading and was very excited to see an article on that Abbott Laboratories’ had recently launched a new “podcast series” — entitled Crohn’s Cast — on their unbranded website for Crohn’s Disease (Crohn’s Online).

According to the article from…

The online radio shows feature unbranded healthcare information, and are part of Abbott’s initiative to communicate directly with patients with Crohn’s disease…

“People are going online to get information about all sorts of things, including chronic diseases,” said Michelle Johnson, manager of public affairs for Abbott. “Podcasting seemed to work particularly well for Crohn’s disease”…

According to Johnson, many people with Crohn’s are first diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35—a key demographic for podcast users. “It just made sense to create an online educational resource to give patients information in a manner that they are used to searching for.”

So after reading those few paragraphs, I didn’t even even bother to finish reading the article and immediately clicked on the Crohn’s Cast link to check out their website and the new podcast.

Being a podcaster and podcast listener, I immediately started looking around for the RSS feed and/or the iTunes chicklet; basically anything that would allow me to subscribe to this podcast. I looked high. I looked low. I looked left. I looked right. NOTHING!!!

OK, so this new “podcast series” doesn’t have a method of syndication (i.e. no RSS feed). Hmmm…So I went back to the article and finished reading it. Here’s what they said:

The series is available only on Abbott’s unbranded subsite, which offers general health information about the disease…

Options are available to pause the recording and to download the podcast to a personal media player; however, the podcast cannot be accessed through popular podcast providers such as iTunes…

The assumption is that Abbott—much like other pharma companies dabbling in Web 2.0—does not want the general public to leave comments about drug use on iTunes or other treatment options.

So what they are really saying is: THIS IS NOT A PODCAST !!! 

He-lllllooooo Abbott marketing people…Please stop trying to use cool, hip “2.0″ terms to try and pass off something that is really just a downloadable and playable audio file for a podcast. Have you looked at the definition of a podcast recently? This is how wikipedia defines it:

A podcast is a series of digital-media files, which are distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds for playback on portable media players and computers.

See the term “using syndication feeds for playback“? Well, that is vitally missing in your so-called “podcast series”.

Maybe it’s just that podcasting is close to my heart, especially having just come back from NME 2008, but I am completely sick and tired of these marketing people/agencies trying to fool people into thinking that they launched a “podcast series” when what they have is NOT a podcast whatsoever. And what’s even more annoying is that they mention it over and over again on the Crohn’s Cast website — they shouldn’t even be allowed to call it a CAST in the title !!!

The one saving grace is this, however…

Richard Newman, president of digital marketing agency Greater Than One told Pharm Exec that Abbott’s podcasts are a high-quality online offering, but should not be considered social media.

At least they acknowledge the fact that this is NOT social media…Too bad they didn’t say that this is NOT PODCASTING either.

Want more infuriating facts? Well, it took me a while to find the “download” button, but when I eventually did find it and downloaded the MP3 file, I looked at it in iTunes and found the following non-podcast-like features:

1. There was NO cover art
2. No ID3 info (title was: “crohns_3_mindgut_030308″)
3. Encoded in MP3 (joint stereo) at 160kbps at 44Khz

Hmmm…none of that sounds right for a podcast. Am I over reacting? Grrr! You be the judge…Here’s a screenshot of the website: Click to enlarge — See? No RSS/subscription options.

Crohn's Cast: Abbott's So-Called Podcast Series

And one more thing…

The first thing that happened was that the podcast immediately started playing through my speakers, catching me by surprise; so I hurriedly looked for and found the play/pause button for the featured episode and was able to stop the audio.

Why do people automatically start playing audio when you visit a page? It makes for an unpleasant, annoying, and surprising arrival on a webpage (especially if you are in your cubicle at work and didn’t know your speakers were turned up). It totally reminds me of websites from years ago, when people automatically played cheap synthesized music immediately upon loading a webpage and you struggled to find a way to silence it. Most of the time, you just clicked the back button or closed the window in order to escape from it. Most of us know how to press a “play” button when we decide we are ready to listen – no need to shove it down our ear canals immediately when we reach the web page!

OK, enough for now. Let me do some breathing exercises and calm down.

Abbott: Please call your new audio series what it is and stop using a trendy term for something that it isn’t.

Reflections on New Media Expo 2008…

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I’m finally back from the 2008 New Media Expo in Las Vegas, NV (AUG 14–17) and it was just what I needed to get re-invigorated and re-engaged with blogging and podcasting once again. So, I’m now really excited to get more posts out and podcasts published real soon! Not that I was fading before, but with my change of jobs and the new daily routine, I was feeling a little out of sorts and thrown off…

New Media Expo 2008

So, how was it? Well, let’s start off with my Top 5 List of Most Notable Changes at NME this year:

5. The Expo Name – 4th year running, 4th name change…No surprise I guess ;)
4. The Venue – I guess there’s more places than the Marriott Bar to hang out this year :(
3. No French Maids – Guess they like Ontario, CA better :(
2. No Chris Brogan – No wonder my room felt emptier ;)
1. NO LIBSYN PARTY - I thought we would see a revival for sure, but no such luck! :(

Yeah, it was in Vegas alright, but while there were plenty of slot machines, bars, and any number of other…er, “interesting subjects” to tempt you into something addictively sinful, there wasn’t quite the same ol’ LibSyn (now Wizzard) or Blubrry party-feel, like we used to have in previous years or the nostalgia of the traditional meeting of old friends at the Marriott Bar on the first night.

Despite all that, I have to say that this year’s NME was really good and there was no shortage of excellent sessions, starting with the opening keynote by Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV. IMHO, the main themes that ran throughout the expo were exactly what Gary mentioned in his talk about the two “C’s” — CONTENT & COMMUNITY — PLUS, the raw emotions that exuberated from his personality during his talk: PASSION – that is, passion for being part of the new/social media community.

For a brief summary of his talk, you can read about it on the Digiredo Blog (my new friends from Holland!)…Other great sessions that I attended include:

- Will it Blend?
  Day 2 Keynote by George Wright (VP, Blendtec)
Developing an Engaged Community
by Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt

- Creating A Successful Government Podcast: From to the CDC
by Miguel Gomez and Fred Smith.
- Building an Audience-Thrilling Videoblog
by Robert Scoble
- Tactical Transparency – The Profits of Getting Personal in Business
by John Havens and Shel Holtz
- A Legal Thicket: New Media Production And Content Liability in the Digital Age
by Colette Vogele and Jeffrey Hermes

I’ll try to post some of these recordings here on the blog in the upcoming weeks, but for now, I will end here — Reflections on NME 2008 Part II coming soon…


Continuing the Conversation: Lessons from Tech Industry Conferences

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As I prepare to head out to the 4th annual New Media Expo in Las Vegas later this week, I find myself preparing for the expo by planning meetups, reading and posting on message boards, following twitter, pathable, and other social conversation networks, and generally reading/hearing/responding to what others are planning. 

All this chatter before the actual event really contributes to the build up of excitement for the event and, more importantly, really starts the conversation before we even get to the event venue. How awesome is that? And when you meet at the conference, you already have a conversation going and so you get a lot more done; plus, it allows you to also plan in advance by virtually “meeting” people online with similar interests, so you can meet when you are on site. And after the meeting is over, conference delegates also get a podcast of ALL the sessions, so they can catch up on what they were not able to attend.

(Of course, the other important bit is to find out where and when all the unlisted parties are going to be, but I digress… ;) )

So, it got me thinking…Why doesn’t the pharma/medical/science industry do the same thing? Why are we simply content to spend a few days at a (sometimes) nice location, look at some posters and attend some talks, then return to wherever we came from. Of course we do a bit of catching up with old friends and conversing in hallways, but these minimal conversations usually start and end at the conference.

At the end, we’ve heard what a few speakers had to say and the posters end up in the bin, just like the silo’s of knowledge that get lost as soon as the event is over, together with the opportunities for potential knowledge sharing and exchange of ideas with peers of similar interests.

I guess I can’t really point the finger at the medical and science conferences, when even most of the pharma conferences that promote “Web 2.0″ topics don’t provide opportunities for such pre- and post- conversations/activities to take place (in contrast, just take a look at the list of apps on the New Media Expo Attendee Tools page). And, unlike most of the tech talks these days, most pharma/medical/science conferences will prohibit recording/distributing the talks and instead, a premium fee is charged to anyone who wants a CD of all the sessions – even for paid attendees. So much for the 2.0 culture.

Having said all that, however, I did notice that the upcoming eCommunications and Online Marketing conference has made an attempt to incorporate some of these activities for their 2008 conference. They have online video interviews/testimonies and even have a social networking site using Ning (for 2007). BRAVO, eyeforpharma folks, but what happened to the link to your Ning-site for 2008?

So, I really hope that this industry starts catching on to some of these trends soon and that we stop following each other in terms of standards for conferences, but instead look outside to see what others are doing — especially the tech industry — and see how much knowledge is being shared and exchanged, leading to innovation, collaboration, and happy, shiny people overall :) !

Upcoming Conferences

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A few days ago, a few people asked me what conferences would be worth attending in the Med 2.0 space and so I thought it might be a good idea to post some of the upcoming conferences that I am hoping/planning to attend for the rest of this year:

New Media Expo (AUG 14–16, 2008) - Las Vegas, NV
New Media Expo 2008 (Las Vegas, NV)

This is the conference formerly know as Podcast and Portable Media Expo OR Podcast and New Media Expo. Organized by my two good friends, Tim and Emile Bourquin (a.k.a. The Podcast Brothers), this is the must-attend event for all podcasters! I’ve been attending this one since it’s inception in 2005 and this year is no different, except that they’ve moved it out of small town Ontario, CA, to the bright lights and big city of Las Vegas, NV. Can’t wait till next week :)

Web 2.0 Expo (SEP 16-19, 2008) – New York City, NY

Web 2.0 Expo

The quintessential conference for all things 2.0 (not just pharma specific). It’ll be my first time attending this year, so I’m really excited to go.

Digital Pharma (OCT 14–16, 2008) – Princeton, NJ

Digital Pharma

I will be speaking at this conference – you can find more about my session here: (Day 2 @ 4pm and Day 3 @ 2.15pm). If you’re interested in attending, the organizers have kindly extended a 15% discount to Med 2.0 readers/subscribers, using the following DISCOUNT CODE: P222VTX.

Health 2.0 (OCT 22–23, 2008) – San Francisco, CA

Health 2.0

This is one that focuses more on consumer healthcare, rather than professional services (i.e. user generated healthcare). Not sure if I’ll make it out this time, but I am definitely interested in attending, particularly since one of the main organizes is Matthew Holt from The Health Care Blog – a blog I read regularly and attribute a lot of my info from.

eCommunication & Online Marketing Summit  (OCT 23–24, 2008) – Boston, MA

Another interesting conference with lots of Med 2.0 type content, particularly for marketers. This year, the meeting will be held right here in Boston, so I’m really hoping to attend (never made it in previous years).

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