Eduvation Blog

A Year of Podcasting in Review


Welcome back to a new year after what I hope was a relaxing and rejuvenating holiday! As promised, we’re working on several “2015 in Review” episodes that will sum up the important trends that emerged last year, the biggest higher ed PR headaches of the year, and the best of the new brands launched.  (Subscribers In the Loop will get access to episodes this year a full week early!)

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Ten with Ken podcast, which has grown and evolved a lot since I announced my departure from the company I co-founded, Academica Group, and the daily Top Ten I created and edited for almost a decade.  After 12 months and more than 30 videos, I’m pleased to say we’re starting to achieve my goal, covering more visual stories, injecting more opinion and perspective, and summarizing important trends that go well beyond news headlines. (Hopefully we’re also starting to capture some of the fun and humour of my live presentations, too, although that remains a work in progress!)

Let’s look back at the year that was, through some of our most popular episodes.  The podcast launched with an exciting, and potentially contentious, topic: a 30-minute countdown of the biggest higher ed PR nightmares of 2014. I spent months clarifying the facts with involved parties and learning a lot about the stories behind the headlines, recording the full countdown twice before splitting the material into 3 episodes called Ten with Ken in January 2015.  (These are still primitive episodes compared to what would follow.)

(3 episodes, 10, 11, and 14 min)  

Next, I thought it appropriate to dedicate an episode to higher education branding, since I’ve been consulting on institutional brand strategy for more than 20 years now. After 2 lengthy episodes covered just the college side of the equation, I realized it would take months to get through all the university examples as well:

(2 episodes, 19 min and 16 min)  

In April, I brought on board director John Matthias and researcher Katherine Fletcher, and we transformed the product and its format.  We made lighting changes and ditched my reading glasses to improve the results on set. We held editorial roundtables to select stories, discussed scripts, and fine-tuned as much as we could. We envisioned each episode as a mini variety show, with a news story, an op-ed piece, something on branding, and perhaps a few snippets of fun or interesting videos or ads. The earliest “compilation” episode looked briefly at Gender Equity on campus, rebranding at New Universities, and LinkedIn’s plans for “world domination”:

(Episode 6, 12 min)  

Although we liked the new format, it was proving difficult to do justice to topics in just 3 minutes, and difficult to promote the content of each episode on YouTube, where even late night comedy shows release brief segments individually.  Worse still, throughout May, June and July it was only possible to finish 3 “compilation” episodes — a far cry from the weekly podcast I originally envisioned. So, in August we repackaged all of the preceding episodes as shorter videos, ranging in length from 3 to 6 minutes.  We standardized the video thumbnails, and dropped episode numbers, releasing them as segments called “The Big Picture,” “On the Radar,” and “Brand Chemistry.” One of the most popular of these segments looked at the plight of adjunct and contingent faculty, and the sustainability of balancing institutional budgets on their backs:

(6 min) 

Come September, we tried the compilation approach one more time, but released the component parts individually first, one per week. The most popular segment in September focused on the evolution of electronic textbooks, personalized adaptive learning platforms, and open text initiatives across North America:

(5 min) 

In late September, John and I spent two days at the Ontario Universities’ Fair, capturing hours of footage and interviews with plenty of university presidents and front-line recruiters. Even selecting just the best clips yielded hours of content, so we released an overview episode to start, and started incorporating footage in later episodes on a variety of themes. One of the most-viewed episodes of Ten with Ken looked at the largest PSE consumer trade show in North America, and how university marketing and students have evolved over its history:

(16 min) 

This episode looked at the variety of high-tech and low-tech ways that universities brought their campus experience to OUF, from kayaks and basketball courts to Oculus Rift:

(7 min) 

In October and November, we produced several episodes focused on higher ed social media, starting with some higher ed “winners and sinners”, but attracting the most views when we featured pet videos. We presented snippets of campus newscasts, safety videos, and a dog’s-eye view campus tour in this episode, “In Case You Missed It,” which proved very popular:

(4 min) 

As we approached year-end, I think we were finally figuring out the medium and our production processes.  Starting October 21st, we pumped out 9 podcasts in 9 weeks, finally achieving that weekly schedule we originally envisioned, despite my busy travel schedule. Each episode was anywhere from 4 to 10 minutes in length, depending on the topic, and we filmed them in batches. We produced several more segments based on the sort of trends talks I have been giving on campuses for years, on topics like the rise of “invisible” part-time and commuter students and the implications for student engagement, or the many ways in which institutions are adapting and becoming more flexible to meet their needs. This overview of trends in campus housing proved particularly popular, looking at everything from luxury accommodation and public-private partnerships to capsule dorms:

(10 min) 

We wrapped up the podcast’s first year with our most successful episodes yet, two 20-minute compilations of highlights from college and university holiday greeting videos from the past few years. I had written blogs about them in previous years, but video was the perfect medium to share these examples. (Although working with a hundred source videos and editing them relentlessly proved far more time-consuming than expected.) Part 1 featured condensed highlights from 49 holiday greeting videos, from simple animated cards and short vignettes, to compilations of Q&A and multilingual greetings:

(19 min) 

Part 2 included condensed highlights from 27 more holiday greeting videos including humour and parody, holiday goodwill gestures, and campus choirs and musicians:

(20 min) 

Part 1 rapidly reached 800 views on YouTube — more rapidly than any previous episode we have done — but I suspect many of you didn’t have a chance to catch part 2 before you left on holidays. Hopefully you can find time on a break this week to recapture some of the holiday spirit again, by watching one or both episodes before your holidays become a distant memory.  (I know, it may already be too late!)

I would welcome your thoughts about this first year of Ten with Ken, and your suggestions as we go forward.  Feel free to comment below, or send me an email privately. We’re excited to share the next few episodes with you looking at 2015 in review, and have hundreds of other episode ideas to choose from as we move forward into 2016.  Thanks for watching!

Ken Steele  Chief Futurist, Eduvation Inc.


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