No broadcast journalist has embraced new media as much as podcast guru Leo Laporte. Although he's still got one foot in traditional broadcasting (he hosts syndicated show The Tech Guy on US satellite radio), he's managed to build up a small empire of podcasts, or netcasts as he prefers to call them, since the launch of the original TWiT (short for This Week in Tech) in 2005. It's no coincidence that he's often called the hardest working man in podcasting.
Leo laughs at the use of the word 'empire' to describe the 14 hugely popular shows he hosts on the TWiT Netcast Network. "I guess it's an empire," he says, "a very small empire, but I serve at the pleasure of the community. I can never say it's mine. It's not mine, It's ours."
So, when Leo launched his latest project, a live video stream called TWiT Live, the community was already there. The show, which currently goes out five days a week, very quickly reached 3.6 million viewers a month – not bad considering 4.6 million people download the TWiT netcasts every month. Whatever Leo touches online seems to turn to gold. He's got more than 50,000 followers on Twitter – only Kevin Rose and Barack Obama have more.
"It's funny – I've said for a long time that I wouldn't ever do video because audio is easier for people and it's cheaper for us to produce," Leo explains. "You couldn't do live streaming before. Until a couple of years ago, when companies like Stickam came along, it wasn't technically feasible. But there's something about live that's really fun, so when it became technically and economically possible, people kept asking me for it and I finally said I'd do it. I started doing it on the radio show – a cheap, crappy version – but people wanted more and more. There seems to be this demand – I'm actually surprised more people aren't doing live streaming. My eyes have been fully opened here. I think streaming video is the next big thing and I'm very excited about it."
Initially, TWiT Live will show how Leo produces his podcasts from his cottage in Petaluma, California, but most of the shows won't go to video. The longer term plan is to add content in between.
The live show will include interviews, conference coverage and breaking news stories like the recent 24 Hours of iPhone event, which tracked the launch of the iPhone 3G around the world and attracted 271,733 viewers in total. Eventually, Leo wants to produce 40 hours of really interesting content a week.
"It's always struck me that live is ultimately what the internet should be because what's different from broadcasting television and internet television is that it's interactive, it's fully two-way. You're not really fully interactive unless you're live, so we take live questions in all the podcasts now. We want to do more and more of that live topical coverage. Ultimately, I see this becoming kind of a populist CNN for geeks. So if there's a big breaking tech news story, you immediately turn it on and know that we'll be there talking about it and have experts on. You'll get the story as it develops."
When Leo announced his plan to use Stickam (www.stickam.com), many people were surprised. After all, the most prominent live streamer on the web, Chris Pirillo, is on Ustream (www.ustream.tv). "In the first year I did both Ustream and Stickam informally, without any relationship with either of them," Leo explains.
"I also used Justin.tv, BitGravity and Yahoo Live. I tried all the services and they all did really good jobs with it. They're all doing essentially the same technology, so it really came down to which company was going to give me the things I needed. Stickam is really helpful with programming. They've given me a special 16:9 window and have gone the extra mile. They're giving me a lot of bandwidth – we're able to handle 10,000 people without a problem. I think we're a really good team because Stickam is really interested in figuring out what needs to be done to make this work and develop this platform."