PodCamp Highlights The Tech Hub of Philly

Podcasters, vloggers and other online multimedia producers, enthusiasts and hopefuls congregated in Philadelphia last weekend for the first anniversary of PodCamp. Like any conference, part of the attraction of PodCamp was the sessions, but the main draw was social. The Mid-Atlantic location — it was held on the Drexel University campus in University City west of downtown Philadelphia — drew a number of attendees and sponsors from around the East Coast, but it was especially clear that Philadelphia’s technology and online publisher community, although small, is growing.

The first session, held last year in Boston, was organized by Chris Penn (who posted video updates like the installment below) and Chris Brogan. The two were inspired to put on their own “unconference” after attending the first BarCamp Boston and envisioning a more content-focused event.

This year, the Friday evening social hour was held at the offices of P’unk Avenue, an interactive ad agency. It drew an unexpectedly large crowd and spilled out onto the sidewalk and benches of Pat’s King of Steaks. While the Philadelphia tech startup scene is small, it was well represented by the likes of Viddler, which offers sharing and enhancement tools; RedLasso, which allows people to set up alerts that match search terms phonetically to broadcast television and delivers them matching video clips; Comcast Interactive Media, a research division of the cable giant; and Qwizzy, a platform provider for interactive FAQs.

One of the highlights was a live taping of the Best Damn Tech Show, Period. Two of the team’ members, Rand Bradbury and Adam Plante, share a home near the campus known as the House that Geek Built (thanks to being crammed with multimedia production hardware and furnishings acquired via Craigslist). Another focus for the local community is the new coworking space, Independents Hall, put together by Alex Hillman.

Drew Olanoff, a Best Damn Tech Show, Period host and producer of Scriggity, helped organize and hosted a live broadcast via Ustream. Mark Schoenveld, who recently signed up as a community manager with local startup XLNTads, explained that he gets a budget for his show Cheap Dates! Philadelphia from the local tourism board. And Alive in Baghdad — represented by Brian Conley and Steve Wyshywaniuk — became the cause celebre of the weekend, with much of the conversation focused on ways to get funding for what many feel is one of the most important shows online.

The spectrum of topics covered in the sessions was appropriately broad. One session looked at how to optimize your video and audio for search engines, hosted by Liana Evans of Search Marketing Gurus (she recommended using metadata and descriptive text such as transcripts in a blog context, such as Danny Sullivan’s podcast); another featured a tetchy audience grilling the organizers of the Association for Downloadable Media, a trade group for vloggers and podcasters; and another saw the production a short video as part of a fan-submission project for a book promotion hosted by Steve Garfield. Many of the sessions are available as video feeds from the university.

It’s always refreshing to discover a new location that has all the ingredients for becoming a production and technology hotbed — especially when it’s positioned outside of the traditional poles of major media influence. Philadelphia, with a constant stream of young, educated people pouring in and a relatively low cost of living, presents great opportunities. But new media producers can only hold out so long on inexpensive rents and cheesesteaks — hopefully events like PodCamp can serve to connect producers to startups and investors willing to enable revenue streams and provide sponsorships for new content.

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