A Podcast

We learned about a new form of digital media in Journalism class this past week– podcasting. A podcast is considered to be any kind of digital media that is uploaded and put into a feed. It is unique in the sense that it is usually purely audio. As podcasting was new to us in class, it is also somewhat new in the digital space. The concept of podcasting first emerged during 2004, when Ben Hammersley, a reporter for The Guardian, released an article pointing out examples of significant audio content that had surfaced on the web. Through this analysis, he made the conclusion that podcasting was to become a popular phenomenon due to its great advantages: user friendliness. Listeners can tune into their favorite shows and get the information they want when and where they want it.

This concept of portability and consequent constant accessibility is one of the main reasons that podcasts have shown a rise in popularity over the years. As professors at the University of Maryland write in the article, Joining the Podcast Revolution, “with students now more mobile than ever, the idea of being able to access information without being linked to a certain physical location is very attractive” (1). As students walk to class and as people commute to work, podcasts are available no matter what.

One of the most well-known podcasts is called Serial. This specific podcast began in 2004, and was developed by the creators of This American Life, a journalistic radio show that is publicly broadcasted each week. Serial tells compelling stories that follow a plot and the lives of complex characters and lead listeners with suspense to the endings of these stories. It has achieved many awards such as the Peabody, Scripps Howard, and Silver Gavel Award for Media and the Arts. The podcast continues to garner large audiences ever since its creation. I plan to listen to this podcast this summer, as it had been recommended to me by several friends.

Podcasts are relatively easy to make. Anyone who is interested in telling a story through an audio method can do so for free. There are many tools available to the public that can be used for putting together an audio file to post. The video below includes information on how to make a podcast without spending money, and making it available to wide audiences:

In order to further understand the behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing a podcast, we were instructed to create one ourselves. I have chosen to make my podcast about my visit to Madrid with CEA for the AICAP activity. This was a memorable time for me, as I have learned a lot about the conflict and tension that lies between citizens of Barcelona and Madrid. I especially thought this was a relevant topic after the soccer game on Sunday. You can listen to my podcast about my time in Madrid below.

Sources

  1. Jham, Bruno C., et al. “Joining the podcast revolution.” Journal of Dental Education 72.3 (2008): 278-281.

Adios

In my psychology class this past week, our teacher told us that we should make sure to “say goodbye to Barcelona” before we step on the plane to go home. When we asked what she meant, she instructed us to go to a place in the city that has been special to us during our time abroad, and give our minds the time to focus on the fact that things are about to change—a lot. “This is an important step in making a healthy mental transition back to the place you lived four months ago,” she told us.

Usually I don’t completely wake up until after this morning class when I am able to get a large Americano at the café below my school. However, on this particular Tuesday morning, my mind and body jolted to attention as I heard her explain the goodbye process. A lump formed in my throat and I felt a wave of anxiety flow through my chest. I have never gone through a transition like this in my life before. Sure, I’ve said goodbye to the ways of Elementary School and hello to the big-kid life in Middle School. I’ve said goodbye to my life in high school and dance in Connecticut and hello to a new chapter at the University of Michigan. But, this goodbye is about to be completely different. I am about to move forward from a time that I won’t really be able to explain to anyone, won’t ever be able to have a similar experience to, and a time that has taught me lessons that I would not have been able to learn anywhere else.

Our teacher wanted us to go to a special place in the city…. I knew exactly where that was going to be. I will go have a simple Americano on the front patio of Gaudi Bakery next door and take in the sounds and smells of my street and the sight of the rushing tourists and strolling locals. All under the overwhelming, never-gets-old, towering beauty of La Sagrada Familia. This cafe is the place that my roommates and I came during our first week here to split a piece of carrot cake in celebration of our arrival. It is the place where I came to get fresh air and have a comforting chamomile tea and omelet when I was recovering from the flu. It is the place where the employees give us a warm welcome every time we come and questioned where we were when we traveled for a week during spring break.

Even though I will go here to say “goodbye” to Barcelona, I won’t let go of the perspectives and values that I have adapted during my time here. Back home, I will rush when I have to rush, but remember that relaxing and enjoying the moment are just as important. I will make sure to not always get a coffee to go and, instead, take the time to pause and sit and sip it.

Politics 2.0

Just as socialization practices in the world are being changed by technology, so is one aspect of society that affects people just as much– politics. Who gets power in politics is determined by how well he or she can utilize a result of advancing technology that is easily accessible and increasingly used by the public: social media. This complex, yet easy-to-use, entity has given rise to completely new set of political practices known as Politics 2.0.

Social media sites have become extremely influential in the way that people perceive political candidates. Since platforms like Facebook and YouTube give control to the user to create any image he or she would like, candidates can use this to his or her advantage, and get across a message in the strongest, most impactful way possible. Social media not only gives politicians new abilities during political campaigns, but also the citizens who will be most affected by the outcome. Politics are no longer made up of only one-way communication directed by people running for office– the public has just as strong of a voice.

President Obama is known to have utilized Politics 2.0 to his advantage during the 2008 election in many ways, just as we learned in class. First, his campaign had its own social network known as MyBarackObama.com. He used Twitter to stay in touch with voters and respond to their concerns and questions. This established him as a caring, honest candidate, and voters could feel his words and desires for the country were more personal. YouTube allowed Obama to have free advertising– he could post videos and have them remain online for all to see. This showed that he was not afraid to have his ideas preserved online, and citizens could hold him to his word. Lastly, there was Facebook. Barack Obama garnered nearly six million friends on this social networking site and gave voters the opportunity to connect with each other and come together in support of his campaign. All of these ways allowed Obama to quickly share information, give voters the answers they needed, and develop a personal, likable character in voters’ eyes.

The most important advantage that Obama had while using these social media sites to carry out his campaign was access to a significant demographic in the voting world– young people. Campaigning on social media platforms was attractive and accessible to younger generations in the USA, and this proved to be a significant part of Obama’s win against John McCain. When Obama ran for president again in 2012 against Mitt Romney, his understanding and outreach to young voters on social networking sites also proved to be an important factor of his reelection.

Politics 2.0 was most definitely used in the most recent election in the USA, so much that people question if Trump’s social media techniques were what brought him his entry into office. It is important to remember that the social media networks that are used now to share and spread information during political campaigns are still designed to cater to the user. That is, you see what you want to see, and this is something that creates people who believe they are informed to vote when they are in fact the opposite.

For a brief summary of Politics 2.0, view the video below:

So Much More than a Cooking Class

We had booked a cooking class through the website withlocals.com— an online service that allows you to take part in many different activities with people from around the area you are visiting. We knew we were taking somewhat of a risk– who knew what kind of person would be teaching us to cook, what food we would make, or how comfortable we would feel in a stranger’s house? Our apprehensions were forgotten the moment we entered Roberto‘s house– a Roman native with a big smile, a beautiful, bright kitchen, and a passion for cooking. His two children– a daughter and son– joined us during our magical night filled with fresh pasta dough and conversation that flowed easily as Roberto made us feel completely comfortable and welcome.

We started immediately (after putting on the aprons Roberto supplied for all three of us) and began mixing together the dough. I didn’t know exactly what ingredients pasta dough contained, and I was surprised to find out that all it needed was eggs, flour, and a little bit of salt. Roberto arranged a mixture of three different kinds of flour, which he said were essential in creating the perfect pasta flavor, in a circle on the large wooden kitchen table. Then, he instructed us to crack four eggs into the center of the circle– a task we completed carefully as Roberto, the master chef, watched over our shoulders. He poured a little bit of salt into the egg/flour combination and then started mixing. We all took turns. Slowly but surely, the eggs and flour and salt formed together into a beautiful sticky dough that Roberto then told us needed to be kneaded with love and care. He showed us how to knead the pasta dough– just as his grandmother had shown him– and we took turns doing this too, until it was of the perfect consistency. Then, we rolled it out with a giant rolling pin until it was very thin. Next, we cut the dough into long strips to make Fettuccine and set them out to dry. We were awestruck– the strips of pasta were perfect and delicate and we had made them… in less than 25 minutes. I immediately added “Make own pasta” to my summer bucket list for when I get home (we’ll see how that goes).

As the pasta dried, we enjoyed a plate of cheeses, ham, and olives prepared by Roberto. We talked and talked… it was as if we had known him for longer than an hour. We asked him questions about his time in Rome and travels around Europe and he asked us questions about our lives. We laughed and talked until it was time to start preparing the sauce for our beautiful, beautiful pasta. The sauce was incredibly simple… another recipe I will try at home. Roberto combined cherry tomatoes, olives, olive oil and garlic into a saucepan and let it sit for a bit. We plopped the Fettuccine into a boiling pot of water, and since it was so fresh, it would only take about four minutes until ready.

The simple sauce

Roberto plated the pasta and sauce, gracefully grated fresh Parmesan cheese into the tops of our pasta heaps, and dinner was served. “Bon appetite,” his son said, and with that, I dug in to the best bowl of pasta I had ever eaten.

Our homemade Fettuccine with olives and tomatoes

When I look back on this night, I think about the many new things I experienced—bowls made of flour, kneading fresh pasta dough, etc. But the most important one does not have to do with the food we cooked and ate. It has to do with the person we cooked and ate with, who had a different age, culture, and life experience compared to all of us. And yet, it was one of the most comfortable, fun nights I have had during my time abroad. That cooking class was so much more than a cooking class– it was a special reminder to look outside my comfort zone that I will enter when I return home because, as I learned, it can actually still be quite comfortable.

Spring Break Stop #1: Rome

Spring Break was upon us– a time we had always spoken of in imaginative, hypothetical terms. “Greece would be so beautiful to visit,” we’d say. “The Amalfi Coast could be magical,” we thought. Spring break seemed like this time that would never really come and we would just be able to imagine and wonder and picture ourselves in these places that we had only seen in magazines. But now, it was here and we were able to actually make these imaginative, hypothetical thoughts into real life experiences… something that is still sinking in as I write this post.

So, we planned our itinerary for the 10 days, booked the necessary modes of transportation (two flight tickets and one train) and set out for our first destination, the land of the gladiators and gelato– Roma. Most of what I knew about this monumental city came from the one, the only… Lizzie McGuire movie (a clip shown below). I was excited to see what it was really all about.

After a short plane ride which I slept for the duration (no surprise) and Sophie and Emmie watched episodes of their respective shows, we arrived. We took the bus from the airport to Roma Termini, the city’s major train station, and then took a short cab ride to a little bed and breakfast we had found online for a cheap stay in a great location. We dropped our bags and headed out the door to Trastevere for dinner. We wanted to eat at the restaurant that had been a strong recommendation to us by some friends called Da Enzo, but discovered upon arrival that the entire city of Rome also had this desire. So, we rolled with the punches and walked along the dark, quiet streets until we came across a different little restaurant with dimly lit rooms, large mahogany tables, and a band that walked around to each table when their pasta and pizza arrived. Needless to say, we were happy campers. After filling up on some Spaghetti, we went back to the bed and breakfast to get a good sleep before not one but two three-hour tours we booked for the next day.

The first tour started at 8:30AM so we ate bananas and drank coffee as we walked from our building to the meeting place. We were about to embark on a three-hour tour of Vatican City. We waited in a long line with our tour group to hand in the tickets and go through security, and then were led by a very knowledgable, organized guide through the highlights of the area including the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Fact that stood out to me the most: Michelangelo was in fact not a painter before he was instructed to restore the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel… by himself. No big deal.

Inside the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica

Ceiling of the Vatican Museum

After the tour ended in St. Peter’s Basilica, we refueled with some pizza and then met up with our second tour guide who would lead us on a three-hour walk through the highlights of Rome outside of Vatican City: the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. Learning about the history of all of these ancient entities was really great, but we were about to reach the activity that would become the favorite part of our day, and one of the favorite parts of the entire trip. This activity was so great that… it requires its own post! Click here to read 🙂

The Colosseum

Another Guest Speaker: Ana López, Head of Digital Marketing at Estrella Damm

We had another guest speaker this week who provided yet another perspective on the brand-marketing industry these days. Ana López manages the digital marketing team at Estrella Damm — the popular Mediterranean beer produced in Barcelona. This specific beer is known to be all about “…music and culture, good food, and fun times with friends,” as López pointed out to us in class. The brand has not always communicated these ideas as well as it does today. It was with creativity, determination and somewhat risky level of marketing experimentation that López was able to achieve such a successful relationship between the brand and the public.

In the summer of 2009, Estrella Damm released a 3-minute-long music video on YouTube. The video featured a Swedish band that no one had really heard of and a simple storyline that captured a close group of friends on a vacation in Formentera. The impact was huge. The 3-minute clip accumulated 2,500,000 views, brand awareness increased by a whopping 225%, and Formentera became the most popular travel destination of the year. Before this, Estrella Damm did not have a significant social media presence. Now, the company has captivated millions of people online and successfully created an association between Estrella Damm and sun, fun, and other aspects of a relaxing Mediterranean lifestyle. The video can be viewed below:

This Estrella Damm marketing strategy involving YouTube is a testament to the power that social media has when it comes to establishing a brand in the public eye. An impactful YouTube presence proved to be a key factor in increasing the brand’s popularity not just during the summer of 2009, but also in summers after that as well. It has become a tradition for the beer company to release a fresh video every summer, as it is an integral contribution to the growth of the Damm fanbase. In 2015, Estrella Damm released a YouTube video with Hollywood sensation, Dakota Johnson this time amassing 6,500,000 views and a brand awareness increase by 5% in Spain and 30% in the UK. The 10-minute video can be viewed below:

And just like that, Estrella Damm had developed a significant social media presence not only in Spain, but also across the world. Just as López stated during her presentation, the marketing team now had to think about the message it was sending through the YouTube videos even more carefully since they were able to reach a much wider audience. The communication of the beer’s ideals and brand characteristics became even more successful now that people from all around the world were able to get a glimpse of the laid-back and enjoyable “Mediterranean lifestyle.”

Ana López’s story is similar to Valentí Sanjuan’s in that they both show that YouTube is an important part of a brand’s marketing success. Other social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter then supplement the image and story that a brand portrays over YouTube videos—even 3-minute long ones with unknown bands. Marketing campaigns that utilize social media websites tap into communities of people that can view, appreciate and share the image of a brand. It has been so interesting to learn about the craftsmanship that lies behind the creation of a name—whether it is a Mediterranean beer company or an adventurous marathon runner such as Sanjuan. These stories shed light on the important skills and knowledge that marketing strategists must have in order to contribute to making a positive impact on a brand’s reputation.

He said, She said

These days, the popularity of a product does not so much depend on advanced advertising, wide audience contact, or celebrity endorsements. What really makes one product more effective than the next is its ability to  spread through a giant network of constantly moving, ever-communicating contraptions– human mouths. Word-of-mouth communication trends correlate to the success (or lack of success) of products, companies and brands and this is made possible by the discussion platform that social media provides. Research efforts behind marketing techniques and brand acceptance emphasize the analysis of the relationships “…between consumer posting behavior and marketing variables—such as product price and quality—and explores how these relationships evolve as the Internet and consumer review websites attract more universal acceptance” (1). Put quite simply– consumers are creative, and the ways in which they portray their feelings and opinions about products and brands on social media have proven to be powerful and effective.

Social media marketing has been a significant part of my life abroad. For example, I consult TripAdvisor before making any decision regarding which hotel to stay at, where to eat, or what sights to see in the 2-3 days I spend traveling most weekends. The company’s description of themselves doesn’t do it anymore– I put my trust in the customers. Another way I decide to give the “yay” or “nay” to a restaurant is through Instagram. For example, my friends and I traveled to Budapest this past weekend. We were exhausted after a long day of touring and activities and were craving pizza and pasta. So, we searched for an account called “Budapest eats” or “Budapest food” and found a great-looking Italian restaurant. And there it was– @budapestfoodguide, ready to assist us in our search for the perfect combination of tomato sauce, bread, and cheese 🙂 Most cities I have visited during my time abroad have an Instagram account purely dedicated to showing delicacies from different restaurants in the area.

If there’s a good-quality photo of a dish on Instagram, and the restaurant it is from has a good-quality Instagram page, I have found that these two characteristics often times lead to a good-quality meal. Click here to view the entire Instagram page dedicated to showcasing Budapest’s finest eateries and here to see the pizza photo that grabbed our attention and didn’t let us down.

Just as we learned in class, “word of mouth is necessary and effective.” Without the people, there’s no talk and without the talk there’s a smaller chance that a product can gain the momentum it needs to reach widespread success. As social media continues to become an increasingly popular communication platform, brands and companies need to pay more and more attention to the word on the street (“street” meaning Instagram, Twitter feed, or Trip Advisor site) that surrounds their products.

The video below explains the ways that companies can then utilize word-of-mouth communication in their products’ or brands’ favor:

Sources:

  1. Chen, Yubo, Scott Fay, and Qi Wang. “The role of marketing in social media: How online consumer reviews evolve.” Journal of Interactive Marketing 25, no. 2 (2011): 85-94.