Progress report on the ol’ podcast, one month in

The next instal­ment of Déjà Vu has now been uploaded. (Remember that you can sub­scribe to the feed too. Or type your email address into the form below to the cov­er graph­ic to the right of this post. If you have any tech­nic­al prob­lems, drop me an email and I’ll see if I can point you in the right dir­ec­tion.)

For those writers out there who are think­ing about doing a pod­cast of their own, I thought a brief pro­gress report might be the order of the day. If you find your­self left cold by down­load stat­ist­ics, feel free to check out some oth­er inter­est­ing lit­er­ary blogs.

Still there? Right, here we go.

How much traffic is the pod­cast feed get­ting?

The feed has received just over one thou­sand hits, not that this fig­ure means a great deal when one con­siders all the bots crawl­ing the web.

How many audio files have been down­loaded?

The down­load cir­cu­la­tion has ris­en stead­ily from one down­load per day dur­ing the first few days to an aver­age of forty per day dur­ing the week pri­or to this post. In sum, just over 500 pod­casts have been down­loaded. Since there have been four pod­casts (one intro, three epis­odes not includ­ing the I’ve uploaded), we can divide that num­ber by four to get an approx­im­a­tion of the num­ber of listen­ers: 500 / 4 = 125 (there are two reas­ons I can think of that make this fig­ure untrust­worthy, but we’ll crack on!). A per­cent­age of these listen­ers may have down­loaded the first epis­ode, didn’t like it, and didn’t down­load the next. I’ve got no idea how big a per­cent­age that is; a rough estim­a­tion might be drawn from form­al reviews of the book, where about 10% were neg­at­ive, 90% pos­it­ive. So call it 100 reg­u­lar listen­ers.

The down­loads ramped up con­sid­er­ably once I’d emailed some blog­gers to let them know about pod­cast. The biggest blogs to advert­ise me were Chris over at Spike, Michael Allen aka Grumpy Old Bookman, Joe Gordon at Forbidden Planet, POD Girl, and Ariel at Alien Online. If you’re a writer con­sid­er­ing a pod­cast, blogs are an excel­lent way to spread word-of-mouth. Why? Well, the people who read those blogs are already inter­ested in the sub­ject (in my case, fic­tion). A reg­u­lar blog read­er might well use an RSS aggreg­at­or, which will make it easi­er for them to down­load your pod­cast, and might even use the excel­lent facil­it­ies with­in iTunes to down­load pod­casts auto­mat­ic­ally. It’s also worth not­ing that the same blogs car­ried very pos­it­ive reviews of Déjà Vu, and reg­u­lar read­ers might remem­ber them (in most cases, the blog author linked back to the review, e.g. Andy Sawyer’s review on the Alien Online).

How are people down­load­ing your pod­cast?

Statistics are only avail­able for the last twenty-four hours, but I haven’t noticed them change over­much from day to day, It seems that 77% of my listen­ers have sub­scribed to the feed through iTunes. (I’d recom­mend that any­one inter­ested in grabbing good pod­casts, from In Our Time to the Nature pod­cast, use iTunes; it’s free and works well; remem­ber that iTunes has a search­able pod­cast dir­ect­ory, and you should make sure your pod­cast is lis­ted there.) A fur­ther 7% use the Jakarta Commons Generic Client, 5% use FeedBlitz and 5% use iPodder. The remain­ing pro­por­tions are so small I won’t men­tion them.

Any tips on cre­at­ing pod­casts?

(1) Use MP3 format files. You prob­ably know this any­way, but it’s worth not­ing that this is the most con­veni­ent format for the major­ity of down­load­ers. It also com­presses well for a small file size, which brings me to my second point.

(2) Check how much band­width your host allows you. My pro­vider allows for 100 giga­bytes of traffic per month, and I’m cur­rently tak­ing about 3% of that with my pod­cast. If you think you might reach your traffic lim­it with a small num­ber of down­loads, think hard about the set­tings you use to encode your audio. You can make a smal­ler file by redu­cing the bit rate, sample rate, and the over­all length (in time). Bear in mind, how­ever, that qual­ity will be reduced as you lower these para­met­ers. Sound like a voice on the tele­phone and your listen­ers will strain to hear you on the tube, while jog­ging, or whatever. Higher val­ues for these para­met­ers mean increased clar­ity.

As a rough guide, my pod­casts have a bit rate of 64kps (vari­able bit rate, actu­ally), a sample rate of 44,100Hz and tend to last for 20–30 minutes. That gives a file size of between six and sev­en mega­bytes (about twice of the file size of a song, if the song has been com­pressed a bit).

(3) Use a good micro­phone. I use a USB micro­phone. It doesn’t help that I live in an area with con­stant traffic noise, but there’s not much I can do about that.

(4) Use good edit­ing soft­ware. You’re bound to fluff the occa­sion­al sen­tence. To get about 20 minutes of audio, I nor­mally have to record about 30 minutes straight through. I use Garageband, which came free with my uber-fant­ast­iche iBook. I can’t recom­men­ded Garageband enough (or Macs, for that mat­ter). Garageband provides lots of copy­right-free samples that you can use to spice up your pod­casts. Here’s a great page about using Garageband to pod­cast.

And finally

That’s about it. I hope you enjoy the latest pod­cast. Remember to let me know what you think.

Oh, and here’s a site I neg­lected to men­tion last week: http://www.shortshortshort.com/. This is the web­site of Bruce Holland, who will send you ori­gin­al short fic­tion (text-based) for a small fee. I read one the stor­ies, about a dead boy, and thought it was excel­lent.

Bye for now.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

2 thoughts on “Progress report on the ol’ podcast, one month in”

  1. Ian, I’ve down­loaded with the intent to listen, but it was dur­ing the National Novel Writing Month con­test and so I didn’t have time for reading/listening to books, with the excep­tion of listen­ing in the car on my way to work. I’ve been work­ing my way through Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, and once that’s fin­ished I’ll fire Deja Vu up in the car.

    Been think­ing a lot lately how dif­fi­cult it is for the self-pub­lished (or any author) to get atten­tion. Books require such a time com­mittment and the bar­ri­er to entry is fairly high in terms of mind­share.

    One thought I’ve had is… have you tried seed­ing vari­ous down­load sites or peer-to-peer pro­grams? The prob­lem with peer-to-peer is that some­body actu­ally has to *look* for your name/book in order to down­load. Most people don’t just ran­domly down­load. So you could try to find places where that’s more the rule.

    I don’t know if there are any pod­cast ‘col­lec­tion’ sites or ‘the best of pod­casts’ but if you could find any­thing like that, it’s worth giv­ing it a go.

    Or at least, those are the things I’ve been think­ing about for when I even­tu­ally record the audio ver­sion of my nov­el.

    Just some thoughts…

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