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: 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.

Published by

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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