Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What I've Learned After a Month of Podcasting

So, it's been about a month since I launched GitMinutes, and wow, it's been a fun ride. I have gotten a lot of feedback, and a lot more downloads/listeners than I had expected!
Judging the numbers is hard, but a generous estimate is that somewhere around 2000-3000 have listened to the podcast, and about 500-1000 regularly download. Considering that only a percentage of my target audience actively listen to podcasts, these are some pretty good numbers. I've heard that 10% of the general population in the western world regularly listen to podcasts (probably a bit higher percentage among Git users), so I like to think I've reached a big chunk of the Git pros out there.

GitMinutes has gathered 110 followers on Twitter, and 63, erm.. circlers on Google+, and it has received 117 +'es! And it's been flattr'ed twice :)

Here are some of the things I learned during this last month:

Conceptually..

  • Starting my own sandbox podcast for trying out everything was a really good idea, and lowered the barrier for getting GitMinutes #01 out there. The first GitMinutes also sounds quite professional, and this is thanks to my practice in the sandbox.
  • I've gotten into the iTunes Store and Stitcher Radio, arguably the two most important places to be for expanding the audience. The trick was to first get the podcast rolling, and then get into these directories after 3-4 episodes are published.
  • Hand-picking my own guests was a good idea. I started off with a list of ten dream guests I wanted, and within a few days of asking, nine of these had agreed to do a show.
  • The first to agree doing a show was Randal L. Schwarz, and aside from being a great guest, he also promoted GitMinutes several times on his own podcast, FLOSS Weekly (which has a huge following). This definitely landed me a lot of listeners early on.
  • I used some of my recent parental leave to "subsidize" the time needed for launching the show, and this made it really easy to be available for the guests. Not sure how long I will be able to sustain the show after I go back to work this week though. I've recorded episode 8 now, and there might be a 9 and a 10, but beyond that it gets uncertain.

It needs to sound good

  • I've got a basic picture of the microphone landscape and options out there.
  • I've learned some things about audio mixing, inputs and outputs, file-formats, etc.
  • I've learned how to record good spoken audio.
  • Interviewing one other party across Skype (audio only) is a safe and good way to produce quality audio, but you need to have the guest do a local recording, in my humble opinion. She/he also needs to have a good microphone. I've gathered up the instructions for guests here.
  • I've learned how to edit and clean up audio in Audacity.
I talk more about some of these points in my own personal podcast episode about podcasting.

100% cloud!

  • I've figured out how to host resources and web-pages on my own domain in front of Amazon S3, also ran a couple of EC2 instances for fun.
  • Blogger with Feedburner is good enough for powering a podcast, but if you want a real podcast page, I've heard Wordpress - plus either the Podlove or the Powerpress plugin - is the way to go. Google could do with showing the podcasting world some more attention, but I doubt they see the business opportunities.
  • S3 is traffic-expensive, but depending on traffic it can be cheaper than the podcast-hosting alternatives out there - I've paid about 12$ for hosting 120 MB of podcasts, 120 GB of traffic. That would have cost me 15$ on LibSyn, or 20$ on Blubrry.
Now, regarding hosting, the nice thing about LibSyn and Blubrry is that they have a flat traffic rate. So if your podcast gets thousands of downloads a week, the price stays constant. However, I stuck with S3 because I didn't expect too much traffic, and whenever I stop podcasting, the cost of hosting will eventually drop to near-zero. 

How about the stats

  • I've configured access logs for S3 and fetched them using some snazzy Python scripts (also tried out the s3cmd command line tool, which is really nice). 
  • I've done some log analysis/web-traffic reports with Awstats.
  • Making sense of media download numbers is really hard, due to most clients doing partial downloads - this means that they download smaller chunks of an episode at a time. The problem is that pure mp3 downloads offer no JavaScript in the client for doing intelligent analysis like Google Analytics does.
  • I can however judge traffic over time, seeing how it increases per episode.
So, that's what I've figured out so far. Regardless of GitMinutes' future, I've learned a lot about this entire industry of podcasting that I knew so little about before. It's probably been one of the most orthogonal knowledge investments I've done since I started my programming career, and it has already given me quite a few ideas of future projects and possibilities.