четверг, 18 декабря 2014 г.

Running a Podcast for a Year

Last January, together with Michael, we recorded the first episode of the Code Speak Loop podcast. Shortly after that I set up a goal to record 20 to 22 episodes over the year 2014 and it looks like we  are succeeded at it. At the moment, after almost 11 months since publishing the episode 1 we have released 19 shows and will release one more in less than a week. The experience was magnificent!

While this marks a great achievement for us, there are lots of spots where we didn't perform as good as we would like to. For example, we could have released more episodes - 22 or maybe even 24. This a bit more impressive milestone would be easy to reach if we managed to maintain more regular release schedule. Unfortunately, during the last 3 or 4 months we failed to record a number of episodes on time, thus loosing several weeks. This also resulted in larger gaps between episodes - at least once the gap exceeded 4 weeks, which hardly complies with our original plans.

While the lack of discipline that led to these gaps is shameful, it didn't prevent us from reaching the original goal in terms of the number of episodes - both because the goal was quite cautious and, surprisingly, we were not as bad as expected. On the other side, there are things that look much worse. One of the most important problems is the quality of the content that we produced. Sometimes our accents, the level of control over our voices as well as the quality of the language were bad enough to make me seriously consider throwing the recording away. However, I believe that we were right to ignore this problem for some time and push the first episodes in public despite it - over time we did much better. Not only did this allow us to achieve sort of satisfactory quality, it also helped us improve general communication skills significantly and do better at our jobs. I am more than sure that the trainings that I delivered this summer as a part of my job would have been much worse if I didn't spend that much time chatting with Michael, listening to the recordings and preparing them for publication.

However, all the above problems are basically technical ones and I understand how to control them. What bothers me most in regards to the Code Speak Loop is that now, after releasing 19 episodes we don't really understand whether we have any listeners and what do they think about the show if they exist. This sounds stupid, but that's how it is. Thanks to the awesome Signal Leaf podcast hosting service we do know that we have some subscribers, but it is not clear whether these are real people or some sort of a Skynet trying to understand its enemy better.

Furthermore, the fact that over a year we got virtually no comments - both in the blog and on our social media pages - makes me think that the number of our actual listeners is quite close to zero. I know that some of my friends did check out the podcast, some even listened to quite a few episodes and I am extremely thankful to them. Still, because we didn't receive a word from anyone outside our usual circles it feels like we were broadcasting to nowhere. To be honest, this isn't too much of a surprise because, as usual, we avoided going into public and promoting the podcast at all costs. Additionally, the topics that we discussed are maybe too diverse, so we failed to position ourselves for any definite audience. Bad news here is that this is not the first time I make a confession of this kind: earlier this year I wrote that I had completely failed at marketing my Windows Phone app and actually I did this with two of them (the third is coming soon). Even though Michael worked much harder in this area, the efforts were still not enough to attract at least some angry comments to our blog.

Peeking into the future, I can say that whatever we will chose to do about the podcast there are some things that I am willing to change. First of all, we are not going to set any goals for the number of episodes or any schedule for the next year. Sometimes under pressure of our own plans we didn't pay enough attention to the quality of the show and that's not something that we want to repeat in future. I do believe that this was the right thing to do at the first stage when it was crucial to see whether we are able to produce anything at all, but now we can turn to recording only when we want to and have something really interesting to discuss.

Making the schedule less strict will also allow us to focus on getting more guests into our studio. We had several fabulous people this year and the episodes with a guest were definitely a lot denser with content and more focused than the ones with only two of us. Pursuing the same goal of making episodes more interesting and increasing their value, I'd like to put more work into choosing and preparing topics, so let's see what happens.

Finally, we do have to put significant effort into attracting and engaging listeners. Even though for us this is likely the most difficult part, there are some ideas, which may execute well. We don't have much choice here actually: while running a podcast without listeners for a year is possible, we don't look crazy enough to do that for two years in a row.

We wouldn't be willing to continue this enterprise without the support that we got from our friends who listened to the show and gave extremely valuable feedback as well as the awesome guests who came and shared cool stories and valuable experience. Our thanks go to all these fabulous people! And even though our subscribers are invisible, we know someone is refreshing the feed from time to time. So thank you for listening and tune in next year!

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