Category Archives: Podcast Discussion

Bit Bandit Is a Handy App for Calculating Audio File Size



BitBandit LogoWe live in an ever-increasing world of “unlimited” services. But one place that utopian vision of “everything all the time forever” doesn’t really apply is podcast media hosting. That’s why it can be useful to know how big your media files will be before publishing them to the web. But the only method that’s usually available to determine file size is to simply encode a file and check its properties. That process works but it’s far from efficient.

Billed as “A bit rate and file size calculator for audio engineers,” a new mobile app called Bit Bandit can help you calculate file size before encoding:

Use it to quickly calculate the bit rate of a piece of audio based on its sample rate, bit depth and channel count. Display the results in units of your choice.

Bit Bandit can also calculate file size based on bit rate. Commonly used bit rates are included by default.

I downloaded Bit Bandit and did some testing. It has two sections. A Bit Rate section and a File Size section. The Bit Rate section is really more of a curiosity than anything else. But it might be fun to play around with if you’re a math nerd.

Bit Bandit Bit Rate
Bit Bandit Bit Rate Calculator

The File Size calculator found within Bit Bandit will definitely be of use to podcasters. In the example below, I told Bit Bandit to calculate the size of a file that’s 1 hour, 30 minutes long, and is encoded at 96kbps. The app told me that my file would be in the neighborhood of 63.3MB.

Bit Bandit File Size
Bit Bandit File Size Calculator

Bit Bandit is a free download for both iOS and Android. The app developer has suggested there will be a paid version of Bit Bandit with enhanced features in the future.


Good Moderating of Comments is Key



Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 6.50.07 AMThere is a commonly shared piece of wisdom that says: “Don’t read the comment section”. The reason is obvious. If there is a space online where people can post a comment, and that space is poorly moderated (or not moderated at all) things have the potential to get ugly. Good moderating of comments is vitally important.

The Longest Shortest Time podcast recently shut down its Facebook moms group. The podcast is hosted by Hillary Frank and produced by Abigail Keel. The show is described as “the parenting show for everyone”, so it makes sense that they would have a Facebook group for moms who are fans of the show. (It also had a Facebook dads group for fans of the show.)

According to an article at Neiman Lab, the moms Facebook group had 18,000 members. The same Neiman Lab article notes that not all of the people in that Facebook group were listeners of the show. Some joined simply because they enjoy parenting-related Facebook groups.

An article at The Cut notes that discussions taking place at the Facebook group got contentious after the size increased. It also notes (and I am summarizing greatly here) that the content of the discussions became more negative after things got political.

Between the two articles, it appears there was a point where Hillary Frank and Abigail Keel considered increasing the number of moderators. In the end, they decided to close the moms Facebook page in favor of focusing more time and energy on the podcast itself.

I once was a moderator for a podcast about a video game. The podcast did live shows. I found the experience of moderating the comments posted by people who were watching the live episode to be exciting and exhausting (at the same time). I learned that good moderation of comments was key to keeping the fans of a podcast engaged and invested.

I also learned that moderating comments is a difficult task. It is easy to make mistakes about what to allow and what to remove. It can be difficult to discern when a moderator should get involved. There are people who will complain about decisions made by a moderator – and that can make things stressful for both the moderator and the fans who read the angry comments.

What can podcasters learn from all this? Lack of moderation (of comments, Facebook fan groups, and forums) can lead to a lot of disgruntled listeners. Some people won’t want to return to a space that has become very negative. The plan you created to moderate a small group needs to expand as the group grows. Be proactive and add more moderators periodically as your fan base grows in number.


Reactions to NPR’s New Measurement Guidelines



NPR logoThere’s been a lot of talk about measurement in the podcasting space as of late. As more attention has become focused on the medium in terms of press coverage and money, the pressure has been on for podcasters to come up with a standard for measuring podcast plays. Groups like IAB (and the Association of DownloadableMedia before it) have tried to come up with a consensus on how podcast downloads and plays should be measured. It’s been an ongoing process that’s taking feedback from hundreds of different digital media services and content creators.

It looks like NPR didn’t want to wait for an industry-wide consensus on measurement. Last week, the public media giant released Public Radio Podcast Measurement Guidelines v1.1, a comprehensive document that shows how NPR defines what should (and shouldn’t) be counted as a podcast download. In the document’s introduction, it refers to the current state of podcast measurement as “the Wild West,” implying that, when it comes to podcast stats, anything goes. The document also notes that its “standards” were created solely by NPR and its related organizations. No input was considered from IAB before NPR went public with these guidelines.

On one level, NPR deserves some credit for trying to move the measurement process forward. But from a different angle, the organization has just trampled over podcast measurement systems that have been in place for years. In an article on Observer’s Business & Tech site, Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at LibSyn gave his thoughts on NPR’s measurement guidelines:

…Rob Walch, a vice president at Libsyn, sees the public radio guidelines differently. ‘I think the way they went about this was heavy handed and arrogant at best,’ Mr. Walch said in a phone call with the Observer. He objected especially to the document opening with the ‘wild west’ language, when, he argues, companies in the podcasting industry, such as his, Blubrry and Podtrac, have been discussing this question for some time. ‘The reality is that podcasting has been around for 11 years, and there are companies that understand podcasting methods better than NPR,’ he added.

Blubrry also crafted its own response to NPR’s measurement guidelines:

For the past 11 years, RawVoice / Blubrry and other leading companies in the podcasting space have worked tirelessly to provide accurate reporting to podcasters and media buyers. The ‘Wild West’ statement in the document is unwarranted, RawVoice / Blubrry is asking the coalition to retract the language, and publicly recognize those who have successfully championed meticulous, rigorous and precise podcast reporting.

It’s hard to say for sure how these new NPR guidelines will affect podcast statistics going forward. Due to the massive popularity of NPR shows, the organization can throw around a lot of weight in the podcasting space. If media buyers who place ads on podcasts look at NPR’s statistics method as the best way to gather download numbers, will those buyers then force other, more established statistics platforms, to fall in line?

Disclosure: I work part-time with the Blubrry support team and Podcaster News Executive Editor Todd Cochrane is the CEO of Rawvoice, parent company of Blubrry.


Blubrry Goes Deep into Podcast Statistics



Blubrry LogoThere’s been a lot of discussion about podcast statistics lately. As the podcasting industry continues to expand and more players move into the space, differing opinions have arisen as to how podcast listenership should be measured. Of course, podcast statistics themselves are nothing new. Companies like Podtrac, LibSyn, and Blubrry have been recording and reporting statistics for years. And while it seems like this topic should be rather straightforward at this point, there are still a lot of misconceptions out there about how podcast statistics work.

Last week, Blubrry/Rawvoice CEO Todd Cochrane and Blubrry/Rawvoice CIO Angelo Mandato recorded an hour-long video presentation on the topic. The pair took a dive deep into the massive pool of statistics they’ve gathered thru the Blubrry podcasting network:

This is a in-depth behind-the-scenes look at how Blubrry Podcast Statistics measure and filter every podcast downloaded / live play delivering an accurate report to our podcasters, network customers and media buyers.

This deep dive video, while long, is perfect training for podcasters, reporters, media buyers and anyone else in the media space that want’s to understand how Podcast Statistics work.

Check out the video thru the link above or watch it right here:

Disclosure: I work part-time with the Blubrry support team and Podcaster News Executive Editor Todd Cochrane is the CEO of Rawvoice, parent company of Blubrry.


Podcasting and Thanksgiving



Thanksgiving balloon by Jen Thorpe 2015It has been said that podcasters should give their fans a very special episode to listen to over the Thanksgiving holiday. No, not “very special episode” as in the After School Specials from back in the day. Instead, the idea seems to be to make sure that you put your best effort into the episode that will be released shortly before Thanksgiving.

Going along with this idea seems to be one commonly heard in the podcast-o-sphere. There is talk that releasing a fantastic episode for Thanksgiving could not only make your loyal listeners that much more interested in your podcast, but might also draw in new listeners.

Following that line of thought is the hope that at least some of the people who heard your extra-awesome episode will contribute to your Patreon. You do basically have a captive audience of commuters, right? Some of them might appreciate a well done podcast to listen to while they travel.

In general, I think the idea that: “Great Episode + Thanksgiving = You Win The Internet” is overly optimistic. It doesn’t take into account some of the realities surrounding Thanksgiving. Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in November. Canadians celebrate it in October. People in other countries might not celebrate it at all and have their big holiday meal with the family over Christmas.

While it is true that many Americans will have at least a few hours off during what has become “Black Friday Weekend”, your international listeners will be having a typical work week. As such, your extra special episode might have more impact if you post it for a milestone episode (like episode 100, for example) than if you release it during Thanksgiving. People from all across the world can take time to tune in to a milestone episode of a show they are interested in. It’s a bigger audience than you might get during the hectic Thanksgiving holiday.

Another thing to consider is what might seem natural, but can turn out very awkward. The first year I did NaPodPoMo almost all of the American podcasters did an episode about Thanksgiving on or after Thanksgiving day. This resulted in some interesting takes on the Thanksgiving holiday, and some fun soundscapes, but it was difficult to differentiate them from each other. Nothing stood out because they were all on the same topic at the same time.

Your listeners might find it strange if you spend an episode talking about an American holiday that takes place in November if it isn’t something that fits the general topic of your podcast. Historical podcasts could delve into the pages of history to talk about the holiday’s origins. That topic might be a nice fit. Podcasts about travel might make that work, and so could family history or genealogy focused podcasts. However, podcasts about other subjects might not be an appropriate place for an episode about Thanksgiving.


How to Evaluate a Health Podcast



medical symbolPodcasts that focus on health, or that give listeners health related advice, are becoming popular. Everyone wants to have good health. It can be tempting to start doing whatever a random podcaster said you should do – especially if the suggestion appears to be easy to do. Before you make any changes regarding your health, you should take a moment to evaluate the health podcast itself.

Is the podcaster selling something?
The podcaster tells you that he or she had bad health – until they started using a particular product. It just so happens that the podcaster can sell some of that product to you. How convenient!

It is entirely possible that the podcaster really did get a good benefit from the product they want to sell to you. Keep in mind that they are giving you a biased review of the product, and that the podcaster is not offering any alternative viewpoints of it.

Is the podcast about health related apps?
These types of health related podcasts are safe. What you are getting is a personal review of an app that you might have been considering purchasing. In general, these types of podcasts cover the functions of each app, and compare similar ones to each other.

In other words, the podcaster is pointing out tools that can help you count calories or track the number of steps you took in a given day. If you are already walking and/or counting calories, the apps the podcaster suggests could be a helpful tool that you can use continue doing something you already made the choice to do.

Is the podcast focused on “one simple trick”?
The health related podcast you listened to states that you can live longer, or look younger, or have more energy, or quickly lose weight, if you do this one special thing. Typically, the “one simple trick” the podcaster suggests is not going to actually improve anyone’s health. These podcasts are the equivalent of the questionable ads that collect at the bottom of less-than-credible websites.

Is the health suggestion too good to be true?
Stay away from health podcasts that suggest that a medication, an essential oil, an herbal remedy, or a special diet, can cure cancer. No matter what that podcaster is discussing (or selling) it cannot possibly do what the podcaster claims it can. Be wary of podcasts that suggest that their advice can cure diseases or conditions that medical science has not found a cure for.

Is the podcaster a health practitioner with the proper certifications?
It is important to note the background of the podcaster who is making health related suggestions on his or her show. Is that person a doctor? Does that person have the proper credentials and certifications? Is the podcaster discussing topics that are within the wheelhouse of what he or she went to school for and is now practicing? If things don’t match up – what you are getting is little more than some random, unqualified, uncertified, person’s opinion about health.


Third-Party Platforms Don’t Care About Your Podcast



SoundCloud LogoAn article about how the Guy Friends Podcast was recently banned from SoundCloud due to copyright claims is getting a lot of attention this week in the podcasting community. It’s a cautionary tale on two fronts about: 1.) Using unlicensed music in a podcast. 2.) Relying solely on a third-party platform to host all of your podcast assets, including your RSS feed.

The first point about unlicensed music is definitely key to the story. But a dozen lengthy blog posts probably wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface on that topic. The second point, relying on a third-party platform, is what I’ll focus on here.

In podcasting terms, we usually think of “third-party platforms” as service providers like web or media hosting companies. To get literal, you (or your podcast) are considered to be the first party. (We’ll skip over the second party for now.) As the first party, anyone you hire or pay for services is then considered to be a third party. And while often times in podcasting, third parties hold important assets like web or media files, they don’t technically own them. Unless otherwise specified, those assets are yours. You own and control them. You’re just renting some space from whatever third-party service(s) you’re using. That makes these third parties into quasi-landlords over your digital domain. Break their rules, and they can (and probably will) evict you with little warning.

In the case of the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers thought they were following the rules by relying mostly on music that itself had been mixed and mashed up by SoundCloud-hosted artists. The show’s producers understood that the songs contained unlicensed samples. But it only stood to reason that, if the DJ’s who remixed those samples weren’t getting takedowns on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast should be safe, too. They were even careful to make sure the songs they picked were licensed under Creative Commons. But these precautions weren’t enough to keep them clear of SoundCloud’s content ID system. After three years of hosting everything (including the show’s RSS feed) on SoundCloud, the Guy Friends Podcast was completely removed from the platform:

You can’t listen to anything we’ve ever created in three-plus years on iTunes either, as the RSS is broken. We face a dilemma many others who work online have dealt with as websites are shut down or reworked; our links are dead, our content is sailing around like ghost ships on the internet.

Again, getting back to the copyright topic, there’s a whole lot that could be written about how SoundCloud handled the removal of the Guy Friends Podcast. But if the producers of the show had taken the time to establish their presence on a domain they owned and controlled, the SoundCloud issue would’ve been a bump in the road instead of a major disaster. Instead, the Guy Friends Podcast went all in on SoundCloud’s platform. Now, the show’s producers are faced with the challenge of rebuilding their audience in a new location, with no direct way to carry over their previous subscribers.

This kind of thing has happened many times before in podcasting’s history. But usually, it occurs when a podcasting platform closes shop on short notice, leaving its users out in the cold. The situation with Guy Friends Podcast is slightly different, as SoundCloud is still in operation. But the outcome is the same.

Throughout the article about the Guy Friends Podcast, the show’s producers lay out a series of points that led them to believe SoundCloud was supportive of their show. But SoundCloud eventually gave them the boot because, in the end, third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast. They can (and will) remove your content if you break their rules.

The best preventative measure against this is to always own and control your own space, especially your RSS feed. Knowing that third-party platforms don’t care about your podcast, ask yourself this question: Do you?


Google is your Friend



As I approach my 11th anniversary in podcasting I want to share a few secrets that gain me new listeners every single day. Having been podcasting since October of 2004, this strategy has been an integral part of my podcast growth throughout the years. It is so effective that I invest nearly $15,000 dollars a year — for paying writers, attending events and more — building my audience through this strategy.

I was a blogger before I was a podcaster, not a great blogger as I always tell folks, but when I started my podcast I probably had 300 to 1,000 people a day who visited my tech site to read my spin on what was happening in the tech world, and that played a major role in my show growth strategy.

I was one of the very early podcasters and quickly grew an amazing audience. Before I was on my 50th episode, my audience was pushing 50,000 listeners per episode. The numbers continued to climb, but at a certain point the growth stagnated.

Meanwhile, I continued to pump out a lot of articles each week on technology, and even in those early days I noticed that Google was driving me more and more page views every month to those articles. Since my blogs’ beginning, my writing team and I have averaged around a 1,000 regular blog articles a year, plus another 200 to 300 interviews from tradeshows, and of course my 100 or so podcast episodes annually.

Today, Google drives 40,000 to 50,000 page views a day to my site. On each and every page of the 15,000 articles on my website there is a big, fat and juicy iOS and Android Subscribe button, and a portion of those daily visitors subscribe to the show. While not all of them stay subscribed, a portion does. That adds up to a lot of new listeners each and every month.

Let’s do a little math. Let’s use a baseline of 20,000 page views. As we know, daily bloggers can get to 20,000 Google Search views in a couple of years. Twenty-thousand page views x 30 days = 600,000 page views. So let’s say that .0025 percent of those visitors subscribed — that’s 1,500 new subscribers. Let’s assume 50 percent do not stay subscribed — that is still potentially 750 new listeners each month or 9,000 new listeners each year. I will tell you my percentages are better than .0025

I will also tell you I have never been in New and Noteworthy, but what I do have is a sponsor that recently celebrated 10 years of continuous sponsorship of my show. The question people ask all the time is how I did that. With new subscribers coming in each month, they help keep my new customer conversions at record levels.

For those of you not worried about new and noteworthy and/or your show rank in iTunes, you have an exceptional opportunity to grow your audience in the long haul by supplementing your podcast content with a written blog post.

Of course some of you need a blog, a platform and your own domain name to do this. For those of you that have your podcasts hosted on a third-party podcast site that is driving your SEO to the gutter because of the other sites on that service, maybe it is time to reconsider your strategy on building your show.

We all know building audiences is not easy, but the pay off can be big. For the first five years, I grinded out all the articles myself. As my show grew and revenue grew I was able in five years to afford to pay writers who I trusted to write for my site. Ninety-percent of the writers on my site today came from my audience.

I still write a handful of articles each month. The Google traffic value from the 15,000 articles on my website and the ongoing new articles weekly drives an incredible amount of new eyeballs to my very visible podcast subscribe link.

Every article on my site is original, no sponsored post, and/or ghost writers. Google and the rest of the search engines love original content. With more than 2,000 interviews on the site, I also have great page rank from those corporate luminaries I have interviewed who have linked to my site from theirs.

Writing one or two articles a week is probably not going to help you. You need to put up a meaningful blog post every single day, except show days. It’s a grind, but it is one of many strategies I use to build audience. Oh, and for all those folks that say blogging is dead, they can just keep thinking that.

If you want to see that strategy in action visit my personal site @ GeekNewsCentral.com