Auphonic Goes Free-mium

Auphonic broke the news yesterday that their service is no longer entirely free. While they’ve had a downloadable version of their software available for €69 since February, but for the first time since their launch two years ago, their online service now comes at a price.

Auphonic is an invaluable tool for podcasters. It allows audio files to be automatically leveled, topped and tailed and many other features. So what will happen now it is no longer free?

Well, that depends how much you use it. If your podcast is a weekly release of under 30 minutes, then you probably don’t have to worry about it since the first two hours a month are free for all users.

If you want to use it any more than that, then you’ve got two options (not included the one-time cost to download their software) Either buy recurring credits starting at €9 for nine hours per month, or buy one-time credits that last until you use them up, they start at €9 for five hours.

So what else do we need to know? Well, Auphonic is an incredible service for those that use it, sometimes it’s like a magic button that just tidies up your podcast in no time, and now they need some support, well €1 per hour seems like a pretty reasonable rate and something that most podcasters would easily be able to afford. If you don’t think so then let them know. It’s always tough to gauge how a new product might be accepted into the market so help out the services that help us by dropping them a line.

-Jackson Rogers, OzPodcasts

The Shortest Podcast

Podcasts are such a varied medium. There’s very few rules or conventions defining what a podcast should be. There’s plenty of trends, so many podcasts are improvised group discussion, many have a specific niche to focus on, but the trends in terms of podcast length are all over the place.

Some podcasts are 20 minutes, some 45, some aim for an hour an episode, many go for 90 minutes and there’s even a healthy number that push three, four and five hours per episode. As someone who often finds themselves giving advice to aspiring podcasters, I usually tell new podcasters that they should aim to make their episodes no longer than it takes their listeners to listen to between episodes. This assumes that they’ve got other stuff going on in their day and other podcasts to listen to also. The bigger podcasters like Adam Carolla can afford to put out 90+ minutes five times a week because he has a dedicated fan base, but for your average podcaster, that kind of quantity is going to see their listeners miss episodes because other attentions take priority.

So that’s my rule for the maximum length of a podcast, but lately I’ve been struggling with finding a similar formula for the minimum length of a podcast. In theory it shouldn’t matter, in fact brevity could help you by making your podcast the go-to filler podcast for short listens. This has the flip side risk that your content lacks depth and therefore interest. It’s a tough line to walk, but recently I took the plunge when I fell in love with an incredible app that is driven by short form content.

For most non-Australian readers, if I mention the Omny personal radio app, you might not be familiar with it, they’re still growing and are slowly launching in new international markets. It comes from Melbourne-based 121cast, the makers of SoundGecko. Omny is a player that scrolls between short podcasts (under 10 minutes) music from your own library, music streaming services and also reads out events from your calendar, weather reports and more. All of this combines to make a highly personal radio experience.

When I discovered this app, I was preparing to launch my short-form podcast The Forgetting Curve. I later made an edited version of another of my podcasts to fit it in with the Omny format. I was nervous at the time about stepping outside of my 30-45 minutes an episode comfort zone, but with a tool such as Omny there, basically providing a shuffle button for podcast content, we have found the way to make short podcasts competitive with longer content.

If Omny is not yet available in your local App Store, then get in touch with them and tell them you’re keen to try it. I’d also highly recommend experimenting with the length of your podcasts. Edit a highlights episode regularly, or just segment your content to allow your listeners to fit you in here and there. Give your audience options and see what kind of length they prefer.

by Jackson Rogers

Lessons Learned from A Failed Podcast Event

This week, I hosted a podcast event. Australia’s a big country and many of the podcasters can be spread far and wide. One of my main goals in running is to give podcasters a reason to come together and build a community of Australian podcasters. On Wednesday I held a trivia night for podcasters and podcast fans to get together, have a bit of fun, and hopefully, make some new friends. This is only the second time I attempted this, so we booked a small room in a bar, we put tickets online through Eventbrite and we sold about half of them. It’s a small room though, so it feels full pretty quickly.

Three people showed up.

Needless to say, I was disappointed. There were four people on the stage including myself, there were three people in the audience. We also had four walk-ins who collectively left after 20 minutes. I was ready to pack up and go home half way through, but everyone convinced me to push on, if nothing else, we were recording and making a great podcast for those who didn’t make it. I was gutted, but they were right. We carried on, we took turns on stage, everyone got involved, everyone had fun. As far as the venue is concerned, the night was very probably a failure. As far as my goals were concerned, I think there’s a lot of positives and a lot to be learned for anyone thinking of hosting their own live podcast.

It’s not about you. Although I didn’t intend for my event to be “The OzPodcasts Show”, that’s probably how it looked from my promotional material. The goal for the night was for local podcasts and local podcast fans to get together, have some fun, communicate and collaborate. On that front, for the people that came, it worked perfectly. The feedback I got was that I was the only person who understood this goal. I had billed it as “Pod vs. Pod” where two teams representing two podcasts compete in a trivia competition. Which it was, but the community element of the night, the driving force, was absent from my promotion. Instead of trying to entice an audience with promises of an epic podcast battle, I should have made it about the audience.

Even if your podcast is popular enough that you can draw a crowd on the promise of a live recording, there’s still a valuable lesson in engaging your audience. Imagine if you get up on stage, do your podcast as normal and go home, why would anyone come out to watch your lips moving? Make the audience a part of the experience as much as possible. Take the opportunity to make new friends. The event isn’t to feed your ego or boost your fan base, you’re there to entertain the audience, the ego boost is just a bonus.

Balance is key. Having run this event twice now, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that getting the structure and timing right is a tricky job. The first time I had a few performer constraints that messed with my run sheet and threw off the dynamic of the night, this time I tried to be tighter on my rules, but if anything I went too far. The open, collaborative nature of the event called for serious finesse in terms of structure. As the host, I wanted to drive things forward, but I also recognised that if the room collectively decides to take the discussion in a different direction, I shouldn’t force them back on to my predetermined path, I should pull my path closer to what the audience wants. This isn’t going to be true for every event, but in structuring the event, think about what you’re trying to achieve and write your run sheet accordingly.

Plan for the outcome, not the input. The other lessons all lead back to this. All my effort and planning went into what the event would be, how it would work and who would be involved. Although I always had the community outcome in the back of my mind, I never connected the dots. My promotional material missed the mark, because I described what the audience would see, instead of what they’d be talking about on the way home. My schedule was off because I was planning for what my role was, instead of planning what the audience wanted to hear.

Harrison and Phillipe on stage.
Harrison and Phillipe on stage.

Here’s my advice to you, should you be planning a live podcast event: start with the outcome. When you audience goes home, how do you want them to feel? What do you want them to be talking about? Work towards that goal. I missed that step in putting on my podcast event, but I have learned my lesson for next time. So I didn’t get the audience numbers I wanted, but everyone had fun and made some new podcast friends. Two cool people that came and are worth checking out are Phillipe Perez, and Harrison Engstrom. Follow them on Twitter and check out their respective podcasts.

Anyone in Melbourne, Australia in late June should keep their ear to the ground. I’m taking the lessons learned from this event and applying them to another event next month. Follow @OzPodcasts on Twitter for more details about this and other news from the Australian podcast community.

-Jackson Rogers

Podcasting Will Never Die

Podcasting will never die. That’s a bold statement to open with, but in it’s true to say the soul of podcasting is a hardier beast than many give it credit for. There’s been an awful lot of talk lately about the patent trolls threatening the future of podcasting, but before that all the podcast chatter centered around the three words “podcasting is back”. The die-hard podcast fans, myself included, will tell you it never left, but it’s fair to say that podcasting is bigger now than ever before.

So why are we threatened by patent litigation? If it came to pass that syndication of audio through a single URL, i.e. an RSS feed, was a violation of a patent and infringements should either be ceased or be prepared to pay the price, would this spell the death of podcasting? Take a moment to imagine all the podcasters out there right now. Imagine the passion it takes to record a regular podcast for little-to-no gain and more often than not, at a personal loss. Imagine the industries that are seeing a whole new market for their microphones, headphones, software and apps. Imagine the audience that has seen a whole new content stream from their favourite creators mouths to their ears spring up with rich, regular content. Now turn all of that off.

Just take a moment to think of those passionate podcasters, who tomorrow are unable to distribute their podcast to their fans. Imagine those microphone manufacturers who saw that potential industry disappear overnight. Think of the world where lovers of on-demand audio, are suddenly left without their beloved voices and their preferred medium. Now the real test, imagine a world when one of those people, cut off from podcasting as we know it, doesn’t find a way around it.

The problem of the patents is a uniquely American phenomenon. Although I will admit that I would be inconvenienced a little by the worst case scenario, the patent would not affect podcasters operating outside of the US. Theoretically, based on past events, anyone podcasting from inside the US, using a non-US host could still fall afoul of the troll, but the most obvious workaround for the rest of the world is to switch to a hosting provider based internationally (which would be a boom for whoever is first at bat).

There’s way more to it than that though. Although I love to sing the praises of Australian podcasts, I won’t pretend that the biggest producers and consumers do not reside somewhere between the Pacific and the North Atlantic. So, what do all the American podcasters do? Well, find a way around it. I’m not going to pretend to understand on what basis the podcast patent is supposed to restrict usage, but let’s look back a decade or so and you tell me what podcasting was then. Go back a couple more and tell me your experience of the internet. Look how much it’s changed in such a short time. Do you think podcasting will be unchanged ten years in the future? Try 20 years, will you even recognise podcasting to be anything like the delivery method we use today?

Not to say that we shouldn’t fight the patent troll, obviously many people and their business would be hurt by an unwelcome decision, preventing that is a worthy cause. It should be considered, however, that should we end up with victory, how long will we continue to use the disputed medium?

A conversation I had with some Australian podcasters recently was discussing the dilemma of breaking your podcast’s release schedule. In theory, with the syndication format, this won’t be an issue, as your listeners don’t need to tune in at a certain time, they’ll automatically receive your content when it’s published, but in practice that’s not how it works. Any podcasting coach will tell you to be regular and be consistent, you will create a habit in your listeners and you will grow your audience. So then, the syndication is not the factor that we desire. It’s the ease of access for our audience.

Take, for example, YouTube. Which bears little resemblance to podcasting in it’s delivery method, but it’s far-and-away more popular. Why? Because your average podcast listener could care less about RSS feeds and the details of the patent that is being fought for so strongly, they just want to hear your voice. As long as you are producing quality content then you will be heard. That is why podcasting will never die. You can take away our RSS feeds, but you can never take our content. Podcasting will find a way. As long as there’s a microphone and someone who wants to listen to your opinions, there will always be podcasting.

Joshua Liston, a serious name in Australian podcasting has recently launched his sixth concurrent podcast, Social Audio Think Tank, exploring why content is king and the tech stuff should come second. Full disclosure, I’m a co-host, but he’s the driving force behind it, so check out his other podcasts as well.

By Jackson Rogers of OzPodcasts.

54 Seconds (The Wadsworth Constant)

Podcasting is part of a strange realm of content where consumer engagement lives somewhere between the extremes of reading and watching. There’s whole books that could be written about the differences between these three mediums, and in fact I wrote a thesis about it a few years ago, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that reading requires more use of the imagination, watching is quicker to engage and listening lies somewhere in between those two poles.

On the imagination scale, audio sits in a nice middle ground where our voices are doing half the work and the listener does the other half, the visual half, by themselves. This is a great advantage of audio, where it allows consumers to drive a car, exercise, and generally go about their business while enjoying your content. On the engagement scale, audio can often be left behind. The instant visual impact provided by video content allows video producers to hook their viewers and move straight into their content. Except the immediacy of video, where a title card can be all the introduction the audience needs, is rarely taken advantage of. This phenomenon of long, unnecessary introductions in online videos gave rise to what is known as The Wadsworth Constant.

Named for the handle of the Reddit user who introduced the concept, the Wadsworth Constant holds that the first 30% of any online video is easily skipped without missing any important content. YouTube even introduced a URL modifier (append &wadsworth=1 to the end of any YouTube URL) that instantly skips the first 30% of any video. Of course it isn’t true for every video, sometimes you may need to jump back for context, but try it out, you’d be surprised just how effective the constant is.

The Wadsworth Constant is a reliable way to skip the unnecessary introduction portion of most online videos, but it’s also an effective rule in other mediums. If we apply the Wadsworth Constant to this article, then we start at “jump” in the last sentence of the previous paragraph, skipping the context and getting right in to the take-away from this article…

What lessons can we learn from this when applying it to our podcasts? We’ve already learned that audio content is a great stimulant for the imagination and when listeners are engaged, the imagination element is a great tool to make your content more intimate and personal, but our problem is how to get over that initial barrier of getting the audience to listen.

Podcasting has the built in method of serialisation; releasing regular content to create a habit in the audience, ensuring that you don’t have to guide your audience over that hump every episode. This doesn’t help us get new listeners though, and if we get too reliant on this, it can even lose us our subscribers. One of my favourite podcasts is slowly increasing the advertising content they play at the top of the show. Obviously I’m happy to tolerate a few advertisements for free, daily content, but when there’s 180 seconds of advertising played, even before the intro theme is heard, it can be easy to switch to another podcast that doesn’t have that kind of barrier. If I were a new listener it would be even easier for me to turn off. This isn’t an article about advertising, so let’s not go any further into that, but the lesson to be learned is that front-loading your show with advertising, introductions, theme music and other secondary content can be a barrier to entry for your audience.

How fast can you get from the audience pressing play on your podcast to hearing the content they downloaded your show to listen to? A theme song can be a good device for framing your show and putting your audience in a familiar mindset for your podcast, but it’s a hangover from old media content where it could signal the transition from one show to the next. In the stand-alone podcast world, do you need it? Advertisers obviously pay a premium to be read at the top of the show, where they are guaranteed to be heard, but if you’re loading three minutes of sponsors before a single second of content, how can you be sure your listeners aren’t skipping forward, or worse, switching off? Advertisers won’t keep paying those premiums if you don’t deliver your audience effectively.

If your podcast runs for more than ten minutes it’s likely that 30% is over-reaching. For an hour show the applied constant would mean that the first eighteen minutes are disposable. If you have eighteen minutes of fluff and filler at the start of your podcast then you should have very grave concerns about the quality of your content. Let’s go back to the examples I gave earlier, of the podcast that loaded three minutes of advertising at the top of the show. If we apply the Wadsworth Constant to this example, we get 54 seconds that is not needed. Can you get to your main content within 54 seconds of the show starting? Can you have your advertising, theme music and introductions completed in under a minute? If you do you might find your audience quicker to engage with you. Forcing yourself to skip the fluff will also help you tighten up your show. Don’t forget the Wadsworth Constant can be applied multiple times. Applying it to this paragraph three times discards everything before the salient question, “Can you get to your main content within 54 seconds of the show starting?”

Try it out and see if you can streamline your podcast.

If you want to hear further discussion on this, I discussed it on my podcast with Joshua Liston, Social Audio Think Tank. If you want to know more about the Wadsworth Constant then you can read the genesis of the term from Know Your Meme.

Written by Jackson Rogers (OzPodcasts)

Jackson Rogers Intro

My name is Jackson Rogers. I’m a podcast veteran of about eight years. I’ve produced a number of my own podcasts in that time, but I’ve really stepped it up in the last year. During this time I’ve also been making podcasting my day job, working as a podcast producer, doing everything from creating content, recording hosts, editing audio and all the other things that go into making podcasts for new media-savvy businesses and individuals.

I’m also a champion of Australian podcasting. Six months ago I started a website to help unify and grow the Australian podcast scene and it’s been eye-opening just how many great Australian podcasts there are and what a friendly community we have in Australia.

I’m really looking forward to contributing an Australian perspective of podcast news and views and I’m really excited to be part of this website.