Annual Survey, Year in Review

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If you’d like to participate in our 2nd annual survey, you can go ahead and do so right now (more on this below).

As you may have noticed, we’ve had a bit of a break in January. I’ll be starting up again before long, but in the meantime, it’s time for our annual review and listener survey. Since when do we have an annual review? Since now.

A year ago, I was contemplating what direction to take this podcast. To help with all that cogitating, I asked listeners to fill out a quick questionnaire — not so I could tailor things precisely to everyone else’s preferences, but just so I could have some feedback to inform my thinking.

The results?

  • Seven people responded. Since the survey itself was a whimsical endeavor, I didn’t publicize it very diligently; I think maybe a couple of Facebook and Twitter posts were all the coverage it got, and I never mentioned it in the podcast itself, so I’m kind of surprised it got even that many. All the same, I plan to be a little more comprehensive with this year’s survey (see below).

  • At that time, 86% of respondents said they listen while sitting in front their computer. Most learned about new episodes via their RSS subscriptions, a couple of people watch Twitter for new episodes, and just one person reported using iTunes.

    I’m wondering whether this still holds true, since one of the big appeals of podcasts to me (as a listener) is that you don’t need to be sitting in front of a computer. I mostly listen in my car, on the way to and from work. I’ve changed the options and wording on this question this year to try and learn more.

  • 70% agreed that Howell Creek Radio had influenced their thinking, and 100% said I should definitely not shelve the podcast, which was gratifying.

  • 70% said the pace is definitely not too slow (which surprised me, since it’s something I’m marginally afraid of), and that episodes generally are well thought out (which doesn’t surprise me as much, since I’m always losing fights with my inner editor and erring on the picky side).

  • On the question of whether episodes should be longer, 40% said no, 30% said yes, and 30% had no opinion.

  • What keeps you from recommending the podcast? (This was a “check all that apply” question.) Last year, the biggest reason was “release schedule too irregular,” followed closely by “I like it but I’m afraid few others would ‘get it.’” Only one person gave “not many of my friends listen to podcasts” as a reason.

As thin as that data was (being only seven people, and again I have only myself to blame for that), I found it very helpful. A few of the questions asked for freestyle written answers, and you seven (whoever you are) definitely gave me something to chew on with the thoughts you included there.

The overall message I heard was this: keep doing what you’re doing, but do it more regularly. And as you have probably noticed, I did just that. I released 24 episodes, averaging one every other week, pretty consistently through the whole year. As far as content goes, I didn’t really change direction that much; I pretty much just went with my gut the way I always had before.

Podcast Statistics

For most of the podcast’s history I’ve kept only a loose handle measuring the size of its audience, so what I have is somewhat muddled, but I thought I’d share it here to give you an idea of the podcast’s performance.

Relative to the previous year, 2012 saw a huge increase in traffic. AWStats measured a steady rise MP3 Bandwidth: Jan 2011-Sep 2012; final value 29.82 GB in GB of monthly bandwidth for MP3 downloads from Jan 2011 to Sep 2012. Almost every month in 2012 saw increases of 200-300% over the same month in 2011. Some of this increase is due to more subscribers, but some of it is simply due to having released more episodes than any year since 2008. Perhaps a math nerd can help me figure out a statistical method to determine more precisely how much increase is due to each of those factors.

Analytics for the site over the past year are somewhat complicated because I moved all the MP3 files to Libsyn, a podcast media hosting service. The old server and the new Libsyn service use very different methods of measuring downloads. Here’s the raw data for 2012:

MonthMP3 hits* Bandwidth*Libsyn MP3 Hits
Jan3,222 18.94 GB -
Feb3,808 27.19 GB -
Mar5,280 39.50 GB -
Apr4,225 28.63 GB -
May4,417 25.35 GB -
Jun4,619 28.12 GB -
Jul4,986 32.85 GB -
Aug4,895 31.44 GB -
Sep4,727 29.82 GB -
Oct1,219 5.68 GB 810
Nov795 4.16 GB 491
Dec653 3.25 GB 232
(* - As reported by AWStats on the old server only)

As you can see, downloads seem to have dropped off quite a lot when I moved the MP3 files to the servers at Libsyn. But the apparent drop is probably due mainly to the fact that Libsyn is pickier than AWStats about what it counts as a “download.” I don’t have any way of normalizing the download stats between the two, and since I’ll be using Libsyn’s statistics exclusively going forward, it will unfortunately be hard to compare 2013 with 2012.

The podcast’s Facebook page is up to 51 likes, about half of whom are people I actually know personally in some way. I experimented with Facebook advertising on a small scale twice last year: Basically, I paid $20 on two separate occasions to show the ad to friends of people who had already liked the podcast, which resulted in several thousand impressions and about 10-20 likes each time. It seems like an easy way to spread the word about your podcast, but not necessarily a good way. Facebook pages are a bit of a scam since they don’t show your posts to everyone who has liked your page unless you buy advertising.

At the end of the day, I try not to think too much or too often about the exact audience size. I’m mainly interested in overall trends, and last year was the best year yet by any measure. Also, metrics aside, I’d say adhering more closely to a regular production schedule helped me improve my writing, speaking and production skills as well.

The 2013 survey

So after all that growth and change it seemed a good idea to create a new survey for 2013. As with last year, the survey is anonymous, and I don’t ask demographic questions (sex, locale, age, etc.).

Go ahead and fill it out! I’ll be announcing it in the next episode of the podcast as well.

One idea that I’ve been kicking around is to create a paperback magazine-style edition of each year’s episodes, and include photography and marginal notes and so forth. I’ve been developing my LaTeX typesetting skills over the past year, and would enjoy putting them to use on something like this, but I probably shouldn’t spend time on it unless there’s general interest, so I included a question about it in the survey. I’d probably sell a combo of print and electronic (PDF) issues for $24 per year as part of an annual membership.

This last year I donated money to a couple of the podcasts I enjoy, and it actually felt good. Becoming “a member” allowed me to feel I was more a part of the endeavor. Conversations with a couple of listeners at home and abroad led me to think memberships might not be a bad idea in the case of this podcast, so I’m testing out the possibility. If it becomes obvious the time isn’t right, we’ll shelve the idea for now, but if it would make things more enjoyable for all of us then it would be silly not to offer it.

Finally, I just want to say thanks to everyone for listening and for your kind comments and discussions over the past year.


  1. Arlee Carson

    Just heard your episode about birthing a child at 65 mph, while trying to fix a flat tire without a tire iron. That’s a story that will last for years. Anyway, I did wish to comment about your podcast and offer some feedback as well. By all means please continue your work. While sounding much like an “All Things Considered” episode on NPR, your format is still very original and exceptionally well done. With regard to your growth potential, one thing holds true for all who podcast and vodcast, other than limited potential to make any real money in it, “Consistency will make you or break you.” Audiences regard & demand programing regularity as something to look forward to. One example that comes to mind is kids programing on Saturdays. I so looked forward to seeing “The Monkeys” or “Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp… called upon by the Agency to Prevent Evil (APE), in their ongoing fight against CHUMP.” Yup… I’m an old fart, but for a good laugh look it up or watch some of the scenes on YouTube. So, if you are going to concern yourself with growth potential, then you’ve got to focus on that as part of your overall business plan, by developing and implementing certain behavior patterns that will enhance your likelihood for success. Or, just do like the rest of us out there and wing it when the urge or creative spirit strikes you, and devil may care about the rest. Just for kicks, I am starting a new podcast called; “Box-A-Chocolates, cuz you never know what you’ll get inside.”

    I do know that is a service that has made an arrangement with Clear Channel, who owns iHeart Radio. You can post your podcasts their as well, and they are looking for talent to go on a beta program for podcasts with iHeart. With your talent, I think you should definitely look that up.

    Well that’s my two cents, and I did wish to compliment you on your podcast. So, here’s wishing you fair seas, following winds and gentle tides!


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