Pssst! Listen to this
Barely a day goes by now that my podcasting email doesn’t receive two or three not very enticing emails. One today offered “Lucrative Ventures”. Another wants to convert YouTube content into podcasts in a “network of health and wellness programs”. The third tells me, to paraphrase, that my restaurant menu sucks, which is odd as I don’t have a restaurant.
Those emails are easy enough to flag as spam (although still they keep coming), but while I know that I do not make podcasts in order to attract lucrative ventures or any of the other temptations, the spam does sometimes impel me to ask what do I want from my efforts. This is one of those times, prompted originally by the show’s 10th anniversary.
Back in 2017 I was quite pleased to be included in Eat these podcasts: 12 delicious shows about food history in Salon, even taking that headline as a tacit endorsement. Looking at the dozen today, what stands out is that only four are still standing. Some, of course, have a limited lifespan. Most, though, seem simply to have gone off the boil. There’s no shame in quitting, (no really, there isn’t) but it seems that almost nobody actually says: “Right. That’s enough. It’s been fun while it lasted, but this is the end.” Perhaps I’m the strange one in thinking that they should. Anyway, here I still am. Why?
The thing is, audio is so much more difficult for people to sample quickly and move on. You can’t just glance at a podcast episode and decide you like it. Sure, I can jump through the hoops of finding a brief excerpt, making one of those “engaging” mini videos with a moving waveform (ooh, shiny) and sending it to one of the social silos in the hope of converting a few passing earholes to my cause. Does it work? Not for me, I have to say. For any other podcasters? If so, they’re not saying.
As for paid advertisements, I tried that. Once …
Or does it?
I’m not obsessed by website analytics, because I fear that if I were I would be adjusting the stuff I produce to improve the numbers, and that is not my goal. Still, I do keep an eye out. The tool I use tells me nothing about the individuals who visit, only where they came from,1 what they’re looking for and whether they’ve been in the past couple of days. So I know, for example, that somewhere between 20 and 50 people visit per week specifically to download a transcript. I also know that Twitter has failed to send a single visitor my way in most weeks since the takeover.
That makes me question the value of keeping any kind of presence for the podcast on Twitter. It doesn’t, recently, get much in the way of engagement, nor does it send new people to the website, so what’s the point? Many people fleeing Twitter have moved to Mastodon, and some love it there, but is anyone finding new ears for their podcast through Mastodon? Again, not that I’ve heard.
All of which makes me wonder about the value of tweeting about episodes, except for one niggle. I (used to) use Twitter as a source of information. Maybe other people do too, without actually coming directly from Twitter to my website.
The main thing I miss about the old Twitter or, more precisely, the apps that were able to access the old Twitter, is that I could use them to look at the lists I had made of useful sources of information, which often pointed me to interesting things. Now that the only easy way to read Twitter is to visit Twitter itself, I just cannot cope with not being able to pick up where I left off. I wonder how other people manage.
Twitter, what is it good for? Huh!
Ideally, social media should be good for two things. First, as a place to share information about the topics that interest me, as both giver and recipient, which are not exclusively related to my podcast. Secondly, a place to announce new stuff from the podcast, for recipients who might be interested. I’d be happiest if everybody were doing both of those things by publishing first on their own site and then syndicating elsewhere (POSSE). But, as I said, the numbers tell me that very few people arrive at an episode directly from Twitter. So is it worth it?
As for YouTube, I cannot understand the point. I know, lots of people do put their podcasts on YouTube, but for the love of God, why? I find watching two badly-lit Zoom heads talking to each other less entertaining than watching paint dry, and there’s a good chance that anyone who thinks YouTube podcasts is a good idea also thinks editing is for chumps. Watching two badly-lit Zoom heads who have been edited for audio clarity would be, if anything, even worse. Furthermore, most people, like me, do podcasts on the move, walking or whatever, so they probably aren’t actually watching. In which case, why use video?
Oh, right, I see: because you want people to find it. Because as savvy a commentator as Robin Sloan tells me that “A ground truth of the 21st century: if you want anyone to find it … put it on YouTube”. SRSLY?
If I am not that obsessed by the numbers, why do I feel the need to promote the podcast? Because I would like more people to listen. Because that does offer me a jolt of validation beyond the warm fuzzies of learning something new myself and putting the show out. Because the more people who listen, the greater the chances of someone responding in some fashion; more validation.
I’m encouraged, too, by people much more savvy than me who feel, as I do, that they “put a lot of work into this space and it’s reasonable to ask: Has it mattered, and if so, to whom?” Tim Bray thinks, yes, it does matter, to himself and to other people. And his conclusion about promotion:
“I guess one thing is worth saying: These numbers are up quite a bit since I started posting links on Mastodon.”
Maybe I ought to be heading there too.
Not geography, but whether they came from a search engine or one of a few kinds of referral pages. ↩