Podcasting Revenue

I understand that it costs money to produce a quality podcast, and the most widely available source of that money, is the listener base. After all, if you have 100,000 listeners, and if you can get 1% of your listeners to chip in as little as $1 per episode, you’re still bringing in $1,000.00 each time you release a new mp3 of your podcast.

I also understand that it’s important to sweeten the pot a little bit for the people who might be inclined to contribute. Offering extra goodies and swag depending upon the contribution level.

But I have a message for podcast producers: do not assume that added podcast content (especially unedited versions of interviews that were edited for the general listenership) will serve as an incentive to getting people to donate. For me, at least, it’s a disincentive.

It’s the main reason why I don’t subscribe to the The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, despite my hearty appreciation and approval of the content.

And the reason for it is simple: I don’t have the time to listen to the podcasts I’m already subscribed to. Not if I want to devote the proper attention to the content as I feel it deserves. I’m barely above water as it is, and I have to listen to those podcasts sped-up to the extent that the player allows. (Which makes the “Who’s that noisy” segment of the SGU impossible even if I were actually listening to that show in time to send in my guess…)

About a year ago, I wrote of my growing disenchantment with the Freakonomics podcast. I still don’t think they’re as good as they once were. In the past year, they had a series of multiple episodes talking about the lives of CEO’s, which was marginally interesting but when they sent out bonus episodes every week for more than a month consisting of the unedited interviews they had conducted for the series, I soured on the greater show even more.

This past week, they announced they’re making changes to the show, including offering a premium subscriber benefit of, you guessed it, bonus content. I’m obviously not going to do that. The dedicated listening time simply isn’t there.

I’m going to give them a few more weeks to see if the show gets better, given the changes they’re proposing. If not, I’m going to unsubscribe completely. Then we can see if I have more time to listen to the other podcasts I enjoy…

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Two Editorial Notes

There are two things I need to say about my post the other day about Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel.

First, I don’t know why my iPad’s autocorrect feature changed “Levant” to “Levantine” but I decided to keep it that way. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

Second, the link at the end to the Rapture Ready bulletin board no longer goes where I intended it to go. The moderators of that board merged the original thread with a couple of others talking about the same topic. Here is the merged thread.

Freakonomics is losing its luster 

I remember reading the book Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner when I had to fly to Nebraska for work.   I thought it was an interesting, occasionally fascinating read.  The most controversial aspect of the book is that it postulates that perhaps the reason why violent crime plummeted in the early 1990s, was because of legal abortion starting in the 1970s.   

While I can think of easily a hundred reasons why a woman’s right to choose abortion should be kept legal, I like this argument only because it gives conniptions to those who oppose abortion.   But regardless of that point, I thought it was a fascinating study in looking for real connections that might not be immediately obvious.  

Dubner has been the host of a weekly podcast based upon the book (and its less compelling follow-up, Super Freakonomics) for nearly seven years.  I’ve been listening to the podcast almost since its inception.   And it has had some fun moments in these past seven years: the story of a fake restaurant that exposed the fact that wine “experts” probably don’t know what they’re talking about, extreme foodies who make bizarre meals like turning a whole T-bone steak dinner into something the size of a bean, even getting ahead of some trends, like the service oriented economy and streaming music services.   

A couple of weeks ago, I had a blog entry inspired by an episode of the podcast.  But that episode is a part of a disturbing trend right now.   Four of the last five episodes were not really up to the standards I’ve come to expect of the show.  

It started with the kid gloves with which Dubner interviewed former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.   Whatever else Ballmer is or is not, he’s not a great steward of the companies he has run.   The culture he created at the software behemoth almost ruined the company, and it’s still struggling to get out of that.  The interview completely glossed over his tenure at Microsoft other than to needle Ballmer over his prediction that Apple’s iPhone wouldn’t sell.   

Then came the interview with Steve Hilton.  (Maybe Steve Dubner just likes people who shares his first name…)  I don’t need to rehash my comments from my earlier blog entry but the kid gloves were on again, not just for not calling Hilton on his myopia, but also for not criticizing him for leaving his country in the aftermath of the vote he orchestrated to the results he sought.

I’ll give a pass to the next episode, which was dedicated to the CRISPR gene editing tool.  Insightful and neither overly optimistic nor filled with scare tactics.  We need more science communication like this.  

The next two episodes were both released this past week, and by the end of the second part, I was ready to throw something at Dubner, when he interviewed Charles Koch.  While this interview did grant some insight into why I agree with him and his brother on some issues (most notably immigration) and even why he occasionally pursues tax policies that would cost him more money than he pays now, I can’t accept some of the places where Koch should be held more accountable, despite Dubner’s mysterious silence.  

The first and most glaring part of Koch’s position is how often progress is stymied by “special interests”, both from the left and from the right.   Given the lack of detail he provided in terms of what qualifies as a special interest, I have to assume he meant anyone who doesn’t want what he wants.  We all have interests and we all think we’re special.   I’d like to think my interests (fortification of the wall between church and state, being good stewards of the environment, not allowing the free market to run roughshod over those most in need) aren’t really all that special and, to be blunt, in the best interests not only of me and my family, but also in the best interests of the country.   

The second part is his pride in being opposed to legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley.   This law was passed after the accounting scandals in companies like Enron and WorldCom.   Indeed, all financial regulations that are codified in the law — be they the laws passed in the 1930s under the New Deal, or the regulations on Wall Street in the 1980s, or more recent laws like Sarbanes-Oxley — are there because the people we trusted with our money, were doing things that were, at best, untoward with that money.  

You can argue that that’s true of all laws: they’re generally passed because someone did something they shouldn’t have done even though it was technically (up to that point) legal.    In the state of Delaware, it’s illegal to go fishing on horseback.   You can almost see how that law came about: someone (probably a male-type person) did just that, but the horse got spooked when he caught a fish.   He got injured, possibly losing his fishing pole in the process, and sued for damages and/or a new fishing pole.   The law almost writes itself after that.  

Koch also pointed to HillaryCare as a reason why he first became politically active in the 1990s. While I’m not trying to argue that Hillary’s proposals back then were perfect, I don’t quite understand why health care should be treated as a commodity to the extent that it is.  But that’s the stuff of another blog entry, especially given the current debates on capitol hill.  

Next week’s Freakonomics episode will be a repeat of an episode first aired a couple of years ago.  I hope Dubner turns the ship around on this podcast, since the quality of the shows has not been good of late.  I don’t mind listening to people I disagree with.  I do mind when they’re not challenged on such obvious topics as what we’ve seen with Ballmer, Hilton, and Koch in the past month.   

Yay me!

I could probably write an entire blog entry about the blogs and podcasts I read and listen to regularly. But I’d like to talk about one in specific.

I have been listening to The Skeptics Guide to the Universe for about two years now. It’s a weekly conversational style between five well-known people in the science/skepticism community. (Steven Novella, Jay Novella, Bob Novella, Evan Bernstein, and Rebecca Watson)

One of the regular features of this show, is a listener-response segment called “Who’s That Noisy”. It used to be that they’d play a sound clip of something and challenge their listeners to guess what it is. Late last year, they switched the format from universally sound clips, to also putting math and logic puzzles into the mix as well.

I have never been able to figure out what the sound clips are, so I appreciated the expansion into logic puzzles.

This year, they added a new bit to this segment: if you’re among the correct guesses to the puzzle/sound, they will put your name into a drawing and pick one of those correct guesses at random. At the end of the year, all of the randomly chosen names will be thrown into one final drawing, the winner of whom will get to have a spot on the show itself.

And I got last week’s puzzle correct, so my name was in the drawing. And my name was chosen from among the correct guesses! More news on this to come.

What was the puzzle, you might ask? It’s pretty straightforward:

If I have two children, one of whom is a boy born on a Tuesday, what are the odds that I have two boys?

Scroll down for the answer…

13/27. We’ve got the following permutations for two children:
The first child is the boy born on a Tuesday and the second child is a boy born on any day of the week. (7 possibilities)
The first child is the boy born on a Tuesday and the second child is a girl born on any day of the week. (7 more possibilities)
The first child is a girl born on any day of the week and the second child is the boy born on a Tuesday. (7 more possibilities)
The first child is a boy born on any day of the week other than Tuesday (The Tuesday would have been captured in the first grouping) and the second child is the boy born on a Tuesday. (6 possibilities).
Going through all of those possibilities, there are 27 possible permutations of children where one was a boy born on a Tuesday, of which 13 have two boys…..

Now we just need to see if I win the drawing at the end of the year. We shall see….