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Author Topic: EP Metacast #3  (Read 51279 times)

SFEley

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on: March 06, 2008, 03:23:36 PM
EP Metacast #3

The third “state of the podcast” address.

Closing music is “Ya Famous?” by George Hrab. Used with standing permission. Be sure to check out the Geologic Podcast as well.


Moderator: Steve had posted the text several days before this went on the feed.  Steve's original post and the following discussion are below.  Please add your thoughts.




I wrote this on Sunday and Monday, recorded it on Wednesday, but things keep happening and I haven't had time to edit and post it yet.  I'm hoping I get a chance to get it on the feed this weekend while I'm out of town.

But since I suspect the people who are dedicated enough to follow the forums are more likely to be interested in what this contains, I'm putting the text here early.  Comments welcome, of course.



Hello, and welcome to the third Escape Pod metacast!   I'm Steve Eley -- and yeah.  It's been a while.  If you're not familiar with the metacast idea, I don't blame you; the last time we did one of these was May 2006.  This isn't an Escape Pod episode, there's no story attached to this; I just want to fill you in on the state of the podcast, the state of the _business_, Escape Artists Inc., and, to a certain extent, the State of the Steve.  This isn't entertainment of the sort you're used to getting from us, and there's no quiz at the end, so if you skip this, that's totally fine.  I have to warn you that this metacast, compared to the others, is really long.  I also use some profanity here, and if that shocks you and disappoints you, you probably should move right on and maintain your high opinion of me.

Still here?  All right. 

Let's talk about where we are right now.  The last time I did one of these, Escape Pod had completed one year of podcasting.  I was overjoyed that we were getting average download counts of a few thousand.  Now it's almost two years later.  People are talking about us, we've continued to get some good press, we've been featured on iTunes a number of times -- including their Best of 2007 list -- and based on the statistics from Libsyn, our hosting provider, our average download count within the first two weeks of an episode release is just a shade over 18,000. 

I want to put this in context.  18,000 downloads per episode.  According to the 2007 circulation statistics published in _Locus_ Magazine, that's slightly ahead of the monthly circulation for _Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine_, and considerably higher than the circulation for _The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction._  _Analog's_ still way ahead of us -- but unless there's an electronic market with a larger download count that isn't reporting it, or a foreign language publication, I'm pretty comfortable putting forward the hypothesis that Escape Pod is the *second largest market* for short science fiction.  We're not #2 in podcasts, or #2 in online 'zines -- I believe we're #2, period.  And we're still growing, with more subscribers to our feed every month.  I'm not trying to be overproud or anything, but for a free podcast that started as a spare-time hobby and is still fundamentally a volunteer effort, I think that's pretty impressive.   And it is thanks more to you than to me.  We've put very little into marketing, so if it weren't for all of you telling your friends, and making blog posts, and giving our CDs as gifts, our growth would have been stagnant all these years. 

Pseudopod's done just as well, and much better for its genre.  The horror podcast is getting between 7 and 8 thousand downloads per episode, which -- again, to the best of my knowledge and published circulation statistics -- is *way* ahead of any other dedicated horror market.  It's the genre leader, and I think it's safe to say we're doing more to expand the audience for literary horror than any other current publication.  If you haven't listened to Pseudopod yet, and disturbing stories are up your alley, you really should check it out.  Ben Phillips and Alisdair Stuart are doing an incredible job presenting all the flavors of horror today, and I _love_ Al's outros.

And if you've been following the forums or checked out the Web site for it, you know that PodCastle, our new fantasy fiction podcast, finally has a solid, definite launch date.  That's April 1st.  And yes, we knew the irony of picking April Fool's Day after all my announcements that it would hit last fall.  But it's not a joke.  Our chief PodCastle editor, Rachel Swirsky, has done an incredible job getting everything organized, and with co-hosts Ann Leckie and Summer Brooks and a few months' worth of stories already lined up, the pieces are all in place.  We'll be debuting with a classic story from Peter S. Beagle -- yes, the author of _The Last Unicorn_ -- and we have other major authors and some new names already in production.  Rachel's just as dedicated to bringing you the full variety of fantasy fiction today as EP's been doing for science fiction and Pseudopod's done for horror, and this launch is going to be _incredible._  You can go to PodCastle.org to keep up with developments, and we'll have the feed ready for you to subscribe to very soon. 

Finances, I want to talk about in two parts: present and future.  I can't give you exact dollars and cents right now, but it's not due to unwillingness to disclose.  It's actually because I've been so far behind on tracking it that we haven't yet closed the books on last year, and I honestly don't know our bottom line.  I'm rushing to get a handle on it myself so we can file our taxes.  I will say that on the strength of your donations, especially the fewscore monthly donors, we've been breaking even and then some.  It hasn't been sufficient to pay me anything I could call a salary, much less anybody else, and we've been holding our story rates steady for more than a year now.  But we have had enough donations growth to launch PodCastle with confidence, at the same rate that Escape Pod pays, $100 per full-length story, despite the zero audience size all these months.  We're also starting to develop more sponsorships and advertising.  You've heard the ads for Audible.com on Escape Pod and Pseudopopod this past month, and later in March we've got a really exciting sponsorship for a book launch from an author you've probably heard of.  Those deals are a really good sign for the future, but they're not covering all our costs right now.  Today we need your support more than ever, and I want to make sure that donors get, frankly, more appreciation than I've been showing this past year or so.  Again, I'll talk about that in a few minutes.  First, I need to digress.

I need to talk about Steve Eley for a bit.  I know I do that all the time in my intros anyway, but this is going a bit deeper.  If you don't care about my personal life -- and it's not my expectation that any of you should care -- you can skip forward about five minutes.  But this does matter, it's relevant to Escape Pod, and some of you will be wondering why I've been so, so far behind on e-mail, and donation thank-yous, and responding to story submissions.  Or where the flash fiction went, or why I haven't been active on the forums, et cetera.  More than a few have e-mailed me to say that you're worried about me, and you deserve some explanation.

The short answer is that my life's been a mess.  I haven't just been behind on Escape Artists, I've been behind on everything, and doing very badly at setting priorities that would meet any goals at all beyond scraping by.  It had escalated to the point of crisis, personal and professional.  By the beginning of February I was on the brink of getting fired, my relationships were in trouble, and I'd started to view this as a mental health problem.  Now, this isn't some after-school special about alcohol or drug addiction, or anything else with clear clinical edges; it would almost be easier to talk about if I had something I could point to like that, but it's really just been me operating against my own success.  I know that doesn't make me a unique tragic snowflake among humankind, but realizing it all at once can still be pretty disturbing.

I freaked a lot of people out the other day in my feedback comments on EP144, "Friction."  I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention.  I said narrating it was the one good thing I did on the worst day of my life, and a lot of you left comments worrying about me.  The backstory's this: I haven't told this to anyone yet, but initially there wasn't going to be an Escape Pod that week.  Time was one of my big stress points, and I was _so_ close to getting fired, and so on the edge of everything, that I was about to announce I was putting Escape Pod on a biweekly schedule or even on hiatus until I sorted things out and got my own stuff back on a simpler track.  That was before the shit really hit the fan.  February 6th, the day after my birthday, was that worst day I mentioned.  That morning I lost my job.  Best job I've ever had.  One of those startup opportunities with really rewarding software work and a good product.  The people who are still there, I honestly do believe, will probably be millionaires in a couple years' time.  That was what I lost, and it was my own damn fault.  I didn't deliver on promises that would have been very easy for me to meet.  I lost much more than that that day -- one of the best personal relationships I've ever had, and a lot of my self-esteem.  I'll spare you the soap opera details.  At the end of the day what I had left, the things important to me that no one could take, were my wife, my kid, and Escape Pod.  I'm not going to talk about how things went with Anna; knowing I'd disappointed her hurt more than anything else, but she's been incredible.  She's the best part of my life, the most supportive partner anyone could ever wish for, and that's all I'll say. 

But I realized that, with so much else gone, I couldn't skip that week's Escape Pod.  I couldn't lose this too, not when going for nearly three years without missing a week was one of the few things left I was still proud of.  So I went down into the studio and picked "Friction" out of our inventory and I read it.  That's why it was the one good thing I did that day.  I hoped that story in particular would keep me grounded; that talking about long life and giving oneself to goals no one had achieved before would get me through that week.  And it did.  There was no intro or outro because I had no energy for them; I had nothing good to say.  But we got the story out.  And that matters.  It would be an overstatement to say that "Friction" saved this podcast, but it definitely saved me from making things worse than they were.  As a psychology professor, I thought Mr. McIntosh would like to know that.

Anyway.  That was the bottom point, the kick in the ass I needed.  Things have been getting better since then.  I'm getting good help, including psychiatric help -- and if you think telling _that_ to a few thousand people is easy, you're mistaken.  I'm starting to get a lot more organized, and by the way I did get work again, so please don't worry about me starving with my family in the streets.  I'm back to contracting, with flexible enough hours that I can keep working on Escape Artists activities.  I'm simplifying out the things I don't really _need_ in my life, and I'm recognizing what's important.  And on my list of "important," Escape Pod, Pseudopod, and PodCastle are very high.  What we're doing here -- what *I'm* doing here -- matters.  And, honestly?  It deserves more of my time, and more respect, than I've been giving it.  This podcasting stuff isn't a get-it-done-at-3-AM-the-night-before hobby for me anymore.  It's time to embrace it for what it is: a major force in the science fiction genre, a positive part of many people's lives, and something that, again without being overproud, something I'm _really_ good at.  It's time, if you'll excuse me, to be a fucking professional about this.

So that brings us back to the metacast proper, and back to business.  What it comes down to is this: aside from working on myself, my primary goal for this year is to build Escape Artists, Inc. as a business.  One that can sometime soon make me a living, and one that can pay our other editors, and hosts, and our production team, enough to justify the hard work they're putting into this.  (You ask, "What production team?"  Keep patient, I'll get to that.)  I don't think anyone's going to get rich off of a science fiction podcast, and that's okay.  If making millions was one of my driving goals, I could have made different choices anytime between 12 years and 3 weeks ago.  What I want is to keep bringing people stories, and to have the freedom to make that the central vocation of my life instead of a side project.  The way to do that is to start treating it as my vocation right now.  Software development still pays the bills, but if you ask me what my *job* is, starting today, I'll tell you I'm President of Escape Artists, Inc.  And that I tell stories.

I have a plan.  It's a concrete plan.  I have a list of actions to be performed, and these actions will make us a viable profit-making company with employees instead of a line on my tax return between the end of this year and sometime in 2009.  That won't affect the content you're used to getting at all; Escape Pod will continue to sound like Escape Pod, Pseudopod will still have its style, and PodCastle's gonna knock your socks off.  What it means is that we can keep doing this, as long as we have writers and an audience.  I'd like to kick off a fourth podcast, and a fifth one.  We have ideas.  But we have to start from where we are.

My plan needs your help.  People have been writing me for years, saying I love what you're doing, and how can I help.  I've never really had answers before, because delegating is scary and requires more organization than I've had.  But if you want to help, now I know what you can do.  Talking about that will be most of the rest of this metacast.  I.e., we've just gotten to the meat.

The first thing you can do is to continue supporting us, if you're so inclined, with your donations and your word-of-mouth.  One reason it's taken us this long to really get serious about sponsorships is because I haven't wanted to jeopardize our donation base with anything that couldn't replace it.  I've turned down a lot of smaller advertising deals, or ones that I didn't think would appeal to this audience, partly for reasons of creative vision and partly because I felt they'd hurt us more than they'd benefit us.  I know if I tuned into a show with a lot of commercials, I'd assume they were doing all right and they didn't need my money.  Someday I'd like that to be true for Escape Artists.  My utopian vision for all our podcasts would be to fund them entirely with book sponsorships, being paid by publishers to tell you about good books that, if you're attracted to our stories, you'd probably like to know about anyway.  (And by the way, if you _are_ an author or a publisher with a book you'd like us to help you promote, do drop me a line at editor@escapepod.org.  We're building a media kit right now and I think we can offer you the kind of publicity no one else can.)  But we're a long way from basing our business on that -- really, we're just getting started --and we still have costs.  This Audible deal was okay, and the book promotion we've got in a couple weeks is even nicer, but we need your donations as much as ever. 

I know we've sucked in the past about acknowledging donations -- frankly, all of you who've *ever* donated deserve more appreciation than we've given.  That's something we're changing too.  We're building some tools for donor incentives, and to make donors a more central part of our business.  One problem Pseudopod's always had is that they get fewer donations from their site than Escape Pod does.  I believe this is because people assume that donating to one podcast is really donating to both of them.  And you're right, but we haven't been tracking that well.  And it's been nigh impossible to determine whether Pseudopod's breaking even.  Throw PodCastle into the mix and you have chaos.

So we're going to fix that.  Sometime between now and April 1st, you're going to see a change in our donations link.  It won't go straight to PayPal; instead you'll get a very simple form where you get to earmark which podcasts you actually listen to and want to support.  So you get to split your donation, and fund the things you like and not the things you don't.  We'll have some cool incentives, like PodDisc credit and prestige on the forums.  But the big, *big* incentive -- and if you're on our monthly subscriber plan or if you've ever donated in the past, you'll get an e-mail and be grandfathered into this -- is that active supporters will get custom feeds with early access to episodes.  All of our podcasts, you'll get to hear at least three days before the rest of the world does, maybe more.  Pseudopod and PodCastle are already running ahead of schedule, and, well, I'm racing to catch up with Escape Pod.  We're extending that to you as a thank you for making those episodes possible.  Is that cool?  I think that's cool.

I want to make clear.  This is *not* premium content.  We're never going to do stories that only donors get to hear, or charge you two bucks to download an episode, or anything like that.  Ever.  No Escape Artists property will *ever* release a story that isn't Creative Commons licensed.  I feel very, very strongly about this.  People have tried to talk me into charging for our stories, said I could make a lot more money right now if I did.  Hell, they might be right.  There's 18,000 subscribers to Escape Pod right now.  If I switched to charging a dollar an episode and 2,000 of you paid it and stayed subscribed, I could make this my full-time job right now.  At the cost of pissing off 16,000 people.  I will never do that.  I'd close this business down first.  Our mission is to expand the audience for science fiction, and we can't do that if our best stories are locked up behind a payment barrier.  I also want to prove that a free, donor-driven podcast can financially succeed -- and so far we've made a good showing of it.  So...  If you want to help, the first thing you can do is, if you've got the resources, make a voluntary donation.  Decide for yourself what our stories are worth, donate based on the value to you, and help us keep our content free and unencumbered.  If you ask my opinion, I'd say the $5 a month plan is the best thing for us; it lets us budget a bit more reliably, and for several hours of audio each month it's a pretty good deal.  It also gives you permanent early access and the best incentives as we roll them out.  Again, that's just if you ask me.

The second thing you can do, if you'd like to help, is to help us get the word out.  Apart from asking people to blog about us -- which, by the way, has been a phenomenal success; Technorati says we have 2,813 blog links back to us, which blows my mind -- anyway, except for that, we haven't really had much of a marketing plan.  I want to change that too.  I'm currently sitting on several thousand Escape Pod bookmarks.  These are beautiful, with our exploding spaceship banner logo on the front, and some descriptive text on the back.  I'd like to send these bookmarks out into the world where people who like science fiction can find them.  My request to you: if you work at or frequent a good independent bookstore, or game or comic shop, or coffee shop, or if you volunteer at an SF convention -- if you have a place where you *know* you can get permission to put these bookmarks out for people to find them, send me your address at editor@escapepod.org.  Let me know where you can place them, and within the next couple weeks I'll send you a good sized pile of bookmarks.  Of course you can keep a few for yourself too, but it's my hope that you'll follow the spirit of this and use them to let other people know about us.  What you *can't* do is just drop them off at Borders or Barnes & Noble or your local library -- most big chains, and most public buildings, have rules against outside advertising, and so it really needs to be someplace where you know the people in charge personally and they can give you permission.  If you can help, please contact me.  We also have Pseudopod bookmarks, which look even cooler, but much fewer of them.  If this works out well then we'll do it for Pseudo as Phase 2.  But if you have something in mind where promoting Pseudopod would make sense and Escape Pod wouldn't, let me know and I can send you those.

The third thing that some of you can do to help is a bit narrower in focus.  We've got three podcasts now, and with all of them we're striving for professional audiobook levels of editing and production quality.  It's fun work and it's worth it, but the sound editing takes *a lot* of time each week.  For about three years now I've done 100% of the technical audio work on Escape Pod alone, and Ben and Al have been busting their ears on Pseudopod.  It doesn't have to be this way.  This work can be distributed.  There are a number of you who have audio editing skills just as good as ours -- maybe better -- with your own podcasts or with other projects.  What I'd like to do is recruit a production team, a number of you who have the tools, the technical skill, and the patience to clean up sound, edit raw narrations, lay down music by our standard guidelines and assemble the shows.  I'd like to get enough people so that we can pool the labor and nobody has to sweat it every single week.  This _will_ be a compensated position.  This isn't glamorous work; we have people lining up to narrate for us, but oddly, nobody's beating down our door to ask to edit sound.  So we'll pay for it on a per-episode basis.  Not a lot; we're not talking rent money,  we're talking beer money, but you'll also get credit for the work and a plug for your podcast or whatever else you'd like to plug in the outros.  If you think you can do this and it sounds like fun, drop me a line at editor@escapepod.org and let me know what sort of experience you have, what software you use, and anything else you think I should know.  We'll work together on the rest of the environment, and hopefully get a managed team going within the next month or two. 

...And that _finally_ wraps up everything I had to say in this metacast.  I told you it'd be a long one, so I won't draw out the goodbyes here; once again, thank all of you for listening and for your support so far.  It's been a great time so far, and from here on it'll only get better. 

I'm going to close out with a song from one of my favorite musicians and podcasters, George Hrab.  Which song of his to play at the end of this was a tough one for me, but we're going to go with "Ya Famous?" from his album Interrobang.  You can find more of George's music at geologicrecords.net -- and make sure to check out the Geologic Podcast, it's one of the funniest ones on my iPod.  We'll be back on Thursday with our regular story.  Until then -- ah, you know what I'm going to say.  Same thing I always say.  Have Fun.


« Last Edit: March 11, 2008, 06:51:20 PM by Russell Nash »

ESCAPE POD - The Science Fiction Podcast Magazine


Chodon

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Reply #1 on: March 06, 2008, 03:54:26 PM
I'm glad you're okay.  I'm glad you're back.  Things have a way of sorting themselves out the way they're supposed to. 

It makes me really happy to hear about the more organized plan for EP, PP, and PC.  Also, it's great to hear the successes you have had with the 'casts.  I know they have brought a lot of joy to my life.  Donating is one of those things I've always said I'll get around to.  I'm going to get around to it sooner now...if that's worth anything. 

I realized how important your podcasts are to me when I got my ipod swiped off my desk at work and couldn't listen to/from work.  Radio sucks.  Even my CDs suck compared to your podcasts.  They transform my commute from a mundane drive for 35 minutes to a fun adventure.  I got a new player yesterday just for podcasts and I have missed it so, so much.  Thanks for keeping us up to date on the happenings and I hope you realize there are a lot of people out there you haven't even met that you have had a positive effect on their life. 

Those who would sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither.


DKT

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Reply #2 on: March 06, 2008, 06:31:28 PM
Wow.  Those statistics really are amazing, Steve.  I knew you guys had a pile of subscribers, but I didn't realize you'd done that well.  Like Chodon, I'm also grateful for having an interesting story I probably never would have heard to listen to at least twice a week now on my otherwise boring commute.  I'm looking forward to three (or five?!?!) times now :)

I'm glad you're doing well and that you're taking this step into making Escape Artists the number 1 distributor of short genre fiction.  I'll ping you about anything I can do to help.


CammoBlammo

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Reply #3 on: March 06, 2008, 10:57:06 PM
Wow. Thanks for your time and honesty, Mr President! A few random thoughts come to mind, so let me try to sort them out.

I'm glad to hear your life's getting itself back on track. Like many concerned listeners (hey --- 18,000 downloads makes you a celebrity!) I was worried about what exactly you'd done to muck things up so much. I'm glad to hear that while your other priorities have been a little confused, your wife and son are still at the top of the tree. I think I speak for many when I say that we would be happy to have a break from Escape Pod if it started to impinge on your family's wellbeing. Just on that --- when do we get another geek dad intro? :)

I'm very impressed with what you have been able to do with this podcast. I hate to say it, but you're right --- a podcast this mature needs to have more stable funding. I'm glad to see you state the principles upon which you're not going to waver. On the advertising thing, though, please remember that many of your listeners live outside the US. You have featured one or two sponsors in the past, but they've made me hungry for a product that I will probably never be able to purchase, at least practically.

Oh well, other thoughts come to mind, but they're all along the same lines --- glad to see things are improving, and I'm looking forward to the next metacast.

Cheers!



sayeth

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Reply #4 on: March 07, 2008, 12:25:38 AM
Thank you so much, Steve, for bringing us great stories every week. I don't have money to give - I'm in some financial troubles myself - but I know I've turned at least one friend into a fan.  I've been blogging about Escape Pod too, so at least one of those Technorati links is from me.  I wish I could do more.

I'm confident that Escape Pod will turn into a reliable revenue stream for you. I believe that people who do something well and fill a big enough niche will be rewarded. You're consistently the best of any fiction podcast and I think that there are enough fans and potential fans out there to make you a rich man someday.

Free Listens Audio Reviews: www.freelistens.blogspot.com


FamilyGuy

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Reply #5 on: March 07, 2008, 01:42:05 AM
You humble me Steve.  I can't fathom the amount of work you put into each week's podcast.  I hope that things ease for you on the home front.  Money is tight for me, but as soon as things loosen up, I'll be donating.  Thank you so much for turning my boring daily commute into an enjoyable one.

I wanted to let you know that most of the podcasts I listen to are directly related to good things I have heard on EP and this board.  EP, PP, Drabblecast, DIC, and soon, Podcastle.  I've even become a Sigler addict.   ;D

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

When will all the rhetorical questions end?


Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #6 on: March 07, 2008, 03:28:42 AM
Wow.

Steve, you are officially one of my inspirations, now.  Not just because you have built something so successful; but because you've kept sight of what's important to you.  I can identify so closely with the problem you have described of not being able to fulfill obligations that seem easy; that has been a constant struggle for me over the years, as well.  (In my case, though, the technical medical term is "lazy a-hole syndrome".  ;)  The effective treatment has proven to be 2 1/2 teaspoons of distilled humility, administered daily by a patient and long-suffering spouse.)

But for me, the last several years have been a time where I have felt like I had to put my creative desires on the back burner in order to get by, financially, and seeing the success of your model has been extremely encouraging.  And it's not just you, either; Jonathan Coulton's story is pretty inspiring to me, too.  (I'm not about to quit my job like he did, though; I have actually fumbled my way into a job that I love, and that I think is pretty important, so it figures more highly in my priority list than a job that I would be doing just to pay the bills.)

You might not know it unless you read my blog regularly, but Escape Pod has been a direct cause of the improvement in my writing habits over the last couple of years, and now that our financial situation is within spitting distance of "not so friggin' poor anymore", Escape Artists is on my very short list of "folks I want to give money to".  (For the record, it's you, JoCo, and NPR on that list.)

This is longer than I intended, but one more thought hit me when I saw your #2 statistic.  If I hadn't grown a pair and submitted my story before finding out that Escape Pod is so very, very important in the market... I might not have had the nerve to send it in at all!

Keep up the good work, and ... you have fun, too, Steve!

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I finally published my book - Tad's Happy Funtime is on Amazon!


nanr42

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Reply #7 on: March 07, 2008, 04:05:24 AM
I'm glad to hear you're ok and getting better. I too have had times of complete disorder and ceasing (nearly) to function, but with lots of help, (including psychiatric) meds and prayer, I'm moving along. It is hard to say so, I know what you mean, especially the meds part. But they work, and I'm bloody well going to keep taking them. So hang in there. And thank you for doing Escape Pod et al. I look forward to it every week. I usually like the stories, though not always. I like hearing about your personal stuff, too. Makes you more, I dunno, immediate, human, a regular guy.

I wish I could do the tech work, but I can't. So I'll just send money.

Nan Roberts



Myst

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Reply #8 on: March 07, 2008, 04:44:43 AM
If I switched to charging a dollar an episode and 2,000 of you paid it and stayed subscribed, I could make this my full-time job right now.



Hmm, 2000 of us at a buck a episode? I know you won't ask for it but that seems like a worthy goal. Time to go toss my 100 Lincolns into the pay pal bin. Now we just need 1999 more.  :D 



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #9 on: March 07, 2008, 12:50:11 PM
If I switched to charging a dollar an episode and 2,000 of you paid it and stayed subscribed, I could make this my full-time job right now.



Hmm, 2000 of us at a buck a episode? I know you won't ask for it but that seems like a worthy goal. Time to go toss my 100 Lincolns into the pay pal bin. Now we just need 1999 more.  :D 

Ha, ha... the first time I read that, I was thinking the paper Lincolns, and I thought "Whoa!  That human REALLY digs EP!"  Then my brain caught up with the copper Lincolns.

This Wiki Won't Wrangle Itself!

I finally published my book - Tad's Happy Funtime is on Amazon!


Listener

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Reply #10 on: March 07, 2008, 01:49:31 PM
Posted a comment on the LJ, but...

I didn't realize EP and PP were such huge markets.  I'll be submitting stories by the end of spring, I hope.

And I've thrown in a resume to help with the tech stuff too.

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eytanz

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Reply #11 on: March 07, 2008, 01:57:15 PM
I can't help with the tech stuff, and I've already donated as much as I can afford for the near future (especially with my shiny new dental bill coming in - root canals are not fun in more than one way), but I'll keep on listening as long as EP and PP (and PC) keep giving me stories to listen to, and help in any way I can.



Myst

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Reply #12 on: March 07, 2008, 04:58:03 PM

Ha, ha... the first time I read that, I was thinking the paper Lincolns, and I thought "Whoa!  That human REALLY digs EP!"  Then my brain caught up with the copper Lincolns.

Heh I wish I could afford to drop $500 a episode on EA.



MattArnold

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Reply #13 on: March 09, 2008, 02:52:26 PM
Steve, what you need is an email secretary. As Minister of Communications for Penguicon, I've basically done this for most of the departments of our convention for years. I would be happy to do this for editor@escapepod.org if you wish. This position has the following tasks:

1) let people know their email has been received.
2) answer with canned responses to frequently asked questions.
3) sort the messages that need a custom response from Escape Pod, into a list sorted by priority.
4) talk to you on a semiweekly, weekly, or biweekly regular schedule to summarize the list and optimize the use of your time.
5) paraphrase and email the responses that you don't want to write yourself. "Dear X, Steve said Y and needs more information Z."
6) for messages that go unresponded for too long, send an additional response a week later to say "Your message is important to Escape Pod. X has gotten in the way right now. Steve will get to this as soon as he can."



scottbp

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Reply #14 on: March 10, 2008, 10:27:36 PM
Hey Steve, thanks for doing a terriffic job on escapepod! I enjoy the show immensely and hope to become a paying subscriber soon (in the middle of changing countries at the moment so short of $$)

I think it is great that your plans for escape artists are developing I just wanted to make a note on your plan of early episodes for paying subscribers...
But the big, *big* incentive -- and if you're on our monthly subscriber plan or if you've ever donated in the past, you'll get an e-mail and be grandfathered into this -- is that active supporters will get custom feeds with early access to episodes.  All of our podcasts, you'll get to hear at least three days before the rest of the world does, maybe more.

Well I currently live in Australia and one of the big issues with local TV here is that we didn't get the big American shows until much later. So if you were a BSG fan, and all the people on the internet were discussing the amazing new plot twist you had to sit there and grumble that channel seven wasn't going to show that episode for another 18 months. So you got left out of the conversation. What this might mean is that anyone coming to escapepod might only ever hear the show after the conversation has already happened, and you might start to drain your NEW followers since they might not be so enthusiastic without the community and discussion. Also with the CC license when someone shares the stories before the 'public' release it might just negate the whole idea, or just pour lots of confusion and angst on it.

Of course I might be just doomsaying... but I'm sure your community of supporters might be able to come up with some other incentives

Sorry to be all negative, I just thought my perspective might be helpful.



eytanz

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Reply #15 on: March 10, 2008, 10:52:56 PM
Well I currently live in Australia and one of the big issues with local TV here is that we didn't get the big American shows until much later. So if you were a BSG fan, and all the people on the internet were discussing the amazing new plot twist you had to sit there and grumble that channel seven wasn't going to show that episode for another 18 months. So you got left out of the conversation. What this might mean is that anyone coming to escapepod might only ever hear the show after the conversation has already happened, and you might start to drain your NEW followers since they might not be so enthusiastic without the community and discussion.

If Steve suggested an 18 month - or even an 18 day - waiting period, I'd agree entirely. He's suggesting a 3-day gap; that's not nearly enough time for the discussion to be over with. In many cases, it takes a day or two until it even starts, because many people take a few days to listen to the story anyway. So I don't agree with you on the negative consequences.

Quote
Also with the CC license when someone shares the stories before the 'public' release it might just negate the whole idea, or just pour lots of confusion and angst on it.

It might negate the idea if someone just goes ahead and sets up their own feed making the episodes public, but I can't see how the fact that people who get the episode early are allowed to share it will add any confusion or angst.

That said, though I don't think there will be any real negative side-effects to giving donors early episodes, I also don't see how it would be a very effective incentive. I just can't see why I would want to get the episodes earlier than anyone else. Partially from the opposite reason from the one you describe - if I listen to the episode before its public release and comment on it, I'll have to wait three days before anyone who is not a donor can join in the discussion. That's just a less satisfying discussion right there.

So, overall, I don't think this scheme will have do any harm, but I don't really see what the attraction is, either. It feels like a semi-random way to provide incentives while still giving everyone the same product. As far as I am concerned, though, the continued existence and smooth operation of EP (and PP and PC) is incentive enough.



Tango Alpha Delta

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Reply #16 on: March 10, 2008, 11:09:57 PM

Well I currently live in Australia and one of the big issues with local TV here is that we didn't get the big American shows until much later. So if you were a BSG fan, and all the people on the internet were discussing the amazing new plot twist you had to sit there and grumble that channel seven wasn't going to show that episode for another 18 months.


I live in the U.S., but in self-imposed exile as far as television goes.  Paying for cable access has never made sense to us, and we are usually too busy to arrange our lives around a schedule arbitrarily decided by people trying to sell us crap on their terms.  So, I avoid the "water cooler" until Netflix sends me my next disc.  Now that certain networks are freely posting their stuff online, I'll watch it there.  (That's how I keep up with Heroes.)  I just wish more of them would follow or surpass NBC's relatively free and convenient interface.

Of course, I blathered on about how I feel about these sorts of things in more detail about the "revolution" in my blog this week: blog.myspace.com/tadmaster (if you care to surf over).

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Liminal

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Reply #17 on: March 10, 2008, 11:57:32 PM
Steve, I may not know exactly what you are going through right now, but I can completely understand just how painful letting down people you care about can be. I think, in some ways, letting yourself down is easier because you can hide it from yourself, trick yourself into thinking it's not all your fault or it's not as bad as you think, but to see it reflected in the eyes of friends and loved ones is one hell of a thing to take and can shake you up deep and for a long time - so you have my empathy and best wishes as you sort everything out.

But never forget, man, that you . . . Stephen Eley, have made thousands and thousands of people laugh, cry and think. Sure, it's the stories that do it, but you bring us those stories! And on some level, though we've never met and never spoken, I've got a whole lotta love for you because of the gift of storytelling that you have given me.  ;D

I am so going to send you a resume and some sound samples because I would feel proud and honored to be able to help, in any way I could, make EscapePod.

Why is this thus? What is the reason for this thusness? - Artemus Ward


Planish

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Reply #18 on: March 11, 2008, 08:25:41 AM
But never forget, man, that you . . . Stephen Eley, have made thousands and thousands of people laugh, cry and think. Sure, it's the stories that do it, but you bring us those stories! And on some level, though we've never met and never spoken, I've got a whole lotta love for you because of the gift of storytelling that you have given me.  ;D
Yeah.
What he said.

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Heradel

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Reply #19 on: March 11, 2008, 01:03:44 PM
Some day me speak pretty, but in lieu of that, good for you Steve, and thanks.

Well I currently live in Australia and one of the big issues with local TV here is that we didn't get the big American shows until much later. So if you were a BSG fan, and all the people on the internet were discussing the amazing new plot twist you had to sit there and grumble that channel seven wasn't going to show that episode for another 18 months. So you got left out of the conversation.

We get the same thing, but with British TV. If my mind is working at this early hour, Torchwood comes out on Tuesdays in Britain, and we have some kind of a wait with BBC:A — luckily it's not as bad as it is for Doctor Who with the SciFi channel — that's like a five-month to a year wait. I remember watching the last season via undisclosed but obvious sources and then going into school and starting to talk to someone about it, who had just watched the prior season, newly airing the night before as well. Luckily I didn't let slip any huge spoilers.

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Thaurismunths

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Reply #20 on: March 11, 2008, 04:21:42 PM
What this might mean is that anyone coming to escapepod might only ever hear the show after the conversation has already happened, and you might start to drain your NEW followers since they might not be so enthusiastic without the community and discussion. Also with the CC license when someone shares the stories before the 'public' release it might just negate the whole idea, or just pour lots of confusion and angst on it.

I think point one could be overcome by not posting the new story thread until the day of the public release. One of the mods (praise N-sh) is responsible for posting the new story thread each week, so HE can just not post it early. No thread, no discussion. The other mods can make sure no one starts any unofficial story threads ahead of time.
The second point might or might not be an issue, I don't know enough about the technology to make that call, but I think if any of the other subscribers were to do something so uncouth we could all point and mock them publicly. A lot.

How do you fight a bully that can un-make history?


sirana

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Reply #21 on: March 11, 2008, 06:02:41 PM
What this might mean is that anyone coming to escapepod might only ever hear the show after the conversation has already happened, and you might start to drain your NEW followers since they might not be so enthusiastic without the community and discussion. Also with the CC license when someone shares the stories before the 'public' release it might just negate the whole idea, or just pour lots of confusion and angst on it.

I think point one could be overcome by not posting the new story thread until the day of the public release. One of the mods (praise N-sh) is responsible for posting the new story thread each week, so HE can just not post it early. No thread, no discussion. The other mods can make sure no one starts any unofficial story threads ahead of time.
The second point might or might not be an issue, I don't know enough about the technology to make that call, but I think if any of the other subscribers were to do something so uncouth we could all point and mock them publicly. A lot.

I'm pretty sure the second point would be no problem at all. Who'd go to the hassel and bandwidth of uploading every episode, just so other people could get the story 3 days earlier? More to the point, who would download the episodes from bittorrent or an unaffiliated site just so he could them 3 days earlier, when he can just come back 3 days later to the official site and get it there or drop a dollar in the donation jar and get them NOW.
And even if an uploader and a downloader would be willing to go to these extremes, it's not like they would be taking away anything of value. The downloader would just get it 3 days earlier. So I don't really see a problem there.



DKT

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Reply #22 on: March 11, 2008, 06:11:13 PM
Okay, after actually reading (EDIT: I DID read it before, I meant listening) this...is there any word on the flash fiction?  Are you guys still accepting flash fiction submissions?  I know some of the stuff from the contest will be on Podcastle, so I'm hoping we'll see some on Escape Pod, too. 
« Last Edit: March 11, 2008, 07:07:25 PM by DKT »



Heradel

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Reply #23 on: March 11, 2008, 06:27:56 PM
I'm pretty sure the second point would be no problem at all. Who'd go to the hassel and bandwidth of uploading every episode, just so other people could get the story 3 days earlier? More to the point, who would download the episodes from bittorrent or an unaffiliated site just so he could them 3 days earlier, when he can just come back 3 days later to the official site and get it there or drop a dollar in the donation jar and get them NOW.
And even if an uploader and a downloader would be willing to go to these extremes, it's not like they would be taking away anything of value. The downloader would just get it 3 days earlier. So I don't really see a problem there.

And in terms of Escape Pod's hardware, it'll be easier on the servers if they can break up the heavy load days. Even if it's just a thousand or two downloads offloaded to a Sunday, it'll probably mean that the current hardware (and bandwidth) setup will last longer it could otherwise, as it won't bog down as much on download days.

I Twitter. I also occasionally blog on the Escape Pod blog, which if you're here you shouldn't have much trouble finding.


SFEley

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Reply #24 on: March 11, 2008, 06:39:25 PM
Checking in again:

A lot of the discussion here on the early episodes plan is echoing my own thoughts.  Just to be clear, I don't think of it as something that's going to perceived by many people as an incredible value or priceless gift.  It's not going to make people start donating in droves if they weren't going to donate anyway -- and I'm okay with that.  It's more of a gesture than a prize, a way of saying "Hey, thanks" and letting donors feel just a little bit special.  We're having to write some software anyway to enable the donations earmarking, and to keep better track of donors, and since we were already on that, this is something we can do that isn't that much more work.  It also enforces some better discipline with our production scheduling, especially for myself.

I'm not really worried about "piracy."  These feeds will have unique IDs for each donor but won't be password protected.  I'll probably build some sort of access logging with really high thresholds, just to make sure we can block a feed if someone posts it on Digg.com or something; but if you share it with your spouse or your kid sister, that doesn't stress me at all.  As for reuploading onto a non-Escape Artists site -- as some have already observed, a product that's going to be made free in a few days anyway doesn't have a very high value; and the only way it could hurt Escape Artists on any sort of scale is if the "leech" site became visible enough to compete with us.  That doesn't seem likely.  Even if it happened, the only damage would be reducing our own download stats, and I can live with that.  If that bothered me I wouldn't encourage people to share our episodes every week.

In terms of discussion threads on early releases, etc., I have ideas, but I don't want to dive too deep into that without first talking to the moderators here.  Anything involving the forums is going to be a team effort, and I'm pretty sure that in this case the team is smarter than me.  

Thanks again, too, for all the well-wishes and kind words.  It really means a lot -- and even before I posted the audio last night, we were getting more offers of audio editing help, requests for bookmarks, etc., than I'd expected.  You all are amazing.  I'll have a followup on it, probably in an episode outro, but I really do want to make it less than two years before the next metacast.



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