When you have young children, they frequently leave little clues scattered about, to let you know what they’ve been doing. For example, when your 16-month old has been cruising the net, you get things like this:
In September of 2005, I started a little side project called The Bible Podcast. The idea is pretty simple. I flip on a microphone, and record myself reading a chapter a day from the bible. Then, I upload it to a website where people can download it and listen. Then, sometimes, other people record themselves reading chapters, and I upload them. The website is www.thebiblepodcast.org, if you want to check it out.
Today, this little side project passed a major milestone. It passed 1,000 daily subscribers – people who set iTunes to go fetch the podcasts every single day. In fact, it pretty much blew right through that number, from 800 or so on Monday, to 900 on Tuesday, and today, I logged on to see this:
I’m a numbers guy. I love seeing the numbers creep higher and higher, and to break them down in as many ways as possible. Things like:
get me all fancy up with my bad self. I go to the site and refresh the statistics every few hours to see how much bandwidth people are burning through. In December, the server spit out 300 gigs of data. In January, it’s been burning at a rate of about 30 gigs per day. Matthew 11, which was just posted yesterday, has been downloaded 1500 times.
I know that these kinds of numbers are hardly a blip on the radar for the big dogs in the new media, but in the little world of podcasts about the bible, it’s a pretty big deal.
Gretchen has a theory about the rapid acceleration of subscribers. She thinks everybody got an iPod for Christmas, and then they made a New Year’s resolution to read the bible more. So, they go poking around in iTunes for a way to get their daily bread in tastee little no-hassle packages, like a Twinkee. I think Gretchen is pretty smart.
So, I’m a numbers guy, but I love reading emails from people who listen. There’s a Catholic priest who lives in the northern most tip of Japan, who sat around listening to the Gospel of John with a family who had just lost their young wife and mother. They just put it on repeat and listened over and over again.
There are students in South America who get together to listen to the podcast, and read along with the text, in order to improve their English. Thing about how scary that is, for just a second. You might be walking through Brazil someday and bump into some kid who speaks English with a Mike Lee accent.
There’s a guy who is fairly agnostic about God, but was curious about the bible, so he subscribed to see what all the fuss was about. His email was hilarious. He just wanted to let me know that he enjoyed it, and concluded by saying, “Please don’t send me any tracts or religious crap.” I was tempted to forward him every Chick tract in one ginormous email, but I restrained myself.
There are the people who want to argue about the translation that I’m using (New English Translation, pretty good, in my humble opinion), or they take issue with the fact that I let Catholics into the club (sheesh), or they are upset that I’m reading the Bible “Out of Order” (I’m guessing they think the thing was handed down out of Heaven in a neatly stacked set of galleys, ready for publishing). I get an equal number of emails from people who love the bumper music, and can’t stand the bumper music. I smile a little bit, because I think there are people who just love to pick a fight, and they like it even more if they can call it “contending for the faith once delivered”. Mostly, I just hit “delete” on those. Life’s too short.
A few have just floored me. There are people in countries that block access to sites having anything to do with the bible, but they are able to subscribe to a podcast feed. They listen. Two people have approached me about expanding the podcast into other languages that will reach areas where it is dangerous to distribute bibles. One wants to do a version in Farsi, the language spoken in parts of Iran and Afghanistan. Another wants to do a version in Mandarin Chinese. We’re still working through the logistics, but I’m hopeful that this will come together.
So, the Story of God advances. 500 years ago, they burned the bones of those who suggested that the Bible could be read and understood by the common people in their own language. Today, a 12-year-old kid in Taiwan can log on to iTunes, and download it.
I forget how quickly “everyday” comes around. Today’s “15 Hymns” offering is just a quick piano romp, flipped the MacBook Pro camera toward the keyboard and hit record. I’ve always liked watching the hands of people who play piano. Hopefully you all do too.
Sharolyn, there’s a little something in here toward the end that’s just for you (and no, I’m not talking about the sloppy pinky technique on the top end of the runs). Enjoy.
(NOTE: if any of my students are following along, this is NOT appropriate piano technique. This is me farting around on a piano for 10 minutes. If you’re looking for an example of good piano technique, you check this guy out.)
So, this was kind of fun. I started classes on Thursday, and I opened up my first lecture for “Intro to Music Tech” by playing this video. Picture 20 kids in a room, with the speakers turned on full blast, and this rolling. It was very fun.
I apologize for the compression of the video – it looks awful on the upload.
Also, for any of you interested in following along with the class lectures (nerd!), the whole semester is being podcast.
The first 50 results from the survey are in. If any of you want to see the raw data, click the photo below, and it will take you to the survey report page. (quick note: click the plus sign on the right edge of the red bar at the bottom, and it will let you add all of the answers to the questions, so that you can see the raw data)
A few observations:
Fully half of you identify yourselves as lurkers. I think that’s funny, and a little creepy. Kinda like having a backyard BBQ with 300 people standing in the shadows watching you and your friends talk.
I’m surprised that more people don’t use RSS to track with the site. This is the inverse of most blogs – in most cases, significantly more people use RSS feeds to read the content than visit the actual site. I think this means that ARD has a lot of readers who are outside of the blogging mainstream. They visit this site, but don’t have a regular list of blogs that they read. I think that’s cool. I also think that if they know more about RSS, they would totally be into it.
I like that most of you think it should be up to me to decide when to change the look of the site. It means my plan to beat you all into sheep-like submission is working.
The consensus seems to be toward a blog layout that favors the core text, without so much dead weight on the sidebar. I like this idea, and I think the next design for the site will move that direction. Also, some of you have real daddy issues. I’m just saying.
Google ads vs. Tip jar, and the winner is google ads. Cool. I think it’s funny that the people who seemed to be the most upset by any sort of monetization (the “pay for it yourself” answer) were overwhelmingly people who identified themselves as fringe (lurkers, visiting once a week, via RSS only).
A quick word on that – when I started the site, I paid for the hosting out of my own pocket. No worries, it was like 7 bucks a month, and I considered it more than justified for the enjoyment it brought me as a side hobby. Then, when we started to get an uptick in readers, and more authors joined, I started hitting my bandwidth limit for the site (how much data you’re allowed to move in a month). Starting last August, the multiple authors started putting media content up (mp3s, videos, etc.). I think this is very cool, and I’d like to see a lot more of it. In fact, I think the fact that this site produces more content than commentary is one of the driving features.
But here’s what that means for hosting costs. When Chad posted “God Of My Future“, it was about a 5 MB file. Within a month of being posted, it had been downloaded about 1,000 times. That’s roughly 5 Gigabytes of bandwidth for just one mp3. “Ring Them Bells“, which I posted about a year ago, still gets abut 200 downloads a month. That’s another Gig of bandwidth. You get the picture. We started blowing through our allotted bandwidth within the first two weeks of each month, and the overages started getting very expensive. Just to reiterate, I do NOT want the solution to be less media posting. I love the media. Keep it coming.
The beauty of the google ads solution is that, as more people visit the site, more people click the ads, and the more revenue is generated. It balances the bandwidth issue nicely. Right now it’s pretty much perfectly balanced with hosting costs. On the months that more income comes in than goes out, I slip the extra off to someone else, like Real Live Preacher. On months where less comes in, I make Sophia roam the streets with a tin cup.
Eventually, I’ll probably have to lease an entire server somewhere, to host all of the sites I’m running:
The Bible Podcast
APU Music Tech
Details of the Day
The Logic Pro
EDU Tech Talk
and coming soon, The Dailies (get off your butt and get me a domain name, Chaddy-poo).
The cool thing about that will be much more bandwidth, much more storage, total control over the software configuration, and if any of you guys want websites (www.bonowannabe.com, anyone?), kick me like $10 for the domain name, and it’s off an running. In fact, I can probably do that now, if you’re interested.
So, that’s the state of the blog. I’m off to start work on a text-based, emotionally distant blog design. Happy posting, everyone.
I love learning new and useful things. You know how the Google “I’m Feeling Lucky” button immediately takes you to the top site result for your search? Firefox does the same thing if you type your search string in the address bar, with no http or .com – try just typing “amazon aly hawkins” in the web address bar (not the google search box), and you’ll see what I mean.
Web surfing now reaching warp speed.