Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Yikes, the dreaded Podfade!

When I started the Retrobits Podcast, one of my primary goals was to maintain a regular schedule. This was suggested in a book I read on Podcasting (one of the first books out there, and an excellent one) by Todd Cochrane. Basically, the idea is that if you drift on your schedule, your listening base will drift, too, because you're being unpredictable with your shows. Makes sense. That notion kept me on an every-week basis for a long time. But once you get derailed from your schedule, it's difficult to get back on the tracks.

There is a phenomenon known as "Podfade" - where podcasts start strong, but then get less predictable over time, or disappear. Part of the reason this happens is that the barrier to entry for podcasts is pretty low. All you really need is a way to record and edit, and an audience of an acceptable size that would be interested in your topic. From there, it's trivial to find a cheap or free location to host your podcasts, and to get listed with iTunes and various podcast directories.

But once you're up and running, next comes the sometimes hard slog of putting together the show on a regular basis. Life can get in the way. Once you've slipped once - well, it's like an exercise plan. It's hard not to go ahead and slack off again - you've blown the sit-ups for this week anyway, right?

Well, speaking of that, I have an idea to fight my own podfade - one that is drawn from recent life experience. But first, I needed to take a look at a couple of key questions:

  • Am I still interested in maintaining a regular podcast on computing history and the retrocomputing hobby?
  • Is there enough remaining and/or new material out there to fill a regular schedule?
Check, and, check. Now, how to get back into the saddle?

Sometime a little over a year ago, I decided that I needed to improve my physical condition. I was tired, overweight, and generally unhappy about the years creeping up on me. I knew the fate that would await me if I tried to jump in head-first into a workout and diet plan. Namely, it would work for a while, but then I'd get overwhelmed, and it would falter. My wife came to the rescue with a great idea. Her suggestion: Start small, give yourself small but fun rewards for success, and establish a track record. Make consistency, rather than quantity, a goal. Once you've established a solid, predictable routine, bump it up ever so slightly. Integrate it into your life, so it's not such a struggle. Sneak up on it.

So, I did exactly this. I started walking twice a week, and knocked off eating out so much. (This helped financially as well as holistically). Once this became habit, I added a little bit more, and a little bit more. My reward was a weekly sushi splurge, or some great food from our local Korean supermarket (H-Mart). For me, asian food is quite motivating. Over the course of a year or so, I've worked up to 4 cardio workouts per week, strength exercises six times per week, and 8 cups of water per day, every day. And I've just allowed the fast food to go by the wayside. The result? I'm fifty pounds lighter, have more energy, feel stronger, and it's not really that hard to talk myself into it each day.

Sometimes in life, it's about finding out what works for you. Since this incremental improvement method worked for me on workouts, I'm hoping it'll also help me overcome my podfade. Retrobits is a lot of fun to do, and it's something I'd very much like to continue. So, one possible plan is:

  • Make a new show every three weeks. If it's more frequent, that's fine - but never less frequent.
  • Give myself a little reward (maybe a few extra bucks in my retro budget?) each time I hit the mark.
  • Once that schedule is established for a few cycles, creep up to once every two weeks.
  • Lather, rinse, and repeat, until it's where it can be sustainable (possibly weekly?).
Eventually (someday) I'd like to get back to a weekly show. It worked for years, and might work again - but if I make that the goal right now, it won't work. I think a slow and steady ascent is the better choice. I'm off and running...

On a side note: It's hard to find material on the Internet for other strategies people have on fighting podfade. I only found one article, and it was behind a paywall. I wonder what other methods have been successful for podcasters? If you have any insight, shoot me an e-mail.

Hope everyone (in the States) has a great Thanksgiving!

- Earl


Unknown said...

With the high quality of research and production that you put into "The Retrobits Podcast" I would not worry about your listener base. Do not worry, we will keep coming back to see if you treated us with a new show.

Unknown said...

Hi Earl!

Long time listener, first time writer as it it goes... Actually, I just started listening to retrobits on a regular basis a few weeks ago and I've already listened to over half of your podcasts. Just wanted to let you know that new listeners are still finding your show. Fight the podfade!

Woody Folsom

Unknown said...

Hey, Earl! Glad to hear you're still alive an kicking! Congrats: 50 pounds, wow! What about some "before-after" photos?

Greetz from Bavaria.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Hi Earl,
Keep up the great work Earl. There are not many people that are doing the type of podcasts that you do on the subjects I like. Congratulations on the improvement of your health!

Take care,
Robert Lenk

Byron Winmill said...

Hey Earl,

Your podcast is great, and a remarkable accomplishment as a one-man effort. But don't worry about the podfade or even putting the podcast to rest. You have made a splendid contribution to the realm of computing history and collecting. So if other priorities have entered your life, don't fret about the podcast since I'm sure that most of your listeners will agree that your family, health, and continued happiness are the things that you ought to be striving for.

Thank-you again.

Keith said...

Hey Earl,

It must take some time to put together your shows as there is always so much content - so one every few weeks sounds like quite a challenge. Anyway don't worry about it, the vast library of work you have created so far is a fabulous resource - take care!