Since launching Simply Everything, one thing has become clear. You guys have absolutely no idea what we’re doing or how it works. Seriously, I’ve heard some terrifying stuff over the last couple of weeks. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, it’s my job to make sure you know all you need to know about our stuff, and if there something you don’t understand, it’s because I haven’t explained it properly. So here goes. I’m going to explain it all.
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the term podcast. A podcast can be what I refer to as a show, for example Movies You Should See. The word can also be used to refer to the act of actually creating the show. You can do podcasting, and you can make a podcast. Here’s how podcasting works. First we record an episode, and upload it the internet. That file then has a URL just like any other file on the internet. Our website creates an RSS file, which is basically a list of URLs of all the episodes we’ve released. When we post a new episode, it gets added to the list.
When you subscribe to a podcast using an app like iTunes, the app constantly checks the list to see if anything else has been added to it. If it has, then the app downloads the file. There are lots of apps that do this, and although they present things to you in a slightly different way, they all essentially work the same way.
As an episode of a show is just a file on the internet, we can show it to you in different ways. We can add the URL to our RSS feed so you can see it in iTunes and download it. But we can also link to it on our own website. That’s why you can play each episode by clicking the play button on the posts on our website. It’s all just the same file.
Podcasts are free simply because there’s no technical way to charge money for them. In order to do that, we’d need the app that you use to download the shows to support the payment system. We’d also need to start putting DRM on podcasts, and that wouldn’t be fun. Mainly people finance their podcast production by selling the time, attention, and personal details of their listeners, to advertisers. That’s rubbish. It makes the advertisers be the customers of the podcasters, and their listeners are a commodity to be sold. We’ve made Simply Everything so that our listeners are our customers and they don’t have to suffer advertising. We have a commitment to make good content that you have the ability to pay for and support.
Podcasts, generally, go on FOREVER. Week after week, month after month. It’s dull, boring, and no other media on the planet works like that. How many shows that we’ve run over the years have suffered a massive dip in quality after a while? How about, all of them? We decided a long time ago that we aren’t doing that any more.
There’s one simply way of looking at Simply Everything. It’s like Netflix, but for Simply Syndicated content. We’ve been making content as Simply Syndicated for eight years now. That means we’ve made a lot of content. One thing I’ve been very pleased with is that most of our content isn’t time sensitive, you can listen to it any time and it’s still relevant. Because of that, people like to go back and listen to old shows. With podcasts that becomes difficult. For starters, podcasts aren’t really set up for you to go looking through large archives. iTunes will show the last 250 episodes of a show, and we only display the last 25 on our RSS feeds. On Simply Everything we present you with a nice, clean, easy to navigate table, that shows you every episode of a show. The aim is to have everything I can find be available on the service. That’s every episode of every show we’ve ever recorded. Actually, it’s not quite that, because I don’t still have everything, but it’s pretty close.
We’ve sold old episodes in our store for years, it’s how we finance the network. Unfortunately, there are technical and financial problems that come with this. There is a minimum price that we can sell a file for. That price is based on the fees that we pay for each transaction, and the price of collections of shows. Our present pricing structure charges 99p per episode. That’s pretty good value, considering that you pay 99p for a song from iTunes, and our shows provide a much longer entertainment experience. However, this becomes a problem when you start looking at the size of our back catalogue. It would literally cost you hundreds and hundreds of pounds to listen to Movies You Should See. Now we have the ability to charge a much smaller monthly fee of £4.99, which is less than the price of a magazine, for access to our entire back catalogue of shows. You can listen to all the Movies You Should See that you want to, and cancel when you’re done.
It’s important at this point to draw your attention back to podcasts. The content on Simply Everything is not podcasts. It’s audio shows. Just like radio. There’s no RSS feeds, you have to play them on the website. Just like Netflix. We create the content. Some of it we make available for free as podcasts. Some of it we charge for. We need to make money to keep on making this stuff. If we make money, we make more content. If we don’t, then we stop. Content can be payed for either by advertising, or by the people who consume it. The advertising method is simply unviable, so we have to try the method of charging for access. This isn’t exactly a crazy concept. We pay for cinema tickets, TV channels, TV shows, movies, blu-rays, DVDs, books, magazines, newspapers, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO, audiobooks, old radio shows, and comics. Most of those have the gaul to not only charge you for access, but also show you adverts!
So now, in addition to releasing our stuff for free as podcasts, and selling our old content, we’re also working mainly to a Netflix style business model. That means we can do some new and interesting things. Remember I said earlier that we aren’t doing shows indefinitely any more? That’s going pretty well so far. Remastered did a 20 something episode run and will return next year. In the mean time, because we aren’t making Remastered, we can make Remote Patrol. When we’ve made a few more episodes of Remote Patrol, we’ll stop and make something else. It keeps things fresh and interesting. But the series model also means we can bring back old shows. Make It So has returned for a 12 episode run. It’s not running week after week, forever. It won’t go stale, and we won’t end up hating Star Trek. We make 12 episodes, then we take a year off. Season 4 will be recorded in 2014. The same goes for Movies You Should See. When we made it every week, it got really hard to do well. Now we’re making 24 of them and taking a year off. Shows are recorded sometimes months in advance of their release date so that we don’t suffer with big gaps in release times. We’ll be experimenting with different styles of releasing shows. For example, Make It So is being released in two parts. We had intended to make all 12 episodes and release them in one go, but that turned out to take much longer than we though, so we split the series into two parts. Part one came out all in one go, and so will part 2. Movies You Should See is a little more difficult to get together, and so is just being delayed in its release. We’re actually three or four shows ahead of the ones being released. The free podcast version will come out regularly every week, but Simply Everything subscribers will have access to the episodes as soon as they exist. We’ll see which distribution method works best, and we’ll continue to experiment with different styles.
Technically there isn’t anything all too clever behind Simply Everything. Our store system, called Cart66, allows us to charge you a subscription, which allows you to access pages and posts on the website. I just display the files on a post that you can’t access unless you’re logged in. But that brings with it some limitations. With our service working via a web browser, we’re unable to do things like caching episodes for offline playback. We need somewhere to store the file, and a web browser doesn’t provide that functionality. There will at least be an iOS app for Simply Everything. It’s in our interest to make this content available to you everywhere you want it, so we’ll work hard to do that. But as it is, Simply Everything does work in your browser, and it works on your phone. The site has a responsive design, so it knows when it’s running on an iPhone, and changes its look accordingly. Like I said, Simply Everything is a really simple system. You just visit the page of the show you want to listen to, look at the list of all the episodes, click the button and you’re listening.
Shows on Simply Everything can only be played via Simply Everything. However, you can buy the episodes, download them, and play them on the mp3 playing device of your choice. As I explained on Google+ the other night, Simply Everything is going through three stages of existence. Stage one was making it work at all. Step two is filling it with content, and stage three is improving the functionality. At the moment we’re at stage two. I’m adding new content almost every day, and we’re producing more content for the site. Going through our archives takes a lot of time. There’s a lot to organise, and each episode of each show needs to be re-exported and fiddled with. When I’m done with that, I’ll start looking at how to improve the experience for users.
Streaming, downloading, and more streaming
When is streaming not streaming? When it’s downloading. Imagine there’s a book you want to read. You can buy the whole book in one go, then read each word, knowing that the next word of the story is going to be right there after it. That’s like downloading an audio file, and it’s what happens when you go to a Simply Everything show page. When you click on the play button, your browser downloads the whole file. That’s good because you only need to have an internet connection for as long as it takes to download the show. That’s going to be a lot less than the running time of the show, which ties into the problems with streaming.
Imagine that book again, but now each word is on its own small piece of paper. Instead of having the whole book in your hand, you are passed each word, one after the other, in the order they appear in the book. This method of reading is fine as long as there’s somebody there to keep handing you the next word, because it means you don’t have to lug the whole book around with you. This is like streaming. It’s absolutely fine, until you lose connection. On the other hand, if you only want to listen to half of a show, you don’t have to download the whole thing. It has its pros and cons, you pay your money and make your choice. I went with downloading.
Our live radio player streams in a slightly different way. Instead of a man handing you each word of your book, he displaying the words on a huge electronic billboard, and is just showing the words from the book whether you’re looking at them or not. You can chose to look at his billboard or not, but those words will be up there regardless. The shows on our radio are streaming all the time. They’re playing right now. If you go an hit play on our radio, you’ll jump right in at the point the current show is. This is fine for live stuff, but if we ran Simply Everything like that, you’d most likely never hear the episode you’re looking for. It’s identical to hoping that the radio plays your favourite song.
I hope I’ve cleared a few things up for you. This took hours to write. Let me know if you have any questions.
Just a little note that I’m starting to hear bad things about Sky’s broadband service. Slow speeds, and delayed installation times. We have a friend who has had his installation date changed three times so far.
What kind of experience have you had if you’re a customer of Sky broadband?
There is now a brand new episode of MYSS available to download. It is not available via iTunes. It is only available either to buy, or to stream on Simply Everything. Visit our webpagehttp://www.simplysyndicated.com/shows/moviesyoushouldsee , scroll to the All Episodes section at the bottom of the page, and click on Volume 2. There you’ll see an Add to Cart button, or the button that will stream the show. The podcast version of the show will be available in a month or two.
If you aren’t a member of Simply Everything and would like to help us create more great content, please visit http://www.simplysyndicated.com/everything for sign up details.
Thanks for supporting Movies You Should See and Simply Syndicated.
We’re so very nearly there. I’m writing this post as some sort of break from building website. I understand that it isn’t really much of a break, but I thought I’d let you all know where things are.
For those of you who haven’t heard me talk about this, Simply Everything is a subscription service for audio content. Basically it’s a Netflix style service for Simply Syndicated content. There will be our entire back catalogue, and we’ve got new shows in production too. I think the best place to start is to talk about what it will do.
Simply Everything isn’t just a clever name. It’s really everything. When you visit the page of a show, instead of just seeing the last few podcasts available, you’ll now be able to see a list of every episode of that show. Each episode will have an “add to cart” button, but it will also have a “listen on Simply Everything” button. Clicking that button will take you to a page for that episode with a player that will start playing the episode. That player works on most major browsers and as far as I know, all smartphones. It’s just that simple. You can find every episode of every show, and play it right away. You can play as much as you want, so if you want to listen to hundreds of episodes of Movies You Should See, you can do it without paying hundreds of pounds.
Now the things it won’t do, and some things I know aren’t finished. There are a lot of things that work, whilst not exactly working as I want them to. I’m talking about links that don’t go to the right places, things like that. Mainly cosmetic stuff. That will all be fixed over the next few days. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you see something wrong. It’ll help me find everything. Also, due to the limitations of certain browsers, I know that Simply Everything won’t work on Firefox and Opera. It works just fine on Safari, Chrome, and I assume, IE. This is because I’m using an HTML5 player, which requires the web browser to have the correct audio codec. Since we’re using MP3s and Firefox doesn’t support MP3, that means it won’t work in Firefox. I intend to update the player in the near future to one that falls back to Flash when running on Firefox.
Also, if you’re reading this very close to launch day, don’t expect there to be a lot of content yet. Building this site has two parts to it. There’s the actual site building part, and then there’s the adding content to the site part. As I write this, it’s the first part that’s close to being done. After I open the system up to the public, my main job will be adding content to Simply Everything. I expect this to take no more than a day or two, so don’t panic if you don’t see something you want. By the end of the week it will all be there.
Then I start adding totally new content. This will include season 3 of Make It So, the return of Movies You Should See, unreleased episodes of Remote Patrol, many Do Ask Do Tell episodes, and much more. I know what you’re saying already, and I’ll be clear that Movies You Should See, Remote Patrol and Do Ask Do Tell, will continue to be podcasts, although MYSS and RP will be running on a delay. If you’re a Simply Everything subscriber, you’ll be able to get content long before the people just listening to the free podcasts.
I have high hopes for this system making Simply Syndicated work. We’re struggled on for a long time now, and there comes a point where it would be crazy to carry on, so this is some sort of last attempt at being a viable business. But I think that focusing on entertaining our customers, that’s you guys, rather than worrying about the advertising we can’t sell, will allow us to make stuff that you’re happy to pay for, which in turn, will allow us to make more stuff. Personally I’m looking forward to making a mortgage payment, or even contributing to grocery shopping around here.
It turns out that if you have a company that makes Mac software, and that software doesn’t work on the last two versions of the Mac OS, then your company closes. Who’d have thought?
There’s a lot kicking off in Europe at the moment about out right to be forgotten on the Internet. This is the idea that following the click of a few buttons, you should be able to remove all trace of yourself from the Internet.
I’m afraid I’m going to have to get my extra specially high horse out for this one.
It may come as no surprise to you that the demographic that are most in favour of this right, are people aged 18 to 24. Why would they want to be forgotten online? Maybe because they’ve spent a few years posting photos of themselves acting drunk and stupid at parties and in night clubs. It seems like a good idea at the time, but when it comes to finding a job, it might be a problem for you to have a load of pictures of you looking like a moron. So Germany, France, and a few other countries want us to have the right to be forgotten.
Lets start by looking at how impossible that actually is from a technical perspective. Not because of website system back ups, but because we use so many services, that its effectively impossible for us to even remember which ones we’ve used. But that’s just a little issue compared to the bigger problem with this plan.
We aren’t really talking about a right to be forgotten, we’re talking abut the right to reset your life. While I accept that it might be a problem for some people who’ve posted inappropriate things about themselves, there’s a much bigger problem of trolling.
How many people get abuse from strangers on Facebook or Twitter? How many teenagers have sadly committed suicide because of bullying on the Internet. Now Europe want to give the people who commit the bullying, the power to remove all evidence of everything bad they’ve ever done. Giving people the ability to remove their web presence, removes their responsibility to use the Internet properly.
It reminds me of the scene in Groundhog Day, when Phil Connors realises that there are no consequences to his actions. Does he keep acting responsibly? Or does he do whatever he wants, safe in the knowledge that at the end of the day, life will be reset.
I will tell you one more time. If there’s a photo that you don’t want people to see, DON’T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET. why would you put something in Facebook that you don’t want people to see? Isn’t that kind of the point if Facebook?
I have done many stupid things in my life, most of which have been witnessed by other humans. There’s nothing I can do about that. All I can do is learn from the experience and improve myself. I don’t get to make everyone forget that they saw it. Life doesn’t come with a reset button, so most of us try to be the best person we can be at all times. If you added a reset button, then not only does it not matter how I behave, but I’m almost encouraged to behave in a way that I’d have to reset afterwards. In the same way that teenagers will feel compelled to act like, well, like teenagers, on the Internet. When they go too far, they just hit the reset button to make it not have happened.
How about instead of letting people forget the bad things they’ve done, we teach people not to do bad things. And just one more time…. STOP PUTTING PERSONAL STUFF ON THE INTERNET!
More to the point, how do I live without Google? Well, I said I’d let you know how it goes, and this is me doing it.
Here’s a little recap. This all comes from me being burned by the death of Google Reader. Just a few months ago, I was somebody who used as many of Google’s services as I could. Now I’m on a quest to remove as many of them as possible, from my life, and replace everything with a new service.
Already, I’ve replaced Google’s contact sync, and Calendar, with iCloud services. It was almost instant, extremely easy, and hasn’t come close to going wrong so far. I’m also using iCloud for some notes and reminders too. Notes and reminders that aren’t being handled by iCloud, are dealt with by Evernote. Evernote is an absolutely fantastic service that can be used for free by just about everyone.
Now it’s time to dump a couple more Google services. Picasa and Drive. Picasa is going the way of the Dodo, ever so slowly, and ever so quietly. Without saying a word, Google are moving all Picasa services over to Google+. I can sort of understand why they’d do that, but it’s not for me. Time to take the photos to another place. After looking around, I’ve decided to go back to Flickr. Although Flickr is part of Yahoo, I very much feel like it’s a service on the up. Over the last few months, it has become clear that Yahoo see Flickr as a very important services and are actively taking steps to make things better and better. They certainly aren’t trying to squeeze it into a social network that not many people use.
At the moment I pay Google for storage. Just $4.99 per month, for 100GB. That storage is taken up by everything I store in the Google universe. So email, photos, and files all eat into it. If I’m not using Google+ to store all my photos, then I don’t need to be paying for the extra storage. Besides, I’ve got Dropbox, which has always been a superior online file storage system. The only thing I really use Google Drive for now, is shared documents, such as podcast agendas. I’ll still be able to do that for free.
That’s Picasa and Drive totally replaced with Flickr and Dropbox. That saves me money, and it means I don’t have to have the Drive background app running all the time too.
Right now there are a couple of petitions going in the hope that it will convince Google not to shut down Reader. One of those has 67,000 signatures on it. It might not be big business to Google, but imagine if all those people payed £2 per month for a Reader like service. That’s £1.6 million per year. Somebody is going to make a big chunk of money out of this, and it isn’t going to be Google.
This kind of snook up on me, but it’s definitely happening. We’re starting to see a change in the way the Internet works. For a long time we’ve been used to seeing lots of free services, but I sense that this is beginning to change.
Free services, aren’t. Most free things aren’t. Trust me, from Google Reader to free samples of food, nothing is really free. When it come to free web services, you need to remember that you aren’t the customer. You’re the product. Take Twitter as an example. Twitter sell you and your personal data to advertisers. Their money comes from putting advertisers in front of your eyes. They provide you with a free service that you like using, build up a user base, then sell access to the user base. The reason I’m using Twitter as an example, is because some users have rebelled.
The thing with Twitter, is that they aren’t handling things too well. A lot of people don’t like how they’re effectively trying to stop you using anything than the official Twitter app to interact with the service. The problem with that, is that the official app is rubbish. Some people also don’t like the idea if having their personal data sold on, and they don’t like seeing ad in their feed. Enter app.net. Basically exactly the same service as Twitter, only this one costs money. That’s a good thing because it completely change the focus of the company. app.net’s customer, is the user. There are no advertisers involved because they don’t need the money. This makes for a much better experience for the end user, which is good, because that’s you!
One of the things I’m seeing about the closure of Google Reader is people saying that they’d gladly pay for the service or something like it. I guarantee you that as I type this, there are a handful of companies rushing to be the replacement service. They know that there are people willing to spend money, and those people are the most valuable people on the Internet.
Paying for services is slowly becoming the norm. My own experience shows that I’m apparently happy to pay for Netflix every month. I enjoy spending money in the Comixology store almost weekly. There’s Audible audio books. The iTunes music store. I pay Dropbox and Google for cloud storage. I’m even about to try moving back to Flickr, as Flickr clearly means a lot more to Yahoo that Picasa means to Google.
I’m excited to be taking Simply Syndicated in this direction. For years we’ve struggled to get by on ad sales. We’ve suffered through the experience, because the the UK, podcast advertising hasn’t taken off in the slightest. Even the American shows with ads, only have ads for the same five companies. We’ve reached the point where things simply can’t continue as they are. If we keep trying to make money by selling our listeners to advertisers, we can’t go on much longer. Sticking to that traditional ways, will mean things completely shut down in less than a year. Seriously. So we’re going to start charging a small fee for our listeners to us Simply Everything, a Netflix style service for audio content.
Have you stopped to think about what this change will mean for Simply Syndicated? I know it’s not your job to do that, it’s mine, but lets take a closer look at it.
When you dig into all the things that are wrong with Simply Syndicated, you soon see that every problem can be traced back to our lack of budget. Why do shows sometimes take ages to get edited and released? We can’t afford to pay somebody to edit them. Why are shows sometimes missed? Because producing them doesn’t pay the people who do it, so they have to hold down a real job. Can you imagine the mountain of content we could make if Will, Mike, Allison, and myself, worked full time? Add to that somebody to sit and edit everything we make, and you’re looking at something very special. That’s pretty good, but stay with me, it gets better. Now we’re at the point where people have full time jobs, full commitment, and all the time in the world to make content. Through providing a subscription service, we now have a much more predictable budget for next month. That’s important because it means we can plan new content, and even start expanding what we output, so it might see the start of video content. More than a few Simply Syndicated presenters are trained, skilled, talented actors. And you’ve never had he chance to see hem do what they do best, because we can’t afford to create the content that shows their skills. We will be able to do so soon.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. People are now quite happy to pay a reasonable fee for something which is gives them value. So people who make that thing, can afford to make it better.
It’s also worth pointing out, that as further proof of this concept, yesterday a Kickstarter fund raised two million dollars for the production of a Veronica Mars movie. It took but a few hours to do it, and as a result, fans of the show are getting the movie they wanted.
Free services can be great, but it’s hard for them to live forever, and they aren’t really free, it’s just not you that pays for them. Be ready to reassess what has value for you, and to pay a reasonable fee for that value.
From what I’ve read, very few of you actually use Google Reader. That’s what they tell me. So few of you, that its not worth keeping the old Google Reader around any more. If you aren’t sure what it is, it was quite Simply one of the best, if not the best, rss reader ever made. You subscribe to an RSS feed in Google Reader, then you can access that feed list from anywhere you like. Before the release of GR, rss reading was confined to your computer, which wasn’t good if you wanted to read the news on another device. In this world of smartphones, it became important for there to be a centralised rss reading system for apps to link into.
So you see that it’s not so much the loss of the GR website that’s so upsetting, it’s the loss of the API. For those of us that used it, we really used it. I live on it. It’s probably my most used web service of all time. Facebook and Twitter don’t even come close.
This is a good reminder that web services don’t live forever.
But not only am I sad for the loss of Google Reader, I’m feeling a lot less trusting of Google products in general. That’s not to say that I think they’ll be shutting down Gmail next, but they are cycling through products very quickly. This is all coming off the back of the loss of Picasa too. At least with Picasa, they’re offering users an alternative product. Whereas Reader going away, is the end.
So now I’m looking at alternative services. I’m going to replace as many Google products as I can. Some will be very easy to replace. As you might have heard, I’m now an iPhone user, so I’m can live entirely in the Apple universe if I want to. That means I have use of calendars and email. I’ll definitely give the calendar a go, but I’m not too ready to give up Gmail. I need to do a little digging into Apple Mail, but I think it simply doesn’t have the functionality I need from my email. However, I’m more than happy to use the calendar app on my iOS devices and laptop.
I have already replaced Google Music with iTunes Match and I’m more than happy. So I’m willing to try taking things further. I’m also planning on giving Safari another try. After all, it too has all the things I like about Chrome. There’s the bookmark syncing and the tab syncing that are the main reasons I use Chrome, so I don’t think I’ll be losing anything.
I’ll let you know how it goes.