The State of the Podcast

Shawn says it’s my turn to write a Prancing Pony Pondering this week, but instead of giving you 20 pages of my ramblings, I’m actually going to take this opportunity to update all of you on what’s been happening here at The Prancing Pony Podcast and — more exciting, I’m sure — what will be happening over the coming months. Please be sure to comment, or ask questions that you may have, in the comments below.

Where We’ve Been

Just a bit over six months ago, I wrote our ‘birthday’ post, celebrating the one-year anniversary of The Prancing Pony Podcast. At that time, we talked about a few of the plans we had for the PPP in its second year. Specifically, we had five exciting things to share, so it’s time for a report card!

Growth has built a strong
Tolkien community around our show, and that
was one of our goals from the beginning.

We told you that we’d have a few special interview episodes and some film discussion — so how did we do? Well, we spoke with Simon Tolkien about his memories of his grandfather and about his own excellent book, No Man’s Land, back in Episode 037. Then we enjoyed a great chat with John Garth in Episode 044, talking about his wonderful biography, Tolkien and the Great War, as well as his more recent project, Tolkien at Exeter College. Finally, we had a terrific conversation with Corey Olsen, better known as The Tolkien Professor, about everything from LotRO to Mythmoot, from podcasting to his book, Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ .  Granted, that episode doesn’t release for another 18 days after this post, but I think we can say we did alright on this score. Oh, and the film discussion? Our episode on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films came out last Sunday and our episode on The Hobbit films comes out next Sunday. Grade: A+

Next, we told you we’d start The Hobbit “sometime this fall — in September or October, I’d guess”. As it turns out, we’re exactly on-schedule: our Introduction to The Hobbit will release on September 24, and our first chapter walkthrough will release October 8. Grade: A

We also talked about doing more Facebook Live events and looking into how some of you might Skype with us during a recording. Since then, we’ve done a half-dozen Facebook Live appearances that you’ve watched nearly 4000 times. And while we’ve looked into how you all might talk with us directly, we’ve not yet actually done it. That’s part of our Patreon campaign, though — our live Q&A episodes will be recorded once a quarter, starting sometime in the fourth quarter of this year! And then there’s the new segment we’ll be introducing (also in the fourth quarter), The North Wing, where some of our patrons will be invited onto the show for a brief get-to-know-you chat! Grade: B / In Progress

Beyond that, we promised to bring you more Tolkien Fun Facts and listener comments, as well as more giveaways. Well, we can’t get good grades in everything. But Shawn and I have been working on several short content-based segments like Tolkien Fun Facts so that every episode will have something extra! Expect to start seeing those shortly after we start The Hobbit. The giveaways are also on the horizon — as we’ve been mentioning in recent episodes, once our podcast host has received 250 completed surveys, we’ll throw those email addresses in a hopper and pull two lucky winners: one will receive the First Edition Facsimile of The Hobbit, while the other will win a copy of the recently-released Beren and Lúthien. We are also currently developing a quarterly giveaway that will be open to members of The Fellowship of the Podcast (our Patreon family). Grade: C- / In Progress

Finally, we talked about selling some Prancing Pony Podcast-branded merchandise and we are pleased to say that our first run of T-shirt sales is now underway! Check our social media channels for more information (Facebook / Twitter). Stickers, buttons and thank-you cards have gone out to our Patreon family, and we’ll be making some of those things available for everyone else in the near future. We’re still working on pint glasses, but they’re coming, too!  Grade: B+ / In Progress

Math is Fun

Well, maybe not always — but when the podcast numbers are getting bigger, it sure is! Anyone who’s listened to us knows that, when we started this, numbers weren’t something we thought about — let alone expected. But growth has come — and we’re grateful for it because it’s built a strong Tolkien community around our show, and that was one of our goals from the beginning.

So what numbers?, I hear you ask. Well, shortly after we first started, each episode would get around 200 downloads in the first 30 days after it was released. Six months in, that number climbed to 800 or so. By the time we celebrated our birthday in February, we were seeing 1200 downloads per episode. Now? Close to 4000.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

We know that we can’t rest on our laurels — though, in our case, they’re not laurels… they’re sharp, thorny things, so we wouldn’t want to rest on them — so Shawn and I are always looking for ways to make The Prancing Pony Podcast better! Here is a list of some of the things we’ve either done, or have been working on recently:

  • Moved the website to a new host: this will allow us to implement some new features on the website, making for a better experience for visitors. This change actually just happened in the last few days, so be sure to check out some of the new and improved pages, like our Official Library.
  • Increased our plan with our podcast host: we are hoping our Fellowship of the Podcast soon reaches the $500/mo goal and, when we do, we go to weekly episodes! Not only does increasing our plan allow for that eventuality, but it also gives us room to upload higher-quality audio files.
  • Attended a podcast conference: that’s right, I attended Podcast Movement 2017 so that we could make the PPP a better show for our listeners. From tech things (which I’ll discuss shortly) to content, to community building, we are going to continue to find ways to improve the quality of the show here at The Prancing Pony. The ale is Gandalf’s business.
  • Improving audio quality: we’ve had a few minor issues here and there when it comes to audio quality. For the most part, I’d like to think we’re a well-produced show — perhaps that’s because I produce it — but I know that a two-man team on a shoestring budget has to rely on free tools and cheap workarounds to get the job done. Thanks in part to our Patreon supporters, we now have some resources to dedicate to improving our sound quality! We’ve invested in some recording tools (Loopback and Audio Hijack) as well as a new tool that helps us record and VoIP at at the same time (Zencastr). And we’re finally pulling the trigger on that Adobe Audition subscription so that our final product will be clean and properly mastered. These tools don’t come cheap, so please consider joining The Fellowship of the Podcast!
  • Improving content quality: we’re moving some things around on the show (you’ll hear some changes starting with our Introduction to The Hobbit), and are currently working on a few new segments to introduce over time. Stay tuned!
  • Setting up the show in “seasons”: Apple is now supports RSS tags differentiating seasons, so we’ll be going back and marking Episodes 001 to 052 as Season 1. Season 2 will be our season with The Hobbit and will start with Episode 053. Seasons 3-5 will be our walkthrough of The Lord of the Rings, and so on. This is more for our new listeners, but we think it will help our longtime listeners with organization in their podcast libraries and on their devices. (Note that this feature won’t be released until iOS 11 — it’s also, rather obviously, limited only to those of you using Apple’s devices and apps.)
  • Working on new exclusive content for patrons: we promised our patrons (at The Gift of Gondor tier or higher) exclusive content, and we are working on those things right now. Here are some things you can expect to see in the next few months — but remember, these are only going to be available to members of The Fellowship of the Podcast:
    • We’re planning a quarterly special episode with the topic chosen by one of our patrons, beginning in Q4.
    • Over the next couple of months, we’ll be writing and shooting a 3-part video series giving you a glimpse behind the scenes here at The Prancing Pony Podcast.
    • We’re looking at how we can create ‘postscripts’ to episodes — where we can go back and answer questions we didn’t solve and laugh at jokes we missed.
  • Designing, making and selling merchandise: we’ve spent a lot of time over the past few weeks designing our T-shirt and figuring out how best to make them available to you. We already have stickers and buttons (which we’ll find a way to make available soon), and now we’re looking at the logistics of shipping custom pint glasses!

So, yeah… we’ve got a few irons in the fire, as they say. We figure everyone is looking forward to at least one of these things — let us know what you’re most excited about below in the comments!

The Distant Future

We plan on continuing to provide value to our listeners, and extra value for our Patreon family, for many years to come. We’re committed to continuing our chapter-by-chapter discussions through The Hobbit and through all three volumes of The Lord of the Rings. We hope to be around long enough to also explore Unfinished Tales with you all as well.

As we invest more into the podcast — more time, more energy, more financial resources — we hope to earn your willingness to invest in us. Our Patreon campaign has been wonderful so far, and we are optimistic that community will grow — and as it grows, we are able to put more into the show and reach more people, continuing to grow what has become one of the best Tolkien communities around!

“And whither then? I cannot say.” Thank you so much for joining us on the Road so far!

8 thoughts on “The State of the Podcast

  1. You guys do a great job with the content, and as nice as all these other improvements are, they wouldn’t mean a thing if you were to Tolkien podcasting what PJ is to Hobbit movies.

    But there is one thing missing among all the marvelous improvements and all the swag. Don’t get me wrong. Having three pictures of the two of you lined up on my blackboard just makes my heart go pitter-pat; and knowing that I will soon be able to drink my pints (of milk) out of custom pint glasses makes me yearn to slake my thirst; and knowing that I will soon be able to go to sleep wearing my PPP t-shirt makes me weak in the knees. But where are the fridge magnets? We’ve forgotten the fridge magnets. Now THAT would set you apart.

    Despite this, I will keep listening, smug in the knowledge that I can pronounce Taniquetil. (You didn’t think I was going to forget that did you?)

    • Somehow, Tom, I’d be disappointed if you ever forgot my Tan-ee-QUET-l fiasco. 🙂

      Can I tell you a secret? We looked at doing magnets; we debated to the last minute the choice of magnets or buttons. In the end, buttons won for the sake of pure portability, but who knows what the future might hold for those with ferromagnetic properties? Stick around.

      (Yeah, that was a bad pun.)

      • It’s true. We considered magnets, but decided on buttons because people get to show them off more (unless, like Alan, you throw wild parties in your kitchen every Friday night). But we do still consider magnets to be pretty attractive as an option.

    • Thanks! Sorry to have edited your post, but Tolkien reading from The Hobbit is copyrighted and is available on the J.R.R. Tolkien Audio Collection, so I changed the link to reflect that. I want to encourage everyone to listen to samples from it on Amazon and purchase it if they’d like to hear him reading. 🙂

  2. You seem to have missed updating the website certificate when moving hosts for the website, the certificate for is invalid as it refers to the old site. This is already making it difficult to find the site via google, as the https entries are shown, and they don’t work.

    • Thanks, Andrew —

      Actually, when we moved hosts, we didn’t opt for the SSL certificate (though I’m not sure that was a conscious choice so much as an oversight) and so the site’s address changed from the httpS to the simple http — anyone using a bookmark to the old site or a search engine was having trouble for awhile.

      A recent search using Google and one or two other top engines shows that our new version is now properly indexed in their directories and all should be well! 🙂

  3. Try it again, enter Prancing Pony Podcast into Google, and look at what is returned most of the entries start with https:// and they do not work any more, all is not well and I would suggest you fix this, Google will take a dim view of the site in future with an invalid cert, and your site could well end up no longer on Google.

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