I began the BlogTalkRadio.com adventure with high hopes, but I now find myself frustrated and disappointed. I’ve been noticing that they keep putting out blog posts talking about how to promote our shows, and up until this weekend, I had thought that these were helpful hints. I didn’t get it until now, and I don’t think folks at BTR get it, either.
The blog posts keep saying “we give you the tools to promote your show,” but the fact is, those tools are a far cry from adequate. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the entire structure of BTR.com is entirely wrong, despite their best intentions to create something really new and different. Let me assure readers of this post that I have, in fact, aired my grievances with the BTR folks directly, in blog comments, direct email and support forum suggestions, lest people think me a whiner that doesn’t contribute.
My itemized bitch-session after the fold.
The BlogTalkRadio.com Blog:
Blogs are what you make of them, it’s true. However, there are a few instances where the nature of the communication required of an entity is in fact quite standardized. One of those would be the releases from an entity providing web services. For this type of blog, the entries need to be fairly singular in topic, mostly devoted to letting the users know about changes to the service, problems and suggestions. In short, tech stuff.
BlogTalkRadio’s blog does nothing of the sort. In fact with the exception of one recent change, if there are changes that have been made in the past two months or so, I’m not aware of any of them. Instead, they’re using this blog to promote shows that are on the network, and in some cases, those radio shows happen to be hosted by the very same people running the blog and presumably the service. I appreciate the need to promote your stuff as well as anyone, but this is not appropriate.
It leads me to wonder if anyone is taking this service all that seriously. “Seriously,” I mean, as a web service. The other worry is that these are non-technical people who got a good idea, grabbed a few techs, and started a service, rather than code monkeys dedicated to making a system work the best it can. Tech-centric services almost never have these problems. I mean, I don’t even know what version of the BTR software we’re all using! Non-technical people will tell me it’s not a big deal to know these things; I won’t bother to explain why that’s wrong.
Here, what I mean is: how well or poorly the service is provided to the end-user. This is pretty abysmal, if you ask me.
I’ve been a PC tech professionally for about six years, now. I can build you a computer. I can reload your OS blindfolded. I know PC software.
Imagine my surprise when it took me all night to get one radio show to work! In order to listen to a show, you need to open an ASX file in a media player. Almost no modern website requires this of it’s customers for one simple reason: it works like shit. Different players expect different things and expect the file passed in different methods, not to mention the fact that if there’s anything wrong with (or just different about) your player, your browser or your OS (or drivers, or network connection, or proxy, or some weird DLL file, etc.) that damned file won’t play.
Having been a PC tech for so long means I also know a thing or two about how people react to technology. Particularly when that technology does not work for them. Most people won’t tell you that they couldn’t make something work on the Internet for fear of looking stupid, so they’ll just bail and later tell you “oh, I missed it.”
The difficulty of the service explains the unspeakably low rate of return on my advertisement. They say they “give you the tools to promote your show,” but the major tool for listening to our shit doesn’t work right. What’s the point of all that promotion if the audience is just going to wander away in frustration?
My most recent show was an interview with April Laragy of the Atomic Swindlers. This is a very, very popular band that’s highly-rated on Sirius radio with thousands of “friends” on MySpace. Their manager put out 18,000 invitations for this interview; I could hardly expect him to do any more. I advertised for this show on my blog, in email, on MySpace (where I have 300+ Rochester-based friends) and on FaceBook day and night. I didn’t get one call from a listener. I won’t even tell you how few people were listening live.
Ask anyone in marketing and they’ll tell you: that low of a return is damned-near impossible, especially for a band which has fans.
XML/API Services and Blog Integration:
BlogTalkRadio.com is essentially a web services provider, like YouTube.com, Upcoming.org, Flickr.com and a great many other services that make the modern, robust “Web2.0” concept happen. As such, in order to be truly effective, the service needs to be geared towards an open API and a robust XML schema including RSS and Atom feeds. The idea is to attract people to use of your services on their own blogs, not to attract people to your website.
It is on this level that BlogTalkRadio has perhaps been the most negligent. Here again is cause to wonder if the people in charge are legitimate gear-heads in tune with the modern Internet. They seem more interested in people checking out their website, which while it’s an understandable vanity is completely bass-ackwards.
Those of us who already own webspace and already possess an audience need to keep that audience in one place. It’s hard enough getting that audience, but redirecting them elsewhere for the sake of one one-hour show expecting them not to wander off the path is folly.
The only RSS feed the service provides is of shows already recorded. Not terribly useful for what is supposed to be a live performance. There is nothing there to promote upcoming shows, RSS, Atom or otherwise. There are no exposed APIs that would allow us to do anything with the data available on the BlogTalkRadio.com website. The “Media Player” they’ve opted to use doesn’t play live shows, for cryin’ in the sink! It’s playing the podcasts. . . so why don’t I just podcast and use WordPress’s media player?
Ultimately, I feel like I’m putting in a ton of effort to create a little island far distant from the rest of what I do and inaccessible to your average bear. Hours of show prep, promoting like crazy every day and especially on the day of the show, trying to book guests, promoting, promoting, promoting. . . . and all for occasionally single-digit audiences that are probably not even regular readers of this website.
It’s too bad, too: I’m starting to think that I’m a fairly decent interviewer and I’ve loved doing the two interviews I was able to do. But until I see BTR work out a number of these issues ~ or until a more receptive service invents itself ~ I will not be doing any more radio shows, I don’t think.