In Nov 2012 we posted a retrospective mini-episode to celebrate 2 million PEL episodes downloaded according to libsyn (whom we haven't hosted with since the beginning, so there are some additional ones from the first year or so in addition to whatever they tell us).
We've now hit 5 million, and all you get is this little overshare about behind the scenes stuff:
1. We are by no means tired of this. We have a long long list of topics and are eager to get to them. More metaphysics! More aesthetics! Economics! And even higher level ethics and political philosophy. It was great to finally get going on philosophy of science in 2013, and we'll do a few more of those. We hope to have a bit more non-Western on the horizon, as well as some Middle Ages stuff, but we'll see...
2. Souring on world domination. Back about 2 years ago now, thanks to our getting noticed through openculture.com, we started to get featured on the front page of iTunes. Our subscription numbers jumped madly, and we were for a while actually among the overall top 10 iTunes podcasts, beating Nerdist and NPR... a heady time. But after they started featuring us after a few months, we lost a lot of ground (It'll happen to you too, Philosophize This!); we had gone up to 200,000 downloads per month and were shortly back to not much more than half of that. We've now finally gotten back up to that point, but it's not really comparable, as we now have twice as many files counting the precogs now for people to download. In short: we got put out there for lots of non-philosophy people to try, and proved ourselves probably a little too much of a niche product to achieve world domination. (Really? Most random people don't want to listen to two hours of conversation that at this point at the very least really requires that you have listened to 100+ previous hours of our recordings to really get everything, and maybe even that's not enough?) We've still got plenty of room to stretch, but...
3. Charging for our back catalog. For a long time, we'd ask for a $1 suggested donation if you liked the episode. With 5 million downloads, even assuming that lots of people download things and don't listen to them or didn't like us, we should still be looking at 1 million dollars if people were actually doing that. We've been extremely grateful to our many donors (and our couple of sponsors), and did actually have significant taxes to deal with this year, but we're still not close to being able to quit our jobs and travel around doing PEL conferences or anything like that.
So within the next month, we'll be trying out taking the first batch of old episodes off of the public iTunes feed and putting them on our site store and the iTunes music store (just like WTF and many other podcasts that have cranked out a lot of episodes). So consider this your warning: go download a bunch from ep. 16 forward if you want them in their current, free state. We have no plans to ever charge for new episodes, will always have a plethora of free ones posted (i.e. the first bunch and the most recent bunch), and even for the ones that will become paid, we'll keep up a preview with the first half hour, which is enough to hear what the reading is about. PEL Citizens will get access to the back catalog, though we'll be figuring out how to rework it so one won't be able to simply pay $5 and get 50 episodes... maybe we'll put in a 3-month-minimum subscription proviso to get the whole shebang or something like that. For the immediate future, Citizens will continue to have have free access to everything we sell.
4. Our Citizen site has been pretty damned successful. ...In that we've had at least between .5 and 1 person sign up every day (net, not gross; this takes into account those that unsubscribe) since we launched the thing in October 2012, and now have 680 members of the Citizens' Forum. I don't know how much of an effect any of our bonus downloads has had on that, but I suspect that the bulk of the support is just from you fine folks who have wanted to support the production of the podcasts, and we're very grateful for that. We're taking some of the money we've made off of this and are in the process of designing an upgrade in the look and feel of the Citizen site. That will at the same time make the site even easier to use via mobile devices, so, e.g. per #3, if you're a Citizen, it'll still be easy to listen to all the old episodes. I'd like to say that Not School had really taken off as well, but we still tend to have not more than a half dozen groups per month, and only a few enterprising Citizens regularly recording their discussions to add to the Free Stuff stockpile. With the upcoming website improvements, we'd like to get some more highly involved assistants (which we can now afford to pay some, but really very little) to lead ongoing groups and otherwise soup up the interaction between Citizens there.
5. More types of episodes. This last year we introduced the Precogs, which most people seem to like (though they have not yet taken off as an independent product: you should really send these things to your non-philosophy friends who would get befuddled by our full episodes, as they're fully as self-contained and easy to follow for the most part as a Philosophy Bites or Philosophize This monologue), and for the first time had a "follow-up" to an episode that was not in itself another episode and didn't have to involve the full PEL crew. As an alternative to getting all the guys together to listen to a guest, we've been looking at supplementing our regular episodes with more one-on-one interviews so that each of us can chase our separate passions more easily without slowing down the regular release schedule. That means more PEL per month and more potentially rewarding risk-taking on our part (well, potential crap too, but we're not going to air something we really hate).
6. Social media craziness. Our Facebook group has gotten insanely active, with 7500+ members and now about a dozen moderators trying to keep the board relatively clean of viciousness and spam and blatantly non-philosophical posts. I've gotten some complaints about their heavy-handedness, but it beats the alternative. Note that we recently introduced also a Facebook "Page," which is purely another route for us to get blog posts up, that supposedly makes its way into your Facebook news feed when we post something. So go "like" us there, please, as this will help our overall presence which advertisers pay attention to. Our Twitter following has likewise grown a lot (nearly 5000 followers right now), and we make a lot of good connections using that (so thanks for Daniel Horne and to Seth for doing most of the work manning that). Seth also set up a Partially Examined Life Citizens LinkedIn Group that you may be interested in.
Thanks again for listening/reading/participating/donating!