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Scott Aukerman

QUESTIONS FOR SCOTT RE: HOWL

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Hullo, it's your ole pal Scotty Aux, back on the boards. Long time, long time, yes, yes, I know.

 

On today's episode, we talked about our new premium service, HOWL. Since I'm sometimes not the best at elucidating things when trying to do a comedy podcast, I thought I would set up shop, here, and take questions. I have a busy day, but I'll try to come back and answer when I can.

 

There are a couple of reasons, when we started talking about this months and months back, why I thought this was an amazing idea. Let me try to go through a few:

 

1) A new way to pay for shows that we know aren't going to get advertisers

 

We have a lot of people and shows who want to be on Earwolf. But recently I started to find it very frustrating to hear someone pitch a great idea for a show, but realize that we could never justify paying for it. Either it was just a one-off idea, or mini-series, that would cost a lot of money to produce; or it would be a show hosted by newer comedians, who could possibly take years to build an audience (if they ever could).

 

The threshold of what it takes to get advertisers interested, we found, is sort of high - you need to put out the show regularly, every week, and you also need to have a certain number of downloads. A number that smaller shows, like Hollywood Handbook, and even BIGGER shows - some of our staples - aren't able to hit all of the time.

 

So, as a creative producer, how do you not turn away these brilliant performers and ideas? Howl is a great solution.

 

2) A place where you can find all of your favorite things to listen to (to which to listen??)

 

But we knew it couldn't just be new shows on HOWL - no one would come just for new talent and unproven ideas. The more we started talking about things like Netflix, we liked the model of being a place where you can find EVERYTHING you want to listen to.

 

Joining forces with the WTF archives was a big step toward that. AST Records, I believe, is putting up their archive of awesome comedy albums. And we're adding a whole bunch more stuff - new and archives - over the next months and years.

 

I hope HOWL will be the place where people want to put their shows because they want the same kind of exposure Netflix will give them.

 

3) Cleaning up the archives

 

When Jeff and I started Earwolf several decades ago, we wanted to keep all episodes free. Every single one. "We're just starting out - why would we want to leave listeners on the table?" It was tough - we couldn't get any kind of advertising (or really income) for the first three years or so. I remember some of the early pitches to companies who laughed Jeff out of the building, or didn't even know what a podcast was.

 

But it paid off - we showed advertisers that podcasts were a medium to take seriously. By putting out consistent shows and growing an audience.

 

BUT - over the last couple of years, I look at the episode lists for the longer-running shows, and they just look impeneterable to new listeners. HUNDREDS of episodes for each show - where do you even begin?

 

It would be like going into a comic book store, and being shown every single issue of the X-Men, and saying, "pick one, and that's where you'll start reading." Okay.... #1? That one looks old and they probably haven't figured out what to do yet. And the character your friends told you about (Gambit) isn't on the team for hundreds of issues. The most recent issue? Well, maybe you won't know what you need to know to be able to understand it. "Ah, no thanks - I'll just stick with Saga. There's only twenty issues of that - I can catch up."

 

BUT, once you get your entry point into something - comics, TV shows, podcasts - going back, and sort of "collecting," can be one of the great joys. When I tried to get into Dr. Who, I tried starting with the older episodes, but they weren't really interesting me, so I just went to the Matt Smith episodes and started there. NOW I understand the show, and want to go back and watch the old ones.

 

We knew we needed to clean up the archives. Hopefully this will grow the show. But it was a scary decision, and one I wrestled with. But I'm confident it was the right one.

 

4) Monetizing old eps

 

The old episodes were just sitting there - thousands of hours of entertainment, with no way of being worth anything. Shows that could really use some more income for the hosts needed a boost.

 

The great thing about HOWL is it's incredibly democratic. For the specials and mini-series, we pay those artists in advance to do the shows. But for the archive, we split up the subscription money based on the amount of listens they get. Very simple!

 

This will be a great boon to some shows. So if you like Who Charted, and want to support them - listen in HOWL! New eps AND old. Same with Hollywood Handbook - listen to every new episode in HOWL, and they can finally start getting some ducats in those pockets.

 

Okay, those are my initial thoughts. I don't really know anything about how the app or website works, or the process of when stuff is going to be introduced. Shannon will know more about that. But if you have any questions, I will try to answer them!

 

SA

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The big one for me is:

 

Android app?

 

I don't know any of the specifics, but I'm told yes, it's being worked on.

 

Until then - www.howl.fm

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Is there any chance the technology is being worked on to accomodate video episodes on Howl?

 

Or, to be more to the point: Are there any preliminary plans for the Never Not Funny archive to possibly come to the new platform?

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Is there any chance the technology is being worked on to accomodate video episodes on Howl?

 

Or, to be more to the point: Are there any preliminary plans for the Never Not Funny archive to possibly come to the new platform?

 

I'm not sure exactly if video is currently being worked on, but it's a cool idea - I can imagine, down the line, HOWL becoming available on Apple TV and the like.

 

As far as the audio archives of NNF, I think it would be a great idea - I'm not exactly sure what the status of that would be, since they own the archives, and might have specific plans for them. But the best way to get ANYTHING you want onto HOWL is to let the creators know you want to see it there.

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Okay, focusing on HOWL the service, rather than HOWL the app (which I have a billion questions about, but can save them for Shannon), your point #3 about cleaning up the archives:

 

CBB really is very foreboding and impenetrable at first glance. I tried multiple times unsuccessfully until I listened to Mike Detective and decided I 100% had to jump on board this laugh train. Part of the problem is that a lot of characs require some level of prior knowledge, which the service has now put behind a barrier. Do you anticipate curating a small portion of the paid archives for free listeners as sort of a Best Of (or at least, easiest to get into) sampler to help ease into the show?

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Okay, focusing on HOWL the service, rather than HOWL the app (which I have a billion questions about, but can save them for Shannon), your point #3 about cleaning up the archives:

 

CBB really is very foreboding and impenetrable at first glance. I tried multiple times unsuccessfully until I listened to Mike Detective and decided I 100% had to jump on board this laugh train. Part of the problem is that a lot of characs require some level of prior knowledge, which the service has now put behind a barrier. Do you anticipate curating a small portion of the paid archives for free listeners as sort of a Best Of (or at least, easiest to get into) sampler to help ease into the show?

 

Yes - all the CBB best ofs will remain up. That's a HUGE amount of the info people would need, I think, for our most popular eps.

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Is Howl just for old episodes? Or are the new episodes going to be on there too? I exclusively have been listening to the podcasts via Soundcloud on the website (it's easier to listen to while at work), will this change at all?

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Is Howl just for old episodes? Or are the new episodes going to be on there too? I exclusively have been listening to the podcasts via Soundcloud on the website (it's easier to listen to while at work), will this change at all?

 

As far as I know (and Shannon would know more about this) - the new eps will be on HOWL, as well as Soundcloud and iTunes, and the website.

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How about old episodes, will they stay up on Soundcloud/Earwolf website or will they be taken down so that one would only be able to listen to them via Howl Premium?

 

I'm psyched about all the new content on Howl and can't wait for all that comes later!

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As far as I know (and Shannon would know more about this) - the new eps will be on HOWL, as well as Soundcloud and iTunes, and the website.

 

That is correct. New episodes of Earwolf and Wolfpop shows, as well as the latest 6 months of episodes will stay free and exactly where they are. Anything older will be ad-free and available only on Howl Premium.

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Hi Scott, first off I'm actually excited for the direction Earwolf and the podcast medium is taking in producing mini series and podcasts and such. I'm a VERY big consumer of podcasts, and have listened to the backlogs of....several.

 

So I have no issue with wanting to take this approach with howl and will sign up immediately.

 

However I do have one very important question -- which is that I like to listen to Earwolf podcasts, and non-earwolf podcasts. I enjoy all of this being on one app (for example the app I use is pocketcasts)

 

So in short, if I pay for Howl premium will I still be able to use pocketcasts for the backlog of earwolf shows or would I have to use the howl app?

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Hi Scott, first off I'm actually excited for the direction Earwolf and the podcast medium is taking in producing mini series and podcasts and such. I'm a VERY big consumer of podcasts, and have listened to the backlogs of....several.

 

So I have no issue with wanting to take this approach with howl and will sign up immediately.

 

However I do have one very important question -- which is that I like to listen to Earwolf podcasts, and non-earwolf podcasts. I enjoy all of this being on one app (for example the app I use is pocketcasts)

 

So in short, if I pay for Howl premium will I still be able to use pocketcasts for the backlog of earwolf shows or would I have to use the howl app?

 

You would have to use the HOWL app for older Earwolf shows, and pocketcasts for the newer ones. It's kind of like watching CBB eps on Netflix, and Seinfeld on Hulu - you'll have to go a couple places for different things, but the goal is to get EVERYTHING on Howl.

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That is correct. New episodes of Earwolf and Wolfpop shows, as well as the latest 6 months of episodes will stay free and exactly where they are. Anything older will be ad-free and available only on Howl Premium.

 

 

What about something like Andy Daly's show, that if it does come back would almost definitely be another carefully planned limited run? Will that remain free given there's no new episodes coming and at most the archive will still only be, like, twenty episodes? Or would it be a contender as a "miniseries" now and not be released in the traditional manner next time?

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I actually have the opposite question (which makes it more for Shannon I guess): are there any plans to allow the app to be an all-purpose podcast app that provides both access to the HOWL service, but also downloading of non-HOWL podcasts?

 

I suppose it's like asking if Netflix will let me watch YouTube through Netflix, but still. It'd be convenient if they did.

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1) Will old shows (RSS, ADP) be completely unavailable to free users?

2) Will Howl Premium users be able to download un-DRMed episodes?

3) Any specifics on Android? This seems to really really break the experience for Android users, and serves as a massive content regression

4) Why couldn't the UX issue of "too much uncurated content" be solved purely through UX means instead of payments (i.e. for each show have some suggested first listens, or even put the "archived" episodes in a different section of Earwolf)? The monetization argument certainly makes sense for Scripps, but the "overwhelming amount of content" argument really seems like a lame attempt to tell users that it's actually good for us to have less access to content. "Too much uncurated content" and "users not paying us for this content" seem like purely orthogonal issues.

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Is there a timeline for when the archives on earwolf.com will be pulled?

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You would have to use the HOWL app for older Earwolf shows, and pocketcasts for the newer ones. It's kind of like watching CBB eps on Netflix, and Seinfeld on Hulu - you'll have to go a couple places for different things, but the goal is to get EVERYTHING on Howl.

 

Okay, I can respect that decision I suppose. Definitely please work on pumping out an android app as soon as possible then.

 

My next question -- I moderate the Earwolf subreddit, and we're constantly having people ask what are the recommended episodes for getting into shows -- the most popular suggestion is to go through the backlog and find a guest that interests you and listen to their episode.

 

In fact a couple years ago when I first started listening that's how I got into podcasts -- I specifically remember going into Comedy Bang Bang and downloading episodes with Bob Odenkirk and John Hamm (two guests that haven't been on in over 6 months)

 

So I guess in short my point is, in my opinion howl doesn't make it easier for new listeners, but harder. I suppose a workaround is to take advantage of the free trial and listen to some archived episodes.

 

So will the free trial remain a thing in the future?

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What about something like Andy Daly's show, that if it does come back would almost definitely be another carefully planned limited run? Will that remain free given there's no new episodes coming and at most the archive will still only be, like, twenty episodes? Or would it be a contender as a "miniseries" now and not be released in the traditional manner next time?

 

That's an interesting question - As far as new episodes of ADPP go, I'm not sure what the model would be. For the first season, I believe we paid Andy to do it, and the way we tried to minimize the financial risk was to put out one episode a few months in advance, to show advertisers the numbers, reassuring them about the listens it would get. Then we sold the ads, and put out the rest of the eps a few months later.

 

Not the most ideal way to go about things, so it might be easier, and less risky, to go through HOWL for season two? But everything is on a case-by-case basis.

 

I asked for Analyze Phish and UTU2TM to remain up, since there are so few episodes, dating back years. AP because it's over, and I want as many people to listen to it as possible. And UTU2TM because it's so new, and kind of a limited series. Not sure what the plans for ADPP are specifically.

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1) Will old shows (RSS, ADP) be completely unavailable to free users?

2) Will Howl Premium users be able to download un-DRMed episodes?

3) Any specifics on Android? This seems to really really break the experience for Android users, and serves as a massive content regression

4) Why couldn't the UX issue of "too much uncurated content" be solved purely through UX means instead of payments (i.e. for each show have some suggested first listens, or even put the "archived" episodes in a different section of Earwolf)? The monetization argument certainly makes sense for Scripps, but the "overwhelming amount of content" argument really seems like a lame attempt to tell users that it's actually good for us to have less access to content. "Too much uncurated content" and "users not paying us for this content" seem like purely orthogonal issues.

 

Most of these questions are too specific for me (I don't know what a UX is), but I think the shows on HOWL are only for streaming, like Netflix or Hulu. It's an interesting idea for people who want to "own" things to put them up for sale on iTunes, maybe? Like TV shows are? It's something to think about.

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Is there a timeline for when the archives on earwolf.com will be pulled?

 

it all has to be done manually, so i think it's starting today. if there's anything you want to have taking up space on your computer, get it now!

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Okay, I can respect that decision I suppose. Definitely please work on pumping out an android app as soon as possible then.

 

My next question -- I moderate the Earwolf subreddit, and we're constantly having people ask what are the recommended episodes for getting into shows -- the most popular suggestion is to go through the backlog and find a guest that interests you and listen to their episode.

 

In fact a couple years ago when I first started listening that's how I got into podcasts -- I specifically remember going into Comedy Bang Bang and downloading episodes with Bob Odenkirk and John Hamm (two guests that haven't been on in over 6 months)

 

So I guess in short my point is, in my opinion howl doesn't make it easier for new listeners, but harder. I suppose a workaround is to take advantage of the free trial and listen to some archived episodes.

 

So will the free trial remain a thing in the future?

 

Not sure how long the free trial will remain, but most services I've found offer free trials.

 

I think the best ofs remaining up will help out with that - Jon Hamm, Odenkirk, etc, are all on there.

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Why is there no download function in the browser version of Howl? Will there be one?

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Why is there no download function in the browser version of Howl? Will there be one?

 

It's a streaming service, so no downloads. For people who have complicated systems of downloading things and transfering them to iPods, that doesn't help, I know.

 

For those in that situation, maybe there could be an option to pay to download premium content, like how Netflix makes shows available on blu-ray after a window, or how you can buy CBS shows the day after they air?

 

But for all new Earwolf/Wolfpop episodes, you can still download them when they come out.

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