May 21, 2018

The People Have Spoken - Podcasts Start With Plato!

As I start writing this, we are about to hit a major milestone on Patreon.  Thanks to several recent generous pledges, and several longstanding supporters increasing their level of support, we are right on the threshold of another goal!  And once we pass it, I have committed to doing something major.

For several years, viewers, subscribers, followers, and other fans of my main YouTube channel have been asking me to convert those videos into podcast episodes that they could listen to on the go.  I'd say at this point, I've been asked about that well over 1,000 times.  Doing that sort of work takes a good bit of time, so I committed to starting that process once I reach a sufficient level of crowdfunding support on Patreon.  And now we're almost there! (if you'd like to get us over the line, here's where you can become a supporter).

I don't do a lot of "market research" when it comes to my various projects.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I do almost none.  I'm much more about studying and presenting the material in ways that are faithful to the texts and thinkers, rigorous but also accessible to the world-wide audience of people interested in philosophy.  Before starting up the podcast, though, I thought it might be prudent to get some input about what material I should start with,  So I ran a poll, and we've already got some useful results.

What Thinkers Should I Start With?

I've got well over 1300 videos on various texts, figures, movements, or issues in philosophy in my main video channel.  That is a lot of material, so figuring out where to start is key.  I came up with a list of thinkers on whom I have a significant amount of content already produced and available for turning into mp3s.

Those who participated in the poll - at this moment, 58 people - were asked which of those philosophical figures they would most like to see me start with.  They were allowed to pick multiple entries from the list.

When there were just 10-20 entries, Martin Heidegger, Soren Kierkegaard, and Jean-Paul Sartre were jockeying for lead position.  So an early lead for the Existentialists!  But as I checked in once the poll hit 30, then 40, then 50, a new pattern emerged.  Here's the snapshot as of right now.

Plato went to the top as the consistent top choice, maintaining a lead on all of the other thinkers.  So in my view, he's the clear winner, and I'll be starting the podcast with episodes from one of his texts.  That will mean a bit more work, since many of them will take a good bit of sound-tinkering in Audacity (which I downloaded and started playing around with last night) to get them up to the audio quality a decent podcast needs.

Two other classic thinkers - Aristotle and Epictetus - also climbed into the top bracket.  That's good - I've got lots of material on both of them as well!  And just below that 5-way tie, with just one less entry, is Marcus Tullius Cicero.  So I'll definitely be creating a lot of podcasts on ancient philosophy.

Notice who else is in there, high up in the ratings.  The Existentialists still have some great representation, though Sartre's share has dropped considerably.  Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Soren Kierkegaard all participate in that 5-way tie for second place.  In fact, it's just a quirk of how Typeform presents data  - tied entries are listed in alphabetical order - that has those three below Aristotle and Epictetus.

I'll leave the poll open for the time being, but I consider these results useful enough to start moving forward with a clear mandate.  Start creating podcast content from the Plato videos, and then branch out in two directions.  More ancient thinkers.  And some of the key Existentialist thinkers as well.

Some Other Interesting Results

Another question bearing upon the material I'll start with was this: "I'm thinking about what content to start converting into podcasts first. Which of these sounds like the best to begin with?"
  • Converting a set of my shorter (10-25 minute) Core Concept videos into podcast episodes.
  • Converting some of the 1 hour long Existentialism videos into podcast episodes.
  • Converting some of my recorded class lectures from Intro to Philosophy or Ethics into podcast episodes
  • Converting some of the recorded talks I've given into podcast episodes
The clear winner was the first option.  With roughly 63% of the vote, it blew every other option right off the page.  So that's precisely where I'm going to start.  That will keep me busy.  I've got over 400 Core Concept videos.

I've long wondered - particularly since I use a chalkboard and also gesture a lot - how well my video presentations of complex philosophical material would translate into a purely audio format.  So I polled the participants about that as well.  I asked them:  "Do you imagine the content in my YouTube videos will be as understandable or interesting in podcast form, without any visuals?"

The results were pretty interesting:
  • 51.7% selected "Podcast form will definitely lose something, but I'm all right with that."  
  • 36.2% agreed that "It will be about as good in podcast form as it is in video form"
That's the vast majority of the likely listeners - assuming that the poll results are representative - and that puts my mind at ease.

Interestingly, 8.6% were rather optimistic about the podcasts, choosing "Definitely! In fact, it'll be better as just voice, no visuals!"

Just one person selected "It'll be a disaster!".  Hopefully they don't turn out to be right!

So there you have it - the poll results so far, some interpretation on my part, and a few conclusions about where I'll be starting once I begin podcasting.  

Once again, if you'd like to help support the work I do making philosophy accessible to people worldwide, think about joining our community of Patreon supporters!

. . . . Update - new poll results

We now have results from more than 80 participants.  Plato holds his consistent lead over every other thinker.  Kierkegaard has moved up to number 2, with Aristotle behind him in number 3 position.

Then, going from number 4 through 7, it is Epictetus, Heidegger, Cicero, and Nietzsche.  So clearly, what the viewers and listeners want most are some of the most important thinkers of ancient philosophy and Existential philosophy.

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