By John Gruber
Sky Guide brings the beauty of the stars down to Earth.
Dithering, my and Ben Thompson’s new thrice-weekly podcast, has now been out for a week. So far, so good. We had a pretty smooth launch and a terrific response. Let me just start by thanking all of you who’ve subscribed already.
Ben and I are in relatively uncharted territory here with Dithering’s subscription-based model. That’s worked for Ben with Stratechery, which is primarily a newsletter, but Stratechery has recently expanded into a podcast too, and Dithering is built on that Stratechery back end. It’s a really sweet sign-up experience. Ben wrote about our thinking in a piece this week: “Dithering and Open Versus Free”. It’s a very Stratechery-y post — strategy plus technology.
We’re listening to all of your comments and questions. Here’s where we are, one week in:
At launch, Stratechery members who added a Dithering subscription still had just one unified podcast feed, containing episodes of Stratechery’s Daily Update and Dithering. Technically, this is very clever, and it should, in theory, work great. But in practice, podcast apps just don’t expect one feed to contain episodes from multiple shows. This was the most common complaint, and so we tackled it as our highest priority. As of earlier this week, Stratechery and Dithering are now discrete podcast feeds, even for those of you subscribed to both. If you subscribed last week to the unified feed, you can get links to the separate feeds at the Stratechery podcasts page.
The next most common request is for a free sample episode. Reasonable! People want to know what they’re getting before they pay. But our thinking is this. First, Ben has been on The Talk Show numerous times — listening to us on my show gives you a taste of what Dithering is like. (And as for what Dithering is about, you can see a list of topics by looking at the episode list on the home page.) Second, Dithering is only $5/month to try, and if you don’t like it, it’s a cinch to cancel, hassle-free. We’ve had just over 5,000 sign-ups so far and not one single request for a refund. Zero! And for that $5/month price you get access to the whole back catalog of episodes going back to mid-March. We’ve heard from a bunch of people who’ve already listened to them all.
Also on the “listen to us for free” front, I was Ben’s guest last week on the Stratechery podcast. Normally, that’s for Stratechery subscribers only, but Ben made my interview a free episode. To listen, all you need to do is sign up for a free Stratechery account. Just go to that page and click “Create an account”. It’s completely free, and gets you a custom feed for the free episodes of the Stratechery podcast, including his interview with me (which is mostly about my own history publishing Daring Fireball). What’s really cool is that if you sign up, listen, and decide to subscribe to Dithering, you can do it right in your podcast app, from the link at the top of the episode’s show notes. It’s really very clever — and completely built on the open web.
People who like my podcast seem to enjoy Dithering. But a lot of people who don’t like The Talk Show like Dithering too — if what they dislike about The Talk Show is that episodes are so long. The 15-minute hard-and-fast episode length for Dithering gives it a very different feel, and it seems popular both with people who like long podcasts and people who only prefer short ones.
We’ve been asked a few times where the name “Dithering” came from. There’s a funny story about that. When we started recording “beta” episodes in mid-March, we had no name. We figured it’d take weeks, months even, to settle on a name, and were ready to call the show “Needs a Name” as a placeholder. I worried terribly about it, because everything about the brand would start with the name. But it turns out we came upon the name while we were recording the very first episode. Ben said the word “dithering” on air, near the end of the first episode, and for me it was like Vader seeing that fuzzy image of the rebel base on Hoth: “That’s it.” Or maybe it was me who said the word and Ben who instantly recognized as a great name for the show. I forget. You should subscribe and listen to that first episode to figure out how it happened.
Again, my thanks to everyone who’s already subscribed. And don’t forget the Dithering account on Twitter — a great way to send us feedback on episodes and listen to preview snippets of each new episode.