Friday, August 24, 2007

Guest Post: Podcast Usage At The Dowling College Library

{Here is another guess post, this time authored by Chris Kretz of the Dowling College Library.}

First off, thanks to Dave for the opportunity to share some podcasting thoughts here on his blog. My name is Chris Kretz and I'm the digital resources librarian at Dowling College on the south shore of Long Island. I also podcast for the library, an interview show called Omnibus. It tends to be about people's research interests and creative pursuits (whether they be faculty, students, community members or alumni) with a few forays into literary and dramatic presentations. I've been looking over our usage statistics for the last twelve months and wanted to informally share what I'm seeing in terms of the number of downloads of MP3 files, with an eye towards the question: are we attracting an audience?

When we started using WebTrends to track downloads of our MP3 files in July 2006, we had nine episodes already online. Over the next year we released 22 more. Those 31 episodes combined were downloaded a total of 17,970 times in twelve months. Here's how the top five episodes break down, with the interview topic and # of downloads for the year (our early shows often contained multiple interviews): a collector of Long Island ephemera and memorabilia (1700), a class on genealogical research (1611), computer safety and the history of a curious traffic intersection on campus (1598), a local historical society and the Drama Club (1494), a local historian and the Drama Club (1439). The local history focus grew out of our special collections . More work needs to be done to identify who our listeners are and this is by no means a full-blown analysis.

Am I satisfied with how we’re doing? My goal with Omnibus was to develop an alternative to onsite programming, something less formal yet with a coherent and continuing format. If we divvied up our downloads into attendance at 31 library programs for the year - well, for one thing, we don't have a room that will seat 580 people. Virtually speaking, however, people are still coming. So far we’re averaging 75 downloads a month per episode. That pace hasn’t slacked yet and since we have no foreseeable bandwidth issues, I see reason to continue and let the long tail continue to attract listeners.

Of course, there are lies, damned lies, and podcast statistics. Each download does not necessarily represent one listener. There’s no way to say if each download actually gets listened to. And we’ll have to do some surveying to get a better idea of who our listeners are. Beyond that, I see it as a positive that 17 faculty, 14 students, 5 administrators, 4 alumni, 6 poets, 4 professional actors, 13 community members and 1 NYCLU lawyer who may never have had occasion to meet or talk to a Dowling College librarian, have done so on our podcast and shared it with their friends and family. That, ultimately, will be how our core audience grows.



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