And That Got Me to Thinking… Frapper Maps, Surveys, and Julia Roberts

I think I‘m the only podcaster without a Frapper map. It’s not that I can’t put one on my site, and it’s not that I have anything against podcasters who do. But there’s something about the rise of Frapper Maps that just rubs me the wrong way. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but after mulling it over for a few weeks, I finally understood why. The revelation came from two interesting sources: Podcaster Survey Results and Julia Roberts.

Yes, I said Julia Roberts.

While ruminating over my aversion to Frapper maps, podcasters started releasing the results of their listener surveys. Most of these surveys are coming from PodTrack, a company that is trying to develop a business model around advertising through podcasts. It’s not that I’m against advertising in podcasts, I think that if done correctly, it’s good for everybody: listener, podcaster, and advertiser – but, I do have an issue when it comes to filling out surveys. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather share a dessert with a bird-flu-carrier than fill out a generic survey. (Unless I need to convey a bad experience. Then, I become a combination of Mark Twain and Ralph Nader.)

Now here is where Julia comes in. No, I didn’t talk with her about this stuff – I had just seen her in the movie Erin Brockovich. There’s a scene in the movie where this big shot attorney comes in to take over the class-action lawsuit. They tell the main character, Erin, that although she has given them a good start gathering information from the estimated 600 plaintiffs, that there is still information missing – like addresses and phone numbers.

Erin confronts the lawyer by asking which telephone number is required. The stuffy lawyer replies with something like, “You can’t have 600 telephone numbers memorized.”

“Try me,” Erin says, defiantly.

The next few minutes of dialog illustrate how much Erin has memorized. When asked for the telephone number of one randomly chosen plaintiff, Erin rattles off not only the number, but the ailments that each family member has and how those ailments are similar to those of the next door neighbor’s and extended family members – making sure to point out their respective telephone numbers and addresses too. The point is that Erin knew more about her clients than anyone else because she had a very personal connection with them. It wasn’t just a job to her.

And that’s what made it all come together for me. Frapper Maps, Surveys, and a scene from Erin Brockovich conspired to help me understand that some indie podcasters who believe in the commercialization of podcasts are falling into a trap.

Talk with any indie podcster and they’ll tell you that that their relationship with a podcast listener is much more intimate than one made over the radio dial. I see this first hand with the emails that listeners send me. They tell me how they are to have found Griddlecakes Radio, how much they look forward to new Griddlesodes, and how they’ve fit the show into their lives.

So, let me ask you a question. If we (indie podcasters) are so different than mainstream programming, if we are truely new-media innovators, then why are we relying on the old ways of doing things? Why are we jumping straight to page 87 of the Advertising Handbook and issuing bland surveys with standard questions to an audience that we are supposed to be so intimate with?

Simply, a survey is a lazy way to gather information from a large, nameless, faceless audience.& It is a shotgun method of tricking a small percentage of people to give up their time answering trivial little questions that bean-counters will use to create reports that nobody will believe.

If it is true, that indie podcasters have a much more intimate relationship with their listeners, then why are we sending them non-personal forms to complete in an attempt to learn more about them? Why are we asking listeners to take time out of their busy schedules to either place a picture on a Frapper map or complete a survey that asks the same questions that marketeers have been asking since the beginning of time?

Be careful, indie podcasters. We are entering a very dangerous space here. Frapper maps and generic surveys are the first step in turning the focus away from our listeners and onto ourselves, and anyone who has ever been in a personal relationship knows how far that’ll go!

Let’s not alienate those who we have this intimate relationship with. Instead of sending them a McForm to fill out, why don’t we actually speak with them? Imagine that. Actually have a conversation with someone that we care about. What a novel concept? Hmmm…I wonder if I can patent that?

R~

17 Comments

  1. I like my frappr map! And I have thrown NO surveys at my listeners, and probably won’t ever. But, for me the map is about the people, and I’ve actually engaged in an email or two with the few people who have added themselves to the frappr map, because it gives me a real person to go with the abstract #s at libsyn/feedburner. I know that all my listeners can’t be family and friends, because I really don’t have that many family and friends, and the map (particularly when someone has a profile posted) gives me a little more of the people behind the #s. For me, anyway, a frappr map is less a marketing tool and more of a get-to-know-you starting point.
    That said, I really hate that some “indie” podcasters are getting too big for their britches, and greatly appreciate the truly independent podcasts in my playlist. There’s just something so much more authentic about them that can’t be replicated by Adam Curry or any other of the big haired… well, you know.

  2. Ron (The Griddlemaster) |

    Point taken, Christy.
    The Frapper Map is the first thing that lead me to this little revelation. It wasn’t the “main” problem, but lead me to it instead.
    The problem that I have with Frapper maps is that there seems to be a heard mentality out there in podcastland…one that I catch myself falling into too! The reason for my post is to raise the awarness of this heard-mentality…if not for indie podcasters but for me too.
    I want indie podcasters to demonstrate how we are different, not the same as the big media folks.
    The fact that you are using your Frapper Map to engage in a conversation with your listeners is refreshing. Sadly, though, I think that you are in the minority…which, come to think of it, is probably why I like your podcast so much.
    You are different!

  3. //there seems to be a heard mentality out there in podcastland//
    I’d like to hear more of your thoughts about this, as I’m not quite sure what you mean.

  4. John (a Griddleminion from Plano, TX) |

    I’m fairly new to the podcasting scene. I started listening to them whenever it was iTunes began supporting the medium. Currently I subscribe to 43 different podcasts and must admit that I’m hooked. A big part of the appeal for me is that it is a much more intimate medium. I don’t mean that I have podcasters calling me asking how the show sounded or anything (which they are welcome to do, my phone number is in my signature); instead, I’ve found a person(s) with whom I have something in common and who just happens to have the ability to broadcast about that commanality. There are no broad brush strokes or blatant sensationalism to appeal to a larger market; just honest opinions/thoughts on subjects I find interesting. It is also much easier to interact with a podcaster as most have 3 or 4 different ways to contact them. I’ve sent feedback to almost every podcast I listen to and have, surprisingly, received a reply to everyone. I also participate (along with Christy) in the forums of one podcast. I think that is what makes podcasting so special, the sense of community.
    However, I’ve noticed over the past 2 or 3 months that some of the more popular podcasts that I listen to sound more and more like commercial broadcast radio. They take breaks in the middle of their programming for advertisements, to promote other podcasts (which I don’t particularly mind but would prefer them to be at the beginning or end of the show) or, even worse, to play a promo for their own show! Like I don’t know what show I’m listening to! The fact that I even used the word “programming” should tell you something. I understand people want the listenership of their show to grow but let’s not stoop to imitating the medium that so many of us have grown weary of. We listen to podcasts for a reason, it’s not radio or television.
    As for Frappr maps, I like ‘em. I think it is another way to learn a little about the people who listen to the show. I’m on Christy’s frappr and we have spoken once or twice through that sites message service. However, I think that as a show grows the Frappr will be less and less useful as there will be too many people to stay in contact with or learn about but it does give you some idea as to the number of people who really like your show.

  5. //However, I think that as a show grows the Frappr will be less and less useful as there will be too many people to stay in contact with or learn about…//
    Agreed. I look forward to the day when a few more of the people I know are listening add themselves to my map (particularly with profiles– nice to find another Douglas Adams fan, John!), but know that eventually it may become too unwieldy to be a useful tool. But for now, it’s nice.
    I have recently (last week, I think) unsubscribed from a handful of podcasts that I initially liked, but the more respect I developed for the TRUE independent podcasts I began to realize how pre-packaged and commercialized some of the other ones (particularly Podshow affiliated, if we’re being honest here) are. The only Podshow one I’ve kept is Lifespring.

  6. Ron (The Griddlemaster) |

    I’m all for anything that build’s community. If a Frappr (see I don’t even know how to properly spell the darn thing!) map adds to a listener’s experience, I’m all for it. Because in this context, it’s for the listener—not the podcaster. But that’s not what I’ve been hearing when I listen to podcasts which is the “heard mentality” that Christy asked me to clarify. There seems to be a standard playbook to read from.
    * “Put yourself on my Frappr map.”
    * “Vote for my podcast at podcast Alley.”
    * “Put my podcast on your “pickle list.”
    * “Hey, I’ve placed a link on my site for every directory that my podcast is listed on. Go there and write me a review.”
    * “Please fill out my survey over at PodTrack.”
    Perhaps my sensitivity is tied to the points that both Christy and John have touched upon. I am Ron the podcaster and Ron the listener. (Add a little voice in my head and I’m beginning to worry about myself!)
    As a listener, I too am hearing changes in podcast “programming” as our little community grows. It’s not that don’t want the community to grow, I do! But I want us to remain innovative, to not roll over when the advertising folks start sweet talkin’ us. To take a section from John’s post, “We listen to podcasts for a reason, it’s not radio or television.”
    Let’s not become them. Let’s stay better.

  7. Steve (Lifespring!) |

    Whew. Christy had me worried for a moment there. When she said that she had unsubscribed from the Podshow affiliated podcasts, my heart sank, because I know that she is one of my wonderful listeners. I’m so glad, Christy, that you’re still with me. Thank you for making Lifespring! the exception!
    As for my frappr map, I make it a point to write a note to each and every person who makes the effort to pin themself. In addition to that, I tell them that I would love it if they would send me an email any time they have a comment or question or any feedback whatsoever to my regular email address. I’m just using the map to connect *more* with my listeners.
    I’m like you, Ron, I respond to every email I receive. Hearing from listeners is always the high point of my day!
    Well, I’ve got a podcast to do, so I’d better get out of here. Good to read everyone’s thoughts. Thanks for bringing up the topic, Ron!
    Blessings,
    Steve
    P.S. Love your player, Ron!

  8. Ron (The Griddlemaster) |

    Okay, Okay, I give! I’m willing to soften my stance on Frappr maps…with the stipulation that they are used in the manner that Christy and Steve are using them to interact with their listeners. It’s sort of like medicine. Used in a prescribed way, it can be helpful. Abused, it can only hurt.
    As long as podcasters are using Frappr maps as prescribed by Drs. Christy and Steve, I’m okay with them
    Parting question. Do Christy and Steve represent the rule or the exception?

  9. I readily admit that I’m a weirdo in more ways than one, and would hesitate to offer myself up (good or bad) as an example of normal anything.
    That said, as a listener, I only subscribe to a handful of podcasts (18 regularly, mostly history and psychology/social work podcasts with a handful of religious or other educational thrown in, plus you and The M Show), and have a few extras that drift in and out of my playlist. Most of the ones I listen to are pretty down-to-earth, which is why I stick around. Of the 18, I have only felt compelled to leave feedback for or email 6 of them, and now regularly exchange emails with 3 of my favorite podcasters, with any one of whom I have developed enough rapport that I wouldn’t hesitate to invite over for dinner, if only they lived closer! But my contact is usually not sparked by me thinking, “hey– cool. I should tell them my thoughts on this.” It’s usually by them saying something like “stop by and add yourself to the map” or “leave a comment at the site” or “feel free to email your feedback or ideas.” Putting out an invitation makes it clear that you’re interested in what your listeners have to say, what they think, and who they are. I’m a sucker for that.
    Now I get what you mean about the “heard” mentality, and truthfully, I guess I’m a little bit removed from that because I’ve never really felt a desire to subscribe to that kind of podcast. Listening to a couple of yahoos sit around and talk about how funny they are, babble about every mundane detail of their lives, swear excessively, crack crude or mean jokes, and brag about how they’re the next big thing is not entertainment in my book– it’s a waste of my time, which is better spent with my family, or reading, or writing, or podcasting, or doing laundry, or… or… watching Ren and Stimpy reruns. There. I said it.

  10. Ron (The Griddlemaster) |

    “Listening to a couple of yahoos sit around and talk about how funny they are, babble about every mundane detail of their lives, swear excessively, crack crude or mean jokes, and brag about how they’re the next big thing is not entertainment in my book– it’s a waste of my time, which is better spent with my family, or reading, or writing, or podcasting, or doing laundry, or… or… watching Ren and Stimpy reruns.”
    Well, there goes Griddlesode #20

  11. Corey James Scribner - Red Jazz Radio |

    I’m late to the discussion here, but here’s my 2-cents…
    I put up a Frappr map. I have a MySpace page. I ‘ve got a link to the Podtrac survey. I’ve got an email newsletter. Basically, I’ve tried it all for the last 4 months.
    I’ve learned a two things about my listeners from all these things. A rough idea of the geographical regions where my listeners are, and the fact that 60% of my listeners listen to each show more than once. Kinda cool to know, but for the next four months I’m going to try something different…I’m going to talk to my listeners.
    All of these tools have gotten me distracted from what this podcasting thing really can be—a great way for me to get to know a lot of cool people that (in my case) like the kind of jazz music I do. After reading everyone’s great comments on here I thought of a great gimmick that I’m going to try…Ron’s got his Griddleminons, so why shouldn’t I have my Jazz Heads?
    I’ll keep you posted on my “conversion” from podcast marketing tool overuser to Jazz Head soapboxer.

  12. Clinton (comedy4cast) |

    I use my Frappr map as a way to let everyone see where other listeners are listening from. Sure, I could mention all the locations on my show, but how boring would that get after a while? By always having the map available, and mentioning it every so often, the listen knows it’s there and can go check it out and himself/herself to it.
    No one MUST add their name. They can just come and look if they so desire. It’s just a way to visualize the show’s community. Are there other ways? Sure. But it’s a fairly easy way for the listener to be a part of the community.
    I also have a survey on my site. When I joined Podtrac (which is where most of these surveys originate), they asked (not demanded) that I put the survey on my site and mention it for a few weeks, then drop off with the mentions. Fair enough. I don’t know if my show will every get advertising, but if an “official” survey makes that easier, okay. As they suggested, from the beginning, my mentions of the survey have trailed off as time has gone by.
    I always encourage feedback. I make it a point to give out the email address and the phone number as often as possible. Do I get lots of email? No. Oddly enough, it’s probably in line with the number of people who have answered the survey. Some people are “interactive” and some people are not. So, the survey has probably just given me more information about the people from whom I usually hear.
    Also, I do mention, every so often, adding me as a favorite at Podcast Pickle or the like. I say right up front that it is a way to give the show more exposure. And, when I ask, people tend to respond. I consider it a favor, so I try to keep the “asks” to a minimum.

  13. //Some people are “interactive” and some people are not. //
    This is what I’ve found as well. You could serve up a survey on a platter and some will not respond; those who want to will. Of course, they’re probably the same ones sending email, adding to the map, leaving comments…

  14. Steve (Lifespring!) |

    It’s true that most people are going to be happy “just” listening. Back in the day, I worked for a radio station. (Sales, not on the air.) Seems like I remember hearing that each phone call from a listener represented something like 100 people. I doubt that the ratio would hold true for podcast listeners, but it does illustrate the point that people who actually make this a two way street are certainly in the minority.
    Don’t get me wrong. I am incredibly happy that anyone is listening at all…even if they *never* write or call or pin themselves on my map. However, when they *do* communicate with me, understanding how rare it is for someone to take the effort, I’m absolutley going to respond to them. It’s the least I can do!

  15. Okay, I’ll jump in here.
    Christy, I feel the same as you about keeping away from the lowest common denominators in podcasting.
    About listener feedback, I’d love to get more , and I think I’ve asked as many ways as I can think of…. I think the community element of podcasting is really cool. It’s really exciting the way a lisener can influence the direction of the show, contribute to the content….
    But most people either don’t want to do this, are too busy, or don’t understand ‘cause they’re stuck in the old mindset of old Radio/media. Maybe many people just want to “consume” the podcast episode without having to think/work at giving any feedback. Maybe they wanna be annonymous.
    When you go into a store to buy something, do you want to enter into a long friendly conversation with the person on the other side of the counter, or do you have enough “friends” already and do you just want to get your stuff and get outta there (sometimes)?

  16. I HATE those Crappr maps! I don’t really have a good reason for my dislike, but they just bug me.
    Bear
    The Bear Cave
    http://bear.staroftexas.net

  17. You know, I’ve had trouble getting into Blogging because it can eat up so much time! So I appreciate conciseness (like the Bear’s comment).
    But my aversion to the Crapper Maps would probably be where I live. Some people think I live somewhere southwest of LA, but Alaska really is northwest of Canada.
    Now what’s really fun is that I’m commenting before I’ve even heard your podcast! Itunes is downloading now, but I couldn’t resist the commenting on frappercinos. 8)