Ninety Days

Aside from a bit of snark, I’ve kept mostly quiet about this year’s indie developer snafus. It’s not really my place to tell you how to run your business, but I can share some things I have done that I have found to be successful.

When Jared told me last year he was going independent and planning to work on an RSS app for the iPhone, he asked me for some advice. I gave him the same advice I give anyone who is striking it out on their own.

Do not spend more than ninety days on your 1.0.

Jared spent approximately 365 days on his, so I apparently give crummy advice! But, there’s a reason I told him this (and anyone else that would listen). 3 months is a quarter of the year. When you are bootstrapping a company and don’t have much cushion to fall back on, every decision counts. You could argue its far more risky than playing with some venture capitalist’s funny money.

Ninety days is a good amount of time to get a semi-polished 1.0 out in the world, especially in mobile. It won’t have every feature that you wanted to ship, but it will be out there and either be validated or invalidated by the buying public.

Best case scenario, people find your product, start using it, and (most importantly) recommending it to others. Now you’re generating revenue and your customers are funding your work adding those missing features and putting those extra bits of polish in your UI.

Worst case scenario, people don’t find your product, you make a couple hundred bucks, and you’re in debt for the project. This is the most likely statistical outcome at this stage. Would you rather find this out after 3 months or 6 months (or a year)? Ninety days.

If the product bombs, you’ve burned 3 months of the year on the project, but there’s still 9 more months to try and find something that will stick with consumers. Kill the old product. Start a new one. Move on.

The notion that you have to build this perfectly polished 1.0 in 2014 is poor advice. I like to reduce the amount of risk I take on in business. Taking four swings at the fences a year to find a new business is way less risky than trying to take just one.

Don’t ship junk. Just don’t bother spending weeks or months polishing something that users may not even care enough to buy.

Listener Supported Podcasting

I hinted at this last week, but here goes nothing.

As of this week’s episode, CocoaRadio is doing away with selling sponsorships to advertisers and instead will be funded by memberships from our listeners. Sorry, Squarespace.

The Backstory

When I started the podcast, I knew I needed to find a way to monetize it to justify the time and cost invested in it. The obvious solution seemed to be selling advertising, because that’s what you do. I reached out to a few of the known ad vendors to inquire about their interest and was mostly blown off saying to come back when I had actual listener numbers.

OK, fine. I’ll do it on my own.

My goal with sponsors on CocoaRadio was to always make them targeted. It’s a very targeted audience of iOS and OS X developers, so developer tools, startups looking to hire, and web services seemed like a natural fit. Every ad we ran on CocoaRadio was a product I was proud to champion because they were all things I’ve used.

The problem is that selling ads is hard, and finding new sponsors is even harder. In fact, it’s the least fun aspect of doing a podcast. Talking to people is great. Interacting with listeners rocks. Trying to haggle on the price of a 3 week run with a large corporation? That sucks.

So, when I realized that CocoaRadio has over 25,000 listeners now, it became possible to start outsourcing the ads to someone else to deal with. But then I would likely lose control of which sponsors I ran because I’d be part of a package. That goes against my first rule of targeted advertising to the audience.

That’s when I remembered that NPR is wonderful.

The NPR Model

I got my start in doing radio and podcasting at our local NPR station in Evansville, Indiana. For two years I did a show and various segments around there to learn producting, editing, and hosting a show. The station was funded by donations from listeners, grants, and funding from public broadcasting.

I always liked the idea of having my show live or die by the support of the listeners who enjoyed it calling in and contributing to the station. It made everything feel more personal and like the listeners had a stake in the production.

So, that’s what I’m going to try with CocoaRadio. To start, I’m offering two levels of support: $5 and $10 a month respectively. Each one has its own set of benefits depending on the level of support you want to offer.

And just like supporting your local NPR station, I’m lining up some giveaways, discounts, and other benefits for people who financially support the show such as exclusive members only episodes, discounts on products, and a private Glassboard to interact with me and other listeners.

Support What You Love

With Glassboard NeXT, the book, and now CocoaRadio I’m practicing what I preach by trying to charge a fair price for my work. It seems unconvential in the landscape of computing in 2014, but I’m hoping there are enough people out there in the world like me that will make this a successful venture.

If you enjoy CocoaRadio and want to see it continue into the future, please consider becoming a paid supporter. Thanks for your continued support.

CocoaRadio - Alexander Stigsen on Realm

This week Justin is joined by Alexander Stigsen of Realm to discuss their new persistence layer for iOS designed exclusively for mobile. Alexander has years of experience working at Nokia, one of the original pioneers of mobile. Using those lessons related to storing data on tiny devices like smartphones, Stigsen and crew developed Realm, the first data layer designed with mobile in mind.

Whether you’re using Core Data, SQLite directly, or some other way of saving your data, it’s worth given this week’s show a listen to learn about another option that looks really promising.

CocoaRadio is now funded by its listeners. If you receieve value our of the show and would like to see it continue, please consider becoming a paid supporter.

My Thoughts On Being Indie In 2014

My Thoughts On Being Indie In 2014 are the same as in 2013. Same year. Same mistakes.

CocoaRadio Season 1 Stats

I just wrapped up what I am calling season 1 of CocoaRadio with episode 13. What started test project at the nudging of Brent has become something I look forward to producing each week. It allows me to talk to interesting people each week, work again with long-time friend and producer Tony Voss, and indirectly market Glassboard each week.

Season 1 Listenership

  • Nearly 25,000 people are subscribed to the show via different RSS clients.
  • On average, CocoaRadio has 19,000 listeners per week.
  • Overcast is by far the most popular client already. It’s not even close.
  • The most popular episode was Isaiah Carew talking with me about Parse
  • 53% of listeners are in the United States.
  • 1% are in China.

Funding Season 2

For the first round of episodes I sold traditional sponsorship slots for each episode to a variety of different companies. I was proud of every sponsor I was able to nab, because they were targeted specifically towards developers rather than just slinging another spot for Squarespace or Netflix at listeners.

The biggest hassle of doing the podcast is selling the ads however. It’s a lot of relationship building and negotiating. Not hard work, but not enjoyable and somewhat time consuming. This is a hobby project for me, and any time I spend trying to find and secure sponsors is time I don’t spend working on my actual day-to-day work.

With season 2, I am going to try something different and offer membership levels so that listeners who want to support the show can fund it directly. More information on that will be made available next week, but it’s my hope that a small percentage of listeners find the show beneficial enough to chip a few bucks a month or year towards producing it.

Season 2 of CocoaRadio starts next week. I hope you’re subscribed.