The Dialogue #5: Dan Benjamin

37 mins - Published Sun, Mar 10, 2013 by Breki Tomasson and Dan Benjamin

In this episode of The Dialogue, I had the pleasure and opportunity to sit down with Dan Benjamin, founder of 5by5 and one of my personal rolemodels when it comes to this entire podcasting thing.

CSICON: You’re listening to The Dialogue, my name is Breki Tomasson. I’m joined today by Dan Benjamin, a broadcaster, screencaster, writer, software developer, designer, entrepreneur, founder of 5by5 Studios and all around swell guy. Hello Dan.

Hey, how are you doing? Thanks for having me.

CSICON: Fine, thank you. Thank you for being here! First of all; a massive congratulations on the new office, the new 5by5 World Headquarters. You’ve been there for, what, a little over a week now?

Yeah, I think we moved in – you know – about a week ago, we started to do our first shows from here, so, yeah, it’s been awesome to finally get in here and it’s been tough, man – it’s been tough!

CSICON: I can imagine; yeah! But you’re getting settled in properly?

Yeah, we’re finally settled in here now. We’ve got the space we’ve needed and finally got everything we … it’s crazy, when you’re trying to figure all this stuff out, trying to do all this stuff yourself, it’s, um, it’s nuts. It really is! You wind up having your employees; you force them to use their cars and load stuff into their cars and drive around … A lot of desks. We look like an IKEA showroom in here.

CSICON: I know exactly what you mean. I’ve have an IKEA order being delivered next week, for a standing desk. I decided that podcasting standing up is probably the way to go for me in the future.


CSICON: I think so! I mean, it … you know; I don’t want to compress my chest or anything when I’m talking, compress my lungs.

Oh yeah … Yeah.

CSICON: When you founded the 5by5 network, how long ago was that now?

Close to four years, I think. I would have to go back and look at the first official show date, which I think was back in 2009, I think. I mean, I was podcasting for a long time before that, but that’s when I kind of brought everything together – all the different shows and crazy stuff I was doing brought together into one place.

CSICONRight. Were you looking to create just a place for your own shows or did you know already that you wanted this “NPR for Geeks”-style network with so many other people involved that it’s become today?

Oh, I, no, I definitely wanted that, my goal was to create a platform for folks who didn’t know anything about the ins and outs of podcasting, other than that they knew how to be awesome in front of a microphone for, you know, an hour or so a week. I wanted to create something where, I figured, if I built a good enough infrastructure, it might be something I could extend and have other people be a part of. That was always, absolutely, a goal that I had, and it’s worked! It’s worked better than I could ever have dreamed, so …

CSICON: You’re quite open with your personality and your life on your show, what with personal quirks, Buddhism, meditation, Cash and M.J., paleo and so on, always out in the open.

That’s my flaw, by the way, I can’t … I don’t … have … I’m sorry if I’m taking away from your question, but I don’t have any real filter or stage personality – this is just me and I just talk. There’s people who don’t like it, and there’s people who do, and the ones who do, I thank you for listening!

CSICON: But do you ever feel that you need to censor yourself or hold anything back? I mean; where do you draw that line? Has this openness ever come back to bite you in the butt, so to speak?

Yeah. I mean … You know; there’s certain – I have certain – a few rules and things that I will avoid. With the exception of the Buddhism thing, because it seems like Buddhism doesn’t really offend many people, it’s – many people see Buddhism as a philosophy rather than a religion – by the way, it is a religion – but enough people think of it as a philosophy that it’s okay to talk about that aspect of it – but, in general I don’t talk about religion, I don’t talk about politics – almost never talk about that in an opinion-sharing way, and I don’t curse on the air. Those are basically the rules that I have, I don’t – you know – the deeply personal aspects of my life, obviously I don’t share those with anyone but the people involved anyway … Nothing’s really come back to bite me so far, I mean – this is who I am and I can’t really filter much of that.

The political thing – there’s two reasons I don’t talk about it. The first one is, people are so divided on the topic that it just winds up creating so much more email, and I’m trying to avoid that. The second reason is that I’m just not well informed enough to have really intelligent – I know how I feel about different issues – but there are people who kill it out there in the political landscape, and I’m not one of them, so I just stay out of it.

CSICON: Yeah; and it’s so very easy to be misinterpreted – even somebody who  just goes straight down the middle, he can say something about a topic and then everybody’s going to say “Oh, you’re such a republican!” and other people will say that “Oh, you’re such a democrat!” – you just get misunderstood. I think religion and politics is a good place to draw the line.

Now; about the network, you have quite a number of different shows, …

There are a lot of shows, man!

CSICON: How many shows do you have now, by the way? Just a ballpark estimate. Twenty? Thirty?

Oh, on the network as a whole? I think we’ve got about nineteen shows that are active. Of course, I don’t host most of them, I only host a few of them, but yeah. I think we’ve got about nineteen or twenty shows that we do now, and there’s more on the way.

CSICON: Always. But … You do these podcasts about paleo, comics, web development, productivity, content strategy, but what’s the golden thread that unites the shows on the network or – conversely – what kind of shows don’t fit the 5by5 network?

Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, obviously, I think, for a while, especially back when we had, like, Build and Analyze and The Talk Show going, and Amplified, a lot of people would think of it as, you know, “They talk  about Apple stuff!”, and we definitely did, and do, talk about Apple stuff, it’s something that we are interested in in general, I think, speaking for all of the hosts and cohosts that are on the network. We all generally like to talk about it, but so does most of the tech world, and I think we mirror the tech world in that sense, as opposed to having a specific focus. I never once said, and I’m sure people think this, but it’s only by nature of Apple being in our discussion frequently, they think or thought that it was somehow an Apple-centric network, but I don’t think we’re that much more Apple-centric than, you know, the general tech media is these days and I think there are plenty of times when I’ll be displeased with Apple and talk about it. By no means is there that kind of focus.

Generally, I think if … I’m a geek, and if it appeals to me or if it appeals to the geek culture in general – geek culture; that’s our focus, so sometimes we talk about, you know, video games or movies. Sometimes we talk about Apple, sometimes we talk about productivity, sometimes we talk about effective communication or web design or the mobile industry, or sometimes we talk about parenting. These are shows for geeks and I think – I don’t really have a list of things I will or won’t talk about or wouldn’t want shows to talk about, except to say that if it appeals to me or us as geeks, then we definitely want to talk about it. If it doesn’t, then we probably won’t, and probably won’t do a show on it.

For example. I’ve been pitched many many, and people pitch me on shows all the time, and I love that, because I’m always looking for new shows and new hosts. People pitch me time and time again on doing, for example, a cooking show. Well … I think there are plenty of geeks who like to cook. It makes sense, Alton Brown paving the way for geeks everywhere who want to get scientific about cooking – I would consider a cooking show, but – to me – that’s the kind of thing that works really, really well as a video program. So, talking about food versus talking about and showing food, you know … So we have video stuf in the works and we used to do video, and we’re going to do some more, but … The flip side of that, is we have a show that a friend of mine, Bill Wadman and Jeffery Saddoris do called On Taking Pictures. They started this show before they came to 5by5. I talked to them about it and said, “Listen, do the show, you guys have got something great, and then, once  you’re ready, we can talk about bringing you in”, we brought it in, and it’s an amazing show. That’s something that, of course, is visual, but there’s so much you can do in discussion, so that makes sense. We have, and have had, photography shows.

Sports … I’ve tried sports twice. I tried it with a show called The Nickel, Will Carroll hosted it, and I had a show way long, long, long time ago called Boom Outta Here. Neither one of those shows seemed to be anywhere near as popular on this network as I had hoped that they would be. It’s not because they weren’t both great shows. Most recently, Will Carroll’s job on The Nickel was outstanding – I loved his show, it was such a great show! I know there’s plenty of sports geeks out there, but for whatever reason – maybe they go to ESPN or maybe there’s other sports networks that they go to to listen, that just didn’t work for us. I would love for us to have a great sports show, but that’s something that I’m missing the secret sauce for making that thing work.

In a broader sense, I don’t really have a list of shows that I would never have or that I absolutely must have. I always have ideas for cool things, but it’s tricky. You know, it’s tricky to know what’s going to work. Sometimes you just have to say “Okay, let’s just give it a shot. See how it goes, see what happens, and … Take it from there”.

CSICON: Right … This is very similar to my philosophy. When I founded CSICON back in January of 2011, my philosophy was to make it the home of geek culture on the Internet, that was the tagline we used for the first two years of the network. My philosophy for shows has always been, if I enjoy listening to it, it deserves a chance. If I don’t feel it’s interesting, then it’s probably not going to be interesting to anybody else. I kind of use myself as a barometer of sorts.

That’s the only way to do it, if you’re – you know – involved in this on a day to day basis, you’ve got to have that gut feel about it, right? It’s the only way to do it.

CSICON: Sure … This is the fourth day in a row that I’m recording a show, and so I’m definitely, you know, involved in the network.

You’ve got to be – you’ve got to be involved in that way, for sure.

CSICON: Right! … Something else that you do, apart from just a lot of different show, is something that’s really impressed me with 5by5. You have such good cohosts all of the time. What kind of qualities do you look for when you’re looking for people to join the network?

They have to be my personal friend. That’s my only requirement. I mean; if somebody were to come to and – I’m talking about a show that I cohost. Now; if somebody came to me and said “Hey, Dan, I’ve got a great idea for a show.” Unfortunately, and this doesn’t mean the answer’s going to be no, unless they are bringing their own audience in some shape or form – it’s really tough for me to devote the kind of … People say, “Oh, podcasting is really easy to do”. Yeah, you can do it with a microphone and a computer – that’s really all you need to do a podcast. It’s different, though, once you’re in the space that we’re in. People are always, like “Dan! Tell me about your setup, what’s your setup?!” and I try to tell people, “don’t do this – don’t do what I have here, unless you’re ready to do this full time.” You can go and you can get … Back to photography, you can get a Canon Digital Rebel for a few hundred bucks, you can put on a kit lens, and you can take some really amazing pictures, just spending a few hundred dollars to do it, and see if you like it. If, after a few months or a year, you find that you’re taking great pictures, and it’s something that you love, you know what? Maybe put that thing on Craigslist and get a better camera.

It’s the same thing here, but for us – there’s a lot of built-in costs that are there because … For example, we have standards for the kind of audio quality that we produce. You need that! You have to have shows that are listenable. You have to have shows that people want to hear, and when you’ve got radio stations like WNYC making Radiolab, as one example of an amazing, amazing podcast out there, my stuff needs to sound that good. I’m not saying that we need to have all the amazing engineering work that they have on there, but I’m saying quality, it needs to sound that good. And if it doesn’t sound that good, we’re not putting it out. Just because you have a neat idea for a show doesn’t mean that we can run it. It means we’re going to have to put our resources behind it, it means we’re going to have to have or help you get the equipment, we’re going to have to have our editors do it, we’re going to have to publish it, we’ve got CDNs, we’ve got hosting – a lot of stuff goes into this for the standards that we have – or, I should say, that I have.

So, now, somebody shows up and says “oh, I have this website and I’ve been writing there for X number of years and I have this many readers”, or “I have a podcast, or this kind of show, where I have this experience in broadcasting”, now we’re talking about it, because they’re bringing an audience that’s gonna be there, because you know what? We can’t do shows – or rather, I can do a certain amount of shows that I’m losing money on. If I’m doing a show that doesn’t have a sponsor on it, we’re losing money. That’s a loss. I can do that, and I can do that by supporting shows that I believe in and that I love regardless of whether they have sponsors or not, regardless of they lose money or not, because I have other shows that are successful that can help offset that cost, that can help carry those shows, right? But I can only do so many of those before it starts to say “Wow, I’m losing a little too much money on these shows, so it’s tough. Shows have to perform well. They have to perform well – and I give shows plenty of time to do that, but that’s why, a lot of the time, I feel bad when somebody pitches me a show, I say, “Okay, great, what experience do you have in broadcasting?”, “Oh, no, no, I just have, you know, some ideas, I’ve never used a microphone before!”.

It’s tough, man, like I want to support these people and I want to support what they’re doing, but it’s just tough. It’s tough to be able to mitigate that, because so many of the shows that people come up with sound great, and I always encourage them, I say “Listen, do it yourself, use your headphones and, you know, use the mic that you have, and put a show out there. If the content is great, people will deal with that, and then, you know what, maybe we can work with you after there is a show, once it’s great, and we can work together and we can help you guys get bigger, get in front of a bigger audience and you can help us by making us a better network”.

CSICON: There are so many people out there who start podcasts and then just fall out of love with it within the first year, and I’ve noticed that a lot of the […]

Listen; listen, people need to do what you’ve done. They need to commit to doing it, and they need to do a show – sorry to interrupt you – they need to do a show every week. You can’t do it every two weeks, you can’t do it once a month. People forget about it, and the podcatchers pull it right out of there, they won’t even update it any more. You know, you get that dreaded little exclamation point, “The show has not been updated in a while”. You know; this is – people say, “how are you successful?” – Do something great every single week. Do it consistently, release it on the same day of the week, so that people can know it’s going to be there, expect it. Do that, and if you do that for a year, and you’ve got thousands of thousands of people listening to that show at the end of that year, you know you’re on the right track.

If you do it once a month, “aah, we recorded three but we didn’t edit them yet, ” then you’re not ready for this.

CSICON: Sure, I’m with you. And, I mean, you can buy all the Heil PR-40s and the DBX 286s and so on, but if you’re not consistent, it’s just not going to work.

That’s the key! Showing up every week and doing something as good as you can make it. It’s tough to do. You’ve got a full time job, you’ve got kids, you’ve got a family – guess what; you’re not going to make it every week. Then your audience gets angry, then you lose them.

CSICONSomething else that’s always impressed me with 5by5 and the shows that you have is that it rarely feels like you’re chasing the news or trying to be the first to scoop something. You just show up, offer regular commentary on the world and your topics and so on. Was this a conscious decision or did it just end up this way?

Very conscious, because I’ll never be able to scoop any news. We’re not a news outlet. I don’t have reporters, I don’t have people trying to get scoops. You know; we’re talking about tech here, so sites like Techmeme or The Verge or Gizmodo or whoever. Those folks, Wall Street Journal, for that matter, they’re going to get the scoops. I can’t compete with that, and I’m not even going to try. You know, it’s more important to me – not getting the news instantaneously. There’s tons and tons of places that can give our listeners the news immediately. It’s not going to ever be us. What we can do, that maybe many can’t do, is provide analysis and insight and personality around those concepts that – so, “Okay, this big thing happened on Monday. On Wednesday, we’re going to talk about it on our show, and we’re going to provide people with the context. We’re going to provide people with the insight from folks who really know what’s going on, from folks who really are interested in this and have the time to analyze and understand it.”

Again, back to the NPR comparison – NPR isn’t breaking news for anybody, by the time you hear about it on NPR, it’s old news, right? But they’re going to help you understand why it matters and what the implications of it are and, now that things have calmed down a little, let’s put things in perspective. I think my goal is to try to do that for our listeners.

CSICON: Yeah. I mean, you can read all the tech news web sites you want and get the latest news, but I can’t even begin to count the times that I’ve listened to Gruber or Merlin and just gone ‘Huh. I didn’t think of it that way. That was an interesting perspective”, so you’re definitely doing a good job.

That’s it right there!

CSICON: How long did it take before 5by5 was profitable?

It was profitable on day one.

CSICON: That is impressive. But you’d been podcasting for a long that before that, though?

Yeah, but never really making much money doing it. You know; when I was starting out, I had – I’m trying to remember exactly which shows I was doing, they were all individual. They weren’t really making money, because they were hobbies for me, they were part-time. Anything that doesn’t pay, in my opinion, is a hobby – is something you like doing, that doesn’t pay your bills, really. These made a little bit of money here and there and I knew there was money in podcasting, obviously. When I started out doing it, I had been a CTO for a hosting company, and before that I was a CTO for a startup in San Francisco. I thought that was great, it was an amazing learning experience, but I wanted to do something different, and I knew that the shows that I had had potential – I felt that if I took them very seriously and treated them like a business and created the kind of shows with the kind of quality and production that were the best I could possibly make them, then people would listen and we could hopefully make something for me and a lot of other people. I talked to some contacts I had in the business, and – not in the business of podcasting, but in the tech world – and I said “Listen, I want to do this thing”, and I described it and told them that I have two shows coming out, one is called The Pipeline, it’s an interview show and the other is called The Conversation, it’s a geek discussion show. “Would you commit to sponsoring a couple of months of these shows, at whatever that amount was?”.

It was not very much money, but it was enough that, with two sponsors, that I would be able to pay my bills. That was my goal. Pay my bills. At the end of the month, save nothing, but owe nothing, just – what’s my mortgage, what’s my car payment, what’s the electric bill. You know, figure all that out and that’s all I need. I got that, and a little bit more, and this was in large part because I’d been doing some shows already, not making money with them really, but doing them, so people knew who I was and I’d already been working in the industry for ten-fifteen years, so people knew me from Hivelogic – which used to exist – and other work that I’d done. They said “Sure, we’ll try this out, we’ll see what it does”, and it was great! There was a huge success! It was beyond my wildest dreams, not only was I paying my bills but I was making a little bit of extra money, and the listeners were also a huge help. I did an early – this is before Kickstarter – I did a membership drive, where I said “If you like these shows and want to help; become a member! You get a tshirt and you’ll help me get a better microphone and a boom and, like, real stuff!”

CSICON: I was going to ask about that, by the way. How significant a portion of your income are listener donations compared to ads and sponsors?

Hmmmm. It’s very minimal, but it does cover our – the way that I like to say it is that you guys, as listeners, are pretty much paying our rent. You know, it’s not a huge … I would love – I’ll tell you, just between you and me, because I know this show will never air …

CSICON: Probably not, no, and even if it does, nobody’s going to download it anyway…

No. No one will listen. The thing is – this is just between us – I would love to, at some point, I’m not going to say move entirely to a listener-supported thing, but I would love to have a larger cross-section of our shows be listener-supported in some way. I don’t know what that looks like, I don’t know how to do it, and – if anything, I think it would be because the sponsors that we have are really, really, great. We’re so lucky, oh my God, we’re so lucky to have the sponsors that we have, and they’ve been such a tremendous support. I would just like to have, right now, I figure that one to two minutes per twenty, we’ll do a sponsor. So, if we do a show that’s sixty minutes, that could be two to three sponsors. I don’t feel that’s a lot to ask the listeners to listen to.

As a podcast listener myself, I don’t feel that’s too much to ask for, but it would be great if we could have a show where, maybe one show a week, we could say “This show is sponsored by you guys! You guys donated enough, so we don’t have to have a sponsor on this show, or we only did one!”, I don’t know what that looks like, but that’s something that’s always been a goal for some shows as well. It’s not a large percentage, it’s a small percentage, and – still, though – it really helps. It’s how we can have an office, so it makes a big difference, but the sponsors pay way more than our wonderful donating listeners.

CSICON: Right. I mean, I’ve heard other podcast that do a similar thing, where listeners can pay maybe $5 or $10 and then have their name or even their website or twitter account mentioned at the head of the show. You know; “This episode is brought to you by Adam, Billy, Kevin and Ted”.

Right! Yeah; that’d be fun.

CSICON: When you were still doing this on your own, in the beginning, how large a percentage of the time you spent on 5by5 was spent chasing revenue rather than creating content?

Yeah; I think if you figure that I was recording three to four hours a day. Let’s say I was recording three hours, I’d be editing for two, that’s about five hours, and then I’d spend another five hours … so I would say about half. Half to sixty percent of my time was spent working with sponsors, and that actually grew more as the network got bigger and as we added more shows and more hosts doing shows. It just got bigger and bigger, until it was untenably 80% of my time. I was working from seven in the morning to seven at night, six days a week – that’s a lot of time! That’s why, when I hired a producer, that became more than a full-time for them to do. It’s a lot of work, people think sponsors just show up, but – that happens, but it’s a lot of work to get a sponsor, it’s a lot of work to keep them, so yeah …

CSICON: Just out of curiosity, because this is something that I’ve started running into on my own network. Without going into any numbers or anything like that, how do you pay your cohosts? Do you have a fixed monthly, or is it based on appearances, download numbers, the performance of their sponsorships? How do you know how much to pay Merlin at the end of every month?

You know; it varies depending on the show or the arrangement that we have, but generally speaking, they’re going to get paid – it’s kind of tricky, I was talking to Jim Coudal about this a long time ago, he runs The Deck Network, and he’s got the most amazing sites as part of that. The way that he does it is a little bit mysterious to people outside of the Deck, and I think the way I do it is a little mysterious. People are all getting paid to do the shows. If you hear a sponsor on the show, they’re getting paid. Everybody gets paid. Obviously some shows are bigger than other shows and the compensation is different for those different people, and some people are involved in selling ads in their own show, so they’re going to make some money. It all just really varies, and there isn’t really a standard where if your show is this many downloads and you tweet this many times, it’s nothing like that. It’s all very different and depends on the shows and depends on the host’s involvement in the shows and all that. But if you hear a sponsor, you know that that person is getting paid.

CSICON: Right, right … I’ve got just two more questions, but they’re both very broad and encompassing. The first is, what lessons have you learned along the way? Would you do anything differently if you started 5by5 today, with all the knowledge that you now have?

Oh, God, I think I would have done every single thing differently. There isn’t a single thing that I wouldn’t have done the same, with one exception, and that’s the folks that I’ve been lucky enough to do shows with. That would have been the one thing that I would have done – I would have done all the shows I’ve ever done with all the people that have been on there, because that’s why we’ve been successful, because of the amazing people that are working with me and on the network. It’s an amazing experience every day. I wouldn’t change that; but – for example! – I’ve bought all of the wrong equipment! All of it! All of it was wrong, and I’ve had to replace almost every single thing I’ve ever bought, it was wrong the first one or two times. That’s something. I’m talking about the boom for the mic, and the shockmount. Those were wrong! Every single thing that I did there was wrong. Building the CMS myself – I don’t think I could have gotten around that, because when I started building this thing back in 2008, 2009, there really were no other options out there. Now, arguably, I could probably use other software to do this, or most of it, whether that be Squarespace or something else – I’m sure there’s software out there that I could probably do this with, but my background was in software development and I looked at other systems out there and asked myself if I could use one of these, and spent probably a month working with other systems to try and see if there was anything out there that I could use without spending more time customizing it than writing it myself in Rails.

CSICON: Sometimes I wonder if I should have done the same. We’re running a very heavily modified WordPress installation.

Yeah, like you say, it can be done with WordPress, Drupal, lots of other things. I wound up doing it myself, but that was very much a learning experience, going through the growing pains where a show would come out and the server would go down under the load, so I learned that I needed a bigger server, a CDN in place, all of these things. Starting out, knowing that would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights trying to fix servers and things like that. Every single aspect of this, even down to just having a clear document that we could send to a sponsor that’s a simple sponsorship agreement, or going to the attorney first to get that done or agreements with hosts – all of those different things are the kinds of things that you have to – unless you have somebody who’s done what you’re doing, which is rare – you’ve got to go through the process of explaining it or figuring it out, rather. It’s tough. There isn’t anything that I would really do the same.

CSICON: I understand what you mean … Last question, we’ve spoken about sponsors, equipment and so on – but we would be nothing without the listeners. 5by5 has a large amount of very devoted fans; all the jackals in the chatroom and people listening via downloads and so on. What have you learned about community building and community retention in the past couple of years?

You know; the only thing that I can say about that is … You know; there’s a few different kinds of listeners. There’s the casual listener, the occasional listener and the people who, you know, show up and hear something because a friend told them to listen or whatever. That, fortunately, I think, for us, that’s the minority. The majority are people who listen to the shows they like because of the same reason you and I are going to watch Game of Thrones when it comes. We look forward to it, we want to hear what these people have to say or what they’re going to do, and you begin to assimilate that into your own life. You begin to make that a part of your life. I grew up listening to talk radio, the local talk radio stations and the big ones like Howard Stern. These people become a part of your life and that’s what I think so many people – not saying you – don’t understand as they’re producing this stuff. The listeners care. “Ah, it’s just some little podcast we do once a week, we’re going to skip a couple, …” NO! People care about this! You’d better darn well have that show out on the day you say you’re going to have it out, because your listeners expect it! Because the only way for them to stay listening and build that community is for you to have a connection with them. I think listeners are very, very smart. I think they know if you’re being phony or real, and I think they absolutely know if you care about the stuff that you’re doing. Without that, you’ll never build an audience, and that’s the only thing! I care about this as much as I care about anything, second to my family and my kids, right?

You know; if you don’t care, it shows. You know how you can show you care? By being honest, by being straight-forward, by showing up every week and doing the thing you said you were going to do, even if you don’t feel like it. That’s the hard part! But that’s the only secret or bit of advice that I ever have to offer, that’s 100% of my value right there.

CSICON: How large a difference do you feel the live chat room has made? By broadcasting the shows live, and allowing the people to gather in one place and listen to it at the same time and talk to each other during the show?

It’s interesting, because, first of all, the integrated chat we have is the worst, we’ve got to have something better, but there really aren’t that many great web-based chat clients. If I’m wrong, please get in touch with me because we need something better. We have an embedded IRC thing that’s just awful – the worst – it’s like a punishment! The fact that people actually use this thing and go thorough that stupid CAPTCHA, that’s a testament to how great the listeners are, right there. You know; that makes a big difference, the fact that people can listen live and be – the jackals, we call them  – in the chat room and talk to each other and get to know each other like friends. They’re friends in there, they’re hanging out, talking about the shows, there are people who volunteer their time to update the topic in the chatroom.

Things like that, it’s way better and way more than I ever expected. You get hundreds or thousands of people who listen live, with hundreds of people in the chat room even when there’s no show going on, and they’re just talking to each other, they’re just listening and talking. It’s pretty amazing. How much of a difference it’s made? It’s tough to say, but those are the die-hard fans, along with the people who download the shows and listen every week and talk to us on Twitter, it’s … I honestly wish we could do more for that community and support it better, because those are the people who tune in live, those are the ones who are the most excited about the show.

CSICON: I kind of get the feeling, though, that you really don’t have to do all that much to keep them, because they do such a good job at keeping themselves, for want of a better word.

And they keep us going, right?

CSICON: Yeah, yeah! The way I see it is, in community building, there’s really three types of conversation. There’s the podcast talking to the audience. There’s the audience talking to the podcast and there’s the audience talking to themselves. And as long as you offer a channel for these three things to happen, I think you do a good job.

Well, you know, thanks, I mean, you do too, and this is the thing. We’ve got to stick together in all of this. We’ve got to … There’s still so much that unknown and we’re really paving the way for the way that I think a lot of people want to get their entertainment, they want to listen to the shows when they feel like listening to them, on the device that they want to. Radio’s history, man, this is the future.

CSICON: It is, it is. Thank you so much for your time, Dan, good luck with 5by5, keep up the great work, and I hope I can talk to you at some point in the future!

Any time you want, thanks for having me, man!

CSICON: Thank you.

The Dialogue

The Dialogue is CSICON's interview-themed show. Posted on rather irregular intervals, depending on when we get the opportunity to hold interviews, it will be a one-on-one discussion with people relevant to Geek Culture. Expect authors, thinkers, writers, pundits, actors, Internet broadcasters, directors and people involved in other geek themed online endeavors.

If you want to get in touch with the people behind the episode or talk to others who like it, feel free to join the CSICONauts chat room. Alternatively, you can find some of this episode's hosts and/or guests on Twitter: Breki Tomasson and Dan Benjamin.