A lot of our listeners are unhappy that our new download service is not a free service, but is instead a subscription based service. Some have written that's it's anti-democratic of us to charge, that's it's contrary to the the mission of Stanford University, that we're just being capitalist pigs. One apparently former listener even wrote that he was so offended by us charging for our download service that he would no longer listen even to our free stream, despite the fact that Philosophy Talk is one of his favorite radio programs and despite the fact that we are not broadcast in his listening area. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face!
Because the reaction from some of you has been so intense, I thought I'd take this opportunity to explain just why we really need to be charging for our download service.
Philosophy Talk a pretty costly endeavor. And it is costly despite the fact that John Perry and I have been doing the show mostly out of our shared missionary zeal to bring philosophy to a wider audience and for no additional monetary compensation or even release time from our ordinary duties. But there are producers and roving reporters and researchers and studio engineers, and editors to pay. There are also remote studios, ISDN lines, and satellite uplinks to rent. Believe it or not, we even have to pay our own University a fairly substantial amount to keep our "free" stream up and running. And as we add episodes to the archive our monthly costs for that service keeps going up. Unlike John and me, no one else involved in this project works for free or even for peanuts. And nobody is willing to just donate free access to the technical apparatus we need to rent.
So far, our funding has come mostly from various arms of Stanfod University. The Provost, in particular, has, in his great generosity, poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into funding Philosophy Talk over the past several years. Because we are not part of the core academic mission of the University, however, he understandably and reasonably expects that over time we will find a way to be more nearly self-sustaining. Perhaps if you were the Provost of a University like Stanford and you had to choose between, say, an additional professorship for this or that department or more scholarship money for needy students, on the one hand, and funding a public radio program, on the other, you too might insist that although you are willing to provide substantial seed money to get the radio program up and running, eventually the program would have to fend for itself. And that's where we are with Philosophy Talk.
Unfortunately, it's much harder to get funding for a program devoted to philosophy than you might imagine. It's also much much harder to get air time than you might think. And these two facts feed off each other to make life financially more challenging for us.
Most program directors of public radio stations remain highly skeptical that there is a real audience out there for a program as intellectually challenging as ours is. One PD wrote to us that he has seen no market research showing that he ought to devote 52 hours per year of his airtime to a show about philosophy. And that was that. We get that reaction a lot. And that obviously limits our reach and our audience.
Funding agencies, on the other hand, are reluctant to fund something unless they are confident that it will succeed. We've been turned down by the NEH four separate times in our attempts to get a radio production grant -- a grant specifically designed to bring more humanities content to the radio airwaves. Each time, part of the reason seems to have been scepticism that our show could really find a national audience.
All in all, Philosophy Talk faces a very large uphill battle for adequate funding. Partly because we are still trying to prove to program directors of stations that there really and truly is an audience that is hungry for what we have to offer, we basically have to give the program away for free to stations. This is something that separates us from highly sought after programs like This American Life or Car Talk. They charge stations a great deal of money in what are called carriage fees and sell a great deal of underwriting. By contrast, if we tried to charge stations right now, we'd be dropped like a hot potato. And because we are on relatively few stations, we also have a hard time selling underwriting. Even on pubic radio, underwriters want to know how many "impressions" (i.e. ears listening) you can deliver to them.
I'm not saying we're entirely hopeless. First, we did get a grant from the Templeton Foundation that will help out a bit. And Powell's Books has agreed to underwrite us for a very modest amount for one additional year. But it's not nearly enough to keep the program going.
That's where our download service comes in. It's our last best hope to try and generate an additional modest revenue stream to help keep our program afloat. Since we have a somewhat intense and devoted following over the internet, our hope for the podcast is that some portion of our listeners will be willing to lend our show some of the financial support it desperately needs to keep going. Of course, we knew going in that the culture of free stuff on the internet would be a serious barrier. But we figured we had to give it at least a shot.
Nor have we completely abandoned the concept of offering free stuff via the internet. All of our content remains completely accessible, completely without charge, via our online streaming service, at our
website. Anybody who has access to the internet can still listen to philosophy talk completely for free.
But the bottom line is that unless some of our listeners are willing to pay for the convenience of downloading philosophy talk, we will have a much harder time surviving. And this bold experiment, of which we are all so proud, will simply end. No ifs ands or buts about it.
Since I hope you want us to survive, I hope you will considering subscribing to our download service. At 69.95 for 52 episodes per year, an annual suscription basically costs you $1.35/episode.
That seems to me a comparative bargain.
Sunday, September 9, 2007 -- 5:00 PMThis is a high-quality, stimulating show worthy of
This is a high-quality, stimulating show worthy of support from all of us who are loyal listeners. Ken Taylor and John Perry are the only participants working for nothing in this endeavor. I wholeheartedly agree that $1.35 per episode is a bargain.
Let's give Ken and John the support they need to keep this intelligent, bold, and innovative program going. Let's make a statement for intelligent public radio.
Sunday, September 9, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI am sorry, but I fear that this post does not hav
I am sorry, but I fear that this post does not have the ring of truth about it. First, Stanford University does have a substantial audio web presence that is funded by the university -- I am referring to itunes.stanford.edu -- which was launched with such fanfare. (I note that some Philosophy Talk episodes appear here, but with uncertain frequency.) This was launched with great fanfare, including articles in periodicals ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to Forbes.
Next, while I can fully appreciate that the costs associated with the show, these are surely a direct result of the insistence that the show take live phone calls (although episodes are regularly recycled, calling into question the claims about ISDN charges and the need for these live phone calls) and have side features such as the "Roving Reporter." While such features may be desirable, they are hardly necessary.
Third, the cost is insanely high. For the cost of a subscription to Philosophy Talk, one could purchase the full contents of 60 back issues of Philosophy Now on CD-ROM. One could purchase 5 volumes of "X and Philosophy" (e.g., Seinfeld and Philosophy, Baseball and Philosophy, etc.) One could buy a used copy of the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. One could buy 6 Penguin paperbacks containing major original works by philosophers. One could subscribe for a year to Mind journal and have change. Or one could purchase Offline Explorer Pro and download the "free streams" for playback at one's leisure.
Fourth, while the hosts may not receive teaching relief for their work on this program, I would be most surprised if they did not claim this work on their annual statements describing contributions. After all, faculty do not receive teaching relief for serving as editors of journals, or giving talks at other institutions, or for other "community service" obligations. Still, faculty are expected to do some level of these.
Simply put, I would be surprised if even two hundred people signed up for the subscription service. With such a subscription service, I would normally expect an online forum where the subscribers could interact with the hosts, and more content (such as downloadable content.)
I am sorry that the hosts have encountered difficulty in receiving grants and in gaining airtime online. However, given the wide variety of accessible material aimed at educated lay people in philosophy, I find it a bit hard to believe that the funds raised from these subscriptions will justify the ill will engendered by this experiment. Were the decision mine, I would have simply asked for donations, like the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy does.
Sunday, September 9, 2007 -- 5:00 PMDear Mr. Tygar: Your post basically calling me
Dear Mr. Tygar:
Your post basically calling me a liar -- on what grounds, I really don't know -- is, I'm afraid, full of mistatements and confusion.
First of all Stanford on Itunes is a completely different animal from Philosophy Talk. Much of the content on ITunes is content produced in the course of more or less regular academic business here at Stanford. Many are public lectures and events of various sorts, that happen as part of the ongoing educational activities of the University.
Philosophy Talk is a professionally produced radio program, that lies pretty much outside of the main educational activities of the University. We are not part of some on-going class, speaker series, seminar series, or even on-going public outreach activities of the University like Stanford Lively Arts.
As such, we have eventually to find some way to either pay for ourselves or convince the University to just make us a line item in the budget. We're trying hard to do the former and have little prospect of doing the latter, unfortunately. We've applied for more grants than you can imagine, begged listeners online for money, talked up the show to certain would be angels. The Stanford Enyclopedia, by contrast, is the recipient of a substantial grant from the NEH and the recipient of a huge gift from a certain anonymous donor. The NEH has constantly said "no" to us and no angel has stepped forward to offer to endow our efforts -- but not for lack of begging on our part.
Second, the reference to ISDN lines and the like isn't directly related to live call-ins, but to the fact that almost all of our guests join us from some remote studio. Often we have to rent studio time from such studios, pay for a remote engineer at the remote studio -- especially now that we are live on Sundays -- and pay for the ISDN connection between our home studio and the remote studio.
Doing the show live, by the way, makes the show substantially cheaper than it otherwise would be. If we did a "pre-produced" show, with editing up to the standards of other national public radio programs, the show would be SUBSTANTIALLY more expensive. Shows like Fresh Air, Car Talk, etc. go through eight or more rounds of editing. And editing is one of the most expensive because labor intensive things in all of media. So by doing it live, and having only a few edited segments, we keep it cheap.
Also, by having live call-ins we make the show considerably more democratic than it otherwise would be. I would hate to lose the voice of the caller. And I certainly wouldn't dream of doing that merely in order to cut costs. We are trying to be a national radio program that measures up to the highest standards of public radio across the nation. We do so in an extremely cost-effective way compared to other programs out there. But none of this is free.
Also, about "recycling programs." Because the program is broadcast live and because each show is very time consuming, John and I couldn't possibly afford the time to do 52 live episodes per year. We aim for 36-39 new episodes per year, with an average of 3-4 reruns per 13 week production quarter. We do tend to run more re-runs during the summer quarter in order to give us and our whole team a break from the production schedule and to allow us to think and plan ahead.
As for "side features" though they are in fact costly, I strongly disagree that these are mere frills. In fact, Philosophy Talk recently won a silver medal in an international radio competition for our Roving Reporter segment and for our Sixty-Second philosopher segment. When we try to convince program directors to carry the show, they often want more, not less of this kind of thing. Of course, this kind of thing is very expensive and we don't really want the tail to wag the dog. I think we have just about the right mix myself.
As to what else you can buy for 69 bucks, I'll let others be the judge of whether philosophy talk is as good or better buy than those things you mention -- none of which are free. But unlike any of those things you mention, you can have complete access to Philosophy Talk completely for free. All one has to do is go to our archve pages and listen to our stream -- something that happens roughly 40,000 times per month. We have done nothing to restrict access to that stream -- which again, costs us a significant sum to maintain. [That's because the outfit that does streaming services here at Stanford is required to act like a business and recoup its costs from the departments and entities that use that service. So although the service is in-house, we have to pay, nonetheless.]
The bottom line is that if you don't want to pay to listen to Philosophy Talk, you're perfectly free to listen without paying. But of course you know that already, I assume. So I'm afraid I don't understand the very harsh character of your remarks.
Monday, September 10, 2007 -- 5:00 PMRegardless of the fact that I would gladly pay to
Regardless of the fact that I would gladly pay to listen to your podcast, i am unfortunately unable to do so. Being the cost very cheap to the average american listener, it is quite expensive for the average Latin American one. That is my case.
Lamento mucho la decisión tomada y espero que en futuro pueda volver a disfrutar de vuestro programa.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007 -- 5:00 PMPhilosophy talk is one of the best ways that your
Philosophy talk is one of the best ways that your kind of philosophy can reach the ears of the public. It seems to me philosophers have had a lesser predominating role in communities and society at large in recent decades compared to the greats like Russell.
Philosophy talk is one such way to spread our acquired knowledge and wisdom to the masses, which is so much needed right now. While I am slightly saddened by the implications of a subscription service; I understand.
Those who feel disappointed about this development should have their beef with the economic organisation of radio and academia, NOT Ken and John. They are going above and beyond their mandate as professional philosophers to do this program and are doing it out of their love for wisdom. More philosophers can learn from them.
Saturday, September 15, 2007 -- 5:00 PMDear Mr. Taylor, I've been inquiring about down
Dear Mr. Taylor,
I've been inquiring about downloading podcasts since last year because it's so convenient to listen to shows on the go as opposed to being glued to my laptop. So, it's nice to see that they are available. I've downloaded three episodes so far. I've considered subscribing on a monthly basis or yearly, but I haven't made up my mind because there may occasionally be shows on subjects I don't find interesting.
But, again, I'm happy that the podcast option is available and that I can pick and choose which episodes I want to when and where I want to listen to them.
Monday, September 17, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI enjoy your show, and would pay something for the
I enjoy your show, and would pay something for the convenience of being able to download it, but nowhere near $70. Overpricing a service doesn't create a large pool of new donors, it only dissuades potential customers. Consider a non-profit clothing and gift shop, like the AIDS relief shop in the Castro (in San Francisco). They charge competitive prices for their wares, and while you're there you can learn more about their mission and possibly decide to support them in other ways. But if their merchandise was four times the average price, nearly everyone would turn right around and march out the door, benefiting no one.
If your download was $10/year, I'd be signed up right now, (as would a good number of your stream listeners) and wouldn't mind a bit if you took a moment of each show (or tacked a message onto each podcast) mentioning your expenses and leading me back to your website, where...you could have a Paypal donation link! Attempting to force potential customers into becoming donors, I believe, will net you few of either. But creating as many customers as possible, and then encouraging them to become donors, is a more tried and true method.
In any case, thank you for doing the show. It's a pleasure to hear.
Monday, September 17, 2007 -- 5:00 PMMatt: Basically you're saying that if we sold y
Basically you're saying that if we sold you a year's subscription at just over 19 cents/per episode, then you'd feel that was a fair price.
By the way, we're not forcing anyone to subscribe to the podcast in order to listen to the show. The stream is free and you can even purchase individual downloads w/out subscribing.
Saturday, September 22, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI'd really appreciate access to the past episodes,
I'd really appreciate access to the past episodes, having just got through a long european coach journey by listening to those that were available on itunes, but I share matt's suspicion you'd get more subscribers with a cheaper rate; it's hard to get people to pay for subscription content on the internet (witness the new york times paywall coming down). Personally, I intend to subscribe at the current rate, when I've got the money...
Tuesday, September 25, 2007 -- 5:00 PMHow about offering just one or two episodes for do
How about offering just one or two episodes for download for free, so potential customers can make up their mind?
While I certainly consider myself sufficiently interested in philosophy to very much appreciate a weekly show on the subject, and sufficiently accustomed to the concept of having to pay for things I like, I consider the current "try the audio stream" approach as a very unclever imposition.
Listening infront of my computer is utterly inconvenient, quite uncomfortable, and it's a waste of energy (of the electrical, not the mental kind). Did you ever do that yourselves?
The message I gather is that I have to pay for the comfort, and not for the contents.
If (and I strongly support that position) we agree that the importance of freely available information cannot be overestimated, Philosophy Talk will continue to be available on a free basis. The "pay for comfort" approach then to me is a kind of Digital Restriction Management solution (which additionally entices to circumvent it - something I haven't done), that is very unlikely to turn myself from an interested stranger into a generous supporter, or, for the time being, a satisfied subscriber. The missing step in between would be the enthusiastic listener, but as that is not possible, I am chosing to refraining from even starting to listen if you continue to impose those insupportable restraints.
This puts me in the slightly paradoxical situation that although I would most probably like the show, I have not (yet) listened to a single episode.
So, what is my conclusion? If you come up with obstacles, people will either turn away or try to circumvent them. While I am in front of my computer, I will prefer hypertext to listening. When I am not, I will read on philosophy, or listen to something else.
P.S. On a side note, I personally consider charging US$ 5 per episode not really a bargain, but I understand that the fixed transaction cost is significant. The pricing model really depends on the number of subscribers - but I (wishfully?) believe the global market for Philosophy Talk might be quite a bit larger than you seem to assume. Following the DRM argument, it even gets worse as I do not feel I pay for the contents, or for any additional value (assuming the cost of providing plain mp3 files is certainly not greater than that of providing audio streaming), but only for not being coerced to listen infront of my computer.
Friday, September 28, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI was afraid that when I click the link to "Contin
I was afraid that when I click the link to "Continue reading 'Why we Charge for Downloads'" I was going to have to pay for that.
Sorry, no dice on paying.
I can't sit and listen to the stream, I'll just have to try and catch what I can from the broadcast on KOPB.
Saturday, September 29, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI agree that the problem is the fee. I was ready
I agree that the problem is the fee. I was ready to suscribe until I saw how much you were charging. The program is wonderful, but it's hard to justify such a steep price.
Monday, October 1, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI think the show is great and I'd be willing to pa
I think the show is great and I'd be willing to pay that price if it included some enhanced access (I think that was mentioned before). Perhaps a high quality periodical, the ability to have some influence on show topics and perhaps guest ideas. Those type of add-ons might make it worth it to me. But without those types of perks the price is just too steep.
Friday, October 5, 2007 -- 5:00 PMHow can anyone dispute that Philosophy Talk is a g
How can anyone dispute that Philosophy Talk is a great program that deserves our financial support? I have no doubt that the production costs are high and don't doubt that sources of funding are woefully inadequate. No doubt from this perspective the pricing of the downloads is "fair." But is it competitive or is it even optimal from the point of view of generating revenue? I hope there is some possibility of testing or experimenting with alterations of the pricing structure. For example, the difference in the per-episode pricing and the subscription pricing might warrant tinkering with. Even a modest reduction in the per-episode pricing might induce more people to give this a try.
Sunday, October 7, 2007 -- 5:00 PMThanks for all the hard work guys- it's a great sh
Thanks for all the hard work guys- it's a great show. As I'm still a student and short on funds, I'll be listening for free online, but I hope this new system works out. If anyone's looking for an additional philosophy podcast, check out The Philosopher's Zone at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/philosopherszone/default.htm - it's an Australian public radio show that you can download for free.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007 -- 5:00 PMI'd give every penny I have to Philosophy Talk, as
I'd give every penny I have to Philosophy Talk, as it's part of me too, a manifestation of the mission of philosophical universe.
I have paid the yearly fee and have bought a bunch that I love.
Thursday, October 11, 2007 -- 5:00 PMyou have got to be kidding me. $4.95 for a single
you have got to be kidding me. $4.95 for a single download! you guys are joking right? if it was cheaper, i would subscribe and so would tons of others from the sounds of it. get off your high horse about the $0.19/episode. Get more people to pay a smaller price...Jesus read some economics guys.
Saturday, October 13, 2007 -- 5:00 PMDon't listen to Philosophy Talk ever again if you
Don't listen to Philosophy Talk ever again if you don't support them.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 -- 5:00 PMWow. So much animosity. Love the show. Keep doi
Wow. So much animosity. Love the show. Keep doing what you're doing and see if people sign up. In the mean time maybe add a few subscriber features that increase the value and people will come. Heck, even offer some promotions like a free book or something to get people in the door. Just keep trying and you'll hit on something. And if you really need help, then ask for some donations and you'll probably be surprised!
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 -- 5:00 PMInstead of subscriptions... because what student o
Instead of subscriptions... because what student or adult who are in the humanities field can afford a 60 podcast... you should instead make money by google adds or adds on the website.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007 -- 5:00 PMFor less than 1/2 the price of a gallon of gasolin
For less than 1/2 the price of a gallon of gasoline, less than 1/2 the price for a gallon of milk, for about the price of a bottle of coke, you can purchase an hour long show on philosophy! Philosophy of humor, philosophy of imagination, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, etc. You do not have to purchase them if you do not want to (and it is obvious some of you do not). For the same price to rent a video at blockbuster for a few days you can purchase three 60 minutes talk shows on philosophy that you never have to return and some of you are complaining--WOW! You would think these guys just raised your mortgage or something. I'm sorry to some of you who feel like your stuck listening to philosophy shows on your laptop. When I listen to philosophy talk I get things done around the house while I listen to it. Just so you know, you don't have to sit still with your laptop. That's what speakers are for. And if you want the luxury of being able to listen to philosophy talk "on the go" maybe you should start saving change and pay for it with quarters. By the way, how did you ever afford a laptop or online access. These luxuries are much more than $1.35.
Saturday, November 3, 2007 -- 5:00 PMThe subscription price does not trouble me as much
The subscription price does not trouble me as much as the price for past episodes. I would purchase all back episodes if it was not cost prohibitive. That said, the program remains accessible free of charge. Whether that access comes in the form preferred by any particular listener is of course another question. While free,multi- format availability would be ideal, we should all note that no right to such access is present. I remain a whole-hearted supporter of the program, and I trust that Ken and John will do everything possible to extend access to a wider audience. Thus, while the current pricing is questionable, I pay because the show is an enjoyable part of my weekly activities.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007 -- 4:00 PMHi Ken and John, I just wanted to let you know th
Hi Ken and John,
I just wanted to let you know that I accept and agree with the fees of your service that you provide to us, the audience. You seem to have in the past and continue to discuss many different and interesting topics. I am a new student at UC Berkeley and I am majoring in Philosophy, so it is good to become aware of additional views and ideas about a vast number of topics. I also find it very pleasant that the topics are talked about so casually. I plan to listen to every episode (except for the reruns :-P) and I support you. As a college student, I am strapped for cash, so we are to an extent, in the same boat, but regardless, good luck!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 -- 4:00 PMDear Ken, I have a conundrum. I have paid your
I have a conundrum. I have paid your subscription, but I would like to show some of your episodes to a friend. This has not happened yet, so please do not try to get me arrested. Making available episodes of your show would probably be illegal. Would it be immoral too?
Friday, March 28, 2008 -- 5:00 PMHow about donations? The effect of having all the
How about donations? The effect of having all the music in the world at my fingertips has made me psychologically different in that i feel very annoyed if i have to pay for what i like before instead of after i've enjoyed it. I think many in my generation (80s) may actually be more willing and adapted to donate. (that is, more money (and listeners!) might be gained that way)
Can only speak for myself and perhaps for my circle of friends here in Norway, but it does not seem as a priori obvious to me as it might to you guys that you get more money from charging like that. The pirate generation has made charging on the internet a morally "bad" and negatively charged thing to do. (as you may have noticed from certain replies, and may not have fully understood the reason for (it's tied up in the whole pirate/freespeech-wars etc))
Wednesday, April 2, 2008 -- 5:00 PMCharge what you like, you don't have to justify yo
Charge what you like, you don't have to justify yourselves. It's up to the listener to subscribe or not - I think $70 is a bargain considering the quality of your production.
You could consider a Paypal donate button on your website as an additional source of revenue, particularly next to the streams of past episodes. I'd expect lots of people would donate to the show if it was a simple thing to do.
Monday, September 29, 2008 -- 5:00 PMThe main reason that I wouldn't pay $70 a year is
The main reason that I wouldn't pay $70 a year is that I'm unsure how much of that goes to your operating costs. You have clearly subcontracted the payment system -- how much of my $70 goes into the fees your subcontractor is charging you? I'd rather donate $70, so I'd know it all went to the show.
It's a bore trying to listen to streamed episodes. Too much clicking around the website! I have a podcast manager that automatically downloads my favorite public radio shows, so they're all in one place and queued up for listening with or without an internet connection. Philosophy Talk used to be in that queue, and I miss it!
For years the podcast of "This American Life" was only available through Audible.com. I stopped listening to the show because I didn't want to buy anything from Audible. Now that TAL is available as a free podcast, I listen regularly and am a substantial donor.
I don't know if you'd make more money by donation or subscription, but that's probably an empirical question worth answering.