PreFlight TV’s process of growing an audience

A couple months ago I attended OpenCamp in Dallas. It was a two day conference which had many topics ranging from video production, through SEO, to using WordPress (and much more). Since then, I’ve been implementing what I’ve learned. I took a few pictures of the event. You can see them on my Aviation Photo’s site.

At the time I attended the conference I calculated (from my log files) that PreFlight TV had about 200 viewers per episode. Since then, I’ve implemented a few things as a direct result of my OpenCamp experience. [Note: this is not a complete list]:

  • hi-def content is now on Mevio.
  • Created 302 (file found) redirects, so the RSS feeds hit my redirects, then forward the request to Mevio.
  • Published all the episodes on YouTube
  • Created a Facebook page
  • Started participating more in other related blogs/sites
  • Added Google ad-sense to the site

These simple changes have enabled me to get a clear picture as to what is happening, not only on the site, but with the video feeds. Reading log files simply didn’t cut it. Every podcaster needs to understand what their audience is doing “right now”. We need to know if a tweet generated traffic, or if the site is being hit by a million people because it was mentioned on the news, or is linked to from digg’s home page.

That said, here are my latest conclusions from my most recent stats, since posting the first episode four months ago:

1) Woopra is a great tool for websites, but it doesn’t tell much of a story for podcasters (RSS). The PreFlight TV website usage is very low, indicating that most people are downloading the videos directly, and not browsing the site. I use Google analytics as well, and it has the same limitation. All javascript based analytics systems do.

Conclusion: I must put content from the website into the videos if I wish to disseminate information to the viewers. I can’t rely on the website to inform the PreFlight TV viewers. It also means that I can’t monazite very well using the website (ad-clicks). I must put advertising directly into the video feeds if I hope to offset costs.

2) The only viewer comment I’ve received is, “more shows please”. Though I’m working on producing the shows more often, the entire audience is lurking. I was really hoping to engage the audience. I wasn’t expecting an outpouring of comments, but I was expecting to evoke some controversy or disagreement with the viewers. I was certainly expecting some of the audience to tell me when I was wrong. I can’t believe I haven’t said anything incorrect yet.

Conclusion: I can see that I need to be a bit more controversial if I want audience interaction. 🙂 Also, I need to specifically ask my audience to go to the site and post.

3) Google is the biggest referrer to the website, followed by YouTube.

Though placing the video feeds on YouTube lessons my control over the material (eg. I can’t embed them in an RSS feed), many people view YouTube, and don’t use RSS. So, I use YouTube as a marketing tool for the show. The YouTube video with the highest clicks has the keyword “headphones”. The one I just posted with the keyword “iPad” will likely generate a bunch of YouTube traffic as well. The episodes about “charts” and “kneeborards” are not generating much traffic on YouTube.

Twitter doesn’t generate much ‘human’ traffic. However, the moment anyone tweets “” on twitter, the site gets hit with a handful of bots, which then crawl the content. Humans used to find the site when I posted on Twitter, but now the people who are interested simply use their feed reader to get the shows. They don’t go to the website.

Other sites which are specifically dedicated to flying, like myTransponder don’t generate much traffic either. About two hits per per “” mention.

Conclusion: Generating an audience is cumulative. With every episode produced, a handful more people find the show and subscribe to the feed. Where certain keywords have a higher hit-rate than others, it’s more important for us to stay focused on creating quality material, rather than pander to keywords.

[BTW: The Google search term people are using most is, “PreFlight TV”. I believe people are trying to navigate to “”, which is owned by a squatter, then using Google to find the site. The squatter wants, $30,000 for the “” name. He can keep that domain name, and people are going to just have to get used to typing “”.]

4) iTunes accounts for nearly all the video feed traffic (there is an exception I’ll cover next). The biggest problem, however, is that I’ve been producing one show a month. iTunes, by default, stops following RSS feeds which haven’t been active for a week. So, my viewers have turned this off, or must manually pull the latest video.

I really wish I could produce one show a week. I know the numbers would shoot up exponentially if I did. Not only because iTunes users would get the feed without shutting it down, but the RSS ranking systems are based on RSS popularity. So, a show that produces 1 episode a month has 1 download a month per viewer, where a show with 4 episodes a month has 4 downloads a month per viewer. Taken to it’s conclusion, the show with 4 downloads a month gets to be on some “most popular” lists, and then acquires even more viewers. It’s a vicious circle, and the number of episodes is key in rising to the top of “popular” lists.

Conclusion: I haven’t verified if the feed works with Zune, Roku, or other methods of distribution. I know for certain that the feed doesn’t work on Tivo. I have to fix it, and I don’t know how many people this would help. I do know that if I don’t fix it, people who use these devices as their only media-consumption devices will never get to see the show.

5) Mevio’s statistics account for most of the video traffic… but, I don’t believe their stats. Mevio claims that the videos are getting many more times the hits than the site sees. Mind you, Mevio just has the hi-def video, not the medium definition version, and I only just started using Mevio a month ago. If Mevio’s stats are right, they are an awesome distribution method.

Conclusion: It’s my intention to become a partner with Mevio so that I can offset some costs. I don’t know when it would be a good time to approach them. My guess is that they’d want PreFlight TV to be a weekly show. Right now that would be too difficult for me to accomplish without quitting my job. I don’t know what kind of statistics they are looking for in a partner.

6) The stats:

In the month and a half I’ve been using Mevio, they claim that the hi-definition videos have had 12,000 views.

The redirect-links strategy shows about 2,000 people subscribed to the hidef RSS feed, and about 1,000 to the medium def feed.

The website is getting about 150 visitors (real people, not including myself) to the site a month now. Meaning, only 5% of the viewership is ever going to the website. If you include the Mevio stats, only 1% of the viewers are going to the website.

If the Mevio stats are correct, then Mevio has driven 9,000 viewers to the Preflight TV episodes within the Mevio website (bypassing the redirect counting on This traffic is great, but these viewers didn’t subscribe to the feed on the site, subscribe to the show on Mevio, nor did they visit the website. So, I’m not sure what the Mevio stats mean to the shows popularity. It could just be that 9,000 page views were served an ad, and then the viewers navigated away.

Overall conclusion: I’m still not where I want to be in any way. I know it’s possible to engage the pilot community. I hear and read snippets which are encouraging, and from the brief exposure I now know it’s possible to get many times the viewership currently has. It’s not just pilots, either. If is reporting accurate stats in any way then, this proves that it’s not only pilots who are interested in watching shows about being a pilot.

I believe we all ‘think too small’ on this subject. Up until OpenCamp, I certainly did. There’s a whole lot more viewers out there. They’re just not saying anything… or maybe they just don’t know we exist. (when I say “we” I mean “the community”). It’s up to us to be available, consistent, and entertaining.

If you build it – they will come. 🙂

This entry was posted in Behind the scenes and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply