Not a beach day

Not for me, at least. The first photo was taken a few hours earlier, a week ago, when the weather looked far more seasonal than it is today. Tonight high winds and rain are in the forecast, which almost inevitably means the power will be out. After Fiona, I lost my mind and ordered a solar panel and battery to keep our devices charged. This, although not having power for such an extended time, meant we spent every evening together playing board games. The first time in years. A solar panel won’t be very effective in the dark or when it’s raining.

I post these photos almost daily to Instagram as I take a break from my run. A distance that used to serve as a warm-up is now a work out.

More Contact Info. Needed

Just when I thought all fundamental problems with designing for the web had been solved, I come across a significant misstep on the part of the Charlottetown Police.

Last week Sheryl and I were working late and driving up University avenue behind an obviously grossly inebriated driver. Luckily he did not go over 30km/h, but he was utilizing both lanes to make his way north.

I decided that a call to the police was in order before this driver, who turned out to be an older man who probably shouldn’t be driving in the first place, killed someone or himself.

I don’t have the police department on speed dial, so I searched my mobile browser for the Charlottetown Police, which led to their Wikipedia page, and, finally, their website. Nowhere on their website could I see the word contact. Nor could I see a phone number. This is all in plain sight on their desktop version.

So I hesitantly called 911, and we followed the driver as I gave directions to the police dispatcher. By this point, the man had left his truck at Swiss Chalet, failed to navigate the glass fence around the front of the restaurant, hit his head, and got back in his truck. Then driving over the sidewalk, he went up University until he turned right at the Sobeys, where the police quickly arrived to pull him over.

I have no idea what the proper use case for the 911 service is – I assume it’s for someone breaking into my house with an assault rifle kind of emergency.

What I do know is that no one thought that a person would want to contact the police via their phone. And may want to find their number via a simple Google search. Particularly someone who might have middle-aged eyes and be under stress or time constraints. Seems like an obvious situation to design for to me.

A Great Start

This view is the start to my work day. Its getting cold and once the snow starts it’s not always possible to find traversable sidewalks in Charlottetown, especially across the bridge, so I am enjoying this view while I can. It’s also a good way point for my run/walk routine as I reacquaint my body to running once again.

The Complainer

When I was in grade school the teachers used to report that I complained too much, a habit that hasn’t really abated now that I am older. In fact, it’s likely increased since we moved back to the Island with my common refrains about how everything here costs far more than where we lived before or larger Canadian centres as well. I also have a gift for exaggeration.

We have been lucky enough during this period of increased prices to be affected primarily by the increased cost of fuel. Sheryl drives to Souris for work. That effect has been minimized by lots of carpooling and the fact that I run to work every day. As we buy food based on cost, and not by whim or habit, we have managed to keep our grocery bills within acceptable increases. Variety has taken a hit and I miss some fresh foods.

But with a swimmer in the house and most meets being off-Island there seems to be no escaping the high cost of travel.

Camren has a meet in Montreal in December and the team has decided to not go up together – in part due to the bus rental costing $11,000 – and in part due to some parents surprisingly enjoying driving in Northern New Brunswick in winter. I don’t. They all have large SUVs and being kind offered to allow him to ride with them. But alas he needs to be there earlier, he and one other swimmer qualified for a couple long-distance races which occur before the others arrive.

The only way to get him there is to fly. Unfortunately, the cost of flying out of Charlottetown has reached the level of ludicrousness. The price I was given for a return flight for the both of us was not far off what we would have paid to fly from Taiwan and return in years past. We often talk about returning to Taiwan, so out of interest, I checked those prices out of Halifax as well. They are double.

Porter has some far more reasonable fares out of Moncton, but they leave at 6:30AM, which in addition to paying the bridge tax and gas, means an incredibly early start to your day.

It’s pretty hard to justify all this for a single race.

Our savior may be Aeroplan. I have accumulated enough points that he and I could fly there with only a small service fee. I had planned on using these to fly us all someplace warm in Asia, but with the high costs of travel that doesn’t seem possible in the near future. I have little faith in Air Canada but I’ll hope that when we get to the airport they will actually have a seat on the plane for us.

The Blackbox

We have had a tremendous run with our niche podcasting journey. I’ve been a part of a lot of projects over the years and helped create a lot of different products. What we have created here lacks the sophistication and all the moving parts of other products I’ve helped create, but none of them have had the impact that our audio has. Creating audio for kids to listen to and enjoy, is incredibly rewarding. And I love getting direct feedback from them and their families. Something not typically possible in a large company.

Another thing I have discovered while attending a writing workshop is the challenge of getting published and getting people to read your material. Every month kids listen to my stories millions of times – I’ve built an audience for my (albeit weak) writing.

Now here comes the but …

I’ve learned a lot about podcasting these past few years. From audio editing and sound design to growth and monetization, and everything in between. Despite this, some aspects are still a complete mystery to me.

There was a naive expectation on my part that if you create a product that people enjoy, and you get enough people enjoying this product that revenue will follow. Sort of build it and they do come.

It’s a simple formula: A (audio that people want to listen to) + B (scale) = C (revenue) In fact that’s all anyone ever talks about. When the inevitable question is asked, “how do I make money podcasting”, the answer is almost always the same. You need scale (or a very valuable niche).

We have scale. In fact, using the number of downloads we have as a standard, we may have one of the largest podcasts in Canada. We are not the largest globally by a long shot, there are many podcasts in our category which enjoy multiple more listeners than we do, but it should be enough.

My focus has been on creating audio, not ad sales. Our ad sales are handled by Advertisecast, RedCircle, and Gumball.

Last year at this time the future looked bright. We signed several family-friendly brands, which helped make this the first year I was able to pay myself and keep the lights on in our studio. The celebrations were short lived because since June there have been no new contracts and I have no idea why that would be. I’ve reached out to the ad sales companies above and implemented all their suggestions, but they have been not very forthcoming with any solid suggestions.

So I started calling others working in audio. The most successful creators are a part of networks, others take advantage of being in the US (Spotify), and others can’t understand what our problem might be.

It’s a black box.

Advertising is not our only source of revenue, but unfortunately, it is our largest. Without it, it’s hard to justify continuing, especially with the rising cost of doing things on this remote Island in the Atlantic.

The only real solution I have is to start doing ad sales myself. Then I might find more answers, but finding time to pitch brands will be difficult, considering I take very few days off now.

Writing Workshop

I’ve been attending a writing workshop held by Doug Malcolm at the Charlottetown Learning Centre these past weeks. I had no real goal in attending other than getting help with the fact that “I write all the time and yet I have no idea what I am doing”.

These classes are the first time since the pandemic that I have sat around a table with a group of strangers. How novel to sit around a table with a group of people and discuss something of interest!

I haven’t learned anything related to writing yet, though the paragraph writing exercise he had us do did lead to the story Chef Shan and the Cabbage Rebellion that I released on Stories Pod. Having to read something written on the spot was terrifying.

This is a great chance to discuss writing and to learn how others think via their writing. Last week no one showed up, which I assume is a common problem (and a reason I wouldn’t put on a workshop myself), but I hope the meetings continue. It’s a welcome break from my routine.