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About Podango’s Demise And The Smart Podcaster’s Response

One of my predictions for 2008 (made exactly one year ago today) was that “One major podcast network goes down in flames.” This is one of those predictions you hate to make, but must make, because it’s coming anyway and you need to plan for it.

I don’t like making these kinds of predictions but, other predictions like these include “my head will have less hair this year than last” or, … “my first gen iPhone will be the last phone I ever need.” No matter how much you want some things not to happen …

If you haven’t heard by now, Podango is having serious problems. From a note from Doug:

Our ability to continue operations past the end of this year (2008) is in question.

I’d link to show you that quote but, … the server is currently showing a 503 error. Here’s some commentary from Michael Geoghegan and a bit from Podcasting News as well.

Doug and Lee were two of the nicest guys in this space. However, … the model was flawed (and they aren’t the only one with this model, they’re just the first ones to crash).

If you are a Podcaster on Podango (or any other site that has their domain name (not yours)), now is the time to own the very media you’ve worked so hard to create. If you use any other service (Feedburner, Amazon S3, Libsyn, etc.) map YOUR DOMAIN to THEIR SERVICE. Domains are currently $7.47 a year at this GoDaddy reseller – you have no excuse. This way if someone goes down (and they always go down), you can fix everything with the quick repoint of your domain name.

Don’t just BE THE MEDIA … OWN THE MEDIA. Handing your content over to someone with a seriously flawed business model (and you know my feelings about Podcast Networks) with no plan of escape is as lame as launching a business with a seriously flawed business model and promising a world that you can’t deliver.

If you are wondering what this means to the state of Podcasting, I point you to this Tweet:

Podango’s problems say as little about the future of Podcasting as GM’s problems say about the future of cars.

The news is full of stories of crooked companies and business models that simply can’t exist anymore (bail-out, anyone?) that are blaming their epic falls on “the economy.” If the news was full of economics 101 stories deconstructing how bad business models often result in bad businesses that FAIL, we couldn’t have 24 hours news networks.

But we’re new media …

We’re smarter than that, right?

Right?

My Attempted Reverse Bully Pulpit Experiment Failed Miserably – My Fault

In my blogging about Podango’s issues, I had this concept in my head of a reverse bully pulpit for specifics kinda approach.  Instead of reporting bad news, I’d report good news and do what I can to encourage people in our space to wonder what kind of great press they might get for doing great things.  There is so much "x sucks" in blogs, etc., I thought it would be fun to report what actually is doing well. 

I also thought that when you report something down and someone fixes it, you make a big deal about the fix.  

Well it hasn’t worked.  It hasn’t gotten the response I was hoping for.  People I respect aren’t reading from this what I was attempting to write.  If the people close enough to tell me aren’t reading this the way I hoped they would, I can only wonder what the rest of the world takes from these new media ramblings. 

So, from this point on, I’m not going to blog or tweet about specific issues I’m having with any technology other than my own.  At least, that’s the goal.

And, by the way, I think Premiumcast.com is a much better service now that we took my mug off the header.

If I forget this goal, someone gently remind me please (both the specific tech issues thing and the removal of my face from the Premiumcast header)?

Re Podango and the current issue, they’re aware of it, they’re on it, they’ll fix it.  For the record, it’s my problem that I’m having with their system and that’s the story.  They have a Blog where they will report their take on what’s going on.  You can frequent that for more – it’s probably much better written anyway.

I’ll continue to report Good News.  I can’t not do that.  I’ll just remain a bit distanced from it so the lines are a bit clearer.

    

Podango Watch – How Goes The Server Transition?

Update 1/19/2008: All looks well from this side. Looks like it happened without a hitch (server side at least). Anyone find anything otherwise?

Yesterday, all Podango Show Builder Lite (formally Gigavox Audio Lite) customers got an email from “The Podango Geeks” with directions on moving over from the Gigavox Servers (Podango purchased Gigavox last September) to their servers. It included this piece of info:

We are now in the final stages of transition, and wanted to give you instructions on how to utilize Podango Show Builder Lite after the final cut over on Friday, January 18th at midnight Pacific Standard Time (yup, that’s tomorrow at midnight PST).

I have never, and I’ll repeat this, NEVER been part of a server transition that has gone well – and I’ve been through plenty.

With Podango’s recent downtime (and promise to do better), it will be interesting to see how this goes.

I know the mechanics behind this move and it is nowhere near as big of a move as it could be, but things could still go bad if everything isn’t tested and tracked eight ways to Monday (or in this case, Friday at midnight).

In short, customers were asked to do three things: (1) Switch to the new link at Podango and (2) download their version of the software (makes sense).

Step (3) takes a bit more work but, at the same time, actually shows off the brilliance of this system. In short, files using SmartDelivery need to change from media.gigavox.net to media.podango.net. For some this is a massive undertaking but here is a great video that explains how to speed up that process.

The “brilliance” part comes from the very tight CName integration with their system. Trying not to get too geeky here, there was a way to make one of your domain names point to their system. For example, around here, we have media.podcastpartnership.net pointing to gigavox.net. With a simple change with our domain name host, it now points to Podango.net and, in theory, that is all we needed to do there across the dozen+ Podcasts we manage.

But as with all server transitions, the real test will be tomorrow to see how this all went.

Taking bets now …

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The 12/07 Podango Downtime Can Have An Upside If They Do This Right

Let me start by saying that I’ve been a big fan of Podango since day 1. I’ve liked their people and their model. I keynoted their first “Unconference.” I launched the “Internet Marketing Podcast Network” with them and have blogged about them numerous times. Even had Lee Gibbons on both the Electronic Marketing Interviews show and on New Media Matters.

I went really loopy when they bought Gigavox from Podango. I was like two friends getting married. That system is the bedrock of all of my audio Podcasts right now.

Well, around New Years Eve, the honeymoon was over. I tried to publish something before the old year was over and the Gigavox / Podango publishing system was down. A little research in some forums shown it had been down for awhile.

Note: Not all of Podango, this was just an issue with the Showbuilder Lite system (the part I use).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand holiday breaks and the like but … there was no way to contact anyone (minus the old rolodex) and I tried everything I could.

It remained down.

For at least a week.

I told Lee (sometimes with all caps ;-)) and the gang that this was unacceptable (they agreed) and that we needed to move from a “sorry we were down” to a “when we go down next time here is how things will change” kind of approach. In this space, things go down, the issue is what we do about it and be pro-active instead of re-active.

I bullied them into getting me a downtime document by Friday the 4th with the promise that I would Blog accordingly and explain what I thought of the document or that the document never arrived.

The document arrived. On time.

It wasn’t perfect. Really, it wasn’t even ‘close.’

I suggested a few things.

They agreed. They edited. We’re in ‘close’ mode now.

And here is what they offered me. Here’s what they offered the community.

1 – I asked for an off-site area to post downtime issues, etc. Here was the email response

Yes, Paul. You may post that we will have it. InsidePodango.com is the domain. It will be set up and functional by Monday close of business.

We will use this domain for technology focused updates, including:
– System Status Notifications
– System Update Notifications
– Known Issues and Resolution Targets
– A Podango BBS
– Access to the Podango Learning Center
– RSS feeds for posts related to specific categories of info: system status notifications, produce news, al posts…
– Etc.

Clearly, not all of these things will be available on Monday, but
this is where we want to take it.

The site is live. Step 1.

2 – This note was sent on the 8th. They could have hid and “hoped” most people didn’t notice the downtime but they sent this:

Dear Podango Show Builder Lite user,
As you may be aware, Podango Show Builder Lite (formerly Gigavox Audio Lite) has been experiencing some technical difficulties in a couple of key areas. The main problem has been with uploading, but we have received reports of problems with assembly in some isolated instances as well.

First, I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies for the inconvenience and trouble that this may have caused you. The road to transition has been a little rockier than we would have liked or initially anticipated. We are working diligently on the transition and hope to be fully transitioned soon.

Secondly, we believe the issues surrounding uploading have been resolved. If you continue to experience problems uploading–or any other issues, please let us know by way of the method described below.

Thirdly, I want to let you know how to best help us help you when issues arise. To get support, please email psbl-support@podango.com and give us your name, Podango Show Builder Lite username (we don’t need your password), and a description of the issue you’re seeing with as much detail as possible. Someone will respond to your issue shortly to let you know that we’ve received your message and will help resolve the issue. To make sure that we are timely in our response and aware of all new issues, in addition to us receiving your message via email, our email system will also send us a message to our support pagers, so that we will instantly be alerted that there is an issue that needs resolution.

In closing, We appreciate your patience and participation as we move to make this great service even better. We value your contribution to the podcasting community at large, and welcome your feedback on how to make our service even better.

In great cause together,

JT Zemp
CTO – Podango

That was the right thing to do. You’ll notice they gave an email address contact that goes to pagers, not an inbox that nobody checks.

And I support the transparency 100%. Step 2.

3 – Lee and I had dinner at CES. We’re going to continue this dialog and document.

So, as I said in the title to this posting, the downtime can be good for them if they do this right. Allowing me to air a little of their dirty laundry in an attempt to prove they’ve changed soaps is a bold move and I salute them for it.

In a few months I’ll salute either their success in making this happen or … let you know where I’m moving to.

I really hope it’s “Option A.”

My gut tells me it will be, but time will tell the true story.

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