I've been listening to podcasts recently via Overcast's web player. It's good, but not great. An excellent MVP, but, unsurprisingly, not as good as the iPhone client.

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No "Smart Speed", and as far as I can tell, 99.44% sure there's no Voice Boost either. It also syncs with my phone poorly. Poorly might be a little too strong, but not by much. I need something like Apple's Handoff, where I can listen to a podcast in the browser, grab my phone to jump in the car, and have Bluetooth pick right up where I left off. That's not working.

So the web client, though good, isn't great. But is it worth improving?

I've got lots of reactions there, including the comment Gruber gave me that, "a fair number of listeners listen right from the web page." The web is more popular for podcast listening than I'd expected.

But the main thing I think about is Marco & David Smith's comments about figuring out what the user is using before you bother coding new features.

Here's a quote from _David:

Being able to make my decisions based on numbers... makes me more honest with myself, because it's so easy to trick yourself into thinking something's more important than it actually is. As an example of this... [Pedometer++], my most sort of popular app, has an Apple Watch component, which is great, and as part of the Apple Watch component, it has a complication, that you can install...

In my analytics, it tells me how many people have installed the complication, and I started getting the numbers back, and the reality is that a very small percentage of my users use the complication, which was different in my mind than what I had originally expected. I use it. I love it. It's the part of the Watch app that is most useful to me. But it turns out a lot of my customers don't use it. There are some. But it's very very helpful for me to kind of guide how much time and energy I should put into making that awesome, because I had a number to base on it. You know, if it's a few percent of people are using it, maybe it's not as important as I thought it was, and so [keeping track of usage analytics] helps me to be honest. [emphasis mine - mfn]

Let's do what all the cool sites are doing, and emphasize one of those quotes by repeating it, but making it LARGER!!

[T]he reality is that a very small percentage of my users use the complication, which was different in my mind than what I had originally expected. I use it. I love it. It's the part of the Watch app that is most useful to me. But it turns out a lot of my customers don't use it.

Sans a business case, it's a vanity project

But can we really determine what's useful by what's being used now? In David's case, I bet so. If we use Spolsky's rule of thumb that each barrier to entry loses you half your customers, well...

  • All app users
    • App users than own an Apple Watch. -- 50%
      • All Watch owners that install the app on the watch -- 25%
        • All that installed the app that install the complication -- 12.5%

And, of course, the second bullet is much much less than 50%. No, no a Watch complication is probably not the best place to spend your time, unless Watch users are really your target audience. Then tell me your business plan. It's probably not ads, which make are Pedometer++'s main source of income, as I understand it.

That is, _David doesn't have, as far as I know, a way to monetize Watch users specifically. So why is he spending time there? Because he's building something useful. That's not a business case. Time to move on, unless you're doing a vanity project, which, honestly, it sounds like he was.

(And that's okay -- One, pretty much every project an indie picks has a little vanity in it. Otherwise, why do it and not something just as useful but a little more boring? Second, building something you'll use is an important part of most any service. If you can't dogfood it, nobody else is going to eat it either. You just need to make sure it's not dogfood for one.)

Overcast online: Is there a business case?

Which brings us back to Overcast online. If the web interface isn't getting much use, why not? Is it because people don't use web interfaces to listen to podcasts? Gruber and Snell say that's not the case. Would people listen in another web page, one away from those two guys' sites? Urmmmm... probably not many, but more than I would've thought at first. That is, what we've learned is that podcasting away from your phone isn't uncommon.

Could you do Smart Speed on the web? Probably not, practically speaking. Probably not without playing a file you're modifying on the fly on your own server, or, worse, forcing some wacky browser install. The first is an unwarranted expense, and the second is a horrible interface. Nobody's installing that.

That is, I'm pretty sure Overcast.fm is just a player, streaming the audio file from wherever the file lives. The web page is just a middleperson. It's a very thin client.

But you know what the web client doesn't have that it could add much more easily than Smart Speed and Voice Boost?

  • Playlists (I just get a big dump of podcast subs in an alphabetical list on Overcast.fm)
  • Persistent settings (like what speed multiplier I use on each podcast -- the iOS app keeps track podcast by podcast)
  • Recommendations
  • Great syncing

If you gave me a full[er] client, would I listen on the web more? Yes. Yes, I would. And do you what else? The web client is more visual than the app on my phone. I'm not using my car's Bluetooth radio's buttons or my headphone clicker to pause. I'm looking at the screen I pictured, above, as I mouse over to it to click.

And do you know what you could put there? That's right. If not ads, then at least a donate button.

That sounds like a business case. It might be worth a couple of weeks of development.

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