Under the Radar

150: Showing Up Every Week


00:00:00   Welcome to Under the Radar, a show about independent iOS app development. I'm Marco Arment.

00:00:05   And I'm David Smith. Under the Radar is never longer than 30 minutes, so let's get started.

00:00:10   So to start off with, I just briefly wanted to call out something that was a very significant

00:00:17   insofar as we would like big round numbers. But this last week, you published, well, you,

00:00:23   John and Casey published, the Accidental Podcast episode number 300, which, A, I wanted to

00:00:29   congratulate you on because that is just a lot of talking.

00:00:33   Thank you. Yes, it was.

00:00:35   But I think honestly, moreover, and I think this is the thing that is like a mini topic

00:00:39   here that I wanted to touch on is it is a lot of showing up. It is a tremendous amount

00:00:45   of just sticking with something, going through all manner of seasons in terms of your various

00:00:52   personal lives, in terms of the podcasting industry, weathering a lot of different things.

00:00:58   And I think there is something just noteworthy about sticking with something for that long

00:01:06   that is, there's just an important lesson in that. And I think it applies very strongly

00:01:10   to the kind of things we often discuss here where the publishing, being an independent

00:01:17   producer of anything, whether that is a podcast or an application or a blog or whatever that

00:01:23   might be, that is something that is inevitably going to go through many seasons. And having

00:01:29   kind of known you for essentially the whole run of ATP, it's knowing that that show goes

00:01:37   through seasons. It goes through periods where listenership is up and everything's great

00:01:42   and sometimes things slow down or it comes and goes. And just showing up every week to

00:01:48   do that is kind of just an impressive accomplishment and I think a good reminder. I mean, it's

00:01:53   kind of fun. I just love the numeracy of you just hit 300 on that and this will be episode

00:02:00   150 for us. And I think there is just, it's a good reminder that so much of what we do

00:02:07   and I think so much of what ultimately makes something successful is just continuing to

00:02:12   show up. That once you've gotten through the initial period where you're kind of seeing

00:02:17   if something has legs, it's just continuing to push at it and work at it. Not take it

00:02:23   for granted, find ways to make it new and fresh. And this is something that I think

00:02:28   I see in the evolution of the Accidental Tech podcast. It's interesting because I know I've

00:02:34   been listening from the beginning because I was one of the handful of neutral listeners

00:02:39   before it turned into the Accidental Tech podcast and it has changed. The format has

00:02:46   changed. You've adapted. You do things like Ask ATP Now, which I think is a great way

00:02:50   to inject some kind of freshness and diversity into the topics and even just the roles within

00:02:56   the show is like it changes and adapts, which I think is just an important lesson to be

00:03:02   learned. And I have no idea if this show will ever get to 300, but I'm glad to be able

00:03:09   to get to 150.

00:03:10   Yeah, thanks. And congratulations to us as well for hitting 150. We might as well congratulate

00:03:16   ourselves because it's a podcast. We're the only ones here. And so, yeah, thank you

00:03:20   very much. I think there are lessons to be learned here as well, like lessons to teach

00:03:25   others. You know, doing anything every single week for six years is not easy. Doing everything

00:03:34   every single week for six months is not easy. There are ways to set it up so that it's

00:03:40   easier on you. There are ways to make it more sustainable or more challenging. And, you

00:03:45   know, when it comes to what we usually talk about, like indie development, our time is

00:03:50   very limited. Our resources are usually more limited than a big company would be. But mostly

00:03:56   our time is what it is. And we also need to do things like plan for or allow for breaks,

00:04:06   things like vacations and having some slack in the schedule or some slack in our obligations

00:04:12   so that if family obligations come up or some unexpected health problem comes up or something

00:04:17   like that, that we have slack in the schedule for that. And there are certain obligations

00:04:22   you sign yourself up for can be easier or harder to work into an indie life. We're

00:04:29   lucky in that podcasting the way we do, you know, where it's not scripted. You know,

00:04:34   we work basically off of an outline of things we want to talk about. But for the most part,

00:04:38   it's not scripted. And this applies to both ATP and Under the Radar. You know, we're

00:04:44   basically like, you know, bullet points are what we prepare and that's about it. And

00:04:48   the rest is kind of off the cuff or just recalling stories or tips from our own experience or

00:04:53   just BSing about something that we think, you know, that we have opinions on. But that

00:04:59   kind of like it's fairly low on the prep. And then you're talking for the time of

00:05:05   the show and then there's some editing time afterwards and that's about it. And it's

00:05:09   fairly easy to fit a, you know, one to three hour commitment per week. Or, you know, even

00:05:16   if you do like a lot of editing like I do on ATP, you know, it's maybe a six hour

00:05:21   commitment every week. But that's also a big part of my job. But like it's that,

00:05:25   like what you get out of it for such a small commitment of time is a pretty good ratio.

00:05:31   It's a pretty good like, you know, return on investment time wise. There's a lot of

00:05:35   things you can sign up for to do every week that aren't so much a good return on investment

00:05:38   or that need a lot more of your time. And I think it's important for indies to really

00:05:44   judge harshly when it comes to what is a good use of your time for things that are recurring.

00:05:52   You know, it's one thing, like if you want to go off on an experiment that's like

00:05:56   a one off thing or an exploratory thing where you're like, okay, let me try, you know,

00:06:01   building some crazy algorithm. Like what I'm doing with Voice Boost 2 now. Like I have

00:06:06   been on this crazy audio coding odyssey for the last probably two months or so or at least

00:06:12   one month working on Voice Boost 2 and getting all sorts of audio processing stuff down and

00:06:19   really experimenting with it and trying to do really sophisticated stuff if I can. And

00:06:25   all of that is a huge use of time. If this was like what I was doing every week, I would

00:06:30   say it's probably not a good use of my time. But it's okay to invest that kind of

00:06:33   like as a one off thing, as an exploratory thing or like a large investment in what might

00:06:38   be a major feature. Whereas if I'm looking at something that's going to recur every

00:06:43   week for the indefinite future, something like starting a podcast, starting a video

00:06:48   series, committing to like a writing gig once a week or something like that, right, where

00:06:53   you're really committed every week. That I would look at much more harshly to see

00:06:59   like is this really worth this time every week? Like what is this going to cost me time

00:07:04   wise? Possibly what am I going to have to stop doing to make time for this? That I think

00:07:10   you have to look at very harshly. With ATP, it works out well. You know, the ratios work.

00:07:18   Podcasts in general are fairly good returns on investment for how much effort and time

00:07:24   they take to produce versus how much value you get out of them. Things that are lower

00:07:28   on that list are things like giving conference talks. You know, like that's way more work

00:07:32   for, I think, way less benefit most of the time. And I think it's important as an indie

00:07:38   to find that balance between those extremes and to really think hard about how you're

00:07:43   going to allocate your time for recurring indefinite commitments.

00:07:48   Yeah, and I think too, there is something to be said for just being circumspect when

00:07:55   you start something about what it's going to cost you. Like one of the things we always,

00:08:01   like we try and say in my household is whenever you say, saying yes to something is always

00:08:05   saying no to something else. And I think often it's easy to want to say yes to something

00:08:12   because it is in and of itself appealing. But it is often hard to actually conceptualize

00:08:22   what you're saying no to by saying yes to that thing. And I think in sort of intrinsic

00:08:27   thinking what you're saying is the sense that your time is precious, make sure that you're

00:08:30   spending it appropriately. And like, if you find something where you can find that great

00:08:35   combination of, you know, sort of good value for whatever that means to you, whether that's

00:08:40   financial or in terms of reputation, or in terms of other things, that like that there's

00:08:45   a balance between the effort that it takes. And I think especially in the ongoing basis

00:08:49   side, it's something that you have to be very mindful of. And I mean, reminded and slightly

00:08:54   of early before we I did under the radar, I did a show called Developing Perspective,

00:08:59   which was just me for 15 minutes. And what I found with that show, when I started it,

00:09:05   I tried to, I did it as a weekly thing, actually, the first month I did it as a daily thing,

00:09:09   but that was for a different reason. But what I read, what I very quickly found was that

00:09:15   and like the purpose of the show was not financial, there's no ads on it ever, it was entirely,

00:09:19   I guess, reputation oriented, that my goal was to try and raise my profile in the developer

00:09:26   community by having a podcast, having a thing that I was talking about. And what I found

00:09:31   though is, is it worked well, when I changed it to the two, I did it whenever it made sense

00:09:37   for me to do it. And it was also why it had a 15 minute time limit, is that it was very

00:09:43   easy for me to just sit down, record for 15 minutes, do a few rough edits, and then post

00:09:48   it. And the whole process maybe was 20 or 30 minutes, and I would do it whenever it

00:09:53   made sense. And that was a good way for me to balance that. So rather than committing

00:09:57   to some kind of hard, harsh schedule that I feel bad about, or I'm setting an expectation

00:10:02   for an audience or for other people to expect of me, it was just like, it comes when, you

00:10:08   know, whenever I have something to say, I will say it. And I found that that worked

00:10:11   well for finding that balance. But it's like being circumspect about, is this really, is

00:10:16   it a good use of your time? And if it is, then you can stick with something. And if

00:10:20   you stay at it, things can last a very long time. It's kind of amazing that you've

00:10:25   been doing ATP for six years. Essentially, that is entire one of my children's life

00:10:32   is encapsulated in that. And that is remarkable in a really kind of cool way.

00:10:39   - Yeah, I mean, it is crazy to me, thinking about when I started the show, my son was

00:10:46   like one or zero. And Casey didn't even have children yet. There's entire lives that

00:10:53   have been started within this show. Although John was still writing Pearl. But Pearl is

00:11:02   forever. But like, you know, and I think there is some value to this, of the idea of whether

00:11:08   something is a weekly commitment, or a certain recurring commitment, or whether it's more

00:11:14   flexible. Like, you know, the way we do podcasts, this isn't how everybody has to do it, but

00:11:20   the way that we do ATP and the way we do this show is we do a show every single week. Or

00:11:26   rather we do a show for every single week. We don't necessarily record it during that

00:11:30   week. Like if we're going on vacation, we can double up the week before and then just

00:11:33   release the second one during that week or something. But for the most part, we're

00:11:37   doing a show almost every week. And same thing with ATP. And I think there is a lot of value

00:11:43   to that for sure. Especially in things like podcasts where you do want to like slowly

00:11:48   build an audience over time. And podcast audiences tend to reward regularity, people like that.

00:11:56   But if you do something the way you did developing perspective, where, you know, as you were

00:12:01   saying, like you basically did it whenever you could or whenever you felt like doing

00:12:04   it. Like there's room for that too. Like because the weekly commitment thing is such

00:12:09   a like firm, hard deadline. It's unforgiving. Like no matter what's going on in your life,

00:12:15   you have to do that show on this day. Like it's a fixed block. And that again, time

00:12:20   wise that can be very expensive. But when you move something to however you feel like

00:12:27   it, the bar for like how much reward do I need to get out of this gets much lower. Like

00:12:34   you know, so you mentioned with developing perspective, like you didn't ever run ads

00:12:37   on that show. Like it was not a financial thing. It was for other reasons. For you know,

00:12:40   audience building, reputation building, and you know, personal development, professional

00:12:44   development. There's, you should be doing things like that too when possible or when

00:12:50   you have like you know, the inspiration to do it. But it's important to then give that

00:12:55   like the time budget that it is worth rather than saying like oh I'm going to do this

00:13:00   every week. I'm going to do this, you know like I'm going to guarantee this thing.

00:13:03   Because then that isn't sustainable. Like if you commit to a weekly thing that takes

00:13:09   a good amount of time or any amount of time but then also has no direct business reward

00:13:15   for you or no direct upside for you or at least maybe has only a very slowly building

00:13:20   one. That's going to be like in within a month or two you're going to stop doing that

00:13:25   thing. Like you're going to burn out. You're going to you're going to flake out or just

00:13:28   fail or realize it's not worth it and just stop. Whereas if you if you align like the

00:13:36   time budget and importance budget with the upside to it, it might actually make it more

00:13:42   sustainable over time. Like you did developing perspective for what like two or three years

00:13:47   at least.

00:13:48   - It was a long time yeah. It was at least three I think it was three or four years.

00:13:51   - Yeah like you had it for a while and there were some times where you go a couple weeks

00:13:56   without an episode but then the show would come back and you keep going. And if you were

00:14:01   committed to doing it every single week, I bet at some point during that run you would

00:14:06   say I can't do this anymore and you would have just stopped.

00:14:10   - Yeah. I think that's that is very accurate. Yeah it looks like I did I think 226 episodes.

00:14:17   - Of the show from 2015 starting in 2011.

00:14:22   - Yeah exactly and so like that's why I like it's super important to to to align what you're

00:14:28   giving something for time wise and what you're allowing it to be obligation wise. Align that

00:14:34   with the reward you're getting from it because then when challenges come up on your time

00:14:39   or when other needs come up and you have to then stop doing it, it's not the end of the

00:14:43   world. You're not going to like fall out of it. You're not gonna like you know fall off

00:14:45   the wagon or get on the wagon. I never get that metaphor right. Whatever it is about

00:14:49   the wagons and like it's not gonna be like oh well it's out the window now. Might as

00:14:55   well stop doing it. See also you know exercise and activity rings. But anyway and you know

00:15:02   like I'm doing a similar thing with my YouTube videos now where I'm experimenting with YouTube

00:15:07   videos very rarely. It's a large time investment to get a video out for me. I'm reducing that

00:15:15   over time with you know both you know getting a little bit better at things, learning what

00:15:18   not to do, getting a little bit better equipment or having like a more permanent setup. Like

00:15:22   that's that those things all make all lower that that bar and make it easier to put out

00:15:27   a video and make it take less time. But it still takes way more time to make a video

00:15:31   than it does to make a podcast and anything else I do. And the videos at the moment have

00:15:36   no direct monetization. So the upside is not there really. And but the reason I want to

00:15:42   do those videos is I want to build up something over on YouTube. I want to expand my audience

00:15:49   and I want to build an audience there as well. And that has immense value but has a very

00:15:54   slow ramp over time. And so I have to like I have to really be careful with how I budget

00:16:01   my time for that because at the moment pouring a bunch of time and effort into my YouTube

00:16:07   videos is not a good use of my time. I have to you know I have to do my podcast every

00:16:11   week because that's a big part of my business and my income and my audience. And then I

00:16:14   also have overcast and I can't ignore overcast. I have to keep working on that as well. And

00:16:19   so I have to keep the videos kind of as a side project both time and commitment wise

00:16:26   because right now they are one. But maybe over time that changes but that's probably

00:16:30   going to be a while out.

00:16:31   Yeah. And I think too there's an element I find in so many things of it's separating

00:16:36   something from something that is like your vocation that is something that you are doing

00:16:40   for income to sustain yourself and to support yourself. And the pressure and expectations

00:16:45   on that are very specific versus something that you're doing for enrichment. And like

00:16:51   for you like I've dabbled in making YouTube videos myself and it's like I am glad of

00:16:55   the experience because I developed a skill that has come in handy other times or has

00:17:02   helped me to think about problems in a different way or you know like I went all of a sudden

00:17:07   they allowed us to do app previews like being able to know how to make a video was useful.

00:17:12   Oh yeah.

00:17:13   But it's very it's like

00:17:14   App previews. I should probably do one of those.

00:17:17   Eventually I mean people like them I hear. But anyway it's like viewing something as

00:17:23   enrichment and like separating it as you know like is this my vocation or is this enrichment

00:17:28   and being like honest with yourself about that. That are you really starting this thing

00:17:33   with the expectation that this is going to be a substantial and important part of your

00:17:37   business or is this something you're doing to grow to have fun to experiment like those

00:17:43   types of things and it's enrichment in which case have a different set of expectations.

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00:19:36   this show and relay FM. So to round out this episode I thought it would just be a good

00:19:42   time to touch briefly kind of I guess to an update on device and iOS and watchOS adoption.

00:19:52   It's been long enough now since watchOS 5, iOS 12, the new iPhones and new iPads even

00:19:57   everything is sort of like out in the world now and I'm able to kind of see in my own

00:20:01   stats what's going on there and I think it's interesting to discuss and then also probably

00:20:05   just to you know just set a bit of expectations for what might have been coming into this

00:20:10   Christmas season. So broadly I think it's good for them this is you know these are the

00:20:17   stats that I see in my own apps. Your apps will be different, every app is you know is

00:20:22   very unique depending on its user, is it a general purpose tool, is it a specialized

00:20:27   tool for developers, like you're going to see wildly different stats. But I think broadly

00:20:31   you know there's lessons to be learned either way. So broadly I see iOS 12 adoption has

00:20:39   been just as good as iOS 11 is for the most part. It's for me it's sitting right around

00:20:45   80% for you know for my overall number which is you know is very good for two months later

00:20:53   I would say. It's a little bit lower in what couple of my other apps but you know 70 to

00:20:57   80% seems to be very consistent you know in terms of the overall adoption. WatchOS adoption

00:21:05   has been equally pretty good. It's a bit more complicated with watchOS adoption because

00:21:09   there's sort of kind of two numbers that are interesting. There's the people who've adopted

00:21:14   watchOS 5 who have a you know series one watch and newer and then there's the overall number

00:21:22   that kind of takes into account the fact that series zero users are never going to update.

00:21:28   So my overall number for like people who can do watchOS 5 is about 85% which is you know

00:21:35   very good. That's really good. It's like if I adjusted for people who have series one

00:21:40   watch series zero watches and so will never update that goes about 74% for me. So which

00:21:45   is also pretty good. Yeah. Obviously like watch series zero adoption is getting lower

00:21:51   and lower every day which is obviously what is driving that. But that you know that whatever

00:21:56   the overall percentage of the people who are still using series zero watches are never

00:22:01   going to update. So you know for me right now that's about 14% so like that you know

00:22:06   14% of people are never going to update. So that's just kind of going to be stuck there

00:22:11   until that number goes down. I would imagine too like this is probably a really good time

00:22:17   for watch upgrades for people because you have Black Friday in a couple days that the

00:22:22   watches are already on sale. They're going to be more on sale over the over the coming

00:22:26   weekend and so you have a lot of people buying them for themselves and then you're probably

00:22:29   also going to have a lot of people buying watches as gifts during the holidays for people

00:22:32   because it's a pretty good like adult gift object. Like it's you know it's not insanely

00:22:38   expensive for adults. It's not tied to a cellular contract or a two year upgrade cycle like

00:22:44   like phones or anything like that and way more affordable than like an iPad and so they

00:22:50   probably make pretty frequent gifts. Do you see like a big uptick in the holidays in the

00:22:55   past for like you know watch upgrades or adoption? Yes. There is a clear jump on Christmas Day.

00:23:03   Like it is it is a almost like I don't see as much of one in the run up to Christmas.

00:23:09   Like I mean there's maybe a slight like in change in inflection of like the slope of

00:23:13   the adoption curve. But Christmas Day like for last year the series three watch like

00:23:22   I mean and I do all my kind of this this kind of analysis as proportionate to the others

00:23:27   but like the series three watch went from about 20% the day before Christmas like 20%

00:23:33   of my users were using series three watches to the box on Boxing Day it was 28%. Oh my

00:23:39   God. Yeah that's it's a very steep just jump in terms of adoption and I think like I would

00:23:46   expect the same thing to happen with the series series four watches this year. I mean honestly

00:23:53   probably more more interesting in a lot of ways is how impressive the series four adoption

00:23:58   has been. The series four watch at this point is almost the so it's 18% overall of my of

00:24:08   my users users are using a series four watch which is basically in line with the series

00:24:14   two like the series three is the only one that's better but you know in a couple of

00:24:18   months it's almost the second most widely used device. That's really impressive for

00:24:24   such a short time. Yeah like it seems like the series four watch is doing really well

00:24:28   which in some ways is in contrast to like on the iPhone side the the 10s, 10s max and

00:24:36   10r I've seen overall like a bit slower adoption like they're doing well like it's not like

00:24:43   they're like you know I'm having citizen you know piddling along at 0.1% of users or anything

00:24:47   like that like they're doing reasonably. You hear that 9 to 5 Mac this is not a news story

00:24:53   please don't make it one. No but they're not as crushing like the iPhone 10 when it came

00:24:59   out was like zooming up like it did its initial ramp I think was super steep whereas you know

00:25:05   the iPhone like the 10s, 10s max and 10r seem to have just kind of the normal kind of just

00:25:11   like slow slow build over time. Out of curiosity if you if you sum them does that because like

00:25:16   now like we have more options than we had like last year if you wanted to get the flagship

00:25:20   you got the 10 like now there's kind of three or two and a half flagships like if you if

00:25:26   you if you look at their sum does it look any better? Sort of I'm just kind of eyeballing

00:25:32   it on the ground on the chart I'm looking at and I think the thing of course last year

00:25:37   was the the iPhone 8 was actually really popular. Oh really? And it launched before the iPhone

00:25:44   10 and so like the iPhone 8 is in my usership is the fourth most popular phone and is basically

00:25:53   the same as the iPhone 10 they're both around 9% of my users and so like those like those

00:26:00   kind of I think in a weird way like in the tech circle people maybe with would think

00:26:04   of the iPhone 10 as a like as a lesser phone or like it you know like it's not it's not

00:26:11   the one that we would we talked much about last year perhaps. The 8. But in practice

00:26:16   like it did very well there's a ton of those out in the world and you know is I would expect

00:26:22   it'll be around you know it for a long time yet too. Interesting. And I think honestly

00:26:29   too on the interesting note on the iPhone 8 is that it's it's a I haven't seen a big

00:26:37   replacement rate for that yet. So like when the 10 came out the like or so when the 10s

00:26:44   came out the usership of the 10 dropped and has been going down slowly like in terms of

00:26:50   it there's kind of I mean this is always kind of just like you kind of look at it and kind

00:26:54   of guess but it kind of looks that like the people who are getting the 10s a lot of them

00:26:59   had 10s and there's that kind of that sense of the early adopter always going to have

00:27:05   the latest phone kind of people whereas the 8 is just kind of slowly and sort of slow

00:27:10   and steady kind of on its on its path that isn't as affected by the launch of new phones

00:27:16   which is kind of consistent I think with it's it's the long update cycle it's the typical

00:27:21   user it's that type of a person that is likely is likely updating with it so you know these

00:27:29   are just kind of like interesting things that I'm seeing that I want that I think are kind

00:27:33   of worthwhile sharing just because not everyone has access to kind of you know a user base

00:27:39   wide enough that you can draw actual sort of inferences from it. It's interesting too

00:27:46   like like when I was running Instapaper Christmas was always really big for me for the first

00:27:52   couple of years because Instapaper business like this the app sales were really really

00:27:57   strong whenever people were likely to buy new iPads and and so iPad launch day and Christmas

00:28:04   day were my two biggest launch days of the year for the first few years but what was

00:28:09   interesting is that it actually tailed off that like it like in the later years of when

00:28:14   I when I owned it it was much less of an effect because it was a paid up for an app and so

00:28:20   you can only buy one per Apple ID and there was like it was increasingly like as the years

00:28:25   went on more and more of the iPads that would be unwrapped on Christmas day or whatever

00:28:30   or on launch day were upgrades as opposed to people who were getting their very first

00:28:34   iPad so the upgrades were not getting me any additional sales. I wonder like I mean that's

00:28:38   going to be true of pretty much every Apple product at this point right? Yeah and I think

00:28:44   the only one that this seems to kind of be slightly yeah it's like the watch I think

00:28:49   still has a lot of new adoption going on. Yeah. Just because I think so like my overall

00:28:55   like watch adoption rate is still only like 14% so like and obviously this is for a health

00:29:00   and fitness oriented app this is you know pedometer plus plus so maybe that's probably

00:29:04   skewed slightly high maybe. That's about what I have although I also skew like power user

00:29:09   so who knows. Sure but like you know there is still the you know 85% of people who don't

00:29:15   have a watch period so like there's a tremendous opening there whereas you know the number

00:29:20   of people who are buying iPhones for the first time is probably much lower. Yeah. Alright

00:29:25   well thanks for listening everybody and we'll talk to you next week. Alright. Happy Thanksgiving.

00:29:30   Happy Thanksgiving.

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