UPDATE APRIL 20, 2020: Here is transcript, done by Rev.
Martin Lindeskog: Welcome to EGO NetCast. I am Martin Lindeskog. Hello, Colin.
Colin Gray: Hey, how are you getting on, Martin?
Martin Lindeskog: Good. What are you thinking about?
Colin Gray: I'm thinking about... What am I thinking about? I'm thinking about our membership at the moment actually, because Matthew and I were just talking about onboarding this morning. How to make it easier for people to get to know products, essentially.
Colin Gray: So, we run our Podcast Host Academy and Alitu, and it's just, the thing I'm thinking about most right now is how to make it so that when people sign up for anything that we do, that we make it really obvious to them how they can get the most from it right away. So it's that onboarding stuff, kind of.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah. Onboarding. It could be if with a short and sweet topic, what we could talk about, and then do another followup. It was two years ago we talked about, when you have launched Alitu. How do you pronounce it in Scottish?
Colin Gray: I say Alitu, but I have people that say Alee to, Ahlitu, all sorts of different things. Yeah. I'm happy for people to internationalize it.
Martin Lindeskog: Good. And we could mix and match it up here a bit because this is like a followup. We talked about, as I said, two years ago, when you haven't launched software and the tool yet. We talked about podcast hosting and your interest in cycling and other things like that, and also the process of being an entrepreneur. Then I had a new segment because you got me lots of ideas about the season thing that you could do, like for example you put together a bike, you have maybe 10 episodes there. I've used that with other... We have a prepper show when we have done in the seasons where, so that's fascinating.
Martin Lindeskog: Then I am thinking of my own to have the name EGO, like I am or I in Latin. You do often an ego search on yourself, on your company and so on. So when I searched for Alitu and your name Colin Gray, I found you on images from the podcast host on Twitter and some videos. Then of course you are competing with some actor and other things I've read, so maybe it's harder. But Alitu, I got lots of hits there. Several hundred thousands, I think, 259, but there I often use DuckDuckGo as an alternative and there I found it on the second page. First they had the scrolling thing, but now we have even the second page. The first page was on Alitu, some Finnish word. Have you heard about that? Maybe I'll do some investigations later on.
Colin Gray: I don't know that at all, no. So yeah, that'd be interesting to hear.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah. Could you tell about? I mean, is it a made up word or did you have any thoughts about the name?
Colin Gray: I've often thought I need to make up a better story for this, but it's essentially, it came from back in the day, maybe 10 years ago or so. I was experimenting with lots of different ways to earn some money online on the internet, and I bought a few different websites, one of which was a site called alitu.com, and it was a directory at the time. It was just a business directory and it was basically earning like $100 a month through ad words, adverts and sponsored listings and stuff like that. I bought it essentially to build it out a little bit, to earn a wee bit of money from it. The domain came with that, but obviously it just kind of felt a bit like it didn't... That type of site was kind of penalized by Google over the coming years. Rightfully so, because there wasn't really much value in there. By about 2013 or so, I think I just shut it down and I just closed it down, but I kept the domain name because it was a five letter domain name.
Colin Gray: It was just last year, a couple of years ago when I started looking at this new tool that I was building, I was thinking, what am I going to call it and what domain will I put it under? We could go with something like the Podcast Maker app, make it really obvious, but I wanted something nice and short and snappy and I just remembered this domain I had back in the archive. It's quite hard to get a five-letter domain these days obviously, especially one that's actually pronounceable.
Colin Gray: I just thought it quite suited that, actually. I just quite liked the idea of having something nice and simple and easy like that. There's downsides obviously in that sometimes I have to spell it for people. Sometimes people say it in different ways, but I like it and I believe it's memorable enough to make it worthwhile. So yeah, that's where it came from.
Martin Lindeskog: Great to hear. And what's the name of the mascot? The mascot, the robot there, and the purple action.
Colin Gray: Yeah, do you know, I haven't really. I kind have named him Ally Too as in A-L-L-Y and T-O-O, just as a way of thinking that was a way to help people know how to pronounce it, but I'd never really gotten to putting that on the website or anything. But yeah, that's about as close as we got.
Martin Lindeskog: I like it. It's a funny way and a bit whimsical but also easy process, how you're using the tool. We could dive into that a little bit also.
Colin Gray: Yeah, sure.
Martin Lindeskog: When you do a search on Google, you are found on your website, videos about the tool, and then product hunt and as a site called [poly mesh 00:00:05:48]. He described different tools like Descript Hindenburg, Zencastr, audio, Adobe, GarageBand, Audacity, Apple Logic Pro, Reaper, et cetera. There, maybe we could jump into that for a little bit because when you told me about it two years ago, I said, oh, this could be for me as a non-techie not using mixers and things like that, not coming from a studio background or musician, and also to do it in an easy way. So that's why I wanted to jump on this and then follow the development.
Martin Lindeskog: So could you tell a little bit about this? Differences with other tools and what was your thoughts about it and idea and how you got people on board then? The developers. Because you had another site there called Indie Hackers that described your progress also, so that we'll talk a bit about also.
Colin Gray: Yeah, sure. So really how the idea for Alitu came around and how we started building it. Is that what you mean?
Martin Lindeskog: Yep.
Colin Gray: Yeah. Perfect. Originally we ran thepodcasthost.com, so that's the site that I started back in 2011 when I was still working at Edinburgh Napier University. The reason I started it was because I was teaching learning technology at the time. So I was at the university teaching lecturers how to be better with tech when working with their students. Podcasting was one of the kind of fashionable technologies that came up at the time. It was something that universities were looking into as a really good teaching tool. It was something that supplemented standard lectures and lecturers get good stuff out to their students in an easy way. So I was asked to learn how podcasting worked so that I could then teach it to the lecturers. That's how I got into podcasting back in, I think that was like 2008, 2009-ish.
Colin Gray: I ran a course with Napier for a few years, teaching the lecturers [inaudible 00:08:02] in podcasting. And I started the website, thepodcasthost.com 2011, really just to write about the stuff I was learning back then. I'd got really into podcasting at that point. I just kind of fell in love with the medium in terms of just how easy it was to get stuff out there, how engaging it is as a medium, how you get to really know the hosts really well. It's just really engaging as a medium.
Colin Gray: I just kept writing blogs and articles mainly but geeky stuff like microphones and mixers, and that grew into 2015, 2016, a business which then I started taking on staff. We were still doing the content, we were making money through affiliate income, through sponsorship, through client work, through actually doing podcast production for people.
Colin Gray: But when we got to that point... We had a pretty decent audience, quite a lot of folk following the website and we got a lot of questions in through the site, both for the podcast and for the site itself. One of the biggest questions was always, how do I edit? How can I make editing easier? What's the best tool for editing? "I hate production. I don't know what bit rate means, compression means, equalization, all this stuff." People just, there's a lot of people out there that just aren't interested in learning that process. They don't care about the technology. All they want to do speak.
Colin Gray: That was what really was the genesis for Alitu. I just wondered whether it was possible to build a tool that made some of this easier. We started looking into it and I got a bit of funding from a local government scheme to take on a developer to do some experimenting around it, and we found initially some open source tools that got us started. Really built upon that and really refined it over a couple of years into something that we felt was good enough to send out to the users.
Colin Gray: Really the way it started getting out to users, back to back to one of your original questions there, the first users were followers of thepodcasthost.com. They were followers of our main website because we've got a good mailing list there. So we sent out announcements to the mailing list, to our social media announcements on the website itself. And those are national users for Alitu, were folks that trusted us because of our content, because of the content we'd been putting out for the few years before that. They got on board, tried it out, they suffered through the early few months of horrible bugs and terrible decisions and stuff, and helped us turn it into a much better product which is what we've been working on today.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah, that's great. When I did research on your name I saw you also on a podcast conference there, so you have been at Podcast Movement and you have been in, was it the conference in London also, pretty recently?
Colin Gray: Yeah. There's quite a few events around the world on podcasting nowadays. I go to quite a lot of more general content marketing conferences too. Recently there was one called Build Your Audience Live, run by Janet Murray. The one before that, I was in London last year for the Europreneur conference by Chris Ducker. Podcast Movements in Orlando this year, that's two weeks' time actually, so I'm getting ready to go out to that in a couple of weeks. There's the Content Marketing Academy, was a good conference in Edinburgh. It's finished now, but it was great for a few years. So yeah, there's a few around.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah. An announcement, they have plans to arrange a, you could say a potluck conference here in Gothenburg, Sweden on podcasting.
Colin Gray: Right. Okay. Excellent.
Martin Lindeskog: Next year. So we will keep you informed about that, Colin.
Colin Gray: Yes. Oh, I'd love to have the chance to go and visit Sweden, so that'd be cool.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah. That's great to hear. Also when we talked about the search there and came to the site there's indie hackers, then it was very open and transparent way of doing the development. Are you having, is it four developers? Because I've talked to one of your chat feature with some different people. Yeah. Could you talk a little bit about your team?
Colin Gray: Yeah, for sure. So for Alitu in particular, we have four developers now. So we've got two front end developers, two backend developers and two of the four are full time, two of the four are part time. That's been one of the hardest parts of the process, to be honest. Finding good developers is really difficult, especially because of the amount of specialization developers have gotten into these days. Like, a lot of devs are really specific around one particular language or one particular aspect of building apps. You've got the this front end/backend split, but then you've got all the different languages within the front end, the different philosophies, the different approaches, all that stuff. But I'm lucky enough that I found a really good developer at the very very start who was quite flexible, quite kind of jack of all trades, relatively low cost as developers go. Quite local to me in Dundee.
Colin Gray: He helped me build that first prototype and then I found another. Just got really lucky, found another guy who is like co-founder almost of Alitu, and he has been with me since the very start and built really the whole front end of Alitu. That's [Bran Caser 00:13:16]. He helped me the whole way through, he's been with me since the start of Alitu pretty much. The first few months, certainly. Then just found a few others since then who's helped us build it. So yes, it's a hard process to find.
Colin Gray: In terms of the indie hacker stuff, I really like that community. It's a community of people who... The idea behind that is that you're a bootstrapper so you don't take on much in the way of funding. You tend to build apps more organically. You build it with users in mind. That's kind of a design thinking approach, and build it with profit in mind as well. So you actually make some money from the start so that you don't have to take on funding and give away all to the company, and really take that pressure. Because there's so much pressure when you do that too.
Colin Gray: I just really like the philosophy behind that community and the openness as well. You learn so much from reading the accounts of how other people build their teams, their business. Right down to the numbers, like how they're growing their audience to how much money they're making, that kind of stuff. It's not like a showing off thing. In many cases it's the anti showing off, like I'm only making $20 a month right now. You learn so much from seeing those concrete numbers though and how that evolves over time. So I just, I like sharing that because I feel like it helps other people and it helps me stay accountable too.
Martin Lindeskog: That's great. That I could do maybe for a solo episode for myself, as a podcaster also that you see and how you could earn money and how you could get things in different ways. I have clients helping in my way, mostly inspire them to start podcasting. Then I want to support people in this industry to make it easy for, as I said, the non-techie podcasters. Then of course I in a way favor a subscription model because then you know that it could be developed during time. But also as I said, adding up to the cost, like a hobby. It could be an expensive hobby like golf or something like that.
Colin Gray: It can.
Martin Lindeskog: But I see the potential also. So this indie hacking or hackers, I will mention that to one of my previous guests, Ed Filowat of the Backpack Studio app and see if he already in that, because we had a very geeky, nerdy and fun conversation I think, and I learned lots of things about these tools that I use with clients and when we're sitting and meeting, and also for my solo show. Now we are using this Ringr service that are also interviewed Tim Sinclair, and that have also developed. So I think that's fun and interesting. With the community and with industry it's growing. It's nice to see.
Martin Lindeskog: Then you could do as a podcast, you could choose and pick from the market, but it is a marketing thing also to reach out. I mean, you said you had a newsletter and you had a fan base and people visiting your site, but still it's to reach out there. To joke a bit because we have been around for this for a long time, podcasting could have their, how to say, already up mind about things about gadgets and how they should use it and so on, and you get used to things.
Martin Lindeskog: This site compared other things like with poly mesh. Audacity, for example. I remember when I saw the first time, I said this is from the nineties or something like that. I don't get it, so I had this stumbling block and I said I'm waiting for something will come that will fit my type of doing this stuff. So you're really a podcast maker and tool for me, so I appreciate that very much, Colin.
Colin Gray: That's great. Thank you.
Martin Lindeskog: And we can say that, I mean you have then customers, you had a milestone there of 250 paying customers. Could you tell a little bit about the economy there also? But also about if you have any unique selling proposition. Also, do you see any user of this? I mean it could be a broad range, like Ed Filowat, he talked about musicians, DJs, podcasters like myself, radio personalities, all kind of things. Do you want to share a bit about that?
Colin Gray: Can do, absolutely. So we just passed 350. I think we're on 360 users.
Martin Lindeskog: Congratulations.
Colin Gray: So I'm delighted at that. It seems a bit crazy sometimes, but that's great. It's been growing reasonably well. There's definitely something in what we're doing around the retention side of things in terms of, we still lose more people than I would like. I think actually there's a big part of it is really just the nature of podcasting itself. Like the fact that there's a lot of people start a podcast and never get past, there's the magic number seven. I don't know whether that has changed or not. That's an old stat, but the average podcast only being seven episodes long. It's probably changed since then, but people drop out of podcasting within the first month or two quite often. It's not an uncommon thing at all. That's actually, that's a problem for us obviously, because we want people to stick around for a long time and make a great podcast and stay customers [inaudible 00:19:00].
Colin Gray: We actually end up having to look at how to help people run a podcast as well as how to use the tool. It's not just a question of teaching them how to use Alitu. It's a question of teaching them how to run a longterm successful show. That's the bit I'm struggling with just now, is how we tie that into Alitu. Struggle is probably not the right word. I'm just, I'm wrestling with how to get that tutorial, how to get those tutorials in there, how to get that education in there.
Colin Gray: We also run the academy obviously, which is basically exactly what that's for. So there's something around tying our two services together. We've got one service that helps people make a podcast really easily, which is Alitu, and we've got another service that helps them learn how to run one longterm. So that's the plan for me over the next six months, is to tie them together more closely, and I think that'll help us grow more quickly. But not only that, but it'll help us make more successful podcasters, because the two work really well together. There's a great synergy there. So there's something around that.
Colin Gray: In terms of the customers, you mentioned, what type of customers we work with? We mainly, I find that the people that are willing to pay a decent chunk for podcasting. Alitu's not huge. I mean, Alitu is not expensive, but it's not cheap either. It's $28 a month. So that's a decent little bit of money to outlay. You have to be taking your podcast relatively seriously, or take your time seriously. If it saves you four or five hours a month, then is that worth $28 to you? Then many people think it is, but some people...
Colin Gray: The people that I find tend to think like that are often freelancers, they're often coaches, consultants, you know, people that are thinking in terms of, their time is valuable. You know, people pay for their time. You get hobbyists as well that are starting to take it quite seriously because they want to get really good at what they do. So they want to get better at the speaking, the planning, the content, all that kind of stuff. They want to forget about all this time spent on editing and conversions and bringing it together and all that stuff.
Colin Gray: So that tends to be the two people I find. It's those solo business owners or people that do that on the side, the coaching, the consulting, the freelance stuff. Or it's hobbyists who have an awareness that it's all about their skills as a presenter, as a content creator and not their technical skills or in the editing and the equipment and all that kind of stuff. That's what makes the difference.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah, it sounds great. As I said, we, we will probably do another followup if you have time in the future, Colin.
Colin Gray: Yeah, absolutely.
Martin Lindeskog: Because I want to dig down with the technical sides. As I said, I'm not technical guy, but I learned more about it and I get questions about it., As I said to Ed, I want it only to work, but I want to learn more about... For example, I will give you one, how to say, a curve ball. How about minus 14 LUFS and what is it in Alitu? This magic sauce. You can say, well we don't have time to talk about it. We will do it another time. But if you want to talk to the layman, but also to the tech guy out there.
Colin Gray: Yeah, no, that's absolutely fine. I could do it very quickly. LUFS are just a measure of... See, the terms are always tricky. Like you've got volume, levels, gain, you've got all these different words for something quite technical and they all actually mean something slightly different, but for the layman it's volume. It's how loud your show is. Loudness is measured by LUFS and you tend to go either minus 16 or minus 19, depending on whether you're mono or stereo. Alitu outputs at a totally standard LUFS. It's either 16 or 19 depending on your output. So yes, Alitu, one of the ideas is that it helps you set your podcast to the right loudness based on how your podcast is put together.
Martin Lindeskog: That's great.
Colin Gray: Or it doesn't even help you, it just does it for you. That's what I should say.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah, and that what I like because you could buy a tool and I'm all for that also. I mean in this other site, they describe other tools that was free like Audacity and GarageBand in a way, if you have a Mac already, but also tools that cost you thousands of Swedish crowns or hundreds of dollars, but then of course it's one investment and then you are counted it off, so to speak. This is an ongoing, as you said, a fee, but it's how you value your time and how much you want to fiddle around with it.
Martin Lindeskog: I have used, and I still use a service called Auphonic, but there I use this for like two hours every month and sometimes I have bought credits and I've got credits from fans and supporters and listeners and so on. There I also like it, but I only run it through but then you could do so much more, but then you start thinking about it also. Is it any difference? What's happening here if I check this check mark or box? What is it really doing?
Martin Lindeskog: Maybe that could be a thing for your community, for people who wants to know, learn that or explain it to somebody else in a layman's terms, because as I said, you have done that in a good way on the Podcast Host with lots of blog posts and articles and comparing microphones and all of these things, and you have videos on Alitu. You could do this chat, directly chat when you're using the program. So I've got help with that also because sometimes my workflow, I wonder, I have to sit down and do that. But it's also changing with your own show, for clients or with cohosts.
Martin Lindeskog: With Alitu I like what you develop with new things. As I said, we will do another followup, but could you tell what has happened since you started and some future ideas and plans, what do you want to incorporate? Because it's both, like Ed said, you want to keep it simple and the app and the service should work. I could say I am a Apple fan boy, but I am using the Chrome browser. I wouldn't mind to use the Safari, but I know how Apple and Mac is. But yeah. Could you tell a little bit about that, future plans and the workflow?
Colin Gray: Yeah, absolutely. Got time for this one final thing. Yeah, absolutely. In terms of the developing, we came out with the initial features, just how to make basic podcasts, and since then really we've based the new features on what people are asking for. I didn't want to build in a whole bunch of stuff that I wasn't sure people would use. The main things actually that we've... We've added a bunch of new features over the last year, but the main two that people kept asking for was... You mentioned Auphonic there, the idea of noise reduction, hum reduction, much more dynamic leveling. People were desperate for that. So we have added that in now. So we've got noise reduction, we've got hum reduction, we've got really good leveling so that if you upload a few different speakers, they're all leveled out really well.
Colin Gray: So it's that, just audio cleanup makes it sound really good. The other one actually, which I didn't necessarily expect, was the whole teaser trailer format. So being able to play 30 seconds or 20 seconds of voice before your music, because Alitu puts together your music, your voice clips and then your music again. It presumes you're going to have theme music to start the show, then voice like a few different clips and then theme music to end. But a lot of people wanted that little 10, 15, 20-second teaser where they say, "Hey, welcome to the show. This is what we're talking about this week." And then go into the music. So that was actually something that I didn't expect, but we built that in pretty quick because everyone was asking for it.
Martin Lindeskog: I have to test that out. I need like instructional video and test it out and play with it, because lots of so-called, I mean very professional sound-wise productions are like that. I like the raw thing. We'd start, you have a short bumper and go to the conversation and then you end with your outro. Then I have some with Backpack Studio. You could have some music, some bumpers, commercial breaks. You could have all kinds of fun. I like that. I would play around with it because if you have a longer interview or something, you could do things like that. So I think that's a nice new feature.
Colin Gray: Yeah. Perfect. All right, well nice to speak to you, Martin.
Martin Lindeskog: Yeah, thanks. Talk to you soon again. Could you say where listeners could find you?
Colin Gray: Indeed. Yeah, absolutely. If you pop over to thepodcast host.com, you'll find all of our free resources. Our full start guide is there if you go up to the top and look for how to start a podcast. And if you want to check out Alitu, go over to A-L-I-T-U dot com. A-L-I-T-U dot com, and you'll get seven-day free trial to give it a shot.
Martin Lindeskog: Great. And for full disclosure, I'm affiliated also as an avid user so I will include that in the show notes also.
Colin Gray: Absolutely. [crosstalk 00:28:03]. Put in your link.
Martin Lindeskog: Thank you. Thank you very much, calling, and talk to you soon again. Cheers.
Colin Gray: Indeed. Good to talk to you, Martin. Cheers.
Martin Lindeskog: Cheers.