Sunday, February 26, 2006

The experiment ended

The experiment on live Internet radio is over. I am both pleased and sad. Pleased because supervising a live 4 hour broadcast every night is a strain on top of a normal workload... sad because it was such a success I would rather it is sad to stop it. We had been getting about 50 listeners per day to this station, but by the end of the experiment we had over 2000 listerners per day, most within the 4 hour period of the live broadcast!

We have a saying 'no peace for the wicked' and I guess I must be in that category since as soon as the live broadcast finished we had to change servers from a London supplier to a Frankfurt supplier. So Peter and I have been tied up all this last week doing that. On the whole we are pleased: The London supplier had 24/7 reboot, which meant if there was a problem and the server had locked up we could get it rebooted, but only 9-5 Monday to Friday support. So if there was a server failure at, say, 5.15 on a Friday we had to wait till Monday morning for it to be fixed. Since most of our audience use the servers in the evening fixing problems promptly became a significant problem. The new company has a true 24/7 support option.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Live Internet Radio

Right from the beginning of when we started Internet radio my hope and desire had always been that it should be live so that the presenters could interact with the audience. This Tuesday we started a two week experiment of 4 hours live Internet radio each evening. It has taken up a lot of my time ensuring everything is working and that the presenters are trained in how to do live [contrasted with pre-recorded] radio.

The results as far as audience is concerned have been pretty amazing. We have seen a 350% increase in the audience since we started. But the audience increase is not the whole story - we have had many contacts with listeners through phone, MSN, Skype, email and messages posted on the website.

Of course its not the size of the audience that is just important, if we broadcast sports we could get a huge audience! The content is also important. We have changed the style of the programming, but we are not totally happy with that and this next week I shall be having meetings with others of the management team to discuss how we go forward. It's obvious from the numbers we need to do something regularly live, but the question is to how to get the content right for our specific audience. That is always the most difficult question.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Moving on...

Almost 3 weeks since the last post. Doesn't seem like a 'dear diary' spot. I will try to get back to more regular updates. There seems to be a logical problem here: When I am busy there is loads to write about and almost no time to do it. When I have time it is because there is little to write about! Today is part of the 'busy' but I couldn't sleep so got up and decided to write.

From the ongoing trail of problems you will know that we have had countless problems with servers and with the hosting company we use in London. We hope we will soon have solved both of those problem areas.

We decided that we need to work more like a telephone company with our mission critical servers. Obviously you don't want to try to make a telephone call only to find your telephone doens't work. One of the ways telephone companies get over the problem of equipment breaking down is to have two of everything critical with a system that swaps over to the other one if the first one breaks. This is called 'hot standby'.

The system we had been operating was called 'cold standby'. Cold standby systems have other equipment that can replace the faulty equipment, but needs to be set up to take over. This is what happened over Christmas. We had the parts, but we had to configure them and get it working.

Over the next few weeks we shall be setting up a hot standby system with all the servers in the office and those that are currently in London. This will directly double our costs as we shall have to have two servers wherever we had one, but it should in the medium term reduce the stress on us as when one goes wrong the other will take over, and then the repairs can be done when we want to, not when everything is crashing around us.

To solve the London problem we will be moving the facilities we lease in London to Frankfurt. We have been negotiating with a German company to provide facilities similar to what we are leasing in London. Again we will be going for a 'hot standby' system, so this again will double our costs. We have been discussing with our partners and they are prepared to pay the extra costs so that we can all have a more reliable system.

Alongside all these decisions we have been working on two things: Preparing for two weeks of live Internet radio and preparing to re-launch one of the websites we host. For both of these we have had extra people from one of the Arab countries staying with us to prepare.

The two weeks of live Internet radio is an experiment and will come from our studios here in Cyprus. It is for a week before and a week after Valentines day. Valentines day is celebrated in the Middle East and gives us a suitable 'peg' to hang on many questions about love and about how God cares for us. More news as it unfolds.

The re-launch of one of the websites came as a request from the team that develop the content. We have helped totally redesign and restructure it. It's a 12 month project and we have hired full time a programmer to work on it.

Generally speaking the sites we host get between 2 and 8 thousand visitors a month. Which is good considering the target audience. This site was at the bottom end of the figures, but the countries visitors came from and their reaction to the material more than made up for this.

In December the team started using Google AdWords to advertise the site and the result was almost a 10 fold increase in visitors to 19,000. In January the figure was over 34,000. Apparently about 2% of those visitors then signed up for more information. And this is before the new re-launch.

The re-launch will happen within the next week or two. We are ready, we are just waiting for the content team to be ready. So for two reasons... watch this space.