As most of you may be aware, the “Bart Ehrman Blog Podcast” began six months ago.  John Mueller, who has been a blog member for many years but doesn’t comment much, reached out to me last summer and offered to create the it.  His idea for the podcast was simply to read some of my posts, each week. He hoped that the podcast would attract more people to the blog, which in turn would increase membership in the blog, which in turn would raise more money for the charities supported by the blog, which in turn would help eradicate poverty, hunger, and homelessness, and hence, he would feel good about himself because he did his part to help the World and the Universe as we know it.

John gave me an offer he hoped I “couldn’t refuse.”  He offered to set up the podcast, fund it, choose what is read each week, narrate it, publish it, keep me updated on its numbers, and scrap it at a moment’s notice if I so requested. My obligation was, well, nothing really, except give it my blessing.  He pestered me for a couple weeks while I was thinking about it, and when he started emailing me pictures of horses, I told him to “go for it!”  That’s what I get for asking people to come forth with ideas to help increase blog membership.

I must confess, I am not very familiar with the whole podcast scene, but it seems that everyone is doing it. My biggest worry about the podcast was that it may do more to decrease membership than increase it. As I already publish a free post each week, and now the podcast is giving another two free posts, that would leave less incentive to join the blog.  I mean, how much Bart Ehrman thought does a person really need each week?  (Don’t ask my wife.)

The way we eventually worked it out is that each week, John would read a recent free post  (i.e., one that is already available to everyone without belonging to the blog – I post one of these about once a week to get people interested) and a members-only post from several years ago.  If you haven’t listened to the podcast, this is its current format. Every Sunday morning, a new episode is published. John spends the first minute or two of the podcast pointing out what will be read and telling the listener that in order to get more, the listener must become a member of the blog. He then points out some membership benefits and notes that the entire cost of membership goes to charity. He then reads the two posts, and usually between posts, and always at the end, he tries to steer listeners toward becoming members of the blog. Each episode is roughly 20 minutes. John tries to pick posts on different topics and ones that are part of a thread, teasers essentially, so that listener will crave more and of course, the only way to get more…join the blog!

We decided to give it a go for 6 months and then re-evaluate.  We are now at the 6-month mark.

As we all know, numbers can be tricky. While “numbers don’t lie,” the interpretation of numbers can certainly take on lives of their own. And apart from a book in the Old Testament, I would be hard pressed to call myself a Numbers guy.  But here are some podcast numbers:

– 26 episodes have been published and there have been more than 17,000 downloads of these episodes;

– The most downloaded episode? “The Origins of Heaven and Hell; Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians,” published on August 6.  It leads the pack with roughly 1,000 downloads;

-The most recent episode, released last Sunday, has already been downloaded about 400 times;

-Each week, there are roughly 1,000 total episode downloads;

-Every episode released since November already has over 500 downloads, but none have more than 700.

-Total weekly downloads are increasing by roughly 25% each month.

I am inclined to keep the podcast going for at least another 6 months. But I would love to hear your thoughts. Have you listened to the podcast? What do you think of it?  Did you join the blog because of the podcast or have you left the blog because of the podcast? There has been no marketing of the podcast, at least that I am aware of, yet, hundreds of you are listening each week, how did you come across it (word of mouth, visiting the blog, random searches)?

Also, how can the podcast improve, from both a blog standpoint and a podcast standpoint? For what it’s worth, John is not a religion scholar.  While he does have a degree in Philosophy, he does not know Greek, Latin, Aramaic, Coptic, German, or any of those other languages antiquity geeks have to learn. He asked me to let everybody know that he sincerely apologizes for the times on the podcast he “incorrect grammatically something says or when he disprounces words wrong.” He is doing his best.

So please leave your thoughts.  John will be reading all of your comments.  And if you are not a member of the blog and want to leave a comment, the best way to do so is to join the blog. Cost of membership is minimal, less than $25 a year, and your entire cost of membership goes to charities that fight poverty, hunger, and homelessness.  It is well worth giving $25 to charity so you can comment on this, and then have access to the blog for the next 12 months!  However, if you are so inclined, you can also reach out to John directly at [email protected]