We're Completely Changing WDF's Schedule: Here's What You Need To Know

  1. Poland Is Not Yet Lost…is being postponed…

  2. We are releasing a new completely redone series on the Thirty Years War to bring our production schedule up to at least TWO episodes a week…

  3. I won’t be releasing any new podcasts, and will instead be releasing the content INTO the WDF feed, so everything will stay in one centralised place. Even though this doesn’t make me completely happy…

If you’re interested in any of these points, then make sure you listen to the State of the Podcast Address which is out NOW (titled 23 April 2018), but failing that, keep reading here. We’ve got some stuff to say.

This post will take about 20 minutes to read - if you don't have that time, scroll down to the bottom where you'll see the main points summarised for your convenience!

  It isn't goodbye for good, more like I'll see you later when I can actually appreciate you. Poland isn't LOST, it is merely postponed...

It isn't goodbye for good, more like I'll see you later when I can actually appreciate you. Poland isn't LOST, it is merely postponed...

I like to consider myself something of an expert, something of a well-travelled, veteran podcaster that knows what they’re doing and is not so easily phased. Then, every so often, I’m reminded that I still have a great deal to learn, and that, sometimes when I least expect, I’ll be faced with a decision or an argument which makes me rethink everything I had planned.

History podcasting schedules are a lot like history in general – as a historian, you must retain an open mind and be willing to question your own conclusions, however carefully you want to guard them against criticism from other people. Trust me, I like to form plans, big detailed and sensible plans – massively ambitious plans, satisfying, gratifying plans which slot together nicely and which absolutely, unquestionably CANNOT BE CHANGED.

That was, of course, until I was hit with a few sharp shocks over the last week which led me to question everything I had planned, and to determine in the end, however painful the process was, that I would have to make some changes and be actually sensible when it came to my podcast schedule. This process of reflection began by taking a hard, long look in the mirror and asking myself – do people REALLY want three full time podcasts coming from WDF’s oven, or would they rather I was more sparing with my release schedule, more considerate of the future, and less unnecessarily stressed? I decided, hard as it was, that I had been wrong, and wouldn’t you just know it, my wife was right.

Originally, I had planned to do the following…

  • Release a new history podcast Poland Is Not Yet Lost on 18th May 2018 to celebrate our 6th birthday.
  • Release a new history podcast The Thirty Years War Podcast on 23rd May 2018 (less than a week after Poland), to mark the 400th anniversary of the Second Defenestration of Prague and the beginning of the Thirty Years War.
  • Somehow maintain three full time podcasts
  • Somehow expect you guys to access enjoy all that content.
  • Not burn out or begin to feel overwhelmed with the sheer level of work I was attempting to bury myself under.
  • Also have time to look for a job and live my life.

This was, of course, bananas. There was no way you guys wanted or needed all of this content, and I was shooting myself in the foot in terms of my production schedule by releasing all at once in a glut of activity in May. The reason why I stuck to this crazy plan without questioning it too much was that I had decided, long before, that it would be really cool to release this much content, and I decided, in light of the anniversaries of my pod’s birthday and the Defenestration, it would all make sense.

Sound familiar? If you’ve been with us for longer than a year then it should, because this rationale was very similar to how I justified Five Weeks To Run Wild in May 2017. Now, I won’t debate the good or bad of that here, since I’ve done so elsewhere, but I will say that afterwards, a big take away of mine was that, despite the anniversaries and the sound reasoning (well, sound-ish reasoning), a great number of you were overwhelmed and even a bit stressed out by all the content.

This should have been a lesson for me – that one, at a push two episodes (with the second being for Patrons) each week was the golden rule. Yet, while I absorbed this lesson for a while, don’t ask me why exactly, but I quickly allowed my crazy ambitions to put down equally crazy roots once again, and before long, I was looking at a planning and release schedule which, sure, it looked great and exciting on paper, but in reality, was absolutely crazy. All the while though, I reasoned that I had to forge ahead with this bonkers plan, because once I had decided on it and announced it from the rooftops, it seemed impossible to change.

At the same time, I made more work for myself, and slipped back into the old pattern of ignoring reality and just churning out scripts, recordings, episodes, social media posts, blog pieces etc. in a bid to prepare. ‘Wait until they see what I have prepared for them’, was a thought that really excited me before Five Weeks to Run Wild dropped, and it returned in the last few months, as I made several decisions which in retrospect, seem borderline insane. I had a great reason for each decision though; I had to release Poland because I had said I would and it would be in time for our 6th birthday; I had to release a book on the Thirty Years War in November 2018 anyway, and since the Defenestration anniversary happens this year, I may as well rework a series on one of my favourite periods in history.

Above all, I had to stick to my plans, and I couldn’t change them once something was announced. I kept the Thirty Years War secret, and would use it as further proof of my podcasting acumen – who else would be capable of releasing this much content in a one man show? Who else was capable of juggling three history podcasts AND a membership feed containing its own self-contained series on Patreon? Me, and nobody else. I could do this and I would do this and nobody understood what I was doing enough to tell me otherwise. Nobody that is, except for the person who has been there since the beginning – my wife.

The importance of a second opinion

I knew how Anna felt about my plans for ages. She thought it was far too much work, and we have an on-going joke that I tend to underestimate the workload I put in front of myself, only to then realise too late that ‘oh dear, how am I possibly going to get all of this finished?’ She’d seen it happen before with several projects, and she knew that, like history tended to do, Zack was repeating his old mistakes as he got more and more into all the possibilities of these plans he had built.

The pattern of Anna being right started when I decided to release the sample episodes of 1956 into their own podcast feed, a brand new feed separate from that of WDF. She said it would bomb, and that nobody would bother going to find it even if I provided the link. She also asked why I wouldn’t just put the stuff in the existing feed. I should add that Anna wasn’t the only one. I had a long and self-indulgent chat with Thom Daly about the merits of this plan, and he said the exact same points, but about Poland Is Not Yet Lost rather than 1956. Why, the question went, would you release stuff into a new, unknown feed, when the WDF brand and audience are already there? Why? Because it makes sense to do so, that’s why!

When Anna learned that I was planning to do the same thing with Poland as I had done with 1956, she was understandably vexed. Echoing Thom Daly’s points, she said it was both a risk and more work for myself to follow that plan and start a new show. Yet I persevered with this idea – it was cleaner to set up a new show, since the other episodes wouldn’t be clogging up the old feed; it was a way to expand my portfolio in a straightforward, clear cut way; it was the best way to advertise that this new project was brand new, and deserved your attention.

These ideas of mine hit a wall once I started looking at the stats of 1956, those sample episodes I had released into their own feed. Since uploading them in February, each episode has received less than 10% of the downloads that the episodes in the regular feed enjoyed. To put that another way, this meant that more than 90% of my audience had NOT heard these sample episodes, and therefore, didn’t know what they were missing out on in 1956, or if they should even care. I then wondered why so few people seemed to be expressing interest in 1956, but for some reason I didn’t make the connection between the low downloads and low conversion rate to Patreon. It was a very dumb time in my life.

When the penny drops...

Then, only last week, it hit me while I was running. I was listening to another podcast completely unrelated to history, and they had done what I had done in that they had released sample episodes to show what the members podcast was like, but they had released their sample episodes in their pre-existing feed. What a swell idea I thought, now I can access these samples and get a feel for their members show. I then got that sinking feeling. How could I have been so stupid? I still don’t quite know what was going through my head when I decided it’d be clever to release 1956 samples as their own show. I have since remedied the problem and released them into WDF’s feed, but even so, it was quite a kick to absorb.

That night, the wife and I went out for a few, and I talked to her about how she had been right all along. Imagine her surprise and horror then, when I maintained that I would still be releasing Poland Is Not Yet Lost and the Thirty Years War podcasts into their own feeds. She was very confused, but I maintained that these projects were different, because they weren’t patron-related, they were going to be constantly updated and, well, you know, it would just be messy to inject the episodes into the WDF feed. Plus, darn it, I had announced that I was going to release Poland as its own show hadn't I, and I planned to follow through with that and with the TYW, since it made sense to release a secret show and the announced show in this clean, proper way.

It was a thought process that was laced with denial, since I wanted to say that I’d learned from the 1956 experience, even while I also wanted to ignore its key lessons. What followed was a painful experience, as Anna attempted to reason with me. The more she did, the more I realised she was right. My reasons for setting up separate podcasts just were not strong enough, and I had been genuinely spooked by the low download exposure of 1956 – I had forgotten how hard it was to get a new podcast out there. She was gracious about proving me wrong, but when she turned to the next topic at hand – that I am planning to release far too much stuff – I felt my back going up against the wall once more.

Why, Anna asked, did I feel the need to triple my podcast count when nobody had asked for it or expected it? If they weren’t going to be released as separate podcasts, a conclusion we had come to just moments before, then why not delay them altogether? Poland Is Not Yet Lost was singled out. Imagine, said Anna, how happy I would be to release it at a time when I really needed to fill WDF with content, say, perhaps, when I was heading off to Cambridge? I was so stubborn. I had planned so much stuff with Poland, and it had been on the verge of releasing for so long, that I didn’t feel I could let it go. As before though, I realised that Anna was right – despite all the arguments I put forward, they were not strong enough to justify the release of all of this content, especially when I wouldn’t be giving them their own podcast homes.

Common ground

What we reached was something of a compromise. I would release the Thirty Years War series into the WDF feed, because I had the book coming out in November, and would have to write it anyway. In addition, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of that conflict was approaching, and I feel confident that there will be a renewed interest in its origins because of this date. Anna didn’t argue with these points, but we agreed that, in an ideal world, I would have planned this better, and I would have arranged the Korean War in such a way that I could NOT have two episodes a week, and thus be more economical with my content.

I should add, in case it wasn’t obvious, that this process of realising I was so utterly wrong, and accepting that my wife was right, was a very painful process indeed. I didn’t want to delay Poland for over a year – I had announced it to so many people, including my parents, and I didn’t want to let people down or be viewed as something of a failure. Yet, as Anna pointed out, it was vital that I make this change now, before I had started releasing stuff, people got overwhelmed, I got upset that the downloads were low, and I realised how deep in the red I was. I compared it afterwards to giving birth – not at all an exaggeration of course – because the process had been painful, but I felt so relieved afterwards, even though that relief was tinged with a bit of disappointment, so yeah, maybe not like giving birth after all.

It was clear then that I would have to postpone Poland, and if I was going to do that, I would have to explain my rationale, and if I was going to do THAT, then I would have spill the beans on the secret Thirty Years War podcast I had planned to just drop out of the sky on 23rd May. This way, not only can I build up to it with some smart promotion, I can also build excitement at the appropriate time and save Poland for a time when everyone will be better able to enjoy it, and when it will suit me far better to let it run.

Making sense of insanity

I know two episodes a week for regular listeners is a lot, and isn’t what everyone wants. However, arguably the major reason the Thirty Years War series exists, other than to bring you guys historical enjoyment, is to promote the book, which I really want to sell to further my exploits and rep as an author. Now, that isn’t to say the book and podcast will be the same, that isn’t possible, but it should certainly play a role in promoting it. If you like how the podcast sounds, then you’ll definitely like the book, and this book is the most exciting piece of work I have ever had published. It is all my own work, and isn’t influenced by academic restrictions or timelines in that sense, but is my romp through the era of the Thirty Years War which I always wanted to take. It will also be about 500 pages long, so yes, it’s also something of a tome in its own right.

I also want to make a couple of notes about how Cambridge influenced my decision. For those that don’t know, I will be applying to Cambridge for a PhD in history in autumn 2018, and if I am successful, I will begin my studies the following year. Once I am back in full time education, I obviously won’t have time to be a full time podcaster, so I have to plan ahead. Therefore, by postponing Poland, I can ensure that from August 2019, you guys will have more than enough stuff to keep you fed and watered until I finish.

Another point, in relation to the fact that there will be so much content, is that this is the last opportunity I will probably ever have for releasing such a high volume of high quality work to you guys. This is the most attentive towards history podcasting I will probably ever be, and while I want to make this my full time job in the future, and make WDF into something incredible, I don’t know what the future holds. So in a way, the doubling up of our content for the next year is something of swansong for me and WDF. We’re not going anywhere of course, but we may never be in this position again, so I want to make the most of it.

For now, I don’t want to spill too much beans about what the Thirty Years War podcast will look like, but you should expect a blog post on it in the near future explaining why you should be excited to return to this era or, if you haven’t listened to our older episodes, why you should be excited to visit full stop. What I will say as well is that you should make sure to plug yourself into WDF on social media – Twitter, Facebook Page and Facebook group – because we will, as we said, be counting down to the release of the 400th anniversary of the Second Defenestration of Prague, and the release of this series, with fascinating daily posts on each of the mediums. This should get us very excited and well-prepared for what’s to come, so I hope you’ll join me for the journey.

So that’s it, to summarise...

  • Poland Is Not Yet Lost is being postponed until 6th August 2019, the eve of my departure for hopefully Cambridge.
  • The Thirty Years War series will begin on Wednesday 23rd May 2018 to take its place.
  • This way I can prepare for Cambridge, not overwhelm you guys (too much) and be sensible about my own sanity.
  • We won’t be releasing any new podcasts, as everything will be staying in the WDF feed.
  • Sometimes you need to listen to people, even when you don’t like what they have to say, because if you don’t like it, odds are they could very well be right and save you a great deal of stress and work later on.
  • Wives are geniuses.

I hope you’re ok with my decision making here. Do you understand where I’m coming from? Are you sad about Poland being postponed? Are you excited for the Thirty Years War? I want to know, and I also want to thank you all for putting up with me even while I do crazy things like this and throw all my old plans into the bin for the greater good! You guys are the best fans a history podder could ask for, so thanks for reading and I’ll be seeing you all soon!

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You have been reading a very long blog post by Zack Twamley, host of When Diplomacy Fails Podcast. If you want to know more about what Zack does, and if you want to listen to his stuff, then be sure to check him out in all places where podcasts can be found, and to connect with him on social media too!