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Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Day That No One Died (6)

Read parts one, two, three, four, and five.
* * *

Jarred from his sleep by the annoying, droning meeep meeep meeep of the alarm clock, Daryl nearly feel from the bed as he reached across the nightstand, swatting for the offending and most annoying of modern conveniences that so rudely yanked him from sleep. Meeep meeep meeep the incessant electronic warble continued. Swatting for the alarm clock, Daryl knocked it from the nightstand, sending it crashing to the floor. The sound of plastic parts skittering across the floor concerned Daryl. The unending meeep meeep meeep, even while the alarm clock broke into pieces, concerned him more.

Awaking quickly and jumping to his feet, Daryl rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he crossed the room to the window. Meeep meeep meeep. It wouldn't stop. Pulling the curtain aside and raising the shade, Daryl was briefly blinded by the sun beaming into the window. Throwing the window open, he was deafened by the meeep meeep meeep, that seemed more to be coming from outside the window rather than the busted alarm clock that now lie at Daryl's feet. A few brief moments passed as Daryl's eyes began adjusting to the intense sunlight of this early autumn morning. As his eyes sleep-worn eyes began to adjust to the morning light, the full impact of what Daryl was hearing -- meeep meeep meeep -- finally came into view. Pigeons! Everywhere! What the--

Daryl pulled the window shut and let the curtain fall back into place, wondering just what had happened to his world that would cause such an invasion of crickets and pigeons. Charlie, Daryl told himself, beginning a frantic search for the handset of the cordless phone that usually rested on the nightstand beside the alarm clock. He mentioned the pigeons yesterday. Where is that stinking phone? Dropping to his hands and knees, Daryl searched frantically under the bed. Meeep meeep meeep. The pigeons were driving him nuts with their incessant warbling. The phone, he spied it on the floor under the bed. In at least two pieces, maybe more. Meeep meeep meeep. Slapping the button on the snooze button, which Daryl found lying on the floor next to the broken cordless handset, just in case he had actually dreamed the warbling pigeons, Daryl was less than surprised to find that silencing the alarm had no effect on the meeep meeep meeep.

With the cordless being the only phone in Daryl's small apartment -- and being broken -- Daryl began searching for his cell phone. Meeep meeep meeeeeeeeeeepppp.

He snatched up his cell phone, noticed it was ringing -- meeeeeeeeeeepppp -- and answered, "Daryl."

"The birds get you yet, buddy?"


"It's like being the star in a Hitchcock movie, isn't it?"

"What's going on?"

"Same as yesterday, my friend. The crickets. The traffic. Now the birds."

"So what is it?"

"It's chaos, my friend. It's science. It's the tragedy of a miracle."


"I'll tell you more when I'm sure that I'm right."

"Don't hold out on me, Charlie."

"I'm not holding out, brother. But if what I think has happened has actually happened, we're in for the roller coaster ride of a lifetime."

"That sure eases my mind." Feeling drowned out out by the constant meeep meeep meeep warbling of the pigeons, Daryl continued. "Just tell me what I need to do."

"Research. Call the hospital. Ask about births and deaths this month. Then let me know what you find."

"What am I looking for. How will I know when it."

"It'll find you, Joe. It'll find you." The line went dead.

* * *

If it'll find me, Daryl thought, why the heck do I have to call the hospital looking for it? Of course, he knew that he would do exactly as his friend had suggested. He knew this because, no matter how much he wanted this whole mess to be nothing more than a nightmare, he had to know why -- what -- he wanted some kind of explanation. For the crickets. For the traffic. For the pigeons. For all of it. The births. The deaths. What's that all about?

Feeling as if the warbling meeep meeep meeep would drive him completely out of his mind, Daryl jumped up, literally jumped into a pair of worn out 501s, threw on a sweatshirt, and raced for the door, raking a comb through the mop of hair on his head.

At just under thirty years old, Daryl was just a little late at getting started in life. At getting started at what he thought was the course that he should be on, at least. He had tried his hand at more than one line of business: food service, military, retail, telecommunications, even a very short-lived attempt at running his own business doing -- well, pretty much whatever it is he could find someone to pay him to do. Now, stoked by the success of people like Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Kevin Rose of Digg, Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe of MySpace, and many other Internet tycoons -- and optimistic about the success of such legendary podcasters as Leo Laporte of TWiT, Adam Curry of Podshow, and others -- Daryl had abandoned all thoughts of traditional work and threw his hat into the new media ring, launching his very own podcast, titled Average Joe Radio. Playing independent music and talking about things such as politics, family, and work, Daryl quickly drew an audience that numbered in the hundreds. But hundreds not being good enough for Daryl, or "Joe," as he referred to himself on the show and in all forums of social media, he was continually seeking for the next big thing, the next big feature he could add to his show that would draw more listeners. The next big way to successfully promote his show.

Starting with a special episode Daryl had done featuring music and discussion with Charlie Coulton, Daryl began regularly featuring independent musicians on his show, playing exclusive music, giving away free CDs, and giving his listeners an intimate look inside the life of their favorite independent musicians. Daryl had long taken a stance against any type of monetary sponsorship of his podcast -- not that financial sponsors had been knocking down his door to sign up. But Daryl felt that he could best remain independent, impartial, and open if he didn't allow himself to become influenced by someone throwing a little money his way.

All of that changed on the day that Daryl walked out of Tumbleweed for the last time as a restaurant Manager. Quickly chewing through his savings, Daryl had realized that he must quickly find some source of income to make this hobby of his long term. It was not without serious consideration and consultation with friends in new media and music that Daryl finally decided to accept advertising for his show. Sponsorship. Limited, of course, to products or businesses that Daryl felt he could personally endorse honestly. Now if he could just get the sponsors to come to the same conclusion Daryl had and actually pay him for advertising on his show.

"It's all about demand, Joe," a successful fellow podcaster had told him in an online chat over the Skype VOIP service. Voice Over Internet Protocol had become a popular method of recording podcast interviews, or panels of experts about any particular topic, and Skype was the recognized leader in the market. "You will never find a willing sponsor if you don't keep increasing the size of your audience. How many listeners do you have right now?"
"I'm not sure, I'd have to check my show stats."

"Wrong answer, Joe. You have to know at all times exactly how many listeners you have. You need to be able to tell a potential sponsor, without hesitation, how many people downloaded your most recent show, how many downloads you've had in the past month, and your monthly average download number. If you don't know those basic numbers, no one is going to take you seriously."

"Okay, let's say I can spout those numbers off, then what?"

"Pull up your stats real quick and tell me how many listeners you've had this month."
Eager to make an impact -- a difference -- Daryl pulled up his show page and clicked the stats link. "One thousand and seventeen," he said proudly.

"Pretty impressive. How long have you been podcasting?"

"About ten months now."

"So you've averaged a growth rate of about a hundred listeners per month. That's not bad. But you can do more."

Silence. Daryl paused, expecting to hear more, waiting for more. Finally, "I'm listening," he said. "I mean you can do more. Grow your show. More listeners all the time. Create the demand. The more people there are begging for your show, the more sponsors there will be begging to advertise on your show."

"So how do I get more people begging for my show."

"Now that's the sixty-four thousand dollar question, isn't it? If I had some magic formula for podcasting success, I don't think I'd be sharing it. Not for free, anyway."

He hadn't seen all of his questions answered, but his mind did starting churning out the ideas. And Daryl started implementing them in his show. And his audience continued growing. But the sponsors had yet to come calling.

Daryl pulled up to the hospital, intent on getting some answers, and convinced that those answers would come more easily in person than over the telephone. Was the world being over run by ants and birds and emergency, or should he use the main entrance?
To be continued ...

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