Wow! It's hard to believe we have been at this podcasting thing for two years! What started out as a fun side hobby has turned into a second full-time job and so much more! Thank you for putting up with our growing pains as we learned our way. The thing that has been the biggest plus and a wonderful surprise for us, is the community we have had grow around this podcast. We've become a family really, where everybody is accepted. You just come as you are. We try to keep the show at a PG13 level so that young people can hang out with us too. And we learned that you guys really have our back. We've only ever had one major issue and it really was cool to have people step up to defend us. We're happy to report that the last little thing that happened with this issue in regards to a review that was left, was taken care of. We contacted iTunes and they removed the review.
We have lots of people to thank for helping us get where we are today. First and foremost, we thank the listeners! If you guys weren't listening, there would be no show. In our first few months, we rarely got a suggestion for a location. Today, we have over 100 suggestions not on the calendar yet and the calendar is filled through December. You have shared your personal experiences - both regular and haunting - you've shared your pictures, you've co-hosted episodes and helped with research. You have helped shape the show. You have shared the show. And many of you are helping us on the financial end of things. We've met many great podcasters as well. Thanks to Chris and Joe at the Curioso Podcast, Sam and Jake at Just a Story, Dan Foytik at The Lift, the podcasters at Society 13 Podcast Network, Patrick Keller at Big Seance Podcast, Erik at Most Notorious, P.S. McKay and Eliot Gladstone at Entwined Podcast, Tanner and Eric at Legends, Myths and Whiskey for their support this last year!
To expand on the research topic, we are very grateful to all those that stepped up to help us out on the Research Crew this last year. That group of people helped us as we slowly transitioned to a place where Diane can spend more hours researching. If not for them, we would not have been able to consistently bring you six episodes every month. Now that group is defunct because you guys have all pitched in to help out with research and many of you have made the scary jump into being on air with us. It's not easy. We are very rare in the podcast world. There are not many podcasts that will invite their listeners on to co-host and be guests. So thank you to Sharon Spungen, Bob Sherfield, Steven Pappas, Philip Childers, Ann Student, Lianna Sapien, April Rogers-Krick, Lana John, Freya Porter, Dianne Moores, Lynsey Smith, Richard Schaffer, Jessica Bell, Kristen Swintek, Ren Davenport, Mariessa Dobrick, Jessie Harms, Amy Connor, Rachel Hore, Whitney Land and Jenni Watt for being a part of the Research Crew this past year.
To expand on sharing the show, we have growing by leaps and bounds. Let's look at some numbers. In October of 2014, when we launched, we had less than 1,000 downloads for the whole month. As of the end of September 2016, we will have hit a total of over 830,000 downloads. In two years, you guys have helped us reach nearly 1,000,000 downloads and we have no doubt that Diane's goal of hitting that at the end of December will be achieved. Last October, iTunes featured us along with several other paranormal type shows in a collection called Scary Stories that remains on the front page of iTunes to this day. So thank you to iTunes for plucking our obscure show out of the shadows. Also, a huge thank you to the podcast Bizarre States and Jessica Chobat for continuing to keep us out of the shadows when November rolled around. After being recommended on that podcast, we rose to number 7 out of all the history genre podcasts and made it to 162 out of all podcasts on iTunes in November of 2015. Being in the top 200 is no easy feat with thousands and thousands of podcasts out there.
To expand on the financing of the podcast, you guys have just been amazing. When we started, we made the decision to not allow ads or sponsors on our show. We believe in the indie spirit that podcasts initially started with. Podcasts are so much better than radio, but nearly every podcast that finally gets traction and gets popular has gone to being like radio and running ads. We have turned away many inquiries because our audience is not for sale. What do any of the ads you hear on other podcasts have to do with the topics of those podcasts? Now, hosting a podcast costs money. Putting on a quality production costs even more money. We knew that if we started this thing, we had to stick to a budget because we don't make much money in our full-time jobs. We went with the cheapest hosting we could find and shared a mic using an old program to record. And we went with a new start-up called Patreon to help us earn some money. We've been with Patreon since we started two years ago. Slowly, we were able to buy more equipment - not top quality (We got 3 mics for $50) but what we needed to help make the show a little better - as people started donating to the show. After several months, we were able to move up to the next tier of storage so we could do more shows that were longer. Through the one-time donations and recurring monthly donations of our Executive Producers, we now have hit our next goal of $600 a month. That means we will now produce an extra episode a month. The free feed will now have 7 episodes a month. Not many podcasts bring that much content to you a month. Our next goal is $1200 and then we move up to 8 episodes. And full disclosure on those amounts - we came up with those because that is what it will take for Diane to quit some of her housecleaning to work more on the podcast. It's about paying the bills, while not working to death. Currently, we have 90 Executive Producers. Thank you so much for making an incredible difference in our lives. Not only helping us get paid to do what we love, but this last year was a tough financial year with Diane's surgery and loss of work and Rafiki's various health issues. We spent about $12,000 just on medical stuff last year. And then there was the totaled car. So thank you. That missed coffee for you every month is a huge gift to us!
Other fun numbers: 600 members in the Spooktacular Crew and nearly 1100 likes of our fan page. Special thanks to Heather Williams and Josh Wood for helping as Admins of the Spooktacular Crew! We've produced 151 episodes, 9 BonusCasts in the free feed, 6 Road Trip episodes and 5 Specials!
Now, we decided to celebrate launching into our third year by holding a little contest. A flash fiction contest for the listeners. We have our three winners! We will be reading those winners in just a bit, but we had some runners up that we wanted to share as well. And we have saved a few of the runner-ups to share on our Christmas Special when we share scary ghost stories around the campfire! We had sixteen entries! Thank you to Candace Russell, Marc Shoemaker, Lindsay Morse, Hollie Lemons, Anthony Collado, Atticus WolfGramm, Shelby Labrie, Michelle Tackett, Brandi Bledsoe, Heather Iseri, Michael Schultz, Lark Arrowood, Leslie Pollock, Kathy Webb-Thomas and Lauren Dunn for your entries!
The winners of the 2016 Flash Fiction Contest are:
3rd place winner receives medal and exclusive design t-shirt: Hollie Lemons
2nd place winner receives medal and exclusive design long sleeve t-shirt: Lindsey Morse
1st place winner receives medal and exclusive design hoodie sweatshirt: Shelby Labrie