This week’s Five For Friday feature is with Eric Masiello, a.k.a. IllEffect, founder and main host of Expansion Broadcast, a weekly drum’n’bass & dubstep podcast that broadcasts live on Friday evenings and is distributed as a podcast the following week. Rather than talk about Eric’s own DJing (which is stellar, he is my favorite local drum’n’bass DJ of the past few years), we go in on the history, structure and plans for the podcast.
DCDNB: When did Expansion Broadcast first go online with the show? How many versions of the website / blog (is it just a site? is it a blog?) have there been? And future plans?
EXBC: Our very first broadcast was in late September of 2003. I had just moved to College Park after taking my first real job out of college and I was looking for a way to network with the DC drum & bass crowd. So taking a nod from ODJackson’s Dirtbox Radio, I figured starting up a drum & bass radio would be a good way to meet the local talent. Luckily for me, Destroyer.net was just getting off the ground and was looking for shows. Perfect! So I linked up with my longtime friend Mike, MC insuWRECKtionist, and we got started. September 26th, 2003 we aired our first show featuring myself tagging with my then roommate, DJ Direct Logic, and other close friends Whighzeguy (who is now a regular host on the show) and Bassmachine. Mike/insuWRECKtionist naturally MC’ed and handled most the conversation on the air while I and whoever else worked the decks.
After a few months we finally decided to get serious and put together a site where we would host the archives and post that week’s lineup. The site was using a very crude CMS (content management system) I had actually programmed myself so that people other than me could update the site. It went through a redesign at some point still using my janky CMS but this time it was built all in Flash and had some fancy animated boxes that sorta “unfolded.” It was weird.
Expansionbroadcast.com pretty much became my playground for experimenting with different web technologies since being a full time web developer was my “real job” and other passion. At some point or another, I finally decided to redesign the site. I was about a day away from deploying the site when my coworker said to me, “why don’t you just use Wordpress to handle all your content?” I looked into it and in about a day, I transformed my design into a Wordpress theme [and thus happily ditched my custom rolled CMS]. I suppose you could say that’s when the site turned into an actual “blog.” I called that version of the site “3.0.” Since then it has gone through a couple face lifts so the latest version I’ve arbitrarily dubbed “3.75.”
I’m pretty much settled with the site for the moment. I’m always making little tweaks here and there but no major changes are planned at this point. Maybe in a few months I’ll revisit it and try to fancy up the bio pages. Right now they’re kinda plain Jane (and that bothers me). I was also thinking about developing a web based soundboard for playing various drops during the podcast. I’d probably design the soundboard for the iPhone and then I could just use [my wife] Hyun’s old 2G iPhone to trigger the drops. It’s super nerdy but I love that sorta stuff.
DCDNB: How difficult was it to establish the show as a podcast, available on iTunes? And are there any obstacles or major benefits to putting in the work to do this?
EXBC: Somewhere around the time that I converted the site to a Wordpress powered site, I really started getting into podcasts. Most of the podcasts I was listening to at the time were really tech and web focused. There weren’t too many drum & bass or dubstep podcasts around then. So me just trying to scratch my own itch, decided that I should take all these archives I have and convert them into a podcast. A little research ensued and I discovered it’s actually not that difficult at all - particularly if you’re using Wordpress. There’s a nice little Wordpress plugin you can use called Powerpress (although I used to use Podpress) which will convert your posts into an iTunes ready feed. Mix that with a little magic from Feedburner and register your podcast on the iTunes store and you’re pretty much in business.
As for the benefit of being a podcast - I think it’s really just another way for your audience to get to your content. While I do put a considerable amount of work into the design of the site, I’m totally content if people never actually visit it and just grab the sets we release each week from iTunes or whatever podcatcher they prefer. The point is to just make the content easily accessible. In this day of iPhones, Zunes, and iPads - you really need to be hitting the music consumer from every angle possible.
DCDNB: If Expansion Broadcast was an actual cloud, what kind of cloud would it be?
EXBC: I’ll go with cumulus. I really don’t have any good reason other than that’s what our logo mostly resembles. Well, it’s kind of an 8-bit cumulus cloud - the kind that that annoying guy that throws those spiky shelled creatures in Super Mario Bros would live in. But hopefully we’re not annoying… or kill you and cause you to restart the level.
DCDNB: How important do you feel visual design is to the message / prominence of EXBC? Elaborate on this if you can / would like to.
EXBC: I think it’s important that any website looks professional. But more importantly, the content needs to be highly accessible. In our case, our primary content is mp3s. Ultimately I try to take what I learn from my day-to-day life as a web developer/designer/super-nerd and apply it to Expansion Broadcast. I want the site to be highly user focused. That’s something I really tried to concentrate on particularly with the latest redesign. I know people just wanna hop on, scan the latest podcasts; and if they see anything, click the download link, and move on with their lives. Hopefully, that’s what the site delivers.
DCDNB: What is it like being “internet famous” for the 404 error page (http://www.expansionbroadcast.com/404)? Have you noticed any increase in traffic & listeners outside of the usual drum’n’bass or dubstep fans, due to the notoriety of that 404 page?
EXBC: Yeah, it’s funny. Every now and then I’ll see this random spike in traffic. I’ll check the logs and its almost always pointing to the 404 page. That’s almost ironic when you think about it. But as for the back story on that one – a while ago Smashing Magazine did a spotlight on useful/funny/clever 404 pages for websites (for those that don’t know, a “404” is a server error that’s returned when you try to visit a page that doesn’t exist). Smashing Mag picked up ours which drove a bunch of traffic to the site. Every now and then some other web design blog will do a spotlight on 404 pages which will cause a little uptick in traffic. I’ve never really tried to correlate that to podcast subscriptions but I’m sure it at least helps a little bit.
Thanks again to Eric for taking the time to answer our questions about the Expansion Broadcast podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast through iTunes and leave a rating and comment on the iTunes page. Hopefully some of the information here will help give others some insight on setting up their own podcasts, or even the general idea & feel behind a webcast or live event. Be on the look out for some EXBC x DCDNB event collaborations (I know, I know, I run the blog and I am one of the rotating DJs on the show…), our first event at Thanksgiving time was a great success!
Next week we are going to interview Hyx, he just doesn’t know it yet. Also, I want to get in an interview with ODJ about Dirtbox Radio, which is the area’s granddaddy of drum’n’bass webcasts. And some time in February we should have a Q&A with Tittsworth sorted out; he has been playing a lot of drum’n’bass again, incorporating it in to his multi-genre sets that take him worldwide and we will get some insight on why he’s going to stay grounded in DC for at least three months.
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