Why the September changes?

August 28, 2008, 02:19 AM posted in General Discussion

Although I've stayed somewhat in the background during the discussion on the September changes I've been following it closely and trying to learn from it.

Everyone is free to pile in and make their suggestions known. I welcome this without hesitation. And although some suggestions aren't feasible, I don't think there was a comment that I didn't learn from.

But let me clarify what's going on here, lest we get confused: We're making these changes in order to develop the service and create more value for paying customers.

We have, in other words, the option of putting resources into creating ever more free materials or putting them into producing ever better resources for people who honor us by paying. We have chosen, for many reasons to do the latter. This also enables a much broader attack on innovation.

I think we've been fairly innovative over the last 3 years, and we have always done our utmost to increase the value for the learner. We've done this without ever raising prices. However, we could be doing many more improvements and new and groundbreaking things.We're not short of ideas or vision for the future. But the economics have to work. The existing team cannot do the things we know we could achieve, so we need to divert resources where they are needed.

I personally do not want the development of ChinesePod to get stale, especially when we can see that there are alternatives. We want to create the best language learning service out there and show you what we can do, but it's going to take resources.

But it's not all just about new stuff. Bill Glover made a crucial point: that we have to ensure that existing things work before pursuing new and shiny things. He is absolutely correct. In fact, we have had a team on this. They went through the entire archive testing and fixing every problem they could find. That team is nearing completion, so paid subscribers can expect fewer problems in the archive going forward. In addition, I think we need more teachers/facilitators in the community to lead and assist the learning discussions and help you learn Chinese. This, too, will happen in the near future.

I'm personally really excited about how ChinesePod will be able to help people to learn Chinese in an ever improving way. I hope no-one would deny us our greatest passion!


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August 28, 2008, 03:44 AM

ChinesePod is definitely applying its own lessons to it's own business - the 80/20 Rule.  The timing cannot be an accident - you must have been thinking deeply about this.

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August 28, 2008, 03:48 AM

What changes are being made? Where can I find out this information?

Edit: Is there a more direct translation of the 80/20 lesson? Us Newbies don't really get a lot out of that lesson.

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August 28, 2008, 03:59 AM

I've been a free user, basic subscriber, practice plan user, preimum subscriber and now just a basic subscriber again (since I use other services/classes as well).  This decision was not too unexpected.

I do wonder about the older free podcasts.  Since they were introduced with the Creative Commons license, is this license being changed for the old ones or just for the ones going forward?

(I've been using these for my meetup group, but now may have to find some other materials.)

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August 28, 2008, 04:00 AM


The changes will not affect premium subcribers. Ross outlined these details:

FAQ regarding free content change:

When will the change come into effect?
September 1st, 2008 (the 3rd year anniversary of ChinesePod.com)

What changes will be made?

Access for free users will be reduced.
Focus will be on providing more valuable services for paying users.

What content will be available to free users?

  • Newbie lesson podcasts (old and new - currently 274 lessons as of August 27, 2008)
  • Dear Amber podcasts
  • News & Features podcasts
  • Access to Newbie lesson conversations
  • Access to view all lesson conversations
  • Access to general conversations (under community section)
  • Online dictionary
  • Online grammar guide
  • Online pronounciation guide
  • Listening test
  • Access to Groups

What podcasts will be distributed through the public feed on a weekly basis?
2 newbie lessons
1 Dear Amber show
1 News and Features show

Will there be any changes to the content access for Basic, Premium, Guided and Executive Plans?
The only changes are that all of the above mentioned subscription types will be able to access more new content and features in the future, such as video, which will be released in September.
Further improvements to the premium services will be made over time.

Will the prices in any of the subscription types change?

How much are the subscriptions?

For more information, see the subscription information page.

What is the minimum cost to access all lessons?

All 1,100+ lessons and the daily additional lessons can be accessed at just 5USD per month (on a 12 month subscription). Other benefits of the Basic subscription are PDF's for all lessons and an RSS customized feed that will send you the lessons that you want.


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August 28, 2008, 04:09 AM

Is there a timeline yet on when the new features for paying people will happen? Or are the details on that still being worked out?

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August 28, 2008, 04:32 AM

The transcript  for The 80/20 Rule is available on the pdf to any paying customer, and perhaps ChinesePod would be willing to post the English version here for the benefit of others.  The 80/20 rule is standard for any business, and directs attention to those activities that have the greatest impact on the success of a company. The same principle is used in quality control and problem solving, and goes by the name Pareto Analysis.  Ignoring the rule makes it unlikely that a company will survive in the long term.

Edit: I see that the same topic is being addressed in the lesson itself, as it should be.

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August 28, 2008, 04:35 AM


All previously published lesson MP3's will forever be Creative Commons licensed. The change will only affect freshly published lessons.

If you can send an email to chinesepod@praxislanguage.com letting us know how you want to use the lessons we can grant 'performance rights' so that your meetups will be unaffected.



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August 28, 2008, 06:14 AM

Ken, Thanks for the reassurance and of course the hard work. My comment was some way down the bottom of a very long thread so I hardly expected many people to read it, let alone your good self. It's always good to know that the ChinesePod team have their feet on the ground. I for one am excited about what this change could mean.

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August 28, 2008, 06:53 AM


You'll be seeing some video and some new mobile applications in the next few weeks. We also hope to bring on more people in a matter of weeks. Beyond that I don't want to say too much - to be honest, we have to ensure that these transitions go smoothly, first.

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August 28, 2008, 08:11 AM


thank you very much for your answers about the coming changes.

I appreciate very much the work of you and your team, and I look forward to the things to come.

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August 28, 2008, 08:29 AM


I'll  cerftainly let you know more details as soon as I can. I think it would be bad form to announce stuff before we were sure we could deliver!

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August 28, 2008, 09:33 AM

The changes seem fair, but I suggest that selected non-Newbie lessons be made available free, as this is how new listeners get enticed into continuing (and thus subscribing) with Chinesepod. I for one, first stumbled onto the site by accident, listened to the different level lessons, and found the ones appropriate for my level amazing, then signed up for a free trial subscription, and eventually paid up to continue what I think is an excellent learning resource.

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August 28, 2008, 09:59 AM

I agree. Sample lessons for non-Newbie lessons will be made available for people to see which level suits them best. These sample lessons will be online next week.

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August 28, 2008, 10:28 AM

Videos! Finally! I saw the original ones, which are still available on YouTube and I eagerly anticipate the return of them.. they are such high value!

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August 28, 2008, 12:47 PM

I'm looking forward to the videos. That'll be a great addition! I'd also love to see some resources for learning Chinese characters in the future.

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August 28, 2008, 02:14 PM

Ken, why do you suddenly start talking about people "honouring" CPOD by paying -- as if non-paying users were somehow dishonourable -- when up to a day or two ago you were flogging/ plugging CPOD on the basis of "free podcasts", for all it was worth? This sudden slur is hardly fair to the users who were enjoying the free services, at your invitation. No?

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August 28, 2008, 02:27 PM

auntie68, when I say "I'm honored", for example if I'm offered a job, it doesn't mean all the other companies are dishonorable - it's just a variation on thanking someone. I think it's just a term for politeness.

A group of people, one sneezes. Someone else says "Bless you". That doesn't mean the other eight want the sneezer to suffer damnation.

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August 28, 2008, 02:36 PM


No. It is absurd to sugest that I was slurring anyone.

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August 28, 2008, 02:47 PM

Wait... we had a great long conversation (argument?) when CPod went from seven to five lessons a week about how the difficulty level distribution would work out. At that time John said that we would be seeing only one new newbie lesson a week in order not to give other levels short shrift. I think this has largely been what has happened since then. Does this new promise of two newbies each week mark the return of the seven lesson week?

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August 28, 2008, 04:03 PM


We'll be publishing one new Newbie lesson per week. That means starting next week, the public feed will include one new Newbie lesson and one from the archive.

So the previous statement was actually targeted at paying users, who will be seeing all the new content.

Sorry for the confusion.

You won't see an immediate return from 5 to 7 audio podcast lessons per week, but you will have the addition of video lessons, so the lesson output will begin to increase again, yes.