I’ve never been much for clickbait titles, but here’s a good one for ya. This is a thought I’ve been struggling with for several months. Back in the 1980’s, we had a Fisher Price audio cassette recorder that my sister and I would fool around with. Sometimes we’d mimic the Muppet Show. I remember once attempting to recreate the “We are the World” song that was so prevalent at the time. After we were finished, we’d rewind the tape and listen back to our insufficient voices while giggling and imagining it going out over the radio waves to anybody fortunate enough to be tuned in to our performance.
Knowing this background, it may come as no surprise that I was mesmerized by the world of podcasting upon my discovery in the early 2010’s. My natural curiosity led me to wonder if I could figure out how to participate in this new world of on-demand radio shows. In fact, though much research, observation, and eventually participation, I was able to launch my own podcast in 2014. It was very much an enjoyable and experimental process, and to my surprise the small gaming community I had become imbedded in reacted favorably. At it’s peak of success Beyond Bossfights was averaging about 200 downloads per episode which I thought was a decent number considering the conservative monthly release schedule. Naturally, over time, the amount of work and repetitive nature of podcast production wore on me, and I took a long hiatus from the show.
When I re-launched BB in 2018, I changed the format in order to reduce the amount of work and attempted to create a less serious, more fun atmosphere that eventually took on the tone of being self-deprecating. I had lost most of the listeners from the old show, and the addition of co-hosts (and my ever-present anxiety and self-doubt) meant an even less frequent release schedule. Yes, we were doing it “for fun”, but any semblance of community involvement and reaction had all but vanished. Recently we would make jokes about our “fan” of the show, which sadly wasn’t as much of an exaggeration as we might have portrayed.
Much has changed in content creation since 2014. Blogging has moved to podcasts has moved to YouTube has moved to streaming, and the constant fragmentation of the audience makes it very difficult for a small, infrequent show to gain any traction.
Be aware, I say none of this to garner pity or to fish for compliments. I’m only painting a picture of the current unstable foundation of the show in order to emphasize the real bail of straw that has piled onto the proverbial camel.
Through my uneducated observation, the pandemic really changed podcasting. People were commuting less, meaning fewer podcasts were being consumed. At the same time, in their boredom, out-of-work celebrities were beginning to discover the medium. Personally, even I came to discover podcasts created by the cast of both Community and Star Trek: Voyager that I enjoyed quite a bit. But ask yourself, as a consumer with fewer listening hours, would you be more apt to want to hear, say, Garret Wang’s take on Star Trek or that of some random guy who has only observed the show from afar? It’s a pretty clear choice, and one that stacks the deck against the dude with the modern-day equivalent of the Fisher Price tape deck.
Simultaneously, the death of George Floyd and subsequent awakening of many to the systemic issues revealed via that tragic situation told those of us in the majority (rightfully) to “be quiet and listen.” The oppressed had heard enough from those who they might consider the oppressors. But it does lead one to wonder, how exactly does a podcaster “be quiet and listen” but to close up shop and no longer contribute to the conversation? If there is no longer an appetite for the opinion of my demographic, then my podcast is pointless other than for my own selfish amusement.
Lastly, I’ve recently begun to feel less like the one making the joke and more like the joke, itself. While we did embrace the caricature of “middle-aged white guy with a podcast”, I’m starting to wonder if life has begun to imitate art. The meme has started to hit too close to home. It’s sometimes hard to tell when the audience has shifted from laughing with you to laughing at you.
I very much respect and enjoy talking to Andrew and Roger. They are both high-quality individuals who continually impress me with both their thoughtfulness and good humor. They deserve a better show. They deserve a host who’s not going to over-analyze things and question his own motives at every move.
Again, this is not a pity post. I think I’ve been trying to articulate for myself why it’s been so difficult to put a show together recently, and writing it out seems to help in that regard. Also, I felt a bit of an explanation was warranted for the few who still enjoy our erratic releases. I do owe you that much.