Over the last couple of years, a few times the topic of websites and podcast have come up in discussions with my colleagues, students, and friends. While I don’t typically advertise that I have (had) a website, sometimes the conversation veers in that direction. Every so often, I’ll mention that I used to produced hours of podcasts a week and that I had an offer to make that a career.
This usually leads to the question of why I stopped. Like I’ve said before on this space, this site is supposed to be a hobby and a display of things that interest me, rather than work. Once I feel pressure to keep producing content, it no longer becomes fun and I don’t care to do it anymore. Plus, I have a profession (teaching) where I really enjoy making a difference and coming up with new ways to engage students and make classes interesting.
However, those who know a little more about how the Internet works, will ask me if I regret jumping off the podcasting train before I could have cashed in big time. I had a few people contact me after Joe Rogan signed the big contract to be exclusive to Spotify.
First, Joe Rogan hosts one of the most popular podcasts in the world. Even if I had kept up with the podcast, I doubt any of my podcasts would be the top of their genre, let alone vying for the overall most popular. Even though I was the only one at the time producing a podcast about the business (including sales figures) of video games, there’s a very low ceiling for audience size. My movie podcast was not unique and served more as a preview of what will be reviewed on the site while my running podcast was geared towards road races in Montréal. Let’s just say that two niche podcasts and a dime-a-dozen one isn’t going to get anyone to offer me millions.
Secondly, making a good podcast takes a lot of work; something I just can’t commit to. For a typical hour-long podcast, it would take an hour to record, about four hours to properly edit it (for example, removing dead noise, audio glitches, and many, many ums and ahs), and about another half-hour to create the show notes and publish it all online. That doesn’t include the research needed before each show (which could be anywhere between one to five hours). For me, as one person, that’s a lot of work. For media companies that have more than one person working on the operation, it’s a lot easier to produce content in a shorter period of time.
Thirdly, I still can’t wrap my head around what makes something popular on the Internet. My podcast collaborator from the past, Chris Karpyszyn, would routinely float the idea of us record ourselves playing video games and uploading the footage. I never understood the idea of “let’s play” videos; why would I want to watch someone else play a video game when I want to play that game myself. It feels like something someone’s little brother would be forced to do.
Of course, we know that game streaming is a multi-billion-dollar industry and perhaps had we got on the ground floor; we’d have a small sliver of that pie. I won’t lie and say that if someone offered me six-figures to play video games and stream the footage on the Internet 50 hours a week, I would consider it, but I can’t see myself ever enjoying it. It would feel very weird and awkward since I would never be able to understand what’s motivating my audience to watch me.
There’s a lot about online media I don’t understand. Let’s plays are one thing, but unboxings, snack tastings, and videos in a similar vein just go over my head. This isn’t because I’m no longer a cool kid with my pulse on what’s popular because I didn’t understand why this stuff was interesting 15 years ago.
For sure, there’s money there in all of this and people are watching, but it’s completely lost on me.
What concerns me though is when I would talk to my students about online media. They think it’s as simple as posting some stuff online and they’re practically billionaires. I have had so many futile conversations where I would try to emphasis that most of what you see in the YouTube/Instagram/podcasting circles comes from people who already have some sort of stardom. Sure, the early YouTubers and Instagramers may have been viral hits, but they’re mature platforms and it’s extremely hard to breakthrough.
I tried to encourage my students that they should use these platforms to have fun. If you want to stream every single Mario game in existence because you enjoy it, I don’t know why you would do it (I’d rather spend more time outside running or kayaking), but as long as you don’t see it as a career opportunity, have fun!
I also try to stress that when I started this site 18 years ago, people were still trying to figure out the Internet. I doubt many of the opportunities I had back then would even be fathomable today. I think the only exception to this are tech blogs as phone companies are more than happy to send practically anyone phones to review (P.S., I could always use a new phone).
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m sorry Chris for being so lame. I cost us both thousands, if not millions of Internet dollars.