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On Canon Puncture 60 and Listener Agenda

So, I promised Daniel Perez my thoughts on this a few weeks back.  Canon Puncture has released three episodes since, the last two of which I’m on, so these thoughts don’t reflect the current show.  That said, listening to CP 60 was interesting — I completely hated it, but it gave me something to think about regarding why I did and why, frankly, that was my problem.

In brief, the Canon Puncture guys changed their format at episode 60.  Instead of the prior “homage to Sons of Kryos” format (for lack of a better term) that involved multiple segments headed — and in some places even wholly created — by the different hosts, they have opted to just do one segment where the hosts talk about news & blog posts that have hit their radar over the last week. It went from a buffet of topics about what was on their mind to a disorganized news show.

I have a rule when it comes to new podcast & podcasts that changed their format: I’ll give you five minutes.  If, after five minutes, I have no interest in listening, I won’t — my MP3 player doesn’t own me, I own it — and I’ll skip over to the next show or play a song or whatever.  Five minutes in, I turned off CP 60 in disgust, and only turned it back on out of a desire to give Rich Rogers, my good friend, full feedback rather than just “eh, I turned it off after five minutes.”

So, I used “listener agenda” in my title.  Here’s where I get to that: there might not be anything inherently wrong with what the guys are doing on Canon Puncture, on any objective level.  Yes, I used “in disgust,” but I’m responsible for my own reactions, not them — because I’m responsible for my own personal listener agenda.  (Oh, and for those paying attention, I’m totally burying the lead here.)

(I’ve delayed on this post because I’ve tried to work out what I mean by that, but I have learned that I rarely know what I think about something until after I have written and posted it.)

The way I figure it, Listener Agenda is the idea that listeners have different desires and goals in listening to podcasts or other media.  This isn’t a revolutionary idea — in fact, we often will say something like “this isn’t the show for you” — but it’s one I don’t think we generally explore enough.

To be upfront: listeners have constantly shifting agenda, depending on what they are listening to, what sort of day they’ve had, etc.  I think people can see a baseline agenda in their media consumption, but also accept that it depends on various factors.

Some listeners have the agenda to be entertained.  They are focused on laughter, or levity, or whatever it is that they get out of the media they’re listening to that helps pass the time and please them.  I suspect a lot of commute-listeners are in this category, which is why actual play podcasts are as popular as they are, since that’s a lot of content with with to fill time.

Others have the agenda to be educated.  They are listening to shows in order to learn something, either on an abstract “I like learning!” level or for a specific subject they are dealing with.  I’m usually in this boat, as I have a constant desire to understand better my craft.  Listening to shows in order to understand something is very much engaging in that something.

Another agenda is to argue.  You see this a lot with any politically-charged topic or interviews with people that others love to hate, but there are listeners out there who will consume media specifically to make contact with it by arguing against it.  A lot of shows that stir up controversy are looking for listeners of this stripe, because they’re vocal.  (But I’m getting ahead of myself by talking about shows attracting certain listeners.)

There are other agendas, but let’s stick with these three.  First of all, these are not mutually-exclusive, but I would bet money that deep down at any given moment, there’s always one that’s dominant.  There’s never equality for that first-place spot at a point in time, even if so over a long enough sampling of someone’s listening habits.

Now, here’s where I get back to my reaction to CP 60.  Previously, I was engaging with two agendas: Education and Fellow Podcaster (yes, not in the three I listed, but that’s a specific agenda that media creators often engage in).  Specifically, I prefer Education in the form of detailed thought on a topic, akin to the old Sons of Kryos format and my own Master Plan.  So, when I listened to episode 60, my agenda was in no way met.  Instead, I had this other thing that, if my agendas were more aligned, I might have enjoyed.

I told Rich about some of the technical bits that he could tighten up on, and about why I didn’t like CP 60, but when it comes down to it, they crafted a show more meant to engage someone who wants to be entertained — illustrated by the ratio of banter to news content, particularly the more bileous banter that I really, really didn’t care for.  (Whether that’s also crafting a show for the Arguing listener or not is another question that I’m not sure I know the answer to.)

It was probably disappointing for Rich to hear it from a friend, but I told him that I didn’t expect to listen to Canon Puncture again, because there’s nothing in the show for me.  Others have said that the show’s new format is great, and cool — I totally disagree, but I respect that the reason I do is wholly about my tastes versus theirs.

Now, all that said, there’s another shift in Canon Puncture starting with 62.  Rich & I talked months ago about possibly doing some segments for CP, and back with their old format that made sense.  Given the new format, we brought up the idea again, and decided to give it a shot.  I enjoy the conversations that Rich & I have, and I hope others do as well, but I can respect if it doesn’t fit in with the current listener expectations — it certainly don’t seem to with Daniel Perez, who has jokingly (but not untruthfully) said that it doesn’t belong on the show.

By the way, “it doesn’t fit in your agenda” isn’t meant as a dismissal.  There’s a reason my third in my Podcaster Three Questions is “who is your target audience?”  You need to know what agenda you’re shooting for and if that’s the agenda your target audience cares about.  To those who complain about your show — if they’re not really in your target audience, whatever, but if so and you’re missing the mark, you need to fix your damn show.  Thus, if I’m actually in CP’s target audience (and I’m not sure I am), then they’re missing with the pure news format (though, possibly fixed with the additional content that Rich & I are doing as a second segment).  If Daniel is, then they need to this about ditching the stuff Rich & I are doing.  If we both are, having apparently radically different agendas, then they have a lot of soul-searching to do in order to resolve the conflict within their listener base.

Regardless of what they do, I wish the crew of the HMS Canon Puncture the best of luck, and will always be in their corner to help them out.

Anyway, this topic is something I’m going to chew on for a bit and write on more in the future, because I don’t think we ask a craft — by which I mean RPG podcasters — do enough discourse on stuff like this.  This is an awesome craft, and we could use more analysis of this thing we do.

– Ryan

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26 Responses to On Canon Puncture 60 and Listener Agenda

  1. Tom Humes says:

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. […] Ryan Macklin On Canon Puncture 60 and Listener Agenda. […]

  3. Call me out like that, won’t you. ;-)
    I’m glad I harped on you to write this; excellent thoughts and I need to chew a bit on it before replying.

    I’ll make two quick clarifications:
    1- … Daniel Perez, who has jokingly (but not untruthfully) said that it doesn’t belong on the show.
    Actually, what I said was that you were intruding upon the new format. I stand by that and I’ll address it in my reply.

    2- If Daniel is, then they need to this about ditching the stuff Rich & I are doing.
    You jumped to a conclusion here. I actually DON’T like the new show format, for not that dissimilar reasons. But I didn’t evaluate the whole shift based on 5 minutes or even one show. I was hoping to give them 3 shows, but by the next one, your segment with Rich intruded upon that.

    Like I said, a reply forthcoming. Thanks for a fantastic post. I do agree we need to examine and and analyze this craft of ours more.

  4. Ryan Macklin says:

    Tom: Thanks! The layout needs to change a little to accommodate the size of posts I make at some point, so it’s the sort of “temporary” that is slowly becoming “permanent” since I rarely have time to fiddle.

    Daniel: I’m an impatient bastard (who has maybe three hours a week max he can devote to podcasts), so that’s where my 5 minutes comes from. Sorry for jumping to that conclusion — I misread your tone. Yay, internet!

    Feel free to make that reply a blog post. I’m all about blog-to-blog replies these days. That’s how real awesome discourse can happen, I think.

  5. @Ryan – no worries, I figured that was the case. Will link once post is done.

  6. I don’t really want to do a post on my blog about this because I don’t want to rain on CP’s parade without the context, and the context lies here, so here this part of my reply goes.

    (Frankly, it should go over at CP #60, but I don’t want to go piss in their pool, so I’ll do it here, since there’s already pee in the water [ok, I’ll drop that analogy] and hopefully they’ll come over to read what is said and opine as well.)

    I actually did not like the new CP format. While I enjoy tons industry news and punditry, this was more an audio version of Mick’s On My Radar posts. Those work in written form because I can follow the link immediately to see what’s going on, but in the podcast, it’s like, Ok, so what? What do YOU GUYS think about the item you’re bringing to my attention? They did a bit of that, but it was too short, too curt. There wasn’t enough interactivity between the hosts, just a few comments and forced transitions.

    My listener agenda for Canon Puncture was “to be entertained” and “to be engaged” (a subset of “to be educated”). The entertainment for me came from the fact that I know all members of the CP crew, I call them friends, have played with them, hung out with them, talked crap with them, so their conversations on CP afforded me a way to be a part of their group in some way. The education/engagement came from their conversation about the various topics. They were folks on the same path that I am, struggling with issues in his hobby of ours, thinking out loud through their problems and discoveries, failures and triumphs. Their interviews were interesting because they spoke to people in all echelons of the industry, and asked questions that tackled both the design aspect of the DIY Indie community but also the who-cares-about-that-let’s-roll-some-dice aspect of the average gamer outlook.

    The changes in hosts in recent months were alredy a bit off-putting for me. I liked Mick’s addition to the cast because I like Mick and I know where he is in this gaming path and how much his questions jive with mine. When Chris Perrin left, however, that was not such a good thing. I’m of the belief that a band that gets famous with one lineup then has a significant change in said lineup might as well call themselves something else (INXS without Michael Hutchence is not INXS anymore, sorry). So when Perrin leaves the show, something shifts for me as far as what CP is. And it’s not an insult to the rest of the casts, because to my delight the show still delivered for me, but it wasn’t the same. So there’s already all these changes going on by the time CP #60 drops.

    I decided to not judge the new CP format based soley on one episode; I’d give it three, then send the folks some honest feedback, both as a listener and fellow podcaster. Then episode 62 drops and the format, the one they made this whole deal about, was changed once more, without explanation. The addition was a segment between Rich and you, Ryan, one I skipped, not because I didn’t care to listen to what you had to say about NPC Scenes, but because it felt like it was an intrusion upon the format they had already established they would follow (the segment’s insertion into the middle of the regular roundup part even supports this feeling – there was no organic transition, but rather a forced one). Then there’s the text on the post at the site, which just rubbed me the wrong way:

    Episode 62 of Canon Puncture features an offering of newsy bits from the Three Canoneers and a discussion that Rich had with Ryan Macklin about NPC scenes. So don’t say we no longer offer meaty content, folks because hey, we’ve got the Macklinator on board, and it don’t get meatier than that.

    Who said that? I follow the comments on the CP Podcast posts and there were none saying anything to the effect. But I do know some feedback was offered to that effect, by you, Ryan, at the very least. Now, I actually don’t have any issue with the one-host segment, except that by doing this, the CP crew changed the show to what it was before! There’s an expression in Spanish that goes, “O te peinas o te haces rolos,” which roughly translates to “either comb your hair or put on curlers.” Basically, pick what you’ll do, choose one, then do it. That’s how I felt with Canon Puncture.

    I’d rather they go back to how things were, do their segments — some together, some solo — and add the OMR roundup as well. I don’t know that my problem was one of my agenda not being met, because they were still entertaining so at least that agenda was hit spot on, but rather one of my expectations hot being met. I was promised X, given X twice before it was changed to Y before I had a chance to know if I really liked X.

    Ultimately this is a lot of navel-gazing, really. As long as the CP guys like what they are doing, so be it. They should be their primary target audience, not you or I, because if they don’t like what they are doing, then why do it at all? I’ll keep checking it out for now, but I don’t know for how long. Then again, that has always been my prerogative as listener.

    I do want to chew more on the idea of Listener Agendas in general and that one for sure will be an actual post.

  7. Ryan Macklin says:

    Daniel: Some of what you say I significantly disagree with, but I’ll have to think about them, and they’ll likely be fuel for a follow-up post rather than comments.

    Though, part of it is because you’re assuming that they were happy with their new format and that you’re owed three episodes of a new format before they continue experimenting. There’s a lot of entitlement and demand in your language, Daniel — I don’t know if you’re aware of that.

  8. Ryan: No, not really, so I look forward to follow-up comments.
    I am not owed anything by them. But as a listener of the show, I do have certain expectations based on what they promise to deliver (covers aren’t the only ones that promise something). CP 60 didn’t meet that, but I figured let me wait at least 3 times to see how it goes. CP 61 was the same, and 62 already changed it, so it becomes a question of, do I reset the 3-episode rule or not?

    I do not demand anything from them. They give me the show they put out, and it’s up to me to take it or leave it. I offered this extremely long and honest explanation because it is what informs my current feeling about the show, which is part of what we’re discussing here. But otherwise I would’ve kept it to myself. This is far more mental real-estate than I’d normally give it.

    It probably comes across as “CP must cater to me” but it really doesn’t matter to me, because ultimately I am only 1 listener. I have my opinion, but that and 5 cents gets you squat. In order to express certain things I went the most direct route possible, which usually circumvents politeness though not out of rudeness. So don’t reply to my tone because it’s more of a limitation imposed by the format. Over a beer or two the same words would sound differently.

  9. Ryan Macklin says:

    Daniel: Fair enough. I still disagree with some elements, but I admit that some are probably a matter of this being the Internet (and maybe a touch of it is me defending not myself but Rich for making that decision). Thus, the subsequent disagreements will be intellectual rather than gut-reaction. :)

  10. Ryan: Though, you know, Rich himself could comment as well.

    Dammit, times like this I wish we could just get together and talk. Damn this whole country in the way.

    I also get the distinct feeling that you and I are arguing as proxies.

  11. Ryan Macklin says:

    Daniel: Possibly, and while he could, it might be better for him to see where this goes — much like Mick is doing, even if it’s annoying me some. ;)

    The idea of the second segment thing with Rich is partly inspired by pointing out how The Voice of the Revolution works — there’s a starting news segment, and then topical content. In that respect, I don’t see it as being the same as their old format, because that was their Kryos-era one.

  12. Rich and Mick: Chime in already!

    Ryan: See, I like the roundup and the blabber segments, but they need to be more organic, I think. Establish the expectation with the listener of what they’ll get. I already know that I’m gonna get both, so 63 was ok (liked the guest appearance by Judd – but does that hearken back to the Kryos-era?) and maybe that’s really all it is: set up an expectation then meet it.

  13. Ryan Macklin says:

    Daniel: Sure, but this is getting WAY off topic. I was using this to illustrate a point about listener agenda, not talk about CP 60. In fact, I would like to stop doing that on this blog post now and take it somewhere more appropriate, because I think these comments will erode the point I’m trying to make in the OP.

    We’re turning a theory blog post into something that is really not.

  14. I totally ran with the wrong ball you threw out here, I realize. I also gut-reacted to more than what is said on the post. My bad. Were it in my capabilities, I’d delete the whole thing as it adds nothing constructive, especially in a public arena.

  15. Ok, we pick it up on the next one, then. I do want to chew on Listener Agenda, though. Maybe even alongside Listener Expectations.

    I keep saying we need a podcast to talk about podcasting.

  16. Ryan Macklin says:

    Bah. In hindsight, I realize that I started talking about listener expectations towards the end, and not agenda. They are not the same thing, though they’re closely related. Bad blogger. Ah well, that’s what future posts are for.

  17. Ryan Macklin says:

    Daniel: Awesome. If you don’t mind, while it mind not add to the general public, it could be something that the CP crew finds value in. Mind if I leave it up there?

    Also, I’m totally amused at how my deleting & reposting my comment (as I wasn’t logged in earlier) has made the conversation out of sync. :)

  18. Mick Bradley says:

    I’ve responded to CP-specific and Mick-specific stuff over at harpingmonkey.com in the comments of the post where I linked the OP here.

    Here, when I get a chance later, perhaps I’ll talk about my listener agenda experience with The Game Master Show specifically and my listener agenda in general, which is, I think, primarily social, which is an agenda that I think is valid.

  19. Ryan: Yeah, no problem. While maybe not expressed in the best of ways, it does express my feedback of CP’s episodes of late.

  20. Rich Rogers says:

    Ryan and Daniel,

    Thanks for your feedback on the show, guys. Ryan, we’ve had this discussion before so it isn’t a surprise. Daniel, you hadn’t unpacked your thoughts previously to this degree (that I’d seen) so thanks for sharing them.

    To speak to Ryan’s blog post:
    I feel our crew is better suited to entertain foremost and sometimes educate during the process by sharing our thoughts and experiences. I think of it as the Fat Albert theory, “If you aren’t careful, you just might learn something, too.”

    Now on the format change:
    The feedback on the discussion/banter per news item is interesting. We began with the Buzz Out Loud (a CNET tech podcast) method. They spend 2-5 minutes per topic. So, we recorded with an approximate number of topics to fill the new 30ish minute time slot with the same ratio in mind I’m not married to doing 2 minute discussions, but I felt when BoL does it, they nail it in that time pretty easily. So it was a good starting point.

    As for adding in Ryan, well, that was me being selfish when I really look at it. I think Ryan and I have interesting discussions and thought it might be a way to please different kinds of listeners. The feedback I’d received about the format wasn’t just from Ryan, and. The addition is still something we’re considering. Ryan and I recorded four bits so far. We may do more, or maybe not. I think it’s dependent on our mood and if we have something to talk about.

    I hate to tell you, Daniel, but we have more changes down the road: additions or enhancements, in my opinion. And we haven’t stopped doing interviews, so they will be coming soon, too.

  21. @Rich – May I suggest you voice that more changes are coming on the show? The more I think about this, the more I realize that at least for me, this wasn’t about Listener Agenda, but about Listener Expectation; create the expectation in me, and I’m ready for it.

    And I want more interviews, so that’s good.

  22. Michael Erb says:

    Interesting discussion. I’ve found over the last six months I have moved away from certain podcasts, not because they were bad, but because I wasn’t getting what I wanted/needed from them. Unfortunately CP has fallen into that category, but not because it is a bad podcast. I appreciate Ryan and Daniel for helping articulate something I hadn’t really understood myself (same goes to Rich and Mick)

    BTW, I personally have given up all attempts to do a podcast, so let me add I have immense respect for the time and effort it takes to put out one of these shows.

    ME

  23. Mick Bradley says:

    It occurs to me at this point that if you still want to conduct a conversation about listener agenda, Ryan, you might want to start another OP that is entirely podcast-neutral and focuses directly on just the agenda part. Because this thread is going to go down in history as being about Canon Puncture, and I doubt there’s much anyone can do about it at this point.

    And this is a good thing. This topic finally coming out in the open has been very cathartic for me, I think it has helped Rich have a clearer picture of what he wants for the show, and it has definitely helped me to clarify my and articulate what my own agenda is.

    Not to mention that according to Google Analytics, the CP site has gotten a pretty sizable Macklin Bump the past three days. And lots of the visits are first-timers. So I guess it’s really true that there’s no such thing as bad press.

    But before you get the big head from all this kumbayah-thanks-for-the-beating-it-only-made-us-stronger chatter, you are still Canon Puncture’s sworn arch-rival and also a bit of a douchebag for the part of your OP where you said our segment was “bilious banter”.

  24. Mick Bradley says:

    For those who don’t know me well, that last paragraph in the previous comment was tongue-in-cheek. Don’t let the Interwebz warp it otherwise.

    Lotsa Love,

    Mick the Bilious Banter Monkey

  25. Ryan Macklin says:

    Mick,

    First para: Yes. This wasn’t meant to be the entirety of the idea, just an introduction.

    Second para: Excellent. This pleases Macklin greatly. *strokes chin*

    Third para: And now you see my ulterior motive for posting what I did.

    Fourth para: Dude, be careful slinging language around on the internet. That’s how I keep getting into trouble. Most people don’t know you, and even those who do you might not be catching them at their best. When I woke up this morning, I grabbed my iPhone to check my email and went “oh, fuck, is this thing now?” before I saw the follow-up comment. :)

    (Granted, if I had done that *after* I did my morning ritual of “becoming consciously aware of my surroundings and more human with coffee & shower”, then I would have known it was a you-ism more readily.)