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.