Monday, January 5, 2015
Thoughts on Multimedia and What it Means to Put on a Show in 2015
If you've read this blog for awhile or if you've ever talked to me for more than 3 minutes you are probably aware that I spend a lot of time thinking about podcasts. So you probably wouldn't be surprised to find out that earlier today I was looking through a list of the most popular podcasts in the United States trying to figure out WHY they were the most popular podcasts in the United States.
I'd noticed some things I'd noticed before. Like, many of the most popular podcasts have celebrity hosts. That is, the person who stars in the podcast is famous for something other than podcasting. Joe Rogan was a somewhat popular stand up comedian who was on TV. Tyler Oakley is a huge YouTube star. Kevin Smith directed movies that teenaged me loves/d.
I also noticed that most of the really popular podcasts are also part of large, popular podcasting networks like EarWolf, NPR, Carolla Digital, or Nerdist. These are organizations that can leverage their existing influence to make something new or relatively new more popular than it would've been on its own.
I noticed other stuff. Lots of shows hosted by standups. Lots of educational content (hooray!) Lots of nerdy stuff (double hooray!) Not enough diversity (reverse hooray!)
Then I noticed something, or thought of something, I hadn't really thought of/noticed before.
Many of the most popular podcasts are part of shows that exist across different types of media. Welcome to Night Vale is a podcast, but it's also a book, and a stage show. If you follow their Facebook and Twitter accounts, their social media presence also feels like an integral part of the story that they're trying to tell. Those aforementioned standup hosted podcasts are in many ways just an extension of said stand-up's routine/stage show. Lots of those guys also make video blogs and web series. A podcast is just a piece of the puzzle, even if it's THE piece of the puzzle.
A lot has been made of the fact that we're entering a period with no gatekeepers. That is to say, artists now have a lot more power over their future. You CAN go to Hollywood and get famous, or you can sit in your house in Montana and build a successful video blogging empire (I'm looking at you VlogBrothers.) The tools and infrastructure are there if you're willing to hustle and catch some lucky breaks here and there.
But, if you're going to do that, you need to be willing, and it appears lots of people are, to build things that exist on multiple platforms. You COULD just do a play, but you could also do a play with a web comic that serves as a prequel or a podcast set in world from the perspective of one of the characters, or whatever. Or WHATEVER. I'm not saying that to be dismissive. I'm saying that because technology means the possibilities for small-scale entertainers to build their worlds are potentially endless. That is so neat! I'm genuinely excited that so many people are building things that exist... across worlds wherein the experience becomes richer as you delve across platforms.
It's possible to be in too many places, so it's important to note that you don't have to be everywhere. You just need to be in the places where it makes sense for your story to take place.
There's a whole "so what" conversation to be had here which goes like this:
"So what? Who cares. It's just going to get buried under all of the other stuff out there. And even if it's not, how do you monetize it?"
And those are valid points! And I have opinions about them! But not today. I'll talk about those in future blogs. Today, I'm just going to enjoy all of the cross-media goodness the world is sending my way.