Friday, December 28, 2018

TWIT: Does anyone care anymore?

How the mighty hath to speak.

I don't watch TWIT much these days and when I do I'm frequently disappointed.  Which in itself is a surprise since I didn't think things could get any worse.  Looking at the holiday offerings this year for example was much like last year.  Just a bunch of "Best of's" which were compilations of anything but.  Where were the Holiday themed episodes?  The special round tables with the likes of John Hodgman and Jonanthan Coulton?  Where's the New Year's Special!

Oh yeah, Leo don't do that anymore...

Truth be told, the promise of the TWIT was always far more grand than the product delivered.  Big dreams, the resurgence of a 90's tech icon.  A network built on a small but vocal demographic of those for whom their mantra, their religion, their dearest wish was all things tech.

It wasn't a hard sell for devotees of the defunct TechTV ( formerly ZDTV) basic cable channel.  Leo Laporte was an affable "every-man" who just happened to have a silky smooth presentation and at least an idea of what he was talking about.  

You never saw him confuse a Hard Drive with a Video card.  He was someone you felt you could trust.  A family man, someone like you and me.  A trusted friend you drag along with you to CompUSA.

Yes, I'm dating myself but only in so much as the era where Laporte was relevant.



A check of the current TWIT schedule reveals just how bad things really are.  Entire days of the calendar are blank with most having maybe 2 shows recording and of those only a few stalwart remnants of the near-glory of the network's past.

Nostalgia wasn't enough and even Laporte's attempt to rekindle the vibe of his TechTV days has fallen flat with the announced cancellation of "The New Screen Savers."  Gone as well are the Iyaz Akhtar created, Know How which in later years found itself increasingly squeezed to the margins and finally choked out of existence with the exit of replacement host Fr. Robert Ballacer.  

The good Father's charisma was the only thing keeping many shows afloat in the past few years as he played stand-in for Laporte and other popular (mostly departed) hosts.  His exit in June of 2018 might as well have been the death knell for the network with Laporte the only recognizable face left.  

Those that might have taken up the reigns and brought the network to the lofty heights envisioned by its founder like Sara Lane, Tom Merritt, Brian Brushwood and Shannon Morse now long since gone.  

Their content and audience driven programming replaced by bland, also-ran drivel only an advertiser could love.  

It's not unlike so many popular YouTube channels that now focus their content almost exclusively at the pleasure of their paid sponsorship.  Don't expect a sour word about a Geforce Card from a YouTuber with NVIDIA sponsorship for example. 

So it is with TWIT.  That which destroyed TECHTV has ultimately destroyed TWIT.  It is now an also-ran competing with YouTube channels produced in somebody's garage for the same advertiser dollars.  Laporte has admitted as much saying his reason for cancelling the New Screen Savers was he was trying to... 

"do a network television show on a podcaster’s budget."

And the now all too familiar excuse for any show's demise on TWIT....

“The New Screen Savers” just hasn’t developed a big enough audience to pay for itself.". (source)

Yes folks, that's an admission of what TWIT is today.  A lowly podcast channel with the overhead of a network broadcaster and every show under the gun to perform.  Or so we would be led to believe.

Yet by Laporte's own admission the network was pulling in 13 to 14 million a year (source) which far exceeds 99% of even the largest YouTube channel's revenue.  Apparently that's not enough as the studio moved to a smaller location in 2016 and has since axed or put on hiatus at least half a dozen shows.  

Still it seems there's never enough money for TWIT and every show has to carry it's own weight.  Yet inexplicably shows like Floss Weekly and Ham Nation continue unabated even though they cater to a subset of a niche at best.  

Meanwhile shows more in line with TWIT's general demographic like Coding 101, Know How, This Week In Law and Game On get the axe.

That pool of money is a lot more contentious than it used to be too.  In at least that much we can cut Laporte some slack for TWIT's failure.

TWIT is now competing for advertisers with those same YouTube channels (some led by former TWIT hosts) with far less lofty ideals but a far more consistent viewership. 

A quick peek at the ads you'll see on the average YouTube tech channel are also found on TWIT.  With most TWIT shows struggling to break into a 4 figure audience per episode no matter where you watch them (most are low 3 figure BTW) it's not TWIT dictating the terms anymore.  Advertisers can find far greener pastures elsewhere.

Let's also not forget that YouTube creators don't have the overhead of TWIT (maybe) and can survive on much thinner margins (definitely) while providing the same mediocre content. 

That said, none of the supposed financial strife at TWIT seems to have stopped Laporte and wife/[sic]CEO  from extravagances like month-long European vacations or purchases of luxury items like his Tesla Model X (source)

There was a time when Laporte chafed at the idea of TWIT as a podcast network.  Now, he clings to it for every bit of relevancy it can afford him.

And that aint much friends.

TWIT is now like a favorite TV series that over the years has replaced the entire cast and writing staff.  Nothing remains but the set pieces and it's just not enough.

TWIT isn't dead but it's been a slow roll down the slope to the graveyard and we're far closer than we've been before. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Holiday Intermission

So it's the day after Christmas and maybe it's some kind of self-torture but I always stay up till midnight on Christmas day to hear the last Christmas song played on the Radio.  This year it was Josh Groban's O Holy Night.

Not my favorite version but it closed out the Christmas part of the Holiday Season.  It was followed up with the usual parade of commercials and a station identification that drove the point home that as far as that radio station was concerned the Holidays were OVER!

It starts on Christmas Eve with me.  I feel like there's a huge hourglass somewhere with the last few grains of sand flowing through that tiny choke point and taking the joy of the season with it.

I'm aware that perception is everything and my analogy is my own.  Perhaps it's just that I love the Christmas season but there's something comforting in knowing that at this time of year the feeling is always present. It may get shuffled to the background but it colors my mood regardless.  It brings a hope and an optimism that may be difficult to conjure up at any other time.

So the Christmas music is over and we sit in that intermission between Christmas and New Years.  It's a fairly useless week.  Good luck getting anyone to do anything if they're even around.  It's dead time to fill.  For some a reprieve from the pressures of family responsibilities around the holiday.  For others a time of reflection especially as the old year closes.

It's a time that forces you to deal with yourself.  Maybe you've got a busy social calendar, maybe you have to work, maybe you're on your own.  It doesn't matter.  There are always those down times where you're forced to look around you and see what is and more importantly what isn't there.

The holiday decorations that a week earlier brought joy to your heart now look a bit tacky and faded.  The pressures of the ordinary reassert themselves without hindrance from that Christmas carol ringing in your head.

Christmastime is a powerful force and its passing can make us forget that we somehow managed to survive the other 11 months of the year without the encouragement of Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.

If Christmas is that important, the feeling, the meaning of it so dear then we should recover from the "Christmas High" fairly quickly.  Reason being because Christmas is really just a magnification of our own better selves.  That heart is always present.  It's just easier to show when the trees go up and the reindeer antlers go on the dog.

At least that's how I look at it.  I don't claim to know your mind or your motivations.  I only offer up the possibility that if the holiday season means that much to you that you carry that spirit with you no matter what time of year.

Connect with that and don't be surprised if your perception is altered.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Holiday Heart

So it's the holiday season again.  You know the one with Santa Claus, Baby Jesus, Menorahs and a month of sales of the "Black" or "Cyber"  variety.

Such humble origins as a celebration of  the Winter Solstice to ward off the doldrums of the most dreary of seasons gave way to the very pinnacle of rampant consumerism and oh yeah, religion got thrown in there along the way.

History tells us that the Catholic Church specifically set the date for the first Christmas celebrations to coincide with the otherwise pagan celebration occurring on December 25th.  

Of course the Catholic Church denies it...😇

...and Bill Clinton did not have.....never mind...

It's a good sales technique: Make the pitch while people are drunk on the spirit, or "spirits," mix in some familiar pagan ritual and symbolism they can relate to and suddenly the pews are filled with the faithful.

Nothing wrong with that...

It's a classic sales tactic.  That's what Christmas has been from the very beginning.  At least so far as the Christmas we know.  Save the assertions of blasphemy.  Theologists, historians and astronomers alike have pretty much agreed that the divine birth likely occurred around late September.

So I suppose all those holiday decorations showing up in October aren't too early after all.   In fact they're a bit late!

Why bring all this up now?

Because it's about faith.  It's about believing in something greater than what's staring back at you in the mirror.  That's the lesson regardless of your choice in divine text.  

Without faith there is no peace.  Faith in God, faith in our better angels, faith in each other to do what is right and good.

Couch it n religion if you must but only so far as it serves the greater purpose.  That being making this life, this world better for us having been here.  What we do and who we are right now is the core of all spiritual belief.  Whether we believe in divine reward at the end of this life or that this life is reward in itself we are encouraged to bring light into the world.  

Each day is an opportunity to create something beautiful and this time of year makes it all the more possible.

That's what I feel.  It's something that stays with me.  It lets me appreciate the Holiday Heart as I call it.

It's a feeling of unity, hope and yes "faith."   I make no claim as to what or if there is any divine inspiration for it.  Faith has more to do with who we are than who we may or may not pray to.  Whether we find it though rampant consumerism or religious conviction there's still a need that's satisfied.  A desire to bring and receive joy.

Be open to it. 

Tap into it.

Share it.  

It's an energy of positivity.  An elevation to a higher state above the petty concerns of all those things that ultimately have no value.

Value lies in the good we can put into the world.  It lies in being that which we hope to find.  

As you take in the sights and sounds of the season take a moment to feel the Holiday Heart.  See the light beyond the dazzling light displays.  Feel the music beyond the sacred hymns.  

Allow the energy to flow and the love to grow within you. 

That's the Holiday Heart.

Merry Christmas!
Happy Hanukah!

...and joy to whatever may move you this special time of year!  (regardless of who came up with the date  🎄🎄🎄 )