It’s time to take stock as the year, and decade, wind to a close. As usual at this time of year we have announced several new shows on TWiT, and, sadly, we decided to say good-bye to an old favorite, Triangulation, a show I started in 2005 with John C. Dvorak and Larry Lessig (those episodes seem lost alas), resumed with Tom Merritt in 2011, and a weekly podcast that in 427 episodes over most of the decade, with a variety of hosts, has brought you interviews with some of the most interesting people in tech and a contemporaneous chronicle of how the world has changed around us. All those episodes will continue to be available at TWiT.tv
But I wanted you to understand why Triangulation was cancelled, and in the process understand why some shows make it and others don’t.
Ad-supported networks, like TWiT, rely on consistent listening. In general, it will take four to seven impressions (listens) before an ad works. On a show that’s listened to every week, an advertiser need only buy four to seven ads to get your attention.
With an interview show like Triangulation, most of the audience only listens to the interviews they’re interested in. Let’s say it’s one in five. That means even though 100,000 people might say they “listen” to Triangulation, any given episode is only going to get 20,000 downloads. An advertiser will have to buy 5x the number of ads to reach the same number of impressions on any given listener. Which makes Triangulation five times more expensive than a show that you listen to every week.
Interview shows are completely viable with subscription models. NPR’s Fresh Air is a fantastic show – the gold standard for interview shows – but it wouldn’t survive on ad-supported network. It does great in a subscription or listener-supported environment because millions of people love it enough to donate, even though they might only listen to a handful of shows a year.
That’s why broadcast media, and podcasts, produce mostly shows that generate consistent weekly listens. It’s why shows like Serial do so well, you have to listen every week. It’s why shows like Triangulation do so poorly. It sad, but it’s true.
We’ve never experimented with the subscription model on TWiT. It’s hard to get people to pay for shows they’ve been getting for free. And I worry that our technically sophisticated audience would make a pay-wall porous pretty quickly.
But I wanted you to understand why you hear one kind of programming on ad-supported networks, and another on listener-supported channels. We carried Triangulation for as long as we could, but we ultimately can’t produce shows that lose money. It breaks my heart, but that’s just the way it is.
Farewell, old friend. It’s been a great decade producing some of the shows I’m most proud of. I’ll miss you.