Why We Had to Cancel Triangulation ☹️

Triangulation album art

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.

Bill Atkinson talks Hypercard, the original Macintosh, and more with Leo
Bill Atkinson talks Hypercard, the original Macintosh, and more with Leo

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.

13 Replies to “Why We Had to Cancel Triangulation ☹️”

  1. I’m not a broadcasting guru, but it seems to me you’re spot on. I subscribed to Triangulation but probably only listened to one in six or seven. Maybe the subjects were too diverse?

    1. If you subscribe with auto-download (like 95% of subscribers), then it didn’t matter if you listened or not. Leo’s post makes no sense. Downloads are the same as listens.

  2. Leo, sad to see this show go away, even though I am one of those occasional listeners. It was always nice to know that if I want some in-depth analysis or discussion on a particular topic or person I would find it on TWIT with Triangulation. Love your shows and everything you do here.

  3. thanks for the explanation.

    Shame you decided not to subsidize educational shows like Triangulation, Twil, Home Theater Geeks as loss leaders with the profits made from your fluff shows like IOS Today, MBW, You might have then been both profitable and respected.

    Well, now you can afford more vacations and Apple watches.

  4. I’ve been listening to twit since the very beginning. I would gladly pay $5 a month to help support the channel. Think of some incentive for subscribers. Maybe allow those that subscribe a chance to bid on some of the tech you review after your done with it. Or maybe a draw/give away.

    Anyway, ads are fine and should continue but I bet many are like me and would subscribe to support the channel.

  5. Leo sad to see the show go because I always felt and could hear the joy of when you did your interviews. I also liked when other hosts got to conduct individual episodes. More than any other show on your network Triangulation expanded my knowledge and let me be a fly on the wall listening to some of the most important, influential people in the world of tech. Thank you. It did good. Stay proud. It was a grand run.

  6. Thank you guys for all the many hours of entertainment and news that you produce each week. Thank you Leo for the post and explanation. Keep up the good work.

  7. Appreciate the blog post Leo. Sounds like a difficult but rational decision which I respect.

    For me, I subscribe to too many Podcasts and often fall behind. I understand the first week or so of a Podcast release is most important for download numbers. I know my Triangulation feed (on DoggCatcher) would often get behind by a month.

    Keep up the good work, Twit is special and hope it continues for many years to come.

  8. Won’t miss the show, which did poorly because of you, Leo. You always competed against the guest for air time, you gasbag. I get more substantial information listening to 15 minutes of a CHM “oral history” video than an hour of Triangulation. The way you treated Stewart Cheifet, who has more talent and credentials in his little pinky than your entire career has to show for, was despicable. Good riddance!

  9. I’m pretty sure I’ve dug through the Triangulation archives more than any other Twit.tv show.

    And frankly, I’ve managed to pick up quite a few books that I might never have purchased, had I not seen those interviews.

    So, while I understand your reasoning behind canceling the main show… I think I’d be hard to pressed to buy into the idea that it can’t be incorporated into a smaller segment that becomes part of (or attached to) another existing show.

    Call is a Bonus Segment, or Special Edition, or whatever modern marketing term applies.

    But for God’s Sake don’t pass up the chance to have a quick interview with an author that has done good work in a related field.

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