Over at the venerable WoW.com, they made a pretty big announcement with regard to the incredibly popular WoW Insider Show last week – essentially that they’ll be ditching the weekly UStream podcast recording sessions in favor of offline (as in, private-Skype calls, not offline as in off the internet) recording sessions where the editors and their special guests will converse without the chat channel. They say that this will improve the timing and quality of the recording and the show overall, and allow them more leeway to do interesting things with the show.
All of those things are very likely true – it’s one thing to try and record an hour-long show in one take, dealing with whatever audio issues or connectivity issues you have on the assigned time and date – and it’s another thing to be able to record a show in multiple segments over the course of a week and have an editor assemble them into a complete and good-sounding show – it’s the reason the majority of television isn’t live. But with the benefits come tradeoffs. First, what the folks at WoW.com had to say:
So, to that end, we’re doing a few things differently.
* Recorded intros and teasers for the show.
* Technology for the show’s backend
* Provide detailed notes, along with a “here’s what you’re missing” clip, for each show, so you can decide at a glance whether this particular week will be up your alley.
However, one thing that will be changing is the live format. Because of the increased emphasis on production, we’ve made the decision not to record live each Saturday on Ustream. The podcast team, or rather the significant others of the podcast team, also found the middle-of-the-weekend broadcast schedule problematic, and our couches aren’t very comfortable. So, instead, every Monday morning we’ll deliver a fresh podcast for you to listen to via download, streaming audio, or iTunes. We know this affects a large number of you who listen to the show each week in the chat channel, and hopefully you’ll be pleased with the other changes.
Let’s be absolutely clear – I’m in support of the folks at WoW.com and their desire to improve their show and put out a high quality product. They won’t be the first group of podcasters I listen to that decided to hop off of uStream or LiveStream and do some serious production and post-production before releasing their show. But as they say in the blurb above, the change will impact the massive group of people who have come to use the Saturday afternoon podcast recording as a rallying point, myself included.
So while part of my curiosity comes from what I feel I’ll be missing, there’s a large number of World of Warcraft-related podcasts that use live streams to build their own fan base and community, and to draw attention to themselves and give their fans a way to interact with the hosts while the show is being recorded. Podcasts like the Twisted Nether Blogcast and RawrCast are great examples of podcasts that have a good, strong community behind their live streams, and The WoW Insider Show was one of those as well – people really came to the live stream to talk with the folks they see every week, crack jokes in the channel, and weigh in on the topics as they were being discussed. If they were lucky, they would get their names or their points mentioned on the show. It was truly interactive.
Now that WoW.com has decided that its podcast won’t be live anymore, I wonder what this means to the rest of the WoW community – will other shows go offline as well, or decide that essentially recording in front of a “live studio audience” simply isn’t as important as putting our a highly polished show? Or perhaps the belief is that you simply can’t have a highly polished show recording in one take and in front of a chat channel? (I think the Twisted Nether Blogcast is proof this isn’t the case: they put out a great product every week even though they record in multiple takes and segments in front of a live stream that’s highly interactive.)
I doubt that the podcasts and blogs that use their live show recording as a rallying point for their readers and fans will be quick to drop them – WoW.com has gotten big enough that they don’t need the community that grew up around their live shows to succeed and for the show to still be popular as a download, but other blogs and groups may not have that same luxury. Personally, I’ve been known to listen to multiple WoW podcasts both in the live stream for one experience and then downloaded through iTunes during the week at the office – so I can go either way with it. This change won’t stop me from listening to and enjoying the WoW Insider show, but I will certainly miss the live chat and hope its loss results in a better show for everyone.
What do you think? Do you think this is an anomaly, or will it have a ripple effect across the community? Are the folks at WoW.com just interested in putting out a better show and there’s nothing more to it, or is it a move for convenience to the podcasters despite the fans? Let us know in the comments.