I have been the host and producer (and creator) of Convert to Raid for almost 5 years. It’s a show that came from my passion to play the end game of World of Warcraft, my love of helping others, and my desire to get back into broadcast after being away from it for a few years.
The show was enhanced by a bunch of fun-loving people that brought their own passion, sense of humor and style and everything just kind of fell into place.
Our audience grew quickly. We fostered an enormous in-game community (guild) of like minded folks that wanted to play together. We kept trying to refine and innovate our show to best suit our style and reflect our interests. Many fart jokes were had.
Many fart jokes are still had.
All of these things have been absolutely AMAZING. A ton of work has been poured out by the entire CtR Crew over the last 5 years, and we don’t want it to stop. But the last year made us all collectively take a moment to reevaluate the landscape.
For those who want the TL;DR – no new content means no new content.
Let’s go back a few years. In 2012 and 2013, the podcast landscape was great. The WoW developers were talking to everyone. It was a common occurrence for Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street, Ion “Watcher” Hazzikostas and others to appear on various WoW shows. Street in particular was known for tweeting directly to fans about… everything, and he quickly became the face of the development team.
When Greg left at the end of 2013, the development team tried to pick up where he left off. But in my opinion, when he left so did the voice of the development team. While everyone there is great (and they really are), no other high level director was up to the task. This is why they created the WoW Dev Team twitter account.
So WoW news suffered. News trickled in, but the way that I read the situation was that the developers were putting the brunt of the load on the community managers to update the public on what was happening in the World of Warcraft. So we were no longer having discussions directly, we were talking through a gatekeeper.
And after Warlords of Draenor released in late 2014, there were some rather vocal complaints about major parts of the expansion. I believe there was a lot of scrambling going on behind the scenes, and it ended with the developers cutting the expansion a little short (only 8 months of real content updates) to work on the next one.
During that time, news suffered greatly. There wasn’t anything particularly newsworthy coming from the devs unless it was about an update.
So, we at CtR struggled to scrape up enough WoW news to have an hour long show. We cancelled more than I cared for. So I came up with a plan in the spring of 2015.
Blizzard’s other games, especially Hearthstone and the new Heroes of the Storm were exciting and filled with possibilities. So The Battlenet News was born as a way to save the day for the weeks when WoW news was lacking. I thought we were going to be great because we were still a “WoW first” podcast.
We still cancelled more shows than I cared for.
Development of an Idea
I was ready to just call it and end the show before Blizzcon 2015. I mean REALLY close. I still liked the game, but talking about it was painful (because of no news) and actually made me not like playing the game as much.
I felt like I had failed my community. I felt like I had failed myself. I was pretty miserable and stressed about the whole situation, because I didn’t want to let everyone else down. What would happen to all of those people I’ve come to know and love in our guild? Would this topple the largest WoW guild on North American servers (if not the world)?
So I went to Blizzcon to see if CtR would survive.
It had been two years since my last Blizzcon, and I was completely amazed at how attitudes had changed within our guild and the rest of the WoW community. More and more people were excited by various Blizzard games, and the phrase “I am a Blizzard Gamer,” came up more than once. A lot more than once.
I also had several discussions with Scott Johnson, veteran podcaster of The Instance. We commiserated over the lack of news, and it was there that I said, “The only way I can think of to do something else is to go under the name Convert to Raid Presents.
“There you go,” said Scott.
When I left Anaheim, I felt that there was hope still. Convert to Raid had become more than just a WoW podcast, it had become a diverse show with a diverse community. Hell… it’s even kind of become a brand of sorts. Could we get away with doing something new?
I created a poll to see where players were at with WoW and all Blizzard games. 90% were still playing, even through the fatigue that was setting in from lack of content. I still don’t know the quality of that play time, but people were still logging into the game. But on top of that, 30% or more of the over 500 respondents said they were playing Heroes of the Storm, over 35% were playing Hearthstone, and over 15% were playing Overwatch (in beta), and lots of people were playing Diablo and to a lesser extent Starcraft.
On top of that, there was a place for people to comment on the state of WoW specifically and their views about all Blizzard games. It was clear they loved WoW, but a malaise from no new content was setting in. But their appreciation for many if not all Blizzard games was good. Really good.
Throughout this time, there were two voices that I listened to, other than the ones in my head. Jules Scott (Tauren Think Tank) was my trusted advisor and solid shoulder through everything, and my co-host of 3 years Dairies – who can be really analytical and blunt. Both understood the problem and agreed with the solution.
The Battlenet News was moving forward.
What Is News?
News for any broadcaster is a series of stories that one curates and develops for their own purposes. Broadcasters have their own individual rules for how this works, but it has to do with a few different aspects, including relevance, timeliness, and interest.
Relevance is usually determined over a wide scope – will my audience find this story relevant to them? What questions are they asking already about this topic and how does that conversation fit within the broadcaster’s parameters?
Timeliness is fairly self-explanatory. All content has a shelf life, and it’s up to the broadcaster to determine if and when the maximum impact can be had for their show.
Interest is very subjective, especially when it comes to podcasts. It’s my strong belief that if it’s not interesting for those bringing the story to the public, the public will also be uninspired. Is it interesting for the public? Maybe. But if the podcasters can’t deliver it in a manner to show their own interest, people will just tune out.
It’s especially this last aspect of news gathering that is extremely important for podcasters.
I don’t want to do a show that goes in depth about the latest string changes in the beta. I don’t find pets and mounts all that interesting (unless super relevant, or for a great cause). I may, however, want to cover broadly how talents are being developed further for Legion. I may want to discuss seeing some of the upcoming bosses for the raids — but I don’t want to give too many spoilers or give information that may change before it goes live.
My main interest is found in discussion, a.k.a. Water Cooler Talk (for WoW geeks like me). There are guides for min/maxxing which change and fall out of date, so probably not that particular topic. But the human condition within the game is fascinating. So when there’s a story on how Mythic+ dungeons will work, I automatically go to the questions of, “How will this effect the way people play the game? How will competitive end game players use this? Will this replace raiding as a viable source of loot over the course of a raid patch?”
We can have discussions on relevant, timely information too (raid strategies, etc.), but those have a shorter shelf life and less impact as not everyone is doing the same thing in this HUGE game at the same time. You’re not speaking to everyone, so it better be entertaining or really informative.
So What’s in Store for the new CtR Presents?
So with the name change, we’re renaming the channel “Convert to Raid presents…” Kind of a catch all branding situation. With the move to The Battlenet News for the weekly show, I’ve decided several things.
- I don’t want to do just the BNN. I want to do more within this space. There’s a LOT going on that I want to discover for myself and report to others.
- I have more drive to do more things, and I want inspired people to be able to participate. More voices, more stories, more content. And all through the same feed.
- I’m not dead yet and I will do exactly what I am interested in.
So the BNN will be the weekly show, and we’ll be doing lots of special reports along the way. These could include deep dives into the Legion beta, a quick sports update to discuss this weekend’s tournament scene, a basic tutorial of Overwatch strategies, or whatever else we think is relevant, timely, and interesting. It should be fun! More content, more diverse content, and more specialized content on a diverse channel. I think that’s hitting people in a lot of different places, so we’ll have to see what sticks.
Do I have concerns? Sure. I do worry about the community response to this move, especially with the way it may have appeared to be so casual. I don’t want people to feel disenfranchised. Oh, just a flick of the switch? FUCK YOU. You’re covering way too many games and I don’t like any of them. FUCK YOU. You obviously gave this no thought. FUCK YOU.
But I have to shirk the thoughts of disapproval on the internet and instead try to keep positive and prove why we have been and will continue to be a source of good information mixed with entertainment and friendship. Let me show you why we’ve been well received and gained a loyal audience. Sure, you may not like EVERYTHING. But I’ve never aimed to please everyone all of the time. I just think I can surprise you.
I will continue to keep my ear to the ground for community response. I will continue enjoy this company’s games and create in this space. I will continue to build a community of like-minded individuals who want to have fun with each other. I will continue to play and have fun. I will continue…