I’ve been a very big fan of and loyal watcher of Diggnation since about episode 4 (I got into this from the broken). This is somewhat strange since I don’t use Digg.com and haven’t other than trying it out for a few days. Hard to believe Diggnation has been around since mid-2005. I adore the guys and their work, and I have caught myself thinking of them as friends due to the intimate nature of their podcast. I’ve even had my one email I sent in read during an episode. But in the past year I’ve really gotten less and less loyal and find that I enjoy far fewer shows per month. Where early years had gut-bustingly amazing shows every week, many of the shows from the past year are utterly forgettable, even 10 minutes after watching them. So here’s my mini-rant on why Diggnation has been disappointing lately. (Yes, I understand it has been 5 years and the guys likely aren’t as fresh as they used to be…so also take this as a wistful nostalgic rant rather than something I’m demanding and angry about.)
1. Not enough drinking. Alex and Kevin (and others) are at their most entertaining when they are drinking beer. I have not done any research (although I’m sure some other geek online has done so), but I’d be willing to bet you can absolutely judge the entertaining factor of the show based on what they announce they’re drinking. If it is beer and they’ve obviously had a couple already, thumbs up! If it is tea for no real good reason (like being sick), then the show is almost always bland. Also, whatever the hell happened to drinking interesting beers? Years ago they had interesting stuff every single week. Now, they have interesting stuff maybe once every 3 months. But it is still hard to tell someone to drink more. Their drinking less is obviously healthier. I’m just saying, I’d bet 95% of their best moments in 4 years of Diggnation have been alcohol-induced. They don’t need to be trashed, but they definitely kick it up a notch after a few brews.
2. Horrible preparation. This falls heavily on Kevin far more than Alex, but it is insulting and annoying when either of them is obviously seeing the article for the first time and trying to fake through it (and often failing). What a waste of time for the audience. Even if the story is interesting, chances are one of them is getting it wrong because they’ve not read the story in advance or had any thoughts on it yet. I don’t ask for a script or to not read word-for-word, but at least have a reason to bring the story up! In the early years, the guys always had reasons for the stories, absolutely without fail. This drove good thoughts on the stories, even if the discussion was short. Today, not so much. It is no surprise that the stories with the least time and least audience reaction are the ones they didn’t even know they were covering. Really, they often just phone the segments in these days, which is disappointing because I adore both of the guys and their work.
3. Fewer interesting tech stories. Your audience is tech. I don’t care if it is a robot that smoke-screens the Japanese Prime Minister or zombie dogs. That’s geek and tech! Read on for a reason why there may be less interesting tech stories in some episodes…
4. Taping more than one episode at a time. Ok. I don’t mind this *too* much, I mean, one of them has to travel every week to do the show! But seriously. Your audience is not dumb. We know when your stories are a week stale (and the “next best” stories from the previous week!). We know when you’ve just changed shirts. We know when you’re taping two episodes at once. That’s ok, but don’t freakin try to fake that it’s the next week. Today’s episode 233 is the worst offender in quite some time (Alex has the same t-shirt on…and purposely refers to his beer as the same as “last week.”). We’d truly understand if you were up front and taped two episodes at once. But don’t let that water down how much you drink or mean you have to take less interesting stories for that week, such as the “tier 2” stories. Someone should at the very least be saving up interesting stories on your off week! I just really hate feeling like I’m being had when recently it has been very obvious they’re double-taping or worse. Even just 2-4 hours a week can cover 2 weeks’ worth of stories.
5. Too much time for sponsors, or poorly placed sponsor-copy. I understand sponsors make the world turn, but everyone will understand if you breeze through the sponsor-copy and get on with being interesting. It *is* actually interesting when you have something to say about the sponsor (like some of the games done previously, or even the Zune) but we’re a savvy audience and we know when you’re being a bit fake about the enthusiasm and just adding more, and we know when you really believe what you’re saying and like/use the product. But still, don’t let sponsor-copy dominate or steal time from emails/convo. I’d really like to see 2 or 3 stories yet after the sponsors, rather than sponsors being the start of the homestretch. It always makes the last story seem trivial and quickly covered and moved-on.
6. Less interesting emails. For guys who’ve admitted to having a full gmail email account in the past, we can’t seem to get very interesting emails read on the show anymore. I suspect they’re being picked out at the last minute. I don’t care if an intern does it, but get someone to spend an hour perusing emails and picking out something convo-worthy. Or a hot pic. 🙂 And spend some damn time on the topic rather than saying thanks and that’s it.
7. No Thanksgiving episode? I think this might illustrate that enthusiasm in *making* Diggnation has diminished. No one wanted to do something cute for the Thanksgiving episode anymore? Or at least a best-of reel for the year? Those have always been keep-worthy in the past. It saddened me to not see one this year.
In the end, it really just feels like they’re less interested in doing Diggnation than they used to be. At least they still have the enthusiasm to meet up and be friends and hang out with beers and good geek conversation. I’ve not stopped watching, not do I want to stop watching. I just feel less enthused myself when every new episode comes out, and often think my still watching is as much just a habit as it is me really being interested anymore.