Me: Damnit Lee, it’s 1 in the morning and all I want to do is write a blog post reply to you.
Lee Davy: Hahaha…go to sleep.
Me: My best writing happens when I’m most passionate.
That brief Facebook chat happened a short while ago, after I read Lee’s thought provoking op-ed piece for CalvinAyre.com, where he suggested that poker writers start Twitch channels and migrate towards that medium.
Rip up your notepads, take the batteries out of the Dictaphone, and shut down that blog.
– Lee Davy
Shut down the blog?!
MORE QUESTION MARKS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS?!?!?!
Bless you Lee, you know I love your work and I acknowledge the point of your article but I feel so incredibly strongly against what you’re saying. The fact of the matter is that writing about poker and live streaming oneself talking about poker are two entirely different art forms and (if of high enough quality) two different forms of entertainment for the poker community.
It Ought Not to Be an Either/Or Decision
About a year ago, I wrote in these pages that I’d be moving into poker podcasting, joining Bruce Briggs as the co-host of Top Pair. It’s been a great ride thus far, but I haven’t stopped writing about poker.
Here’s some more from our Facebook conversation:
Lee: If I was going to do this forever, I would start a Twitch channel with a poker player tomorrow.
Me: To be honest, I’ve thought quite a bit about possibly opening a Twitch channel, and it’s not as though it’s outside my comfort zone, but there’s an art to creating a finished product and not releasing a “half draft” copy in front of a camera.
Lee: The beauty with Twitch is it’s ‘eu natural’. It’s not supposed to be polished. You just go for it.
Yes Lee, you’ve got a good point there. There IS something beautiful about poker content on Twitch. It’s a unique art form, but I can’t agree that the art form of poker writing ought to be abandoned.
While he’s of course a player as opposed to a poker writer, there’s no better example to take than Daniel Negreanu. His Twitch channel has instantly skyrocketed to must-see status, but Daniel hasn’t stopped taking to his blog to convey other messages to poker fans.
Everyone Might Twitching, But Twitching Isn’t for Everybody
It seems like EVERYONE in poker is talking about Twitch these days. Who can blame ‘em? I’m pretty sure that at this point, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines Twitch as: See also bandwagon. Sure, there are some really great poker streamers out there, but that doesn’t mean every poker fan will sit glued to any poker stream. Jason Somerville, Negreanu, Jamie Staples, et al. are very much the exceptions rather than the rule.
A successful live poker streamer has the ability to be consistently entertaining, engaging, and/or informative for lengthy periods of time. You’ve got to have that knack for being able to keep viewers interested, otherwise they’ll change the channel.
Beyond that, what makes for successful live streaming of poker – and Twitch as a whole – is that the streamer is playing a game. The game itself provides a good portion of the elements needed to entertain and engage viewers.
Are poker writers natural-born entertainers? Would watching a poker writer play poker online be inherently interesting? Forgive me, but I’m doubtful.
Poker Writers Have Bills to Pay
Overwhelmingly, poker writers make money by producing their content. Whether it’s a per word fee for keyword-driven texts, a per project fee for infographic research and texts, or a monthly retainer fee for a predetermined number of articles, the bottom line is that poker writers get paid for the work they do.
While the idea of moving the content producing efforts to the new medium of Twitch sounds trendy, who precisely will compensate poker writers for Twitch streaming work they do?
It’s clear as day that you don’t get paid per word or per broadcast on Twitch. Yes, you can make money by having enough subscribers, but I highly doubt it’s possible for a poker writer to make an equivalent living from live streaming as he/she currently does via writing.
Nonetheless, Maybe There’s a Hidden Star Out There?
Towards the end of our Facebook conversation, Lee admitted that I had made some valid points, but maintained that:
“it doesn’t mean someone won’t rise above the rest and take journalism to a different level.”
With that I cannot argue, sir.
Indeed, perhaps among the plethora of poker writers there exists a wordsmith who is also bursting with limitless energy and who would leap at the opportunity to put themselves out there onscreen to entertain the poker world without the benefits of rehearsals. Who needs a script when enough charisma and charm could rule the day, right?
Perhaps said person would be so incredibly engaging that an exception would be made to the conventional status quo and some poker operator or news site would offer them a “sponsored pro” position, thus alleviating the whole “making a living” issue.
If poker has proven just one thing to the world, it’s that “anything could happen”. Yet, I wouldn’t put my money on it. Simply put, there are only so many unicorns out there. Even if such a poker writer-cum-Twitch streamer would emerge, I’d hold out hope that said unicorn wouldn’t lay down his/her pen and stop writing.
My Final Thoughts
I know I’m a bit old school, but I believe that unscripted broadcasts, bloopers, unfiltered faux pas, and the like are the hare to the more conventional tortoise represented by traditional, scripted, content.
Are reality-inspired Survivors, American Idols, and Big Brothers truly representative of better programming than critically-acclaimed, professionally-acted sitcoms and dramas? It’s a fraction of the cost to produce reality shows, but the joys of consuming them are temporal at best. On the other hand, people are still in love with classic TV shows, many of which are still enjoying syndication decades after their final episodes originally aired.
After reading Lee’s article, I could’ve announced to the world on Twitter that I’d go live on Twitch within 5 minutes and then rant away. Maybe I’d hit all the points I mentioned above and maybe I’d forget a few; probably the latter. Perhaps I’d feel happy that I would’ve been able to express myself and get a few people interested in what I had to say. As per how I opened this piece, I sure as hell would’ve gotten a lot more sleep.
It took me a couple hours to properly formulate my response here, in written form, but let me tell you – it feels fantastic and I won’t soon forget the joy of having put it together, dotting every “I”, crossing every “T” and presenting you poker fans with a refined, finished product. Hopefully you won’t forget having read it anytime soon.
Now, if you’ll all please excuse me, I’m gonna grab myself a bowl of popcorn and watch whether or not Daniel Negreanu will start peeing again soon for our collective amusement…
…and if he does, maybe I’ll write something about it.