Just as video killed the radio star, streaming services are in a heated battle with cable and satellite. And perhaps the latest shift in media is the move from talk radio to talk internet: Youtubers, Twitch streamers, and the rest.
I remember growing up, my dad would have one of two channels on the radio when driving: Classic rock (Still love that), or talk radio. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were two voices I heard much more than I usually wanted to hear; I remember starting to recognize when Beck went from Right-Wing blowhard to weepy blowhard. I much preferred it when Bob and Tom were on, with a cavalcade of comedians and humor. Even NPR would occasionally catch my interest as a young lad. But alas, I haven’t listened to any radio stations in years. With the advent of Bluetooth and audio adapters, I’m more likely to listen to the World of Warcraft soundtrack than any kind of radio programming. In some ways I miss that – being able to zone in and out as I listened, sometimes focusing on the discussion, sometimes letting the talk just fill the silence. But now I have something else that fills that need: internet streaming.
I like to write. I need to write for many reasons (this site is one of them, job applications are another), and I find it easiest to write when there is some noise. Maybe it’s something I picked up from freshman year dorms, or growing up in a bustling household. But regardless, when I’m writing I’m either listening to music – or a stream of some sort. My favorites at this point are either Oddish – a trans-woman professional Heroes of the Storm player – or one of several speedrun streamers – all of which are on Twitch.
What’s more is that the current generation is being shaped by streamers much like the older generation was shaped by talk radio. Look at the popularity (For better or worse) of Pewdiepie, Markeplier, Jenna Marbles… there is no small number of (More or less) streamers that are now household names. Many of the most popular streamers are popular because they are funny. Sure, there are a handful of political or more intellectual (not that comedy can’t be intellectual) streamers, but all of the big names are comedians or gamers. Perhaps the streaming community is going through a “shock-jock” faze. The likes of Pewdiepie and Jontron have large followings thanks to their “edgy” humor. And that has not ended particularly well.
At any rate, I look forward to seeing where the future of streaming will lead. Perhaps there will be a shift towards political streamers. Perhaps streaming will fall away to a different format (Could the Hayday of Podcasts come again!?). But until things change, we should all continue to support our favorite streamers, boycott the worst of the worst, and – of course – enjoy what we enjoy.