Crap and Back Again: Patreon CEO on the Hidden Shift in Quality of Digital Media and Art

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I'm a big believer in game tape.

As a former athlete, nothing was more powerful than sitting down and reviewing my performance as a basketball player on video: my cuts, my form, my defensive stance, everything. As a writer, podcaster, and keynote speaker, I only get video for one of those three things (and even then, it's sporadic), but I still go out of my way to consume my own work through whatever medium. I'm not trying to feel great about things (though I certainly get a hefty helping of ego boost when I stare lovingly at my creation, like some kinda warm and fuzzy Doctor Frankenstein). The point isn't to merely celebrate what I've built. Really, it's about empathy for others -- empathy for YOU, the one on the receiving end of my work.

If I don't see my work from your perspective, then how in the hell can I hope to create something better and better over time for you?

Thus: game tape. I am a voracious consumer of my own work. I pay special attention to where I feel bored and confused. And then, there are those extra special moments when I utterly cringe.

Yep.

Ever experience that? You put something out into the world, you have one idea of how it'll be in your head, and then you look back at it ten minutes or ten days or ten weeks later ... and oof.

My Ultimate Oof Moment

I launched my podcast Unthinkable in March of 2016 with an episode titled "Quality vs. Quantity." (Curious? You can stream it here.) In that episode, I declared my intentions for the show, planted a flag for content marketers who would listen to sprint towards something better than all the hollow, commodity crap so many brands publish, and I set out to explore what I felt was a ludicrous conversation marketers genuinely had, especially back then:

(Extremely Steve Urkel voice)  AH, SO, SHOULD YOU PUBLISH QUAAAANTITY OR QUAAAALITY?

I say "I set out to explore," and I mean that literally. I marched down the street from my then-home in Cambridge, MA, with my then-microphone in hand, recording the crunching of the snow and the whoosh of cars passing me on Mass. Ave, until I reached Harvard's campus. There, I started investigating this idea of quantity and quality as opposites.

And thus, Unthinkable was born.

Now, were you to listen to that episode, you might notice a bunch of things that I've improved upon as a podcaster and storyteller. But one thing in particular that you'd never point out actually drives me insane. It's not my delivery or performance per se, but a specific thing I said.

In this, the all-important, celebratory, exploratory first-episode, I said something I'm ashamed to have said just six seconds into the dang thing.

And today, in my 94th episode of the show, which officially kicks off Season 5, I reveal what that was, and I talk to the man who can set me and all of us straight: Jack Conte, cofounder and CEO of Patreon. Together, we'll deliver a plea about creativity in the workplace, and embark on a brief exploration of the evolution of the internet to learn why we should change how we communicate our value to others as creators. Surrounding Jack's most moving points is a chorus of other voices previously heard on the show: Chase Jarvis (CEO of CreativeLive), Deb Aoki (Sr. Experience Designer, Adobe), Josh Bernoff (author, editor, and blogger at Without Bullshit), Juliana Casale (Head of Marketing, CrazyEgg), Angela Schneider (writer and photographer), and Macaela Vandermost and Corey Fanjoy (both from Newfangled Studios).

That fleeting, missable moment is my worst game tape. I never again want to make that mistake. Thanks to today's episode, I'm confident I won't.

Hear the story on the Unthinkable podcast below, or subscribe free via Apple PodcastsOvercast, or wherever you listen.

Oh and check out the fresh new cover art for Season 5! Wuh-BAM!

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Unthinkable shares stories of conventional thinking in our work and the people who dare to question it. Each episode is a sweet-sounding, atypical approach to telling business stories and distilling insights that help us question conventional thinking in order to think for ourselves. Entrepreneur called it "one of the hottest podcasts out there." Salesforce called Jay "a creative savant," while Fortune, Forbes, Inc, the Content Marketing Institute, and others have all praised the show's unconventional style and sound.

Posted on February 7, 2019 .