“Even if it’s deleted I will remember!”: Appeals to Liveness and Simultaneity in Podcasts on Twitch

So let’s be honest everyone. I’m busy. You’re busy. And I’m so so so tired. However, I love sharing my work on this blog so I’m gonna post a little research I did last semester about some interesting examples of podcasting on Twitch. So this is gonna sound a bit more formal than what I usually put up here. But hey, here we go!

 

Using other social media sites to grow podcasting audiences is not unique to Twitch, but the platform is one of a few to focus almost exclusively on live streaming practices. Although podcasters have expanded the platforms they use to share content via live stream and video on demand, including YouTube, Stereo, Zoom, and Twitch, relatively little research has gone into how podcasters use the discursive liveness and simultaneity of these platforms to engage audiences.

Twitch constructs itself as a space dedicated to live streaming and gaming. On its homepage, Twitch highlights popular and suggested streamers who are live, prominently displaying either the word “LIVE” or a red dot akin to the record button found on many VCRs and TV remotes. Twitch also notifies viewers any time their followed streamers are live, and the URL for the website is Twitch.tv, indicating a deep connection to the TV as medium and practice. Several scholars have considered how Twitch as a platform and live streaming as a medium draw on the appeals of liveness and simultaneity typically attributed to television.

 

The Twitch homepage on May 10, 2021, which emphasizes the liveness and simultaneity of the platform.

 

And podcasters use this liveness to appeal to their audiences, just like Friend Zone . The Twitch channel focuses on engaging audiences through a variety of shows including game live streams, charity fundraisers, and a Piano Bar where viewers can request songs. Host Paul Scheer’s Twitch channel also serves as a node in a network of the comedian’s online content, most importantly the popular podcast How Did This Get Made? co-hosted by Scheer, June Diane-Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas. Far from an anomaly, Scheer’s growing popularity on Twitch and the success of his streams echoes the ways podcasters have expanded their network of production beyond traditional podcasting platforms, using the various affordances of these sites and applications to expand and engage their audiences.

During a live stream of the show “PUNCH YOU UP!” on the Friend Zone Twitch channel, Scheer and guest comedian Adam Pally and Niccole Thurman riffed on Tweet drafts from the audience, suggesting improvements for the jokes. To get their Tweet drafts on the stream, viewers had to join the “Hangin’ with Paul Scheer” Discord server and comment on their draft on the #punch-you-up channel. Then, a moderator chose their favorite drafts for the live stream. When ErinRene’s draft “I’m the canned wine of humans” appeared on the Twitch stream, many of the thousands of viewers suggested their edits to joke, mostly using the chat on the right side of the screen to share revisions, like JzRamone’s “I’m the Budweiser Seltzer of humans.”

Others spent credits to highlight their message to draw the comedian’s attention to their comment. Scheer also used a widget to post comments on the video of the stream itself, making it easy for the guests to focus on comments like JakeDubski’s “I’m the Zima of yesteryear.’ Scheer, Pally, and Thurman constantly shifted attention between their oral discussion, the chat, highlighted comments, and the selected comments appearing on the stream itself, bouncing off the simultaneous conversations and information in Twitch’s heavily mediated environment.

A screenshot from the April 26, 2021 live stream PUNCH YOU UP! show on the Friend Zone Twitch channel

 

Scheer and his guests directly engage with the audience throughout the live stream, using discursive appeals to liveness and simultaneity associated with the different mediums implicated in the Twitch environment. Scheer’s practice of adjusting the overlay to include Discord and Twitch comments similarly stems from the televisual, particularly highly-mediated news and sports programming. The solicitation of draft Tweets on Scheer’s Discord page echoes the practice of asking for audience questions in live stand-up and comedy podcasts, while the direct address of audience comments on the Twitch chat is a standard practice in live streaming and other forms of computer-mediated communication.

Most importantly, as mentioned above, all these practices engage with the discursive liveness and simultaneity of each medium. Scheer’s live streams show how popular podcasters adjust their practices to include engage audiences through discourses of liveness and simultaneity by drawing from the practices of the televisual, UGC, and internet cultures. While not advertising as a podcast itself on Twitch, the practices of Friend Zone indicate how podcasters may use Twitch to grow their audiences through these temporal appeals.

For podcasters and streamers like Scheer, Twitch offers a platform to construct a networked audience more easily across multiple platforms and websites across the internet. By referencing draft Tweets submitted via the Hangin’ with Paul Scheer Discord and linking the Discord in the About page of the Friend Zone Twitch channel, he can draw audiences to the more intimate space of Discord. Mods in the Discord server advertise Twitch live streams, provide notifications of upcoming podcast episodes, and fans even host watch parties for movies that will be discussed in upcoming How Did This Get Made? episodes.

The various affordances of Twitch (chat, subscribers, notifications, etc.) not only allow streamers to engage with audiences during live streams, but also allow for notifications and reminders in other spaces like Twitter and Discord. These notifications perhaps can create the sense of “FOMO” industry insiders claim are important to engage audiences. Podcasting on Twitch, then, not only complicates discourses of liveness and simultaneity, but also highlight how the continuously developing practices of UGC, computer mediated communication, and the televisual expand across a wide network of mediums, genres, and platforms.

David Kocik

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