Many of the geeks out there that regularly listen to WMR know that the content of their stream is awesome. Shows like SEO Rockstars, Net Income and Good Karma are chock-full of high value information. Tips you may search for all month on Digital Point can be garnered in just a few hours of listening to a few of their podcasts.
But what happens when any business starts to forget (or take for granted) their target audience?
Without a reassessment, failure.
Without remembering who got you to where you're at, failure.
Without a customer-first attitude, failure.
And unfortunately I think that's just what's happening over there.
First of all, the webmaster community is a great one. We support each other, pass referrals to each other, and don't mind sharing our knowledge of how to make more money. Good webmasters know there's plenty of work out there if you just search for it. And when you have no work, a good SEM spends his/her time building and tweaking what he has to make it even more productive.
It's common business sense. Tweak and test. Provide tools to your visitors so they'll keep coming back.
Which brings me back to WMR.
The entire premise of the business is to provide streaming audio and podcasts for web geeks to listen to. But for well over six months now some of their streams haven't worked. Others are shoddy, buffering often and sometimes altogether unavailable.
The quality of the shows. Have the hosts of the anchor shows run out of things to say? Back in the day the hosts would be gung-ho, talking about some of the coolest things. They'd have great guests and they'd drop some sweet tips.
But now (when they actually do a show) several of the shows have turned into just another regurgitation of the industry news. Even worse, some of the hosts are using their time to "audibly linkbait" their audience. They've made the transition from simply providing unbiased and selfless great information into how can we make a buck from our listeners?.
Several of the shows are no longer produced on time, nor on schedule. While us geeks can certainly make allowances for the occasional technical difficulty, simply not doing a show is just like being jilted by your date at your first junior-high dance. And then pretending like it never happened? Worse.
Chat. For several years now I've used the WMR-provided web interface to get into the chat room. I have to use that one, because all the others (mIRC, Trillian, etc) are blocked from this location. Most of the times (until recently) it has been fairly stable.
But now even the web interface to the chat doesn't work. And it's been that way for a short while now. Are they working on it? Who knows.
What I do know is that WMR is busy building new apps for getting to their chat room. "Download our new chat interface," they say. Why? Maybe because it has advertising on it...? Funny thing is, it's back to the same 'blocked' status as the others. They're providing us web geeks with new tools that won't work in our situation. And I'm not the only one. Many web people access the web chat because they're at educational facilities or public libraries, and the ports are blocked there as well. Plus, you can't load software on a public machine. Does the simple web-based interface cost too much for WMR to run, or what's the deal?
Some of the 'filler' that WMR plays just plain sucks. I'm tired of listening to 60-second interviews from some guy who's promoting his new widget website. I've had enough coverage from two-year-old trade shows. To be honest, I'd prefer they play a few songs like they used to instead of these crappy fake "shows". Listening to Brandy tell us how much she loves to have sex with her hubby (and how "great" it smells) just makes me gag.
The playlist needs a revamp, and quick.
Oh, and don't even get me started on the commercials. Good lord.
Decisions. And this is probably the worst one of them all.
Management at WMR is aware of these things. Many times on the air hosts have complained about the stream or chat not working. It has become a joke to some.
"I would post the link in the chat room, but as usual I can't get in there..."
"I haven't been able to listen to the live show in months..."
"I wanted to listen to that show, but it still hasn't been uploaded..."
When your own hosts are complaining about the network, that's not good. When these technically apt (and unpaid) hosts are providing content to your audience, and they have trouble getting their own shows, something is wrong.
Months ago I was in the chatroom when people brought up these points to some of the management. So it's not like they aren't aware of what's going on.
And when webmasters can't get to all the great things you used to provide, you'll lose them.
Note: I should also mention that there are some other superb shows on WMR that go off without a hitch. Hosts like Katie Kempner and Susan Bratton just press on, producing show after show week after week. They've got the pulse on their audience, and they've figured out that WMR is a great avenue to get the word out. Danny Sullivan does much of the same. Day after day Danny (or someone in his stead) freely culminates and delivers the latest buzz on search to us. Kudos to you hosts who continue on.
Even if most of us will never hear it...