Friday, May 28, 2021

Growth Check-In: Managing Your Stream Ratio


Throughout The Twitch Playbook, I’ve spoken on all kinds of technical and creative topics. The objective throughout this resource has been to teach the various lessons I’ve learned through my own successes and failures on the platform. There’s one idea that I regularly touch on however, which might not seem to fit with all the other techniques: I often advise against learning about Twitch streaming. 

This is a concept I call Streaming with Strategic Ignorance, and believe it or not, it’s become one of the most important disciplines I’ve cultivated throughout my Twitch career. In a few different entries, I’ve explored the idea that knowledge about a subject is helpful in small doses, but lethal when accumulated unchecked. Experience, as I like to say, is always more important than knowledge. And in this entry, we’re going to take some time to look back and ensure we aren’t slipping. It’s time to manage your stream ratio. 


Think back to the last six months of your Twitch streams. In this span, how many times have you gone live per week, on average? And whenever you broadcast, what’s the average amount of time that a stream lasts? There’s no need to go back and look through channel metrics- we’re just looking for a ballpark estimate here. Multiply the number of weekly streams by the average stream length to come up with a baseline number for the amount of stream hours you produce each week. 

Don't let time slip away. 

Now think about how many pieces of content you watch, read, or listen to
about streaming every week. This can include podcasts you’re subscribed to (including this one!), YouTube tutorials you watch, and articles you read. Once again, just come up with a general estimate of how much time you spend. But try to include everything you can think of. On top of this number you should also include the amount of weekly hours of streams from other content creators you watch, as these provide you with inspiration for your own streams and should also be considered learning. The number probably balloons quite a bit when you add this figure to the mix. This new baseline number should now show how much stream-related content you consume per week on average. 


So now you have two figures. The first represents how many hours of streams you produce per week, and the second represents how many hours of stream-related content you consume per week. The objective in keeping a ‘positive stream ratio’ is to make sure the first number is larger than the second. In other words, you want to make sure you’re producing more stream hours than the stream-related content you consume. 

Now, the impact of this statement is going to be different for everyone. Some will consider it a no-brainer, while others will think I’m crazy for even suggesting it. It all depends on your personal habits. If you fall into the second camp however, consider that the ratio of stream-related content you’re consuming is likely hurting your streaming career more than helping. As I mentioned in earlier entries, gaining too much knowledge before putting it into practice can cause analysis paralysis, making you unable to effectively utilize the lessons you learn for your streams either way. Watching too many other streamers can also cause you to begin making harmful comparisons about your own content and skill level. As I mentioned in the entry Stream Before You’re Ready, you want to stack small amounts of knowledge acquisition between chunks of experience, rather than simply stockpiling knowledge in the hopes of magically solving all your streaming problems at once. 


Focus on self-improvement.

Of course, there are two ways to go about improving your stream ratio. You can either begin consuming less stream-related content, or begin producing more streams of your own. In reality, the smartest answer is usually a mixture of both. As you likely know from this resource, I’m not a big fan of consuming much of anything. In the entry Learn to Love the Grind of Twitch Streaming, I spoke about the benefits I’ve received by paying less attention to my surroundings, and simply focusing on my goals. In the entry Stream With Strategic Ignorance, which I alluded to above, I discussed how even seemingly helpful knowledge can sabotage your streams. In my opinion, there’s no amount of content consumption that’s too low. Experience is more valuable than any piece of information or inspiration you could gain by passive watching, reading or listening, including The Twitch Playbook. Similarly, as you’ll know from the exercise I presented in the entry Do More Streaming, whatever amount of content you’re creating right now, there’s always a sustainable and safe way that you could be producing more. You just have to think creatively about how to go about it. 

For anyone who’s doing this exercise and hasn’t started streaming yet at all, your ratio is obviously woefully unbalanced. In the earliest entries of this resource, I suggested that you should begin streaming right now, no matter how much equipment or experience you have. I really meant it then, and I still do now. There’s no excuse not to start streaming today. For more details on the subject, see the entry titled Start Your Twitch Channel With No Money

Conversely, if you’ve been streaming for months or even years, don’t be surprised if your ratio is also out of alignment. When we’ve gained experience, we might think we’re immune to such things, but that overconfidence is often what puts us at the highest risk of slipping. Experienced streamers often get bogged down by other tasks like branded social media channels, planning large events, and working on behind-the-scenes upgrades for their streams. If you’re an experienced streamer, consider adding all these things to your weekly tally of stream-related consumption as well, and see how your ratio looks. They may not involve actually consuming content, but they are things which distract you from producing live broadcasts. As I’ve mentioned in several entries before, a growing channel can put lots of pressure on you to begin focusing on things you feel you’re expected to do, rather than what you actually want to be doing. Don’t forget that no matter how nice it is to build your community, design graphics, or tweak your layouts, your main objective as a streamer is to actually stream. 


In earlier entries, I told the story of how Lennon and McCartney were performing on stage for several hours a night before they even knew all the basic chords on their guitars. And even when they formed into The Beatles, none of the four bandmates ever learned how to read or write music. Yet they performed live on stage for over 6 hours every night, seven days a week, for hundreds of underground performances. And after a few years of this, they released their first album and... the rest is history. They didn’t get better at making music by learning- they got better at making music by doing. And it’s no different with Twitch streaming. If you want to see real results, stay on top of your stream ratio. 

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