Friday, February 4, 2022

Survive the Streaming Doldrums

Whether you’re just beginning to stream, or you’ve been on Twitch for a while, there are a few things you’ll always encounter if you go live often enough. You’ll run into every technical hurdle in the book, you’ll make every mistake possible, and you’ll put in lots of work to improve. But as you keep spending time and effort, you’ll notice that your project is actually growing. Among the mistakes and tech issues, a clear trajectory is forming for your channel. Yes, if you keep going at this rate, you’ll be Affiliate, Partner, or on the front page in no time! This is amazing! 

And then, all of a sudden, it happens. The growth dries up. You go live, day after day, and none of that magic is there any longer. There’s almost no one to talk to, or even to watch your streams, and you begin to wonder why you’re even doing it anymore. Unfortunately, when you go live often enough, these moments are just as inevitable as growth. For one reason or another, you’ve found yourself in the streaming doldrums. 


When sails are your only propulsion
method, you live or die by the wind.

Near the equator, there’s a section of the ocean that’s become known as ‘
the doldrums.’ In this belt of sea, trade winds meet each other, and for some meteorological reason above my pay grade, this often results in no winds at all for seafaring ships. Crews dreaded these deadly calm waters, where they could be stranded for weeks on end. Food and water would run low, scurvy could set in, and psychological effects like cabin fever could take their toll. If you were a mariner on a sailing ship in the time before motors and engines, you did not want to be anywhere near the doldrums. 

In streaming, the doldrums can come in many forms, for no visible reason at all. Sometimes your viewers dry up, and nobody is watching your shows. Other times it can be chat, where you can’t get anybody talking. Or maybe it’s you, where you simply can’t perform to your usual standard in competitive matches. Whatever the circumstance, these doldrums can cause a similar effect for your streaming life that sailors would experience on the open sea. 

When you’re caught in this mode of low performance, your supplies begin to run low. But for a Twitch channel, instead of food and water, your greatest supply is motivation. We often don’t realize how dependent we are on the attention and approval of others. For many of us, we not only love to get a good response from our viewers, but sometimes change the kind of content we produce to more effectively cater to our viewers’ interests. But what happens when viewership is dropping, no matter what you do to cater to their whims? This can create an incredible dejection in a streamer, because now you’re not only creating content outside what you’d normally do, but you’re creating it for those who don’t even seem to care. It’s a ‘worst of both worlds’ scenario which can often become a crucial turning point for a streamer’s career. Many in this situation decide that they’ve had enough. If the audience isn’t going to appreciate what the streamer is doing for them, why bother? They take a break, focus on something else for a while, or throw in the towel completely and shut down their channels. But if you’re prepared, there is a way to combat these streaming doldrums. Not to prevent them (because they’ll happen once in a while no matter what you do), but to survive with your channel and enthusiasm intact. 


So you’re caught in a spot with no wind. What’s the best way to get out of it? Use a motor. 17th century pirates didn’t have this option, but fortunately, you do. Think of your Twitch channel as a ship. Viewership, chat engagement, monthly subscriptions, day-to-day performance, and everything else outside of your control is the wind. The wind comes and goes, it pushes you in different directions, and sometimes it goes away completely. When you let the whims of your viewership push you around, change your content, and in some cases dictate whether your channel lives or dies, you’re only asking for disaster. To become a stronger Twitch streamer, it’s necessary to have self-propulsion as well, which isn’t beholden to the fickle and ever-changing winds. On a ship, that would be an engine, and on your Twitch channel, it’s a creative vision. 

Use your creative vision as a means
of propelling your channel forward.

If you have a creative vision at the heart of what you’re doing on Twitch, you’ll be able to see your goals more clearly. It’s still possible to change what you’re doing and cater to the ‘shifting winds’ of your viewers, but you will never stray so far away from your concept that you’ll find yourself lost. Plus, because something you truly care about is at the heart of your channel, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing more. And as I often say in these entries, liking what you do on your channel each day is the best way to weather anything you encounter.

Many of us begin with a strong creative vision but lose our way, and others need to find their visions as they go. Whichever category you fall into, try taking some time to navigate yourself back to the things you really care about. Because if you’re propelled by your passions, you’ll be prepared to face the streaming doldrums without fear. 

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