Businesses are in the Business of Business, Not People

This blog piece was written in 2014, collecting my thoughts after losing my first full time job regarding the nature of the business I had worked for

If I learned anything from the job I lost in April, it’s that companies that see themselves as business corporations do not give one fucking shit about what its customers have to say about their business. I say this because of the recent stuff going on with Hobby Lobby and this nonsense people are going on about with Disney. Also, in part, things regarding Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed.

I was an Operations Manager in a podcasting company, so some of my job was to research reviews and such of the podcasts the company hosted. Needless to say, when I actually started pulling the numbers of downloads and reading reviews of the shows, I began seeing how…poorly they were actually doing. The reviews were absolutely terrible, and I was able to see that the peak of their popularity had taken place 2 years ago. What was even more telling was that when the head of the company was asked about our numbers (views and downloads) by customers, he immediately got defensive.

The company technically had around 20-30 running shows. Collectively, that meant that they received over 100K hard downloads a month. However, if you actually divvy that up, you come to realize that their most popular shows maybe only get around 40K hard downloads (the least popular sometimes didn’t even make 1K an episode.) When you compare this to a company like Rooster Teeth, which gets around 500K views on their video podcast alone, you can see why the head of the company gets defensive over being asked how well the numbers of one show do. So instead, he boasts about the collective success of a pool of shows, which fools sponsors into thinking they’re selling to a viable model of business.

This was half of the problem, obviously. Not paying attention to the numbers of singular shows and looking at the collective whole meant only that some nobodies were getting paid to do something they kind of liked doing, which would be fine… If there were actually people who enjoyed those shows. But that was another big issue – listenership was down, especially compared to years prior. The mountains of criticisms regarding hosts and show content outweighed the actual praise for the shows. By the time 2014 rolled around, people had stopped bothering to even submit reviews, ratings, and comments. There was more interactivity in the first half of 2012 than there was the whole of 2013 in some cases. I may be over-exaggerating because the write-up I had been doing on this was on my work account, which I no longer have access to, but generally speaking, this was very much the case.

The point I’m trying to make is this: what you have to say as a consumer does not matter as long as that company is making money. The owners of Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-A will not concede that their businesses should be devoid of religious and political stances because they continue to make money. Ubisoft will not recognize their audiences’ desire for a female Assassin so long as Assassin’s Creed is still purchased by consumers. Disney will not break the mold of their current stylistic choices so long as movie-going audiences buy tickets at the box office. Public statements of apologies will be made, placating actions will be taken, personas of concern will be presented, but they will never truly recognize a problem unless people stop putting money in their pockets.

The only reason the company I worked for continues their work isn’t for their love of podcasting as a medium, it’s because they still make money. Because they aren’t in the business of people. No one is. Businesses with corporate models are in the business of business. Is it wrong? Hell yeah. But it’s reality. If you want to change it, don’t make it simply a social justice move. Make it a business one.

(c) Morgan Lea Davis, 2014

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