Friday, February 19, 2010

Are you a fan?

Each Lent I think about SQPN, because that was when I discovered it. It all started several years ago. I had decided to pray the rosary daily during Lent, and the only really quiet time I had to pray was in the car during my commute. The only problem is that it trying to drive safely and keeping count of the prayers was as much as my poor brain could manage, and it became difficult to meditate on the rosary itself. I needed an audio aid to help me out.

In previous years I had listened to The Rosary is a Place with Father Groeschel and Simonetta, which was broadcast each morning on my local Catholic radio station, but sadly the station had gone off the air. That year, since I had an iPod, I decided to look for a rosary podcast to put on my iPod to play in the car. I searched iTunes, and came up with a podcast called Rosary Army. Much to my surprise, it wasn't a rosary itself, but a talk show by a couple that made rosaries (among other things). It was kinda cool.

It didn't hold my attention for long (sorry guys) but it did introduce me to The Daily Breakfast, the "flagship" podcast from the Star Quest Production Network (SQPN). Over the years since I have enjoyed many of the wonderful shows put out by this network. Shows like the iPadre, the Saintcast, the Catholic Hack, Catholic Under the Hood, Secrets of Star Wars (and Narnia, and Lord of the Rings), Catholic in a Small Town, Grace Before Meals, the Catholic Foodie, Healthy Catholic, Technopriest, Hands and Feet, and others.

In the past year there have been a lot of changes at SQPN, however. They started or acquired quite a few new shows (yay!). They lost some important people (Greg and Jennifer moved to satellite radio - good for them, bad for SQPN). Many of the shows moved to video (via ustream). The "flagship" show made some dramatic changes ("The daily Breakfast" became "Breakfast with Father Roderick", and then became "The Break with Father Roderick").

So this Lent I am thinking about how my experience of SQPN is different from previous years. For me, it feels like something is gone that I really used to enjoy. I'm not sure what, but I think it has to do with the demise of the Daily Breakfast, or maybe things are just too hectic with so many show choices. I'm not sure. I haven't said anything, because I don't want to burst other peoples' bubbles if it's just me, and I certainly don't want to say that the shows that are offered aren't good, they are great and I highly recommend them. But a conversation started on Plurk a few days ago, and I think there may be others in the same boat.

Here's what I think is bothering me. In the years of listening to Father Roderick every weekday morning for 27 minutes, he became in my mind my priest. All of a sudden, instead of spending every day with me, he's there once a week. The weekly show lacks the immediacy of the daily show. For instance, instead of talking about "today is Ash Wednesday" and explaining it, there's a single show that mashes all of Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, and Lent into an hour long show. I don't feel like there is a single cohesive topic to the show.

Which brings me to my second point. Although the show is split into three 20 minute segments, I find I have to hear the whole thing in one sitting or lose it. One reason might be that the show no longer shows up as "new" on my iPod. Or perhaps it's because if I start the show on another device I have to remember where I was and search for that point. Whatever it is, I find myself listening to the whole thing, and it's too much to sit through at once. The segments are too long on one topic with one voice, and I find myself wanting to fast forward.

Plus, he's live on ustream. If I don't get to watch him (which I don't) I feel like there's something else I've missed. The few times I did watch live I got a completely different experience. There was conversation with Father Roderick and the other fans in the chat room, and some "outtakes" none of which were there on the final version. So now, instead of ustream becoming a positive thing, a way to be more connected, my inability to see the show live makes me feel like an outsider.

I don't know exactly what it is, but it feels like it's not as good as last year. I still listen to some of the shows (iPadre, Catholic Foodies, Catholic Under the Hood and the Saintcast) but not as many, and I don't feel as excited about Catholic new media as I did a year ago. Sad, considering the Pope's call to explore new media to spread the Gospel.

And so I thought I'd blog and invite my readers (both of you) to comment, and ask your friends and other SQPN fans to comment, and perhaps we can have a discussion about what we like and don't like, and how it makes us feel. Maybe you folks can snap me out of it, or maybe we can figure out some formula to help SQPN. Thanks for reading this.


You are right on with your thoughts about Fr Roderick's shows .. I used to really look forward to them but now put them below a number of other podcasts, seeral, unfortunately not SQPN which used to be ignored because of my love for his show. iPadre and Catholic Under the Hood are still awesome, but I can't get "into" many of the new shows and still miss Greg and Jennifer's Rosary Army. I think the spontaneity that I loved and the homeiness has been minimized in an attempt to be "more professional" on many of the shows. Sad. I have more time to listen, and fewer things I"m excited about. Sad.

I'm still on the other side of the Tiber, calling myself now a "Heinz-variety-denomination" prot, but i have been a regular SQPN fan since Dec 2007 (has it really been that long!) when I stumbled across SQPN and enjoyed every subsequent episode of Daily Breakfast/Breakfast/The Break. The 30 minutes once a day format was just such a blessing, and strange as it sounds, I've seen Fr. R. as "my priest" also. His talents are pulled in so many ways now, but I'm grateful for the shows i still receive and the online "pals" I've found on first twitter and then Plurk as Fr. R's flock migrates around social media formats. The Plurk gang is dwindling in favour of FB lately, but I do hope that someday "The Break" will be able to be offered at least 2-3 times per week. In the meantime, my regular podcasts are The Break & BL Fan Podcast & just recently the 40 days of Healthy Catholic (as I fight to lose weight). Several others are accumulating on my hard drive, but I don't get to listen to them as consistently. I miss The Break in daily format as well, but i recognize it is unlikely that Fr R has the physical ability to put it out that frequently and continue to handle his parish duties, new TV shows, etc.

Gregory, that's an excellent idea. Three 20 minutes shows would be the same amount of air time, but I think it would address some of the "issues".

I also didn't consider the changes in social media. I only got onto Plurk because of Fr. R. and it is because of him that many of my SQPN buddies have left for FB. I find FB terrible for interaction. I had hoped Ning would have turned into more of an active community, but it too doesn't offer me what Plurk does.

I also discovered SQPN during Lent a few years back. While I still enjoy many of the shows, I feel at times they give the apperance of a rudderless ship. I enjoyed the Daily Breakfast tremendously and I have been disappointed with the constant changes that have been going on during the past year. Father Roderick is so ADD at times going in so many directions, starting many projects and then jumping to something else a week later. Example: He does a rant on how Catholic media caters to Catholic audiences instead of the population at large. Then, we hear the Break is being designed to fit a Catholic radio format. And who tunes in Catholic radio????
Just a guess on my part, but I feel he misses the skill of Greg Willits tremendously.
I also joined Plurk because of Father Roderick and have missed a number of people that have left due to his decision to go to FB and Twitter. I have not as yet ventured there. Just my 2 cents

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