During my little posting hiatus, Wil Wheaton popped me an email regarding a post he did on poker jumping the shark. I sent him a response and he told me I should run with it but, as I said in a previous post, I’ve been a little pre-occupied lately and never got around to it. Well, that ends here! :-)
First off, go read Wil’s post. It really sets the tone for where I’m coming from. Basically, some chucklehead named Ryan Berger, who has the absurd title of Creative Director of Buzz, is saying that poker is doomed because it’s too popular. Because it’s gone mainstream, it’s lost its appeal. Uh, right, dude. Couldn’t the author get a quote from the Director of Cool? Mr. Berger, 1998 called and it wants its bullshit job title back. We’re supposed to listen to a guy who doesn’t know that idiotic job titles went out of fashion back before the turn of the century for advice on what’s hot and what’s not?
Coming from the old dotcom world I’ve seen plenty of this kind of absurdity before. When Amazon’s price would get slammed during the dotcom bubble burst some mental defect would get quoted in a business piece saying that it validated his long held opinion that people just don’t want to buy books online. Of course, the little point they were leaving out was the reason the stock was getting slammed was higher costs due to expansion rather than lack of sales. And lookie today, Amazon is still around and people are still buying books online.
The media, in general, has no reality filter. Any journalist (and I use the term generously) can write a story on any topic as long as they can get one or two quotes to back it up. One of the other “proofs” the author used in this piece was to point to declining ratings for shows like Celebrity Poker Showdown as evidence that the poker fad was waning. Again, that’s like saying that sitcoms are a thing of the past because Friends went off the air.
Yes, as more and more television programs come into the space, some will survive and some will die. Celebrity Poker Showdown was always on the fringe. While it had a lot of potential, the celebrities were often not quite celebrities and their play was atrocious even to the casual fan of the game.
What the article seems to gloss over is the absolute number of programs. Only a few years ago, the only poker specific programming was Celebrity Poker Showdown, the WPT, Late Night Poker, and the annual WSOP coverage. Today you still have the previous shows in addition to High Stakes Poker, King of Vegas (not totally poker specific but they try), Learn from the Pros, Poker Superstars Invitational, NBC’s Heads-Up tournaments, Ultimate Bet Poker Challenge, Poker Royale, the Ultimate Poker Challenge, plus a few I’m probably forgetting. The author doesn’t seem to have done any research into whether or not the total number of viewers is up for poker related programming or if certain shows are seeing a drop off in viewers as people are presented with more choices. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess it’s the later.
Now that poker has stepped into the mainstream there will be countless articles indicating its demise. The first place you should look for confirmation is at the online users in your favorite poker clients. When the number of online players keeps going up and up while the press is saying that the people aren’t interested is a sign that things are likely to continue to trend up.
[UPDATE]: HDouble points out an article that suggests Google has been accused of jumping the shark 14 different times. Wow, how does Google have the energy to continue to innovate when it’s spending all its time jumping sharks?