Who Murdered Monster Porn Podcast? (Is This Our Brush with Online Censorship?)

Apple Podcasts, China, and Censorship with Monster Porn Podcast

Monsterbators, it’s time we came clean. This may come as a surprise to long-time listeners, but the show is struggling and has been for some time.

A year ago, it was starting to look like Monster Porn Podcast was taking off. Weekly listens were going up. Release day listens were at a high. We peaked as the thirty-third most popular science fiction podcast in the U.S. on Apple. We were getting good feedback from our listeners and that felt great, knowing that our work was reaching an audience, and there were people out there connecting with it. If you’re one of those people who connected with it, you should probably seek counseling. 

However, in October of last year, 2019, in what should have been our prime time building up to Halloween and in the midst of a promotional push, our listen stats crashed. We came up with a number of theories and tried all sorts of measures to recover what we lost, but nothing we’ve tried has reversed this downturn. Our listens, particularly in Apple Podcasts, have only continued to diminish through last winter and spring to the point where we question whether it is worth it to continue this project.

We never received any negative listener feedback that would explain what happened in terms of our content or quality. Of course, there is always room to improve but we never heard anyone say they stopped listening to Monster Porn for a specific reason. And it didn’t look like subscribers we lost, but random daily traffic. Our leading theory on the crash, until recently, had to do with Apple Podcasts’ restructuring of its categorization system in mid-summer of 2019. We speculated that the new category system put us in a less visible position. While we haven’t entirely ruled that out, it doesn’t fit the details we see in a couple suspicious ways: first, it wasn’t until October that we crashed, and, second, our crash has been progressive and ongoing.

Instead, a different theory just emerged for us as we re-examined the data this week.

I’m going to give some stats to show what I’m talking about. Please bear with me for a moment through the run-down; I promise this is going somewhere interesting. 

In August, we were growing and 69.9% of our listens came from Apple Podcasts. Apple Podcasts was not only our largest market but our fastest growing. September was our best month ever, and 71% of our listens came from Apple Podcasts. But then came October. For October, Apple listens only constituted 58.3% of our listens. Our overall Apple listens for October were only two-thirds of our Apple listens for September. And every month since then, our listens in Apple Podcasts have decreased further. Some of the other markets, especially Spotify, have continued to grow, albeit slowly, but not even close to enough to counterbalance the losses in Apple. Now, in the last 30 days, Apple listens have only made up 39.5% of our overall listens. Our Apple listens over the last 30 are a mere 18% of the amount of Apple listens from September 2019. It’s like we’re getting strangled out of Apple Podcasts a little more every month.

But as we saw this happening, we didn’t give up pushing the podcast or producing shows. We held on to the hope that this would turn around. Perhaps time would show this to just be a seasonal trend or a market-wide trend. Perhaps we’d stumble on a fix to something we were doing wrong and rebound.

However, a few days ago, I drilled down into the stats to try to find the exact moment that things went wrong. Believe it or not, we hadn’t attempted to narrow it down below the level of the month before, mostly because our theories on what happened didn’t expect it to be an instantaneous change. You could carve up the month into various periods to compare, but I’m going to jump right to the comparison that we believe was significant. 

We released an episode on the 14th, so it made sense to do a before-and-after comparison for the roughly half of a month before to the roughly half of a month after. I found that for the period of October 1st through the 13th, which includes the day after a release through to the day before the next release, our Apple listens comprised 67.2% of our overall listens. This, for the first half of October, is close to the percentage for August and roughly on par with where we were through the summer of growth.

Then I looked at the period of October 15th through the 27th, which also encompassed the day after a release through to the day before the next release. For the second half of October, our Apple listens were only 55.7% of total listens. This is significantly down. The total of Apple listens for the second half were only 61.9% of the Apple listens for the first half. That’s a drop in Apple listens of more than a third, almost two fifths, and it happened nearly instantaneously.

On October 14th, 2019, we released episode MP036 – “Invasion of the Slorchers.” In the skit for that episode, we made light of humanitarian issues in China.

We even joked about this getting MP blacklisted at the time, but we never really, seriously, put two and two together. I recognize that it is unfortunately impossible to prove beyond doubt that we’re being punished by Apple for criticism of China. But we feel now that this hypothesis explains everything we’ve seen, and more so than any previous hypothesis. 

So I guess we’ve learned, through this show, that there are just some things you can’t say on the Internet. If you know us, you know how we are. We had the voice of God prescribe buttsex to expel a demon (episode 7). We portrayed a demon raping a deer (episode 37). We ran an ambiguous allegory about race relations involving fish people (episode 18). We made light of the genocide of ethnic minorities (episode 13). We had a minor shove an egg up his ass, transform into a bug, and then hook up with his teacher (episode 20). 

But it wasn’t any one of these things that brought us trouble. Honestly, if these things had, I would have shrugged and thought, “Well, that’s fair. We did just rape a deer.” Each time we did something like this, it was with a little imp of the perverse on our shoulders saying, “I dare you. I friggin’ dare you to write it.” We knew we were pushing the envelope with these things, and just for the sake being edgy entertainment. It kind of comes with the territory of calling ourselves Monster Porn. If any of these things had brought trouble down on us, I would have just said, “Well, that’s fair. We kind of asked for it.” Honestly, I would have been a little glad that there were people out there paying attention and enforcing what was beyond the pale. I want a civilization to have standards. 

But it wasn’t any of these things. What appears to have put Monster Porn in danger was being critical of goddamned concentration camps that are rumored to exist in the present day on the other side of the world. Or perhaps it was the mere mention of Hong Kong. I should be fuming with a sense of righteous fury that this is the one thing we couldn’t say out of all the things we’ve said on the show. I should be angry that our creative endeavor that was gaining steam and could have been our shot to make ourselves something as writers was shot down by our distributor partner because they would rather get on their knees in front of one of their largest markets than permit criticism of that nation’s alleged atrocities. 

It may surprise you, given this, that we plan to keep our catalogue available on Apple Podcasts. That’s because it’s not our job to punish our fans and make it harder for people to access our show. That’s Apple’s job, apparently. However, if you are listening to this on Apple Podcasts, we would like to encourage you to subscribe on Spotify, Google Podcasts, or another podcast platform. We’re on most of them. Our full episodes are also on Youtube. Or better yet, do subscribe on Apple Podcasts, just to spite them. Download all of our episodes. Do it five times over. Give the finger to whatever algorithm is working against us.

Again, we could be wrong. I’d like to be wrong. But this is what it looks like unless new information comes up. 

Anyway, it seems to me there is only one honorable course of action from here. It is made easier by the fact we’re already, perhaps, up the creek and the damage is done. And that course of action…is to double down.

Hear us give it to the Secretary General, take two, in MP056 – “Pastoress: We Will Be Changed, and listen to the original offense in MP036 – “Invasion of the Slorchers.”

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