A phenomenon I have noticed in recent years that I feel needs to be called out is that there appears to be an overabundance of platforms for Masonic publications (e.g. magazines, newsletters, conferences, blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels, et al), yet simultaneously a scarcity of content for all these platforms. This abundance and scarcity, however, appear to be mutually inclusive.
I first noticed this phenomenon back during the lockdown of 2020 until about 2022, especially with occult and esoteric podcasts and YouTube channels. Prior to lockdown, there were only a handful of esoteric podcasts and YouTube channels. They had a regular schedule of posting content. Some channels posted every week, some every month, and only a few posted whenever they felt like it, but they posted such quality material that their irregular schedule was forgivable. Then lockdown happened, and suddenly more people had more free time. Further, many people were out of the job, and needed a means to generate some revenue, so they used this as an opportunity to hustle and make some money off of everything they know and enjoy doing. Suddenly the internet exploded with new channels with an abundance of esoteric content to consume. This was complemented by the fact that many people had more time to consume all this content, so the demand matched the market, and vice versa. It was glorious for about two years.
Then as COVID restrictions started to ease and more people had to start commuting again, working in an office, and losing all that free time, these channels that exploded onto the scene suddenly became sporadic in posting content, or they went dormant entirely.
Take for instance the YouTube channel Mr. Ballen, who tells strange and dark true stories. He used to do TikTok shorts and then started to do longer format content on YouTube. He is a great storyteller and produces very enjoyable content to consume. At one point he was posting three or four, sometimes five times a week, but it was clear the momentum that drove him to post so often ran down very quickly and now he only posts once a week. We all noticed this, no matter what content we choose to consume on these platforms. And it is sad to see so many great platforms that produced so much great content, and now so many reside in the graveyards of what once was.
What I think is worse is that so many of these channels have Patreon accounts. At the time, I had money so I was happy to contribute so that these individuals could keep producing the content I enjoyed. However, when I started to notice that many of these people had not posted anything in months, I had to start canceling my monthly contributions. Then eventually I had to start going through my subscription lists and just unsubscribing from these inactive channels. What is sad is that I have gone back to a number of these channels and checked their Patreons and realized that there are still people sending these “creators” money though they have produced nothing in over a year or more. It really is sad.
But the urge to start your own blog, podcast, YouTube, et cetera still persists. Recently on Facebook, I saw an occultist that I follow start talking about starting her own occult podcast. She has published several books, teaches a number of online courses, has been on dozens of podcast interviews, and she is very prolific. I appreciate her work, but I wondered why she felt compelled to start her own channel. Would she have time to maintain it on a regular schedule? That ontop of everything else she does. Is she expecting Patreon support, even if she gets bored with the podcast and stops producing? Is she contributing anything new? Or would it be better to support an existing podcast or channel? And this is not just occult, or history, or weird stories, et al channels. I see this in Masonry as well.
I recently was talking to a new Master Mason who wants to start his own podcast. While I do not want to discourage anyone from pursuing their own path for disseminating Masonic education, I asked him why he had not considered first contributing to an existing channel? Reach out and see if they want to do a collaboration to keep up regular content creation? He also wanted to start a blog. I asked why he had not considered first contributing to an existing blog or even a magazine? He just really wanted to do his own thing. That was all.
And I get that. Sometimes we are doing something unique, aiming for something that other platforms are not willing to accept or is just not compatible. When I published my book on the collected poetry of Lawrence N. Greenleaf, my manuscript kept being rejected by poetry publishers because it was antiquated, and rejected by history publishers because it was too Masonic, and I did not get responses from any Masonic publishers except two, and one said it was too political (because Greenleaf was very political). I ultimately decided to create my own publishing company because the work would not fit into any other publisher’s portfolio, and I ultimately wanted control over the content. So I get that sometimes we are trying to do something original, inimitable, and unique that necessitates starting our own channel or whatever. However…
What is perplexing is that I see new channels, new blogs, et cetera popping up and then going dormant very soon thereafter. At the same time, the existing, well-established platforms are struggling to get contributors. Earlier this year, this very blog, The Midnight Freemasons, had to announce a new posting schedule, posting less every month than in previous years, due to lack of contributions. It was sad, as I love this blog and I’ve been reading it for years. At the same time, I see new Masonic blogs popping up every few months, I start following them, and then I see their content tapers off and within a year they are dormant. The existing blogs would have benefited from those content contributions and then we would not see another dead blog in the ether.
Similarly, there are magazines. I have been editor of the Rocky Mountain Masons for about six years now. Every issue Ben and I tend to have to write additional content just to fill space, oftentimes without our names attached to certain articles just so it does not appear that one or two people wrote the whole issue. And recently I learned of a brother who wants to start another Masonic magazine, not in Colorado, but still. There are loads of Masonic periodicals out there, many struggle to fill content, and now there is a desire to start another publication.
Podcasts are worse. In Issue 27 of the Rocky Mountain Mason, I interviewed Robert Johnson of the Whence Came You? podcast. In that interview, I asked him why his channel is so successful and he stated: “When I started, it was just Scott Blasken and Brent S. Morris (The Life Masonic), and some old episodes of shows that never really took off for various reasons, mostly consistency. Fast forward just five years from then, there were around ten others. Now there are handfuls, more than twenty, I reckon. But I think that’s what people liked about WCY. It’s the cadence. Knowing that every Monday there is an episode for you. The graveyard of Masonic podcasts grows every year.”
Of the dozens, probably far more than twenty Masonic podcasts — I reckon over fifty — so many are dormant or post so infrequently that no one ever pays attention to them. I see they have loads of subscribers, but very few downloads. And this is what makes Whence Came You? and The Masonic Roundtable successful: they have a schedule and more or less stick to that regular schedule. Sure, they may take a holiday every so often or post a day or two late, but they post regularly, so there is always something there for your enjoyment.
It is very rare that a channel will post irregularly and for it to maintain a following. The Atun-Shei Films YouTube channel I think is a good example. Andy really only posts when he completes a project, which can be anywhere from four to six weeks from his last upload, sometimes longer. But he produces very high-quality videos. Good production quality, good script, well put together, et cetera, and so his infrequent schedule ends up being forgivable, because when he does upload a video, you know you are getting a treat, something you will probably watch multiple times. But again, this is a rare example.
It would seem any Mason who recognizes a certain desire to generate educational or editorial content, for some odd reasons does not see the need to contribute to existing platforms, but to start their own. And I have to advise: unless you think you can maintain a regular schedule, not just post whenever you feel like it, it might be better to contribute to something existing. That way, when you don’t have time or energy, your blog, channel, whatever, does not suffer, and the existing platforms get a boost of content to keep themselves going.
For instance, I read a lot of books and especially Masonic books. Lately, I have not had the energy to write many original research papers for the Rocky Mountain Mason, so I have been writing book reviews. I have been debating with myself if I should do a Masonic book review channel. Book review channels on YouTube are popular, because there is a lot of literature out there, and we don’t all have the time to read everything we want, so reviews are good, because they give us insight into whether the book is worth to effort, or if the review will suffice. So I did some digging and found there have only been two or three Masonic book review channels on YouTube, and they died after only a few months. And they seemed like good channels, so it was sad to see them die so quickly.
I guess that is the thing: the initial impetus behind wanting to start your own channel or podcast is usually because you know some stuff, and you can already imagine three or four episodes, and that is enough to start. But after that… what do you have? Do you also possess the motivation to keep working to produce more content? Because if it took you four years to get all the knowledge to you now possess to do four episodes, do you really have the energy to work really hard to produce new content within a month? Because I do not see many channels that upload longer than a month-long interim do very well? Do you know if you can make this happen for more than a year? It usually takes a year of regular content for a channel to appease the algorithm gods.
I certainly do not have the energy to do it, nor really the time. Maybe one day I will start a channel, but right now nor the foreseeable future seems doable for me.
So my advice, especially for new Masons: try contributing to existing platforms that have an established reputation and fanbase before you try to start your own thing. Not just because you are going to have to work really hard to build a following and if you don’t have the energy to maintain regular content for over a year, then your work will barely be noticed. You will get more attention by contributing to existing platforms, and it will strengthen those existing platforms that have the following, but always lack the content.
Patrick M. Dey is a Past Master of Nevada Lodge No. 4 in the ghost town of Nevadaville, Colorado, and currently serves as their Secretary, and is also a Past Master of Research Lodge of Colorado. He is a Past High Priest of Keystone Chapter No. 8, Past Illustrious Master of Hiram Council No. 7, Past Commander of Flatirons Commandery No. 7. He currently serves as the Exponent (Suffragan) of Colorado College, SRICF of which he is VIII Grade (Magister). He is the Editor of the Rocky Mountain Mason magazine, serves on the Board of Directors of the Grand Lodge of Colorado’s Library and Museum Association, and is the Deputy Grand Bartender of the Grand Lodge of Colorado (an ad hoc, joke position he is very proud to hold). He holds a Masters of Architecture degree from the University of Colorado, Denver, and works in the field of architecture in Denver, where he resides with wife and son.