I recently interviewed Ryan Costello, Jr, founder of the site and co-host of Know Direction and The Private Sanctuary podcasts. Along with his co-host on My Know Direction, Perram, they created a Kickstarter to relaunch the Know Direction podcast. At over $1,500 of its $2,000 goal the ongoing Kickstarter is well on its way to being successfully funded by November 6, 2013.
Michael Tresca (MT): Tell us about your Kickstarter.
Ryan Costello (RC): As Know Direction, the Pathfinder news, reviews, and interviews podcast reached new heights of exposure and popularity, our equipment hit new lows of passable audio quality. That, and we’re a podcast about one game (Pathfinder) that’s mostly still branded as the podcast for another game (D&D 3.5). We just evolved so naturally from the podcast and website dedicated to 3.5 loyalists when 4e came out to the podcast dedicated to the successor to the fantasy tabletop RPG crown so gradually that we missed upkeep to our identity and purpose. Now we have two podcasts dedicated to Pathfinder on 35privatesanctuary.com, and that’s a pretty big branding gaff.
So, we’re asking our loyal listeners, some of whom have been with us since the podcast began in October 2007, for help. We need new equipment. The podcast cannot continue at the quality level our old recording equipment puts out. We also need new and better remote recording equipment to take advantage of all the opportunities being established as the longest running and most consistent Pathfinder podcast affords us. Finally, we need a website that is for Pathfinder enthusiasts first, 3.5 loyalists second. 3.5 is the site’s heritage, there’s no denying that, but it isn’t who we are anymore. We’re Know Direction, the Pathfinder news, reviews, and interviews podcast.
MT: Tell us about your gaming background.
RC: I had a runaway imagination as a kid. I was always happier to create, and that includes while socializing. In first grade, I gave my parents completely wrong instructions on a school project because I liked my idea better than the assignment. The presents at the top of my birthday and Christmas lists were toys that did not exist. This caught up with me towards the end of elementary school and I did not have any friends. This improved a bit in high school, but things really changed in 9th grade. I was on a whale watching trip (no, really) and a classmate told me about Dungeons & Dragons. He didn’t show me any rules, he didn’t have any dice, he just outlined it as interactive storytelling. I was hooked. This lead to playing 2E at lunch every day, on weekends, sometimes marathon 20 hour sessions that went through the night. It also lead to friends. Gaming friends. Other friends who were happy that I had a proper channel for my imagination and was less likely to make stuff up. I got out of gaming for a few years, but once 3.0 was released, some of my high school gaming friends and I started up a new group. That group evolved, at one point including over a dozen players and meeting a couple times a week. I still game at least once a week, sometimes twice, I coordinate the Montreal Pathfinder Society scene, and I will talk up the virtues of gaming as a social tool and learning experience to anyone who will listen.
MT: Have you Kickstarted any other products in the past?
RC: This is my first time using Kickstarter as a creator, but I’ve backed projects that reflect my interests fairly often. I tend to favour smaller products by companies or individuals I have followed for a long time.
MT: How has Kickstarter changed or influenced your business model?
RC: Before Kickstarter, monetizing a podcast was extremely difficult. We have advertisers, and they pay the hosting costs, but overall the site and podcasts have been paid for out of my pocket. Kickstarter allows us to subsidize our costs, and our listeners are more than happy to throw us a few dollars as thanks for all the hard work and free content. This is probably the only time we’ll use Kickstarter to fund equipment upgrades and general costs. In the future, we’d like to use Kickstarter to allow us to work on special projects above and beyond what we already offer on the site.
MT: Why should backers contribute to your Kickstarter? What sets it apart?
RC: You know how you hear stories of Kickstarters losing money on a successful campaign because they estimated their costs poorly? Or projects going unfulfilled because the company couldn’t follow through? We’ve been following through on our promise for seven years at no cost. The content we are promising is digital, saving us shipping costs and a lot of product management headaches.
Furthermore, now that we’re funded, we’re offering a special reward to backers: an exclusive adventure for the Pathfinder Roleplaying game, with contributions from Paizo staff and well known freelancers. We’ve almost unlocked Mark Moreland, whose first appearance on Know Direction dates back to before he even worked for Paizo. As the Kickstarter pushes onwards, I’m getting offers from more people who want to contribute to the project. If we raise even half of what Kicktrax suggests we’ll get, there will be a lot of contributors of note working on A Gnome In Need.
MT: How do you feel about the state of the gaming industry today?
RC: It’s weird. It’s weird that I don’t play Dungeons & Dragons. And not for hipster reasons or that I’ve lost interest. D&D stopped being the game I wanted to play. Pathfinder became the game I wanted D&D to be. That is true for a great many people, as 4e came to an unceremonious end while Pathfinder is quickly branching out to other parts of the gaming hobby. I regularly hear about the Pathfinder Adventure Card game when I listen to Dice Tower, a board game podcast. I hear about Pathfinder Tales on Writing Excuses, a writing podcast, and the Pathfinder Comic on The Watchtower, a comic book podcast.
MT: How hard is it for a game publisher in this economy?
RC: The gaming industry has shown growth through the economic crisis of the past, what, five years? Geek culture’s prominence in pop culture helps a lot. So does the tendency for gamers to have higher education and secure jobs. And the quality of games is at an all-time high.
MT: What's next for your company?
RC: Jefferson Jay Thacker, aka Perram, my Know Direction co-host, pitched an idea for a documentary to me two years ago. He even got some necessary ducks in a row. I think it’s a great idea, and I believe it will be the first project we Kickstart after relaunching Know Direction.
MT: What conventions will you be at next?
RC: You can guarantee we’ll be at PaizoCon and GenCon. I’m running a local convention on November 2-3, ChimeraCon, at Chimera Games and Café, the fastest growing game store in Montreal. Otherwise, we’ll see what our schedules and budgets allow.
MT: Where can we find out more about your company online?
RC: 35privatesanctuary.com is the home page, and we’re active on our Facebook page facebook.com/knowdirection and our youtube channel, youtube.com/knowdirectionshow. Finally, our Kickstarter can be found at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamerati/relaunch-know-direction?ref=gamerati
MT: Anything else you'd like to share?
RC: We met our funding goal in a day, which we are so excited for. We set our initial ask low, basically only enough to replace the necessary equipment. Now that we’re past that, we can sit easier knowing Know Direction will continue for at least another year. We can also start thinking bigger. More video support, better sounding podcast, more sophisticated sound editing. All money we gain goes right back into the podcast, so listeners can be assured that the more they are there for us, the more we can be there for them.
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