This Year Collection, which I almost immediately starting referring to as (and which eventually came to be known as) "This Year," was, I guess, a podcast about podcasts.
I took podcasts I liked, picked my favorite parts from a particular time span (usually a year, but sometimes a month or a quarter), and then chopped and tacked and made a best-of compilation out of it. It got way more popular than I expected, and the warmth and support from fans was heartwarming and truly lovely. Eventually I found I no longer had the time to maintain the show, so I ended it in 2015.
The original concept was totally self-serving: I liked podcasts a lot but there was no easy way (back then) of keeping old episodes at hand, and no easy way of quickly finding the best parts of a particular episode. A year's worth of episodes of, say, the gaming podcast The HotSpot (the first podcast This Year covered) probably ran about forty hours or so, of which there were maybe about four hours I would have liked to revisit. So I went about cutting those bits out and stringing them together into long compilations. Part of the idea, and one of the reasons why I think people liked This Year so much, was to stick to a given podcast's format—so The HotSpot opened with discussion of news, and then went to phone calls and emails; I'd play news clips first, and then phone calls, and then emails. The whole idea was to make it feel as much like a real episode of the podcast, but one that was... well... really long.
I started with video games podcasts; they were always This Year's most popular episodes. It had entirely to do with the communities on Giant Bomb and NeoGAF, where the compilations were often posted (and continue to be re-posted) and where the show gained particular traction.
I produced compilations for all manner of shows, including comedy, sports, culture, and drama podcasts, as well as radio shows like Loveline and even Chris Morris' BBC Radio 1 show Blue Jam, which is probably the weirdest radio show ever created, and is one I don't have enough imagination to describe let alone classify. I fell out of love with some of the shows over time (The Adam Carolla Show, for instance, is one I stopped listening to years ago, as I lost interest in Carolla's style of comedy and the format of his show—his work on Loveline I still believe to be great).
This Year was an accidental project. I would not have made my compilations public if the first one or two hadn't taken off as they had. Positive feedback, support, and the small and dedicated fan-base made me keep going with the show. I am hugely thankful for all who ever gave the show affection or praise, but I have especial gratitude to those who donated their money to me. Some gave hundreds, which I still feel guilt about to this day. I don't think I deserved that much for what I was doing, but I suppose that's indicative of what the show meant to them. I was and still am in equal parts stunned and moved by their charity and commitment. If you donated to me during the four years I worked on This Year, please know that seeing a donation of any size come in meant the world to me: on the surface it meant that I didn't have to worry about finding a way to pay for the show's hosting fees, but in a more meaningful way it told me that the show was wanted and valued. That support is something I will always remember and cherish.
In the end I stopped working on This Year simply (and entirely) because I ran out of time. I wanted to find ways to continue, but couldn't—I started the show while in university and ran out of steam by the time I started a full time job. But you can find every episode of This Year, including the previously unreleased episode #100, below. A final thank you to those who listened over the years! It would not have happened without you.
Listen to any This Year episode here
I've uploaded every This Year episode to the Internet Archive, where I expect they'll probably stick around forever. You can listen to them using the streaming player on this page or on the Internet Archive itself. The full set of episodes runs just over 20GB, and you can download them from that Internet Archive page—click "169 original" from the download options box on the page. The set includes the Ryan Davis Summer Jams Memorial, previously not available on the podcast feed, as well as episode #100, previously not available at all. Please consider donating to the Internet Archive—they provide a wonderful and important service, and allow people like me to house content there for free.
Original plans for This Year
The popularity of the first few episodes led to me taking a more serious, structured approach to This Year than I had originally intended—what started out as a personal project ended up being public-facing. I soon shifted to a timetable of twice-monthly releases, and occasionally more frequent, depending on how involved each compilation was. About a year in I came up with a (in retrospect poorly defined) plan to expand This Year's offerings into a network of websites and podcasts, to be called the "This Year Network," which would include full archives of defunct podcasts not easily available online, like GFW Radio and 1UP Yours. Each show podcast would have its own website, and each episode would have a comprehensive show notes page. But this never went anywhere because I never had the time, so despite the This Year Network branding appearing on This Year's website, cover art, and in the show credits, it was basically a non-entity.
Will there be a return?
I'm flattered by how many people ask if I have plans to return to This Year, and gutted that I've only ever been able to respond with an optimistic "maybe next year" and more recently a straight "no." In future, in an ideal world, I would, though I can't promise anything. I'd probably begin by remastering every best-of previously released. This would be to improve audio quality, tighten up the compilations (I'm sure there are a number of best-ofs where I could remove some clips/introduce others), re-do all the voiceover work, and remove almost all the music breaks I'd included in earlier best-ofs. With reference to the last two: for probably the first two-and-a-half-years of the show I was still trying to work out how to talk, and I didn't even have a proper microphone to start with... (I was recording using the crappy mic in my MP3 player!) And regarding the music, my tastes in 2011 were far different to my tastes now—I wouldn't bother forcing unrelated music into the compilations now. This Year was a learning experience for me and, as with anything, there are many things I would do differently now.
A place for old podcasts
As part of the This Year Network I intended to host and provide a platform for old and defunct podcasts no longer available anywhere else. I still think we need a service like this. There are many, many lost podcasts and radio shows; not all of them are worth keeping, but many of course are, and it's a shame that some have fallen by the wayside. Loveline Tapes, which of course preserves recordings of the radio show Loveline, is a great example of how to preserve and care for old shows. Some people are beginning to upload older podcasts and radio shows to the Internet Archive, which is a great first step. I'd still love to work on a nicely presented, notes-rich platform for some of these shows in future.
This Year's production process was arduous. It was a lot of fun—I got to re-listen to a ton of old podcasts in the process—but I was essentially cramming an entire year's worth of a podcast's episodes into a month of listening (sometimes less than a month!), and then spending hours clipping each chosen segment out of individual MP3 files, selecting the order in which all the clips would be played, recording the voiceover, arranging everything in Audacity, and mastering it. The editing process itself took two or three days and was pretty intensive, but the end result was definitely worth it. I look back at it now, however, and I definitely feel it's not something I'd repeat. I wouldn't even know how! I was young and had so much time! If I were to pick This Year back up at some point, I'd hire staff to help with production so the load would fall across four or five people rather than just one.
When I started out, I was using a pretty fringe service formally known as blip.tv (eventually just Blip before it shut down) to host the podcast. blip.tv was offering free hosting for MP3s at the time which is why I chose it originally, but towards the end of 2011 blip.tv announced it was killing off the MP3 hosting portion of its service, so I moved This Year to Libsyn and began asking for donations to cover costs. On the web front, thisyearcollection.org was hosted on Blogger, where I presented each episode with timestamps and other information. I've included this information in PDF form on This Year's Internet Archive page.
I had no graphic design ability to speak of when I was doing This Year, but I did what I could to put together unique-looking covers for each episode. Many of the covers for earlier episodes (and later episodes) followed a template which made them a lot simpler to produce, but the middle episodes were basically free-for-alls, and as such were the ones I had the most fun with. Usually I used a photo or two from Flickr as the basis for covers. Here are some of my favorites. Click on the image to cycle through the covers.
Given the milestone, I decided to save the release of our best-of for the Chris Morris Music Show, my favorite radio show, for episode #100, but I never made it that far. It was never released, but it's now available on This Year's Internet Archive page.
The Chris Morris Music Show was an amazing radio show by the British satirist Chris Morris (also responsible for the previously mentioned Blue Jam, as well as the TV shows Brass Eye and The Day Today) broadcast in 1994. It combined Morris' wonderful musical taste with his acerbic and stunning humor, mixing sketches and monologs with songs by the likes of Portishead, Pavement, Nirvana, Lisa Germano, and all manner of other eclectic late 80s/early 90s artists. It was probably the greatest radio show ever conceived.
It ran for twenty-four episodes; I intended to produce three best-ofs for it, each covering eight episodes, but only ever mastered one; this one, episode #100, which covers the first eight episodes. Episodes #101 and #102 were to be parts two and three of the Chris Morris Music Show run. There's no voiceover or show credits from me in episode #100—I intended to record a separate introduction to be posted in the feed before it. Here it is, then; the final This Year episode ever produced! I hope you love Morris' work as much as I do.
Why the American accent?
I'm a New Zealander, so the American accent you hear on the podcast is totally false! (Hopefully it's convincing—so people tell me.) Looking back I've got no idea why I did it; I think my original feeling was that This Year would have a predominantly American audience, so when in Rome do as the Romans do (or something like that?), but that reasoning is... flawed at best. Really, I just didn't like the sound of my voice, so dressing it up as if I were some character allowed me to edit my voiceover without cringing too much. Now I think it's silly, and undoubtedly you'll think it's silly too, but I hope all those who listened to the show never picked up on it—at least that way I can laugh a little about pulling off this weird, totally unnecessary con.
One million downloads
I find it hard to believe, but by the time I shut down This Year's hosting for good (in February 2017) the show had achieved a total 1,265,000 lifetime downloads. That's individual episode downloads (i.e. total downloads for each episode, added together). Episode #32, a This American Life one, had the most downloads—37,500.
If you want to contact me about anything related to This Year, feel free to get in touch using the form on this page.