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Why Desus and Mero Content Strategy Worked
It’s official. Desus & Mero on Showtime is over. The dynamic duo is separating due to differences with their manager. The brand was strong. The brand was brolic. And now the brand is on to its next phase.
The brand accomplished a lot in the past ten years. The former summer school classmates rose from Twitter fame to Complex and MTV shows, and then to their own podcast and late-night TV.
Their chemistry was strong, and the content was on point, but good content is rarely enough. Let’s break down the difference-makers that fueled their rise.
the rise to fame during Twitter’s hyper-growth phase
In the early 2010s, Twitter was the wild wild west. It was a lawless corner of the internet where people tweeted about what they ate for lunch and added useless hashtags at the end of every tweet.
But it was also a time for the platform’s hypergrowth. As I wrote recently about TikTok, the users who grow to power during a social network’s fastest-growth phase will always have outsized results. The same was true for Twitter in the early 2010s. It was perfect timing for power users like Desus Nice and The Kid Mero to get an early-mover advantage.
the mixtape-album strategy
By the end of 2013, the duo released their first podcast and internet show, Desus vs. Mero, on Complex. That led to MTV shows like Guy Code, Uncommon Sense, and Joking Off.
But the real shift happened when they launched their own podcast, The Bodega Boys. This was home base for the diehard Desus and Mero fans. If you wanted their inside jokes, the podcast was your jam.
Desus and Mero managed The Bodega Boys the same way rappers often manage mixtapes. It was a place for the rawer, less-polished content that the day-one fans loved. They wisely kept The Bodega Boys podcast active until December 2021, even when the bigger checks came from VICE and Showtime.
Here’s what I wrote about this back when Desus & Mero on Showtime when it first launched in 2019:
“When artists focus on albums and stop making mixtapes (or mixtape-type music), they risk losing the audience that fueled their rise. But if artists stuck only with mixtapes, there’s a higher chance they might never breakout. Doing both allows them to grow while staying true to their roots. That’s why Lil’ Wayne’s run from 2005-2009 was so iconic. He released classic mixtapes and albums to maintain both audiences.”
For Desus and Mero, this was an opportunity for the creators to build their own audience while benefitting from the major network exposure. This combination works well for many creators. The major network show is their top-of-funnel much like their social media accounts. The podcast was their IP that they owned, and they protected it deeply. But it’s sad to think that the podcast will now be inactive given the years of work they put in.
nothing lasts forever
When Desus & Mero left VICELAND for Showtime in 2019, VICE’s CEO Nancy Dubuc shared her skepticism, “They’re going to a platform that their audience doesn’t pay for. I told them, ‘You can always come back.’”
While that could have been taken as a salty comment given how things ended with VICE, she may have had a point.
Desus & Mero on Showtime often felt overly polished for the uncut brand of the Bodega Boys. More of their interviews started to feel like another stop in the “illustrious guest’s” press junket.
This type of shift will inevitably impact each host’s decision to move forward. It’s hard for two creative talents to stay on the same page for a few years, let alone an entire decade.
Plus, the duo are at two different places in life. Desus is a bachelor. Mero is a Dad of four and living the family life. Lifestyles will always play a factor in business decisions.
To call the run “over” would imply that either Desus or Mero go back to life before Twitter fame. That’s impossible. Their separate paths will be fascinating to watch. In music, groups split up all the time, then acts become solo, then the group goes on a reunion tour years later. The Desus & Mero podcast reunion tour could be a reality someday.
Twitter has been a launchpad for many successful creators, but it’s hard to think of any other creators who came up more from it than these two.
They no longer have their premium network show, and their podcast is officially done. But they have their name recognition, and that will give them a leg up in whatever they choose to do next.