Yesterday, I wrote about the history of The Harris Challenge, starting with its roots in my desire to make radio contests more entertaining for the vast majority of listeners who would never call in. It started with a variety of games, but eventually morphed into one that was initially called The Office Challenge.
At the time, I was doing a morning radio show from 5:30am to 10:00am five days a week, and wanted something new for that final hour. I knew many listeners were at work by 9am but already looking for a distraction from whatever their jobs were. I conceived a game that would pit one office against another, with whoever scored the most points receiving bagels and cream cheese on me.
The first time I tried it, I ran into a snag. Because the station ran on a delay, only the person on the phone could hear me live — the others in the office couldn’t listen via their radios because they’d be seven seconds behind — but having the team leader repeat my questions took up too much time. I gave both of them the bagels prize and went back to the drawing board, frustrated. Finally, I decided that, going forward, any office that played had to be able to put me on a speakerphone so everyone could hear the questions and shout out the answers.
That worked perfectly. Not only did the concept make listeners at work (and elsewhere) happy, but it converted some of the non-listeners in those offices into fans of my show. It turned out that feeding someone for free made them willing to tune in on their own for the rest of the show!
After a few years, I modified The Challenge again. Instead of two offices going head-to-head, I expanded it to five individuals, each playing their own category. That required a lot more question-writing, a task I handled solo, coming up with thousands of them every year. But I enjoyed it and got tremendous feedback from listeners — it was by far the most popular thing I’d ever created — so I kept doing it on the air until I retired in February, 2018.
At that point, I decided to take The Harris Challenge online. With the help of web designer Kevin Brackett (who I knew from guesting on the Reel Spoilers movie review podcast), the game got its own website and a new format. Instead of open-ended questions, I had to make them multiple choice, which meant even more writing.
The web version of The Harris Challenge debuted 18 months ago and quickly developed a devoted following, but today I’m bringing it to an end.
Why? Because after all of these years, I just don’t get a kick out of doing it anymore. I promised myself that, in retirement, I would try to eliminate as much stress as possible from my life, an effort at which I’ve been pretty successful thus far. Yet I was still spending too many hours each week writing, editing, and posting questions and categories. Since it’s a non-income-producing hobby, I’m going to devote my energies elsewhere.
You may have guessed this outcome if you played yesterday’s Harris Challenge, which started with the category Next To Last.
I will continue to create new content for this website, HarrisOnline.com, where I’ve been blogging for more than 20 years. Meanwhile, the HarrisChallenge.com site will remain in place for awhile, even without new material, so you can go back and play some of the categories you might have missed.
I appreciate all those who played the internet version of The Harris Challenge — including those who caught some minor coding errors I made occasionally — as well as everyone who ever enjoyed it on my radio shows (whether they called in or not). If it provided some fun and entertainment, then I did my job.
To play the final two categories of The Harris Challenge, full of topical trivia torn from this week’s news (“Have You Been Paying Attention?”), click here.
If you missed my piece on The History Of The Harris Challenge, read it here.