Thanks for all the feedback to my Turning Point blog post! Even though I was characteristically loquacious in that post, I still have a lot to say on the topic.
This morning, I received an e-mail from a listener and media professional who I'll call Dee. Below is an edited version of our e-mail discussion, posted with permission. I thought people might find the details instructive.
I think you need to refresh your view on your entire situation. You are in the rare position to actually have a large, passionate audience that actually gets mad if you post the podcast late, or if you don't post an After Dark (see, I'm a regular listener, I hear you). While you may know some others with a similar passionate user base, the fact is that this is EXTREMELY RARE. What you have is valuable. Your statement here is key to your problem: "the money that we get does not come anywhere close to equalling the amount necessary to sustain a person for a living (nor should it, really)." YES IT SHOULD, actually. You need to realize you are in a great position that is hard to attain outside of major media. Buckle down, realize that no matter how uncredentialed you think you are, or how busy you are, you have a real BUSINESS at your fingertips that is simply not monetized. Buckle down and find a salesperson and get AD SPONSORSHIPS. It is no longer credible to say you can't get Ads when major directors and critics are coming on your show and you have studios treating you to viewings as they would mainstream publications. Stop ignoring the fact that yes, if you take the Filmcast seriously as a business, you will prosper, but yes, it will likely cease to be a hobby and take on a smell of a job.
Also, I see that you have a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of $7,000 to fund your personal photo project. This makes no sense after reading your post. As far as I know, you are not a well known photographer, so anyone donating to that project would be doing so probably because they know you rather than because they think you are great photographer. So rather than using Kickstarter for that, why not use it for the Filmcast??? Hellooo? Make your goal $50k to start (no, you can't pay Devindra and Adam, hard choices need to be made). I would bet anything that you reach $25,000 in less than 6 months. If that happens, then that should be enough to convince you to stop thinking fatalistically about the Filmcast and GO OUT AND GET SOME SALES PEOPLE!
I love you guys. I don't always agree, but I love your show. I grew up with Ebert and Armond content, I prefer Filmcast. If you are considering letting it die on the vine simply because you didn't want/or could not conceive of approaching it like a business, then I feel on some level you are betraying the loyal patronage of your passionate users, but most of all you are betraying Yourself.
Thanks for your e-mail. I've thought a lot about some of the factors that you describe.
I've thought about your Kickstarter idea but there are a number of problems with that plan. I agree with you: I am pretty sure I'd be able to raise $30,000, $40,000, maybe even $50,000 to do the /Filmcast for one year. But that is not a sustainable way to do things. Kickstarter has this thing where if you don't reach the funding goal, you don't get ANY of the money. I definitely wouldn't be abe to live year to year with that amount of uncertainty. And giving up my life for a year to do the /Filmcast would be fun and rewarding, but what would I do afterwards? I need to be looking towards a future, where there is hopefully a wife/family/mortgage coming up.
With regards to Devindra and Adam, I want to honor them, in the sense that we came into this enterprise together and I would not want to cut them out of any financial arrangement. Ironically, this desire to not be a dick to them will probably one day end up leading to the end of my involvement in the /Filmcast: In the most ridiculously optimistic circumstances, the podcast can probably make enough money for ONE person to survive off of. And since, in my mind, any money made from the show would have to be split three ways, I probably would rather see my involvement with the show end than deal with any attempt of my own to retain full monetary benefit from the show. There are more important things to me than seeing the show continue, including being a decent human being (side note: On the other hand, if Devindra and Adam were to give their blessing to any sponsorship/kickstarter arrangement, that would change things, obviously).
As for getting an ad sales person, it's a real chicken-and-the egg problem: We don't have enough money to pay an ad sales person because we don't have ads. We can't get ads because we don't have an ad sales person. And so on.
As for people not knowing me as a photographer, my hope was that people would see the Kickstarter campaign who know me from all my other pursuits, and try to help me out out of the goodness of their hearts. This is typically the way a lot of Kickstarter campaigns work, only oftentimes, people DON'T know the people they're donating for at all! Tons of people are paying completely unknown people to make documentaries and create albums. But, apparently my plan hasn't worked in your book :)
Agree with all your points, sounds like you have a clear perspective on the matter after all. I do think your great co-hosts would be willing to go without pay on a trial 12-month basis if you presented it to them the right way (particularly if they understand that a future alternative may be no podcast at all).
As for the Ad salesperson issue, good point. I've worked as an editor in various levels of publishing. Even at the lowest levels, the salespeople get a base salary of about $1,500 plus sales commission (typically 10-15%) per month. Without a base salary, it would be hard to get someone, but in your case you might be surprised. There are tons of salespeople selling inventory they don't like, or that's too hard to sell. You have the numbers, high profile, and celeb guests, I think offering a salesperson a larger upfront commission (say 35%) on a trial 6 month basis would actually get you a good number of candidates. Contract that 6 months trial in writing. After 6 months, if you have healthy Advertiser interest, you renegotiate the salesperson's commission. If you don't know where to start looking my suggestion (other than posting an ad on Craigslist--which still works great) would be to poach talent from someone else in a similar vertical. Salespeople are always looking to move to a better deal/product, and the deal I described + plus your strong brand/penetration makes a pretty attractive deal...
I am open to your thoughts, questions, and suggestions in the comments.