Sex, Cash and Podcasting

Mark Cuban posted about cash and podcasting, which included this:

Podcasting is hot.  Podcasting is cheap and easy. Podcasting can be fun. Creating your own podcast and trying to make a business out of it is a mistake. Unless you are repurposing content from another medium, it will be rare to find anyone making money from originating podcasts.

Talk Radio Shows repurposed from radio to a podcast. No brainer. It’s cheap and easy. Repurposing industry specific information from tradeshows, speeches, product presentations for employee or customer education or as sales support. No brainer. These are just extensions of existing content into a new low cost medium.

For those who are tying to jump on the podcasting bandwagon and create a “hit” podcast that you plan on selling advertising in, its cheap and easy to do, but even with Google Adsense for RSS its going to be really tough to do it as a fulltime job and make minimum wage back.

I tend to reflexively push-back on things of this ilk, but damn it I think he’s right. I think this obsessive focus on “quitting the day job” levels of income from podcasting is ridiculous. For god’s sake, most novelists and musicians I know don’t get to quit their day jobs, so what makes you think you are so special? I say this as someone who is probably in the top 5 percentile of revenue generated by an individual podcaster and yet who is still orders of magnitude from living on that. Being on fire to make mortgage-covering amounts of cash out of the box is a mistake and it will lead you down the wrong path.

About this time last year, over at Gaping Void, Hugh Macleod was coming up with the Hughtrain manifesto. He extracted one piece out of that work that he titled “The Sex and Cash Theory”. It included insights such as:

I’m thinking about the young writer who has to wait tables to pay the bills, in spite of her writing appearing in all the cool and hip magazines…. who dreams of one day of not having her life divided so harshly.

Well, over time the ‘harshly’ bit might go away, but not the ‘divided’.

“This tense duality will always play center stage. It will never be transcended.”

As soon as you accept this, I mean really accept this, for some reason your career starts moving ahead faster. I don’t know why this happens. It’s the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way- who just want to start Day One by quitting their current crappy day job and moving straight on over to best-selling author… Well, they never make it.

The basic gist is that when you make your art pay the whole freight for your financial well-being, it’s a compromise. It puts pressure on your creative side that it doesn’t need. Rather than whoring your art, whore your CPA self or barrista self or whatever. Don’t worry so damn much about making a mint, worry about making the next show good. If you get the right combination of talent plus luck, maybe it will happen. Don’t plan on it, though, or you’ll end up like all the sad sacks whose life plans involve hitting the lottery to achieve what they want. Keep the sex and cash separate, and your art will be the better for it.

Update: Podcasting News links to the same article with the headline “Broadcast Billionaire Badmouths Podcasting”. I just plain don’t see that.

6 Replies to “Sex, Cash and Podcasting”

  1. I agree with you that none of us will get rich podcasting but there is an opportunity to make some income in addition to selling stuff as you have pioneered. What we don’t know right now if what the best route is… sponsorship? Google ads? subscriptions? all of these?

    What bothered me about Mr. Cuban’s piece was his analogy to streaming in the mid-’90’s. From my reading, he extrapolated his points from comparing amateur shows streamed at the dawn of the Internet to podcasting today. The technology has changed greatly that is enabling podcasting. Streaming depended on a good net connection and some time in front of your computer. It didn’t catch on because the experience sucked, not solely because of the content. We have broadband fairly available and affordable now along with compressed audio formats and high capacity players. These factors, combined with the whole time shifting and non-homogenized content, will fuel the growth of podcasting that will make streaming look like the experiment that it was.

    Also, his point on repackaging current radio content as a “no-brainer” is just plain wrong, but I am preaching to the converted… the people who will make the real money podcasting will be those who sell products and services to enable companies to jump on the bandwagon and not individual podcasters.

  2. Like you, I first winced when I read it, then thought, he’s right. But what bugged me was his emphasis on streaming. Of course you can’t listen to a podcast in real-time, but that’s not why people listen to podcasts. For example, I followed the attempted launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery in real time. I can’t do with a podcast (duh). But at another time, I listened to a commentary on the Tour de France from Australia while I’m walking the dog. I can’t do with an audio stream. I’m baffled that he would compare streams and podcasts. It’s echos of John C. Dvorak’s comments last fall.

    But that aside, Cuban is right about everything else on podcasting.

  3. I am hugely into the concept of leading a dual life.

    My professional life is interesting enough and does a fabulous job of paying the bills, but is ultimately pointless and dull and hollow.

    My personal, non-business hours life is 180 degrees out of phase with my work life, and involves happily interacting with folks who make art, get into fights, do drugs, care/don’t care about politics, can barely cover their rent, are smarter/dumber than me, and are otherwise fascinating people to be around.

    The two sides never meet.

  4. totally agree w/ the duality of life dave – i personally have been living that way my entire career, for example: commonly leaving the day job to hussle out to catch the evening glass-off during a good swell or drive all night to be on mountain for a new dump of powder…

    my day job pays for my ability (and my kids) to do the off-hours stuff (i love chris c’s way of saying this btw)…

    in the maverick blog comments and a post i also did on my site about what mark had to say – i too agreed w/ the “don’t quit the day job to podcast” recommendation he was making…

    the main thing i disagreed w/ was mark’s analogy between streaming and podcasting – they are different use cases and it is a different time…

    i’m luck enough to have spent time w/ mark during his broadcast.com days, and i can stay w/out reservation that mark is not a technologist – he is a brilliant concept guy, that is then good at moving that idea into action via his passion and the right supporting cast…

    look at how quickly he took to blogging and flourished at it…

    on the podcasting front – he is commenting on what he knows, which is streaming – he just happens to have made imho an incorrect assumption regarding podcasting…

    so a challenge: if he won’t take up podcasting himself, maybe he would consider being your guest on “voices in your head” – it would give him a taste of it and would i’m sure be a fun podcast for the rest of us 😉

  5. Guys, I’m with you all on Cuban missing the boat of streaming vs podcasting. Streaming was cool and all, but the usage model is a huge drag compared to podcasting. In fact, since I’ve been using the Shuffle listening to podcasts has been way more fun. Being able to carry a 1 ounce device and have continuity of entertainment from my house to my car is FANTASTIC.

    I think we are all saying the same thing. Putting pressure on your artistic life to feed you too soon is the fast track to hackery. It might happen, but banking on it is almost always to the detriment of the art. That’s what I get out of Hugh Macleod.

  6. I agree with Mr Caban, of course I do.

    “Oooh, make money with dotcoms!” “Oooh,, make money with blogging!” “Oooh, make money with podcasting!”

    I’m starting to see a pattern…

    Jason Calacanis has a pretty good idea how to do it, but he has 80-odd blogs in his stable.

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