How to Make a Living in New Media

I saw Mike Geoghegan’s post about making a living as a podcast consultant. He is keying off of what Chris Brogan said, and also cites Todd Cochrane’s volley into this match. I’ll put in my tiny entry, and try to do it better than when I had almost the same go-round with Kris Smith a few months back.

These guys are in some cases debating fine points about the best way to brand, whether audio is relevant and a good way to establish you as a media producer, etc. Me personally, I think these are all answers to the wrong question. The real question is “How will producing new media for a Fortune 100 company be any better than doing anything for them?” In my own life and career, I have worked hard to eliminate the need to deal with those sorts of people, ie the middle managers at very large companies. Speaking only for myself, the more overlap I have with those guys the less happy I am.

I think there is a lot of value when you can do your own thing and get paid for it by whatever mechanism. That could be having Ask.com sponsor you like Ask a Ninja now does, or by selling enough merchandise to make a go of it, etc. Anytime you leave the wheelhouse of that, it’s all the same to me. I see no real difference in recording a podcast for Merck Pharmaceuticals, writing copy for them as a staffer, or (as I once did) working in one of their laboratories in a factory. It’s getting paid for doing something you wouldn’t do without the pay. I have no fundamental objection to that – I’ve done it most days of my life. I did it today and will do it tomorrow. However, I don’t see any reason to believe that life is so much better if the ultimate result of your work is an audio or video file in an RSS enclosure.

Even worse, what I hate most about the underlying message of Brogan’s post is that “You must do things a certain way in order to preserve your money-making ability.” The biggest value of doing my podcast for the last three years is the exact opposite of that – that I have the freedom to put out the work I most want to at any time. That may mean that I change formats periodically or even publish a show unlike anything before or since. I take risks that I wouldn’t if my ultimate goal was to kiss enough ass to get people to pay me for my services. To be very clear on this point – I have no problem with people making money off their new media but I think it is harmful to do your work in any way that is not exactly what you most want to do. I fear that people will water themselves down and play it safer and closer to mass appeal in order to position themselves as a person able to capitalize on the gold rush. I think that sucks, and it is exactly opposite of everything I stand for as a podcaster.

This is the point I’ve been waiting for with dread, when the money in new media begins to corrode away what really matters to me. Worse, it’s not even actual money but the idea of potential money. This is what my talk at PME will be about in part, and I suppose its good for that to have something to spark me off. As always I say, do the work that matters to you and the rest will follow.

3 Replies to “How to Make a Living in New Media”

  1. Great distillation, Dave. I like your point a great deal. I left big companies 10 years ago and medium companies a year ago. Maybe a year or so out, I’ll have a ‘less than 20’ rule. So that’s a great point.

    My biggest point wasn’t that one should only make money one way. My friend, Christopher S Penn, makes millions for his company on an audio Podcast. Me? I make media for fun and at most personal branding.

    My point was that those folks hoping a magical gravy train is coming their way for their podcasting efforts might want to put a little more thinking into it.

    I love Next New Networks and some other folks for trying something of a hybrid.

    But to seek out the money -and again, I don’t make a dime off my media and I’m happy with a day job – the money seems to be going to quality productions that complement media company offerings. Case in point: TreeHugger’s news today. Bless Nick and the gang.

    Great post, Dave. I love your perspective!

  2. Your fear about people watering things down in the vain hope of being part of a gold rush is a fear I share.

    I only make Pod of Funk because the podcast asks me to make it; not because somebody is going to pay me to make it.

    But, precisely because of this attitude I’ve been (unexpectedly) offered a radio slot. Is that counter-intuitive or plain common sense?

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